Olivier Polge – the eccentric Chanel nose, who claims that perfume is as essential as the air we breathe
You know the saying, “Like father, like son”. Well, it’s really hard to think about Olivier Polge in terms of perfumery and not connect him with his father, Jacques Polge – one of the best perfumers of all times…
One of the most passionate creators of perfumes, Olivier Polge was born in 1974 in, you guessed it right, Grasse, France. It’s surprising, though, that in spite of his legendary father and the fact that he was born in the cradle of perfumery, Olivier Polge didn’t fall in love right away with the fabulous world of perfume creation. When he was young (and still not sure what professional road to set out to), he was really interested in classical music – a love that leads him to study art history.
Fate, however, was adamant to the desire to take him where he truly belongs (the perfume world) and an internship he did at Chanel finally convinced him that it was perfumery he should focus on for the rest of his professional life. As an intern in Chanel, he got to work with raw materials and felt the crafty aspect of creating a fragrance – one of the main reasons he fell in love with fragrance creation.
His background in art history is something that still influences his fragrance development, though. Here’s how he describes this influence, “I use my love of art and relate it to ingredients. When I visit a museum and look at art, I notice the colors. From there, I begin to think of ingredients that match the colors of the painting or the mood of the painting. I take those ideas and make notes. I may use those notes the next time I create a fragrance.”
Olivier Polge’s father, the legendary perfumer Jacques Polge, undoubtedly influenced him as well, teaching him invaluable lessons any aspiring perfumer would kill for. Here’s what he remembers from the time he decided to study perfumery, “My father was very encouraging when I decided to attend perfumery school because I started out studying art. I believe somewhere in his heart he hoped I would follow in his footsteps, as most parents do. He taught me to follow my dreams and passions in life. He also taught me that instinct is important in creating a fragrance. I smell scents daily. But when I find the perfect combination for an assignment, I trust my instincts that the client will be happy with the end result.”
With over 60 successful fragrances created for some of the most popular perfume brands in the world (Balenciaga, Burberry, Bvlgari, Cacharel, Chanel, Christian Dior, Dolce&Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Guerlain, Jimmy Choo, Kenzo, Lancome, Paco Rabanne, Thierry Mugler, Valentino, Viktor&Rolf, Yves Saint Laurent, etc.), Olivier Polge surely knows how to master the perfume creation process and please his clients. The success behind his active collaboration with these top brands lies in the way he perceives it, “Each fragrance starts with the brand. The brand decides to make a fragrance and my work starts there. I work on gathering essences and crafting various iterations of the scent and present a few choices. I explain which ingredients were used and the various combinations of ingredients.”
Just like many other top perfumers, Olivier Polge agrees that the fragrance is primarily created in the mind. Here’s how he explains the process of the creation of a new fragrance, “I work every day with various essences that are sent from Grasse to me in Paris. I go into my lab and create fragrances based on these essences. The essence is everything in a fragrance. I enjoy finding specific notes that work well together. It’s part instinct and part chemistry in developing a fragrance.”
Being the new Chanel nose as of 2013 (replacing his father, Jacques Polge, who has worked in the Chanel laboratories since 1978), Olivier Polge is considered one of the most successful perfumers in the world today. This position, however, hasn’t deadened his senses and he still refers to himself as “a student of fragrance creation” who continues to discover ways of improving his craft. One of the challenges of his successful career is collaboration with other master perfumers. To him, these collaborations are very similar to an architecture studio in which many people work on the same blueprint, each one contributing to the final product with his own vision and viewpoint.
When it comes to raw materials, Olivier Polge admits he is rather picky as his childhood background in Grasse has sharpened his olfactory sense and this leads to a lot of controversies in his approach to scents. To him, the fragrance is very subjective. Olivier Polge is a fan of the iris (due to its woody and powdery essence), as well as gourmand scents (vanilla, tonka bean).
A winner of the 2009 International Fragrance Prize / Prix International du Parfum for artistic achievements in the field of perfumery, Olivier Polge knows how to captivate the essence of a woman’s desire in a perfume bottle. He advises women to take their time when choosing a signature scent as it takes a lot of trials and errors to find that one scent. When creating his perfume masterpieces for women, he is inspired by the power the perfume has to transform the woman, so you “wake up and be a new woman with a [new] scent.”
Some of Olivier Polge’s best-selling perfumes you’ll find in our online shop:
Bvlgari Mon Jasmin Noir EDP for women
Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb EDP for women