B&B! Q&A: Karine Dubreuil, Perfumer for L’Occitane

‘Emotions very often play an important part in my creative process,’ says Karine Dubreuil. ‘It is the biggest accomplishment to create something that triggers a real reaction.’ Born and raised in Grasse, in Provence, Karine studied at the Roure Bertrand Dupont Perfumery School, Grasse, which was founded by Jean Carles, the creator of the legendary Miss Dior.

She has developed a tribute to her homeplace with La Collection de Grasse, four unique combinations of scents from the region, wedded with exotic ingredients from afar. Each fragrance tells a story: Jasmine & Bergamote, Magnolia & Mûre, Vanille & Narcisse {my personal fave} and Thé Vert & Bigarade < which is a nice one for the fellas. Each one of them is a refreshing new addition to the line that has come to epitomise the South of France, and Karine took some time to answer a few questions.

When did you realise you had a nose? Do you come from a family of noses — has this gift been passed down through the generations?
A close family friend of ours was a perfumer working in Grasse and I often visited her in the labs and got to smell the creations she was working on, so was aware of this skilful profession from a very young age. Growing up in Grasse, you are surrounded by perfumery and scents so I think I always knew this was what I wanted to do.

karinedubreuilportrait2

What’s the first thing you remember smelling, that made you wonder about scent and fragrance, that teased your imagination?
I remember the Eau de Cologne that my mother used to splash onto my hair after my bath when I was a very little girl. I love the smell of the flowers that I grew up with in our garden – mimosa, orange blossom, jasmine and spices my mother always cooked with like star anise, cinnamon and pink pepper.

I find that certain scents are incredibly robust, on an emotional level. How does that work in the brain?
Unlike our other senses, smelling is directly linked to our limbic system, which is an important memory centre in the brain that triggers instincts and emotions. It is a very primal sense that we possess – animals use it to guide most of their movements and decisions, and although we humans have evolved to rely on it less often it still has the power to trigger those powerful emotional reactions in us.

When you were creating the stories of the Grasse scents, how big a part did emotion play?
For this collection especially, I really had to rely on my childhood memories of Grasse, which are so happy and idyllic. Rather than simply trying to replicate what certain flowers or trees smell like, I wanted to capture the way they make you feel on a typical sunny Provencal day.

I find these fragrances to be very creative, marrying two primary notes that seem unexpected. Was this a big risk?
It wasn’t so much a risk but a challenge that I really enjoyed – the first part of the challenge was to find the right quality ingredients, as for L’Occitane only the finest natural ingredients will do. So finding a supplier to create a natural blackberry infusion that would work in perfumery or working with a farmer to plant a field of narcissus flowers felt like huge achievements.

Four EDTs on watercolour

I love layering, and am delighted that there are body lotions that go with these — I wonder if one could wear a different body lotion with a different scent? Or is that a terrible idea?
No, I think it’s a great idea to experiment with fragrance! Mixing and matching different scents can be a nice way to create your own ideal fragrance and give you a sense of creativity and individuality. You can use this method to transition from day to evening – for instance, wear the body lotion of The Jasmin & Bergamot during the day, then spray on some of the Vanille & Narcisse to warm it up for the evening. Or the opposite — spray on Thé Vert & Bigarade to “freshen things up” a bit and give you a boost of energy.

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Each line includes the following: Eau de Toilette 75ml/€55; Body Milk 175ml/€18; Shower Gel 175ml/€13; Perfumed Soap 125g/€8.50

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DID YOU KNOW? That the ampersand, which figures largely in the branding of this line, was considered the 27th character in the Occitan alphabet? It is a ligature of of the letters in ‘et’ — the word for ‘and’!
/typenerd

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