One on one
Gérald Ghislain wrote his own story with the frantic rhythm of a passionate jack of all trades. An epicurean, he tastes all of life’s savors, sprinkling his daily life with refined luxury. He gives his all to his projects. Insatiable wonderer, he listens, reads and discovers, drawing inspiration from his trips and encounters. Gerald is impulsive and fully committed to his projects.
Gerald founded Histoires de Parfums in 2000 and created a collection of rare and delicate perfumes:
these perfumes like him are rich in temperament and are so, so romantic!
Why did you choose the name, «Histoires de Parfums», what are these stories about?
I like to create stories that make people dream. Since I’m not a writer I use fragrances instead of words. The essences are my ink!
What are these stories about?
First and foremost I am trying to convey and represent the fascinating French perfume industry know-how and passion. The perfumes’ ingredients were chosen with one sole criteria in mind; their quality. They represent exceptional materials chosen exclusively for their quality. I want my perfume to stay on the skin while diffusing its personality. Some people make lightly-scented perfumes - but not me; I want my clients to have a full perfume-wearing experience. We wear perfume not only for ourselves, but for those around us as well – so what’s the point of creating a perfume no one can smell.
You’ve said your collection of perfumes is like a “library”, in which each perfume tells a story.
A long time ago, I had a sort of “revelation” while visiting the Perfume Museum of Grasse in France. I wanted to create my own type of perfume “story”, while respecting the proven historic fundamentals of perfume creation (Chypre, woodiness, floral) - through inspirational characters - each fragrance identified by its character’s birth date. Each perfume therefore is the embodiment of an illusionary volume of an illusionary encyclopedia; a poetic “atlas” in which one can freely travel.
What characters did you choose for the perfumes, and why?
For the men’s colognes, I chose Jules Verne and Casanova because they are a representation of fundamental tempers that are important to me: observer and traveler, romantic and hedonist. They were each chosen because of their unusual personalities.
For the women’s perfumes, I followed my instincts and the image I had of notable, powerful women that had fascinating personalities. Mata Hari was an obvious choice because of her mysteriousness and oriental beauty. Eugenie de Montijo had seduction and fantasy. For George Sand, who liked nature and freedom, I made a flowery, yet spicy fragrance and lastly Mona Lisa inspired me to create a perfume enticing and alluring like her.
Why did you choose colours to represent flowers?
I imagined each one as a colour that doesn’t exist. The Peony plant is green in colour, refreshing; it’s like a flower that hasn’t bloom yet and that has yet to release its fragrance. The white of face powder was essential for the violet and I’ve always associated patchouli with the colour black because of its smoky mysterious qualities. I also wanted to create perfumes that are radically sensual that communicate a certain erotism. The year 1969 was an obvious choice for a body fragrance and the mystical amber was a perfect image to illustrate a oriental harem...
What is your first memory of perfume?
Like many people it was my mother’s perfume, Opium. Then it was the cologne given to me by my first love - Mûres et Musc de Laporte - when I was 13. Later I was going to the boutiques – the only places where one could find rare perfumes of that time, like Jicky or Mouchoir de Monsieur de Guerlain …
From a very young age you had very refined tastes!
I’ve always liked “beautiful things”. I got my passion for the opera from my mother, and the women I’ve loved thoughout my life introduced me to fashion and the true art of living (the «l’art de vivre»). Beauty enriches every-day life. Even when I spend the day alone, I dress nicely, I choose a nice plate for dinner etc. These details make a huge difference. I didn’t have an ideal childhood - at a young age I had to be responsible for my entire family. My only distraction was dreaming and my imagination. I always saw myself becoming a millionaire so that anything would be possible. But most of all I always wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.
How did perfume come into your life?
In the same way – and for the same reasons, but it took a while... I had to make a living very young. I think having to work so young was a blessing; I’ve already experienced so much! At home, I was in charge of cooking - preparing the menu, setting the table, I loved doing that! And I haven’t changed ; when I am cooking for guests, nobody sees much of me, I’m focusing on every detail, I want everything to be perfect! So I became a chef at 22 and I opened my first restaurant. Then the perfume business started in 1999 – (it had been an old dream…). I trained at ISIPCA - and the 12 scents of Histoires de Parfum were created shortly thereafter.
Flavors and Scents
Perfume maker, but also entrepreneur – this works well for you?
Absolutely! I like taking risks - reinventing myself. What I like most is conceptualizing a “want” or “wish”, turning it into a well-formed idea and then making it happen. I like the creation end of things, but I want each project to come to term, to function, to seduce and surprise others.
How does one go from the century old perfume creation process to the art of modern perfume bottling?
The switch was natural enough… In both cases we’re taking control of nature. With cooking, for example, we are using our sense of taste as well as our sense of smell. Starting with a particular theme, an idea or other element, we can create a mood or story – and of course need different ingredients to get there. A little bit of this, a pinch of that, a little bit of something else – always keeping in mind the final product. Perfume making is executed in exactly the same manner as cooking. Beyond the creation of a perfume or a dish, what truly counts, is the ultimate concept of sensuality and sharing. Moreover, before a date, we prepare, we put on cologne or perfume, then of course – we go out - together…
Does gastronomy influence your fragrances?
Absolutely, and my fragrances influence my cooking as well! I instinctively pay a great deal of attention to the ingredients. A friend of mine said to me recently that there are many different olfactory touches in each one of my perfumes, like cinnamon and rose, vanilla and lavender, as I’ve used them before while making a flavorful dinner for friends. Cocktails made with a base of vetiver, soup “eau de parfum” made with hints of Sandal wood or macaroons with bergamot. The focus has always been to be a bit surprising - something unexpected....
Today you are focusing exclusively on HDP? Why are you so focused on it?
For many reasons - sooner or later food, cooking and restaurants depend on the human factor. I am an absolute perfectionist and I like to follow everything I start from A to Z. The most famous chefs don’t cook any more, (or almost) – it’s impossible. With the perfumes, on the other hand, I’ve finally reached that wonderful point of mastering the tools involved and have totally invested myself 100% into their creation. I have an endless supply of ideas – so the perfume is perfect for me – a seemingly inexhaustible field of expression. We could even imagine a different perfume for every moment in life. Perfume combines a dream, imagination and material creation. The other reason is because of the multitude of people I can reach with my perfumes. What really makes me happy, is that each person can adapt each of my creations – imagining something different in each one, smelling something new and different. That’s what makes my perfumes so versatile after all.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Walking! I constantly travel and spend a lot of time walking in the cities I visit. In NY, Barcelona, Berlin, I see many different people, in different architectures, different climates and it always gives me ideas. I don’t have much time to read, but lately I was greatly inspired by «Baudelaire - Les Fleurs du mal» - it inspired me to do a trilogy of scents based around the tuberose.
Do you create fragrances for yourself?
No, not at all. I love them all, obviously, but I create these perfumes for everyone else to wear. I believe that I have the ambition to leave a « mark » on people’s skin... I have a strong ego, so it would be dishonest to say otherwise, but I don’t find that pretentious.
So, what are your faults?
I am a bit imposing, yet versatile. I put my nose in everything, I’m very curious and I also get bored very easily. It can be productive but a bit tiring! Nonetheless I am very faithful. I think I’m a bit insolent too...
What are your strongest qualities?
My friends would say I am enthusiastic and generous.
What was the happiest moment of your life?
The birth of each of my 4 children, so there were 4 moments!!!
What is your definition of luxury?
(Something) exceptional, unique, and perhaps unattainable, which means that one must make an effort to reach it. And it is not always financial in nature: luxury, once discovered, deserves to be sought after. A relationship can be luxurious in the same way.
When was the last time you laughed hysterically?
This morning! - and I laugh all the time.
When was the last time you cried?
The quality(s) you like most in a man?
That he doesn’t steal my (the) show!
And in a woman?
All the qualities which men don’t have.
What fault in others do you have the most patience for?
Jealousy. But up to a certain point, it is proof of love…
Do you have any heroes?
What is an ideal day for you?
Your favorite drink?
Pink champagne in the morning.
Your favorite smell?
That’s a very difficult question... I like very much the smell of fresh rain on hot stones... the flower market at Rungis can be quite extraordinary (depending on the season). But I believe the smell of a stable, and of a farm affect me the most - it brings back childood memories ( my father was a jockey and my grandparents owned a farm).
Your favorite food?
It depends on who I’m with.
Your favorite colour?
It doesn’t exist yet, but I’m working on it...
Your favorite noise?
The ring of old metro wagons.
Your favorite composer?
Albinoni for his sadness and especially for his Adagio, and Strauss for his joy and his operettas.
The book on your nightstand?
L'Écume des jours de Boris Vian.
I feel like I have a new idea every second. So when I have a good one - I become obsessed to make it happen.
What is the best compliment anyone could give you?
I don’t like compliments very much. But it is a great satisfaction when people love that I create.
If God exists, what would you say to him when you get to heaven?
«Oh, good – I’m in the right place! But I wasn’t in a hurry to see you..»
If someone gave you a magic wand, what would you do with it?
I would love to be able to speak every language.