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Q&A: Atelier Cologne Founder Talks Fall Scents and a Foolproof Fragrance Gift

Scent specialist Sylvie Ganter on the biggest fragrance faux pas and how to find the right scent for yourself and a loved one this season.

Sylvie Ganter Photo: Courtesy

Growing up, Sylvie Ganter did not like perfume. In contrast to the dense, statement-making scents popular among her Parisian peers, Sylvie was drawn to lighter, fresher fragrances with notes that were recognizable to an untrained nose. But to her chagrin, she struggled to find examples that could withstand a day’s wear. “I cannot be alone. I cannot be the only person that wants to sell fresh, clear, clean scents,” Sylvie recalls thinking prior to Atelier Cologne’s launch in 2010. And, indeed, she was not. Atelier Cologne’s line of lightweight yet potent fragrances is rapidly expanding; now, the brand has locations in London, Paris, and New York, and it recently opened a flagship shop in Shanghai.

To create rich, clean scents that last, Sylvie and her partner, Christophe Cervasel, craft their fragrances with high concentrations of natural essential oils—some up to 94 percent. Sylvie partners with local farmers and experts around the globe to source scents from tangible ingredients—among them, roses from Turkey and France that bloom for just two months out of the year, citrus from Mauritius, vanilla from Madagascar, jasmine from Egypt, and saffron from India.

We sat down with Sylvie at the debut of her latest outpost at the newly revamped Westfield Century City to talk seasonal scents, the best type of fragrance to gift, and more.

Atelier Cologne

Atelier Cologne  Photo: Courtesy

Are people in different parts of the world attracted to different scents?

Yes. In the U.S., it’s all about vanilla. We also have a rose scent that’s very successful here and in Italy. In Asia, we sell colognes that are muskier. But there is one category that appeals across the board: citrus.

Are there any old-fashioned fragrance rules you break?

I have a very hard time with florals. And I feel, being a woman, you’re sort of told that you have to wear florals. It would be the same as telling women, “You can only drink white wine, and your guy can have the red wine.” It’s like, why?

What is a common fragrance mistake?

[Wearing a strong scent] is a little bit like wearing too much makeup or being overdressed. To me, that’s not a statement I would like to make.

What is your fall scent?

Right now, I’m wearing Café Tuberosa, which is mostly a coffee scent but with a hint of the flower. To me, it has great warmth.

What are some of your own fragrance-making rules?

When we build a perfume, I always make sure that you can actually smell the ingredients. I hate perfume that smells like potpourri and has a laundry list of all the ingredients and notes. I find that if you share how you built it, what’s inside, and the person can actually smell it, then you can have a dialogue.

As a perfume customer, I didn’t witness many brands that educated the client about perfume. [Without that education], it is much harder [for the customer] to put words on what they like and what they don’t like.

Atelier Cologne

Atelier Cologne  Photo: Courtesy

The holidays are coming—what is a safe scent to gift?

Citrus. You cannot go wrong with anything citrus-y. I would say it’s totally safe because it appeals to everyone. Citrus scents are super happy, full of life and energy.

When we launched Clémentine California, it was such a success because the raw materials please everyone. And I think a lot of people grow up knowing citruses. Plus, it’s versatile. You can put it on anytime—first thing in the morning, after sports, on the weekend when you don’t wear makeup and wear jeans and a white T-shirt.

You could also go with a rose or vanilla scent, but you have to be a little bit bolder and know the person better.

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