The love of classic eau de cologne brought together Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel in business and in life. The founders of Atelier Cologne, this husband and wife team is of Italian descent but grew up in France using and adoring traditional citrus-based colognes. Following separate professional paths in the fragrance industry, the two ultimately came together to establish Atelier Cologne, a fragrance brand and retailer dedicated to reinventing and celebrating the classic cologne composition. The results are astoundingly original, inspiring, and entirely wearable. Here Sylvie and Christophe share their fragrance story with Beauty in the Bag.
Atelier Cologne is founded on a great love of perfume and fragrance. Can you share with us an olfactive memory that epitomizes the power of scent?
Each scent of Atelier Cologne has a very nice story.
Orange Sanguine is probably the most appreciated story because it is the one that speaks to all of us: be with the people you love in a beautiful and sunny morning, nearby the beach (for us this is the Mediterranean sea but we let every client imagine where the scene actually takes place) and share a nice breakfast, full of blood oranges that make the air smell so delicious. And not only our clients love this story but when they actually discover the perfume, they have a great reaction to it because this is exactly what they had in their mind. Maybe this is why it is our best seller!
Another story, so different is the one of Oolang Infini: we like it because this story is about a writer actually facing difficulties in his life. Not all our stories are necessarily positive, they talk about life, the good and more difficult moments. But as in life, because this writer is taking the decision to change something in his life, he will actually over pass difficulty and become an even better writer. For that he decides to leave the city where he usually writes, for a more natural place, where he will have the time to meditate on his past, present, and future life. Like with Orange Sanguine, the perfume in the air is a key element that will help him to actually enjoy this moment of loneliness, peace, and tranquility: notes are oolang tea, tobacco flower, leather notes, gin, and jasmine, which are all perfumes coming from the inside of the house. Very naturally, all this atmosphere will little by little help him to “find his way back to the ink.”
We understand that classic cologne fragrances serve as inspiration for Cologne Atelier creations. What is a cologne exactly and why do you love it so much?
The original eau de cologne was created 300 years ago by an Italian perfumer established in Cologne, Germany. His fresh blend of citrus oils captured the memory of his homeland. It offered a revolutionary alternative to the heavy scents of the times and inspired a new way to wear personal fragrance.
Christophe and I have only worn “cologne” type of scents our entire life.
In the past, I found myself in the permanent search of different types of cologne, that would have different personalities and that would last on the skin. The idea grew naturally and organically from there. When I first met Christophe, we discovered that we had the same passion for the category and we were engaged in the same on-going search. Atelier Cologne was born a few years later and we created the Cologne Absolue—a cologne of character.
How do Cologne Atelier fragrances differ from classic colognes?
Atelier Cologne is the first Maison de Parfum dedicated entirely to Cologne, the legendary fragrance classic.
We gave birth to a new olfactive family—“Cologne Absolue,” which celebrates the elegance of citruses, the traditional ingredients of a cologne. For the first time, citruses are blended with the most precious raw materials in perfumery for perfectly balanced creations with outstanding lasting power thanks to very high concentrations of essential oils.
It is interesting that now more brands are launching eau de colognes. It reinforces the consumer education about the category.
Our concentrations of essential oils are much above the ones of traditional eau de cologne. We use between 15% and 20% while a typical eau de cologne tends to be less than 5%. From a concentration standpoint, our formulas compare to eau de parfum and pure perfume.
What is your creation process for developing a new fragrance? How do you become inspired?
Since the creation of Atelier Cologne, we have been working with three perfumers: Ralf Schwieger, Jérome Epinette and Cécile Krakower. For me, it was very important to work with Mane and Robertet, two family-owned companies based in Grasse since 1871 and 1850, respectively. Their craftsmanship and creativity is fuelled by their emphasis on natural essential oils.
When I first met Frédéric Jacques, with Mane at the time, and Lorène Broc from Robertet, they were both passionate about the concept of the brand. We immediately started working with their New York perfumers: Ralf and Cécile at Mane and Jérome at Robertet. All were challenged creatively and technically by the idea of re-inventing the cologne concept 300 years after the original one. Creating citrus-based scents with personality and lasting power was a fun and enriching process for all of us.
We constantly challenge ourselves to create our own interpretation of mythical essences of the perfume world.
For example, we blend familiar notes of vanilla, amber, rose, vetiver, and patchouli with fresh citruses to give them a new and unexpected personality.
Our secret: the combination of the finest natural materials with a very high concentration of essential oils.
We have used the best of the best ingredients, and in extremely high concentrations. The cost per kilo was never a discussion. We developed the scents the way we envisioned then, at the concentration that suited best the result we wanted to obtain with the most incredible raw materials.
Our rule: Both Christophe and I need to be in love with a scent to launch it!
Why do you think fragrance is so transportive?
Fragrances have always been very important in my life. My first olfactive memory is my mum taking me to a perfumery, and the salesperson giving me a miniature Eau de Cologne, Hermes (now called Eau d’orange Verte). I was probably seven or eight at the time. The scent was fresh and clean, and that has always been what a Sylvie scent smells like.
What’s next for Cologne Atelier? Where would you like to be in five years?
In December 2012, we opened our first boutique in Paris, at 8 rue Saint-Florentin in the 1st arrondissement. Paris was the second city where we opened a workshop. In August 2011, we had opened our first store, in New York, at 247 Elizabeth Street, right in the heart of Nolita.
September 2013 marks the opening of Atelier Cologne’s third store in chic downtown Brooklyn and just this past December, we opened a new boutique in the trendy Marais district in Paris. More openings are planned in 2014 and for the next 20 years. Future store openings are planned, including: Shanghai, Dubai, andLos Angeles.
All Atelier Cologne boutiques are unique: they are furnished with industrial worktables, lamps, stools, and engraving machines sourced from vintage French and American factories.
These unique spaces set the stage for individual consultations. Clients can take time to discover the Colognes Absolues and their stories. The engraving workshop offers clients a unique experience to personalize the leather case of the perfume bottles by engraving your name, initials, or a special message on the leather case of your 30 ml travel spray. As you can see, we are very different from the competition as we offer a unique experience to all our customers.