The perfume is art or not? Today the distinction has a great sense if compared to commercial perfumes. Take for example the graceful scents of Lorenzo Villoresi’s fragrances: carthusian creations of harmonious arrangements put together with love for research for ancient influences and suggestions, often collected in distant countries. Reductive would be to call them just fragrances, it is more appropriate to use the word “piece of art”. Created in his Wunderkammer, a laboratory nestled on the top floor of an ancestral family home, overlooking the medieval development of Via de ‘Bardi and the most noble and ancient city of Florence. We are talking about the same building that will host the site of the world’s first interactive workshop dedicated to essences and perfumes which opening is scheduled for September 2011.
Lorenzo Villoresi con mouillettes
-When did you realise that you would become a perfumer?
I discovered the love for fragrances in 1981, during my first trip to the Middle East, particularly in markets and through sellers of essences and perfumes in Cairo. Since then, essences, spices and fragrances have become a passion, I have grown parallel to university studies in philosophy and ancient religions. I started to do a thousand experiments, studying every type of publication I could find on the subject of plants, essences, perfume and cosmetics, distillation, production of aromatic substances of all kinds and so on… The first designs were relatively simple, always characterized by the presence of natural materials at the center and the heart of the fragrance, sometimes single-minded (Vetiver, Patchouli, Sandalwood, etc..), sometimes fanciful but always characterized by the strong presence of special and precious essences.
- What value has for you the sense of smell?
We live in a society where visual and auditory aspects predominate and where both images and sounds tend to be aggressive and prevaricating. In the streets, in our cities, smells seem to be only those of the exhaust gases so we try not to notice them, we try to escape even if they tend to dominate. But if we concentrate with attention and curiosity, mentally isolating the noise around us, we discover that the city, like all things, has its secret perfume: trees that blooms in hidden gardens, the fragrance of bread fresh from the bakery, fruits on market stalls, rivers, plants, old books in libraries, the wood of antique furniture, the impalpable perfume of snow brought by the Tramontana wind, grocer’s spices, flavor of ice cream …. We are surrounded by delicious smells but often we are too distracted to notice. For me smells are another way of knowing the world and people around us. I also think that using perfumes, to wear them or to use them in our homes, is an important enhancement of our quality of life. Fragrances add a scent dimension to our experiences and add poetry to our everyday life. Fragrances, like music, are intangible and invisible but they make our deepest emotional chords vibrate and they make special even the banal routine of preparing to leave the house every morning.
- How was your sense of smell educated?
Our sense of smell has enormous potential to explore. But as in all things, it takes time, patience and passion.We must exercise our sense of smell to feel different smells and to store them, maybe by mental associations to something that smells very familiar, this can be done by taking notes, trying to imagine what other ingredients-odors may form a harmonious whole. It is necessary above all to get used to notice the smells, even the most subtle and light, the smell of paper, that of stones, the smell of morning dew. All things have an odor, but as we are bombarded by a welter of strong smells, harsh, artificial and unpleasant, we risk to lose the ability to perceive those most refined. Sharpen our sense of smell means first of all to sharpen our sensitivity and our perception.
- In your collections typical elements of traditional Tuscans elements stand out: What is your relationship with the world of perfumes and how do you deal with the relationship between color and material?
The elements of our traditional Tuscan collections are actually quite limited: you can find them in potpourri and in sachets flavored withm spices, in fragrances for the environment such as “Mediterranean” or “Iris” or in the use of certain materials like alabaster for the production of glasses for scented candles. These Tuscans elements have a limited relationship with the universe of fragrances in general. The relationship between color and material is a problem that we dont consider.
- You have travelled extensively. Different country, different fragrance … Can you draw a map of favorite olfactory notes in every continent you have been?
Not really, because if we talk about globally distributed fragrances, such as those of fashion brands, we talk about fragrances distributed in almost every countries and not the other way round.
- The olfactory registry is subject to sensitivity changes. How do you think olfactory aesthetic is oriented right now? How are the developments of the second decade just begun going to be?
During this period in furnishing as in fashion as in many other fields there is a general tendency to return to the classic, to sobriety, to the solidity of things that last. Even in scents, so I guess that fragrances with a more traditional and “reassuring” style, such as fresh flowers for the woman and citrus wood for men, will be rediscovered. However the traditional distinction between masculine and feminine fragrances is increasingly blurred and then the family of so-called unisex fragrances continue to be very successful. This are usually quite fresh fragrances which are easy to wear.
- At this time the smell is the sense most pampered by all the creative sectors. Do you think in the near future, perfumers will begin to collaborate with the major industries (automotive, marine, etc …)? They’re already doing it! The so-called olfactory marketing is becoming more widespread and large companies often ask to perfumers to create for them a kind of corporate fragrance with scents created just for them to spread them worldwide, in their showroom or in their flagship stores.
- A creative business tactic is to create intermediate collections, one-shot and capsules: the strategy of a continuous flow may also revolutionize the patterns of artistic perfumery?
I think that rather than to subvert them it would upset them: there cannot be creative and search for beauty in such a flood of perfume and the public is actually noticing it. Increasing numbers of women and men who stop using commercial perfumes, are turning to lesser-known brands, where you can still find the original flavors, different ingredients made with good quality and creativity that is the “artistic perfumery.” If we put ourselves in this industry to churn out pseudo-news every three months we have really lost sight of the idea.
- The craftsmanship is the link between tradition and innovation. Could it be the means to save the system from the crisis?
All companies, both industrial and craft, producing good products, usually survive crisis. For “good” I mean well done and with an aesthetic and material value very perceptible , made with quality ingredients, created with an artistic sense and love of beauty, products that can really improve the quality and not only the content of our lives.
- The Academy of parfums is the first world interactive workshop, dedicated to essences and perfumes. How did the project start, which the developments?
The project is an extension of our current activities with a series of enrichments. We have always had a cultural and informative vocation about the world of perfumery; our headquarter recently moved from 125 to about 1,500 square meters, it has a garden of herbs, an information center, a library, various collections of flavors, a shop, spaces for events, courses and seminars. All this to provide information and entertainment as well the opportunity to meet many different types of aromas. Should open in September 2011.
-You have created a real univers.Which elements would you add to this world?
I would like to but for now it is just a dream. Cultivating a few plants in the countryside around Florence, used for distillation and extraction, in order to create a complete cycle . A good part of the most important plants used for extraction in perfumery could easily be grown in Tuscany as well as some time ago there was not much difference between a rose from Liguria and one from the not distant Grasse.