Thanks to Christophe Cervasel and Sylvie Ganter, the scents coming out of Atelier Cologne is not your grandmother's perfume.
They met seven years ago in New York. They got along famously and found that their working styles complemented each other. They both loved cologne, and together they made a lovely couple.
Sounds like an opening scene in a love story. Except that this was no movie. The alliance of Christophe Cervasel and Sylvie Ganter not only spelt the successful union of two people, but it was also the beginning of a new genre of perfume, that of the Cologne Absolue.
Eau de cologne originated from Cologne, Germany and it has come to be defined as a light scent with a mixture of citrus oils and other elements. According to Cervasel, the cologne may have been invented by an Italian in Germany, but it was exploited by the French.
This has come to be especially true in the wake of the Maison de Parfum, dedicated entirely to cologne by Atelier Cologne which the couple established in 2010.
Both are of Italian descent and raised in France. Ganter had spent eight years with Hermès Parfum after graduation, which taught her all the fine nuances of ingredients and the art of perfumery. She was also creative director at Bulgari and had a penchant for wearing men’s fragrances when Cervasel met her!
Having spent time developing fragrances for names like Sonia Rykiel, John Galliano, Balmain, Max Mara and Agent Provocateur, Cervasel also came with a strong fragrance heritage. They both felt a desire to invest their energies into a brand which they could be passionate about and call their own.
Atelier Cologne’s fragrances contain 12% to 20% essential oils and qualifies as “eau de parfum”. However, the Maison has chosen to stay true to the name “cologne”, as much of the construction of its scents and the citrus foundation still adhere to tradition.
While the Cologne Absolue still celebrates the elegance of citrus, it is now blended with precious raw materials in perfumery, resulting in highly concentrated, long-lasting and sophisticated fragrances with their own personalities.
“Usually, a cologne is so light – it doesn’t really have a heart note, and it settles gently on a base of flowers, woods and strong resin. We still have the citrus in our colognes, but we have much more than that. Our Cologne Absolue is fresh and can last all day,” described Cervasel who was in Kuala Lumpur recently for the launch.
Cervasel is the one behind each of the Cologne Absolue stories, which tell of treasured emotions and powerful memories, while Ganter handles the other fragrance aspects. He then finds formulations to fit his inspirations, and work with perfumers like Ralf Schwieger, Jérome Epinette and Cécile Krakower to capture his vision.
When asked which scent inspired him, Cervasel said Cologne of Thierry Mugler was his favourite as it’s “a perfect balance between a cologne, and a fragrance with a real personality”. “In the United States, colognes can have a negative connotation as it’s often associated with grandmothers! But I believe perfume can be classic yet new. Atelier Cologne doesn’t follow trends at all,” he added.
It’s hard not to fall in love with the prose that comes with the fragrances, even if you’re not one for colognes.
Imagine if you will, the best-selling Orange Sanguine from the Collection Originale: “It was the kind of moment you would want to revisit. Everyone was here, gathered on the terrace for breakfast, and the scent of fresh oranges was diffusing in the yellow heat. A symphony of their laughter and waves hitting the cliffs played in the air.”
Orange Sanguine’s Cologne Absolue is concentrated at 15%, with top notes of Italian blood orange, bitter orange and red mandarin. The heart notes consist of jasmine, geranium and black pepper while the base has tonka bean, sandalwood and cedar wood.
Another popular scent, the Vanille Insensee from the Collection Matieres Absolues: “He wove through the crowd when suddenly his heart quickened. That scent. It was hers. He had worn it first until she stole if for herself. Now, there she was before him and the magic of years past came flooding back in a moment.”
This has lime, cedrat and coriander blended with jasmine, vertiver and vanilla. Atelier Cologne carries 18 scents, including the Collection Metal, candles and soaps and personalisation services.
In December 2012, the first boutique was opened in Paris (after the New York stores). With their signature Venetian blue store fronts and raw brick walls, Atelier Cologne boutiques are an artistic mix of American and French design, and set the scene for clients to discover the scent stories.
Along with custom-made coffrets, the engraving workshop offers clients engraving services on the leather case of their perfume bottles.
Future expansion plans include Shanghai, Hong Kong and Dubai, among others. In Malaysia, Atelier Cologne is distributed by Kens.
> Prices start from RM450. Available from Kens at Bangsar Shopping Centre, Jalan Maarof, Kuala Lumpur.