Cecile Zarokian is a famous perfumer who has created over a hundred perfumes for the world’s most famous brands. Among them, most are niche brands like Green Water and Curacao Bay by Jacques Fath, Aqua Sextious by Jul et Mad, Mon Nom est Rouge by Majda Bekkali, Tango by Masque Milano, Cio Cio San and Nuit Andalouse by MDCI, Ani and Nanshe by Nishana but also many others. Interestingly, her first perfume was just for the house of Amouage. It was Epic Woman, that experienced international success. In this interview, we talk about Material, her latest perfume for Amouage. I hope you enjoy it.
IGOR: What great perfumes from the past inspired you for Material? Which legacy does it carry on?
CECILE ZAROKIAN: I’d say Material draws its inspiration from two distinct fragrance types of the past; the grand classical oriental perfumes full of vanilla, like Shalimar, and opulent, complex, and attention-seeking fragrances like Youth Dew, Opium, or Kenzo Jungle for example.
IGOR: Can you give us some insight in your creation process? At which point you knew you’ve created the one?
CECILE ZAROKIAN: In general, the main task is to understand what the brand wants, to understand their brief in-depth through the lens of their vision, their artistic direction, their DNA, their universe, their strategy, their collections. My clients put everything that can inspire me into their brief. So, I’m even happier if the brand shares with me its creative direction on other aspects that could feed my creative process: the bottle, cap, colors, name, the visuals, music, etc… all these statements in addition to the story help me create a fragrance that will be more coherent because it’s all connected: what is inside and outside the bottle. Then my expertise comes into play to translate all that into a scent.
In the specific case of Material, it all started with one phone call from Renaud Salmon, Creative Director of Amouage, who was searching for a grand ambery classic idea but had rejected every single proposal he received for the past 6 months. He shared all his creative references, going back to the mid-eighties when fragrances were complex, rich, and attention-seeking; the idea was to tell the story of the meeting of two musical hits of 1985: Material Girl from Madonna and Tarzan Boy from Baltimora. He gave me carte blanche to work on a very textured, deep, rich vanilla with the “Amouage patina”. I worked on an overdose of vanilla absolute (one of the most expensive ingredients out there) blended with other high-quality materials like natural oud, tonka, benzoin, osmanthus, etc. I was scared that it would be too expensive. But, weren’t we talking about a Material Girl? This was the idea that Renaud fell in love with. We spent the following months fine-tuning it and improving it through maturation and maceration, a process that is often overlooked but oh so important, particularly for creations that contain high amounts of naturals.
IGOR: What are your favorite Amouage fragrances, besides Material?
CECILE ZAROKIAN: Gold Woman, Dia Man, and more recently Enclave from the Renaissance Collection.
IGOR: What kind of impression you were aiming for, for someone wearing Material? When someone smells them, should they think they smell nice, exotic, erotic, feminine, all at once?
CECILE ZAROKIAN: Of course, people should think at the very least that they smell nice (haha)!
A very important thing is that everyone can wear Material, it is neither specifically feminine nor masculine. It is as bright and sweet as it is classically elegant and deep, just like its star ingredient, Vanilla absolute, which is as joyful and comforting as it is mysterious and leathery. I think Material is very sensual indeed, but in a soft and subtle way, rich and opulent but never tacky. You will be noticed with elegance, like an olfactory invitation to come closer.
IGOR: For the fans of layering perfumes, what notes would you recommend to layer with Material?
CECILE ZAROKIAN: Well, I’m probably not the best person to answer this question. I created Material as a whole, to answer to a very precise brief encompassing Renaud Salmon’s creative vision, so I would not recommend any specific layering with it as it tells a complete story just as it is!