The Veteran Perfumer Behind Gucci’s Heady Trio of Floral Scents

Photography by Glen LuchfordCourtesy of Gucci

Alberto Morillas is the nose behind Gucci Bloom, Alessandro Michele’s first series of fragrances for the house – and its latest incarnation, Nettare di Fiori

It hardly bears repeating that Alessandro Michele’s tenure at the helm of Gucci has been defined by a heady commitment to maximalism, each collection spanning continents, cultures and centuries over the 90-or-so looks. His A/W18 collection alone, a “post-human” procession set among a deserted operating theatre, encompassed a typically wide gamut of inspirations: the corporate suiting of his father’s time as a technician for Italian airline Alitalia; philosopher Donna J. Haraway’s The Cyborg Manifesto; silent movie star Theda Bara and the bejewelled golden age of Hollywood; the bright blue turbans of Sikh taxi drivers in New York and the headscarf-clad Russian babushka, to name a few. (In this idiosyncratic spirit models carried prosthetic recreations of their own severed heads, as well as dragon “puppies” and snakes, in lieu of more traditional accessories.)

It is perhaps little wonder, then, that Michele has found a welcome new outlet in the world of fragrance – the olfactory memory has the unique ability to transport us back to a moment in time, or to another place entirely – a journey which began with his first eau de parfum series for the house, Gucci Bloom. The titular of these fragrances encompassed a powerful blend of tuberose, jasmine bud and the powdery floral tones of the Indian rangoon creeper, recalling, according to Michele, the sensation of wandering into a garden in the middle of a city (the campaign, starring actresses Hari Nef, Dakota Johnson and photographer Petra Collins, recreated just this in New York). Gucci Bloom was followed by Gucci Bloom Acqua di Fiori, a lighter, dewier iteration, made through the addition of bitter galbanum and sweet cassis buds – “like a foam lather in the bath,” wrote AnOther’s deputy editor Sophie Bew.

Gucci Bloom was created alongside Alberto Morillas, the septuagenarian perfumer responsible for some of the most memorable fragrances of the last five decades: Calvin Klein’s CK One, Giorgio Armani’s Aqua di Giò and Marc Jacobs’ Daisy are just some, as well as Mizensir, a personal collection of fragrances stocked worldwide. Born in Seville, Spain before moving to Switzerland age ten, his own first memories of fragrance were born from his father’s hair tonic, and a bottle of Femme by Rochas, owned by his mother. By 18, he was delighted to discover that people made perfume for a living; by 20, his own journey as a perfumer had begun. 

The latest chapter of the Gucci Bloom story is Nettare di Fiori, first revealed to a select gathering this July in the city of Florence, in the company of Morillas himself. “This one is more mysterious, but still easy to wear, and modern,” he said at the time, in a flower-filled upstairs salon at the city’s Gucci Garden, which celebrates the house’s history and ephemera. “Alessandro asked me to create this feeling of when you open the window and smell flowers coming from the garden… It’s about the power of nature.” Defined as a floral chypre – the name for a group of scents with mossy undertones, enlivened with a generous floral bouquet – Nettare di Fiori adds top notes of ginger and rose, alongside the earthy scents of musk, patchouli and peachy osmanthus, to sensual effect. (“They have an almost narcotic dimension,” he says of the trio.)

“Nettare di Fiori associates nature with an interior, like a limbo between a dream and reality,” Morillas continues. “You can see that in the way [Michele] lives because when you step into his studio it looks as though it’s overgrown with plants, with lots of flowers and the smell of incense and wood. He really mixes those sensations, as though if you closed your eyes you would see swirls of fragrant smoke.” The wearer, he imagines, is a “connoisseur”, a person who is “self-assertive, feels comfortable and wants more from a perfume”.

Working with Michele means making the same leaps of imagination as the designer. Reality is of little importance. “With the Bloom fragrances he wanted to create this magic garden, and he wanted it to have emotion,” Morillas says. “It’s the same for a movie – you know, to create this moment of magic.” Such has been the modus operandi of Michele’s Gucci, where the quotidian bears little appeal, preferring instead reverie and illusion. “I always say that I love things that are not clear, things that are in between,” he told AnOther’s editor-in-chief Susannah Frankel. “I love to be ignorant in a way, that there are a lot of things that I can’t really translate or know, that there are a lot of places that I haven’t been. I’m more like a medieval guy. I prefer to use my imagination than a car or 
a plane.” 

In Morillas, Michele has found a welcome collaborator and shared parlance; their relationship was, by all accounts, immediate – and looks set to continue fruitfully. “I started with this passion at 20,” says Morillas. “I have the same passion at 70; I have the same energy. To meet Alessandro gives you new happiness, a new emotion, a new challenge – this, to, me is what is important.”

Gucci Bloom Nettare di Fiori is available now.

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