Victoria Frolova is author of one of the oldest and best perfume blogs in the world – Bois de Jasmin. Born in Ukraine, she finished her education in the US, where she completed her education as a perfume specialist at prestigious IFF under mentoring of fantastic Sophia Grojsman. As a journalist she covers themes from art and culture, and her publications enrich magazines like New York Times, Elle, Marie Claire etc. She is currently residing in Belgium, and for my blog Scentertainer she answers to questions which will be interesting not only to beginners in the perfume world, but to experienced perfume lovers as well.
IGOR: Would you tell us something about your life and your “perfume life”, how has it changed you?
VICTORIA: Obtaining professional perfumery training made me understand to what extent we underuse our nose and how much more interesting life becomes once we start noticing scents. It also made me realize the foolishness of the premise “olfaction is the most primitive sense.”
More practically, many changes happened in my life when I left political science and focused on olfaction and the chemistry and the art of scents, writing about it, researching it, teaching it. I was lucky to have mentors like Sophia Grojsman, Maurice Roucel and Calice Becker, who taught me much of what I know, and it’s a pleasure to share it with others.
IGOR: You’ve spent time in both the east and west. There are differences between western and eastern perfumery. Where do you think all the slavic people belong in that major division?
VICTORIA: While we are used to talking about these major divisions, in reality, in perfumery as in politics, they’re somewhat false categories. French perfumery as we know it has been inspired by Middle Eastern forms and accords, for instance.
Slavic culture is so complex that it belies easy generalizations, but what I find most interesting about it is the blend of different influences, traditions and beliefs. Despite the many historical traumas those lands have experienced, the longevity and vibrancy of their traditions are impressive. Perfumery as a métier is a rather modern phenomenon, but it’s interesting to see what references and aromas fragrance creators use in countries like Serbia, Ukraine or Poland. On the one hand, the compositions are very much inspired by classical forms, but there are some unusual combinations of materials that I haven’t encountered elsewhere. Ok, I’ll wager one generalization—Eastern European and South European perfumers do love their aldehydes!
IGOR: Do you think that people should be more aware of the sense of smell and consequently to perfumes themselves? And why? Are there any benefits, both tangible and intangible to it?
VICTORIA: Being aware of the sense of smell and using the nose more makes the world more colorful. It’s quite extraordinary the way scents can enrich our impressions and memories, and it seems like a lost opportunity not to do it. What’s more, it doesn’t require much effort, simply more awareness.
IGOR: Is there a fine line between being too analytical about perfumes and just enjoying them?
VICTORIA: I suppose it depends on the person. Some people say that analyzing something too much kills the enjoyment, but for me this is the very process that enhances my appreciation of things, be it a perfume, wine, book or painting. There is no right or wrong way about it, however.
IGOR: What is your process of analysing perfumes?
VICTORIA: I wear a perfume on skin several times and I smell it on paper throughout the day and the day after, noticing how it changes, how it evolves and what impression it creates. I note its technical aspects, but I also focus on how it makes me feel and what images it evokes.
IGOR: What perfumes bring you back to your childhood days?
VICTORIA: Diorissimo. Unfortunately, the formula available today is so different from the one my mom wore that the only way I can get a glimpse into my childhood is via the vintage version of Diorissimo.
IGOR: How do you feel when someone doesn’t like the perfume you’re wearing? Which leads to the next question:
VICTORIA: Honestly I remember only one such incident in my life. I was 16 and a boy I was dating said that about Lancôme Trésor. The fact that I still remember it should tell you how it made me feel!
IGOR: For whom are we wearing fragrances?
VICTORIA: It depends on the person. For some people, it’s about creating a certain image to project to others. But people also wear perfume to weave their own fantasy, to immerse themselves in a different world. The beauty of perfume is that it allows for all sorts of possibilities.
IGOR: Do you believe that some scents have “archetypical” meaning to people, or everything is culturally dependent and individual?
VICTORIA: Culture and individual tastes definitely determine a lot about the way certain scents are perceived. A common example of this is the scent of a rose. In the Middle East, it doesn’t have the same gendered associations as exist in Europe or the USA or Japan, for that matter. On the other hand, the smell of orange blossom is used in baby products in France and in colognes in Spain, and as a result, it conveys a very different impression. Of course, these associations change over time, so we can’t speak of it as something static.
IGOR: What do you think is the future of the perfume industry?
VICTORIA: On the one hand, I feel pessimistic observing the blandness of the majority of the big releases and the pace of regulatory measures that affect the work of perfumers, but I also see so many exciting things within smaller brands who aren’t afraid of taking risks. Despite all of the limitations, perfumers still create fascinating, memorable aromas.
IGOR: If everything is a matter of taste, how can some perfume be good while others bad.
VICTORIA: There are certainly objective criteria for determining whether a perfume is well-made or not. You can judge it as you can any other artisanal or artistic object.
IGOR: What makes a good perfume?
VICTORIA: Originality, creativity, its ability to move us, and then technical aspects—like harmony, balance, longevity and evolution. A beautiful perfume is beautiful from all angles.I hope that you have enjoyed in the interview with Victoria Frolova as much as I have. If you want read more of her fantastic texts, you can visit her blog Bois de Jasmin.
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