Last year when I met perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux, we spoke about many things. We spoke about his work as a Senior Perfumer at Givaudan, one of the world’s most successful producers of fine fragrances and we spoke about Arquiste Parfumeur, a highly acclaimed collection of niche perfumes that Rodrigo co-authored with his colleague and friend, perfumer Yann Vasnier. It was Arquiste’s owner, Carlos Huber, who kindly offered to connect me with Rodrigo when I visited New York. More often than not, perfumers work silently behind their clients and this meeting was a rare opportunity to talk directly with the man responsible for creating multi-million dollar fragrances for some of the most influential names in the fashion and beauty industry. High above the streets of Midtown Manhattan, Rodrigo’s office read like a resume of his career. His desk was filled with rows of neatly coded laboratory vials, modifications of projects he was currently working on. Finished bottles of Rodrigo’s work sat proudly along the sill of his office window. Amongst these bottles were some personal items, which had played a part in inspiring the perfumer. A brightly coloured piñata became a prop in a story about Rodrigo’s Mexican heritage and he shared numerous olfactory references that his childhood in Mexico had given him. One fragrance that was particularly dear to Rodrigo, which he took some time to explain, was a fragrance called Artisan. Rodrigo created it for American designer, John Varvatos and it was launched in 2009. The story of the fashion designer is a story in itself. John Varvatos grew up in the Detroit area and it was his love of rock music that inspired his career in fashion. Today the John Varvatos brand is an international success, making modern menswear that fuses classic tailoring with elements of vintage rock ‘n’ roll style. Since its conception in 2000, John Varvatos has extended to become a lifestyle brand that includes shoes, accessories and fragrance. In 2004, the first John Varvatos fragrance was launched. It is rare for a designer to work exclusively with one perfumer and Rodrigo’s work with John has broken this convention. Over the past 11 years, Rodrigo has been the perfumer behind every John Varvatos fragrance and John has affectionately referred to Rodrigo in interviews as his ‘brother from another mother.’ Last month I arranged another interview with Rodrigo. This time we talked over the phone. With the collection of John Varvatos fragrances on the desk beside me, we spent an hour discussing each fragrance, its composition and its story. Below is an edited transcript of that conversation, the tale of two artisans.
Introductions and how the first John Varvatos fragrance came about.
At the time of their first meeting, Rodrigo was employed by Quest International, which Givaudan acquired in 2006.
“It is a nice story because it happened very organically. I had been interested in John Varvatos as a designer after learning about his story. One day I saw an interview with him on TV and I thought, wow this guy is really interesting. So I knew more or less the story before our first meeting. I knew that he had been very important at Ralph Lauren before he went out on his own and in his first couple of years of independence he was awarded several prestigious fashion awards. Maybe at that time, besides Ralph Lauren, no other American designer was doing what he was doing in men’s fashion. His store on Mercer St, Soho had just opened. I went to see the collection and I loved what he was doing. I thought it was a different point of view. He was proposing something new, something with higher aesthetics. So before our first meeting, I had already developed an interest in the guy and his brand. At that time, there was someone working at Quest International who was acquainted with the owner of Zirh International and he mentioned that he had been in conversation with John Varvatos about creating a new license. I was interested because for me, it was very attractive to work with a brand that was not part of any conglomerate, which would not be overly corporate. Later my colleagues and I were told that John was visiting Quest International. We heard he had already visited other perfume houses but he wanted to expand his research, as he had found the companies he had visited were a bit too corporate and formal, and he wasn’t feeling “the love”. I can say this as he had said it in interviews! When he came to Quest International, we did the normal things. We gave a presentation of the company along with our capabilities. We also talked about the fragrance arena in the United States and what were the big sellers etc. We showed graphs with our data and stuff like that yet you could sense he felt at home. He liked the story of our house and right there and then we were chosen to be the house to work with him. He expressed very clearly that he wanted to approach the project in an artistic way and he wanted to work in a holistic yet close way. This tells you a lot about the approach he has to his brand. It was not like, OK, let me put everybody in competition and let me see what happens. After this initial meeting there were several perfumers from Quest International, myself included, who started submitting ideas. He invited the perfumers, marketing and evaluation teams to visit him. He took us on a tour of his original Mercer Street store. I love fashion. It is something that I really enjoy so I was very interested in what he had to share. I think he picked up on this and he immediately honed in on me, as he was explaining the stitching and the seam details of a garment. He knew that I was getting it. I went back to his store a couple of times after that. When I saw John I would talk with him. I told him about the pieces I liked but I also told him about the ones I didn’t like and we shared an ongoing conversation. Early on as the perfumers and I began submitting ideas, he honed in on two ideas and one of them was mine. The fragrance I worked on had the code name Hidden Detail because he would often say, ‘look here is a seam that nobody sees’ or ‘here is a pocket that is hidden in this jacket,’ or there would be an interesting thing happening down the leg of a leather jean that wasn’t obvious. So I concocted a fragrance that was very woody and quite oriental. It had a bracing top and not only did I want to use fresh notes such as lavender, I also wanted to use some interesting spices and herbs that I was studying. I am also a botanist and I am always very curious about such things. At the time I had secured a couple of things that had not been used before. For this first John Varvatos fragrance, we started weaving them in. We were looking to create a new aromatic freshness. The result was a fragrance that we created over the extent of approximately eight months. The result we created became the first John Varvatos fragrance, which is now known as Classic. Let us say that was the namesake perfume.”
JOHN VARVATOS CLASSIC (2004)
Notes include – tamarind tree leaves, medjool date fruit, Mediterranean herbs, coriander seed templar, ajowan, eaglewood, auramber, sandalwood and vanilla.
“John Varvatos Classic was launched amid many other fragrances, which were very fresh, very ozonic and very green. Getting to know John, I discovered that he has a good sense of smell. He likes to go to Sephora and the other stores to sniff around and to explore the landscape. Back then, I understood he had no interest in launching another fresh fragrance that was a fougere and that was it. He was looking for something that was going to have layers. He wanted a fragrance that was talkative or chatty and he is actually quite chatty. For John Varvatos Classic, we created what I would basically call a woody oriental. By this stage he was also looking at packaging and investigating design ideas. He liked the Bombay Sapphire gin bottle, particularly the way the names of the botanicals that are used to flavour the gin are printed on the side of the bottle. He really liked this element and it was incorporated into the packaging design of Classic. On the back of the bottle, embossed on the leather band, there is mention of the ingredients and I was given freedom to create a complex description of the fragrance. Connected to the gin story, for John Varvatos Classic we used a very special type of coriander seed extract that is used to flavour gin. There is also ajowan, which is a relative of fennel and it has an interesting thyme smell. We also included myrtle, hyssop and clary sage.”
The medjool date accord.
Accords are short olfactory phrases a perfumer will create within a perfume in order to bring to life a smell they have experienced in nature or an abstract idea that comes from their imagination. Over the course of our conversation, Rodrigo spoke about some of the accords he created for the John Varvatos fragrances and I was fascinated by his ability to translate other sensory experiences into a tangible smell, such as biting into a date.
“One of the more interesting notes in John Varvatos Classic is the fruitiness. At that time, I was interested in date fruit. I was doing Headspace research into several date types and we came up with a delicious new fruitiness based on Medjool dates, the rarest kind of date. I reproduced the taste sensation of biting into a date and part of the scent as well. Dates have several interesting nuances, which range from sweet to leathery. When John Varvatos Classic came out, the fruitiness surprised a lot of people because it was fruity but it was not girly or flirty at all. When I first introduced the idea to John, he was attracted to the idea of using date fruit and it became one of the signatures of the perfume. It came out with great acclaim I have to say.”
Creating the scent of tamarind leaves.
“Tamarind is very familiar to me as it is grows in tropical countries. People believe that you should never walk under a tamarind tree. Forget about taking an afternoon nap underneath a tamarind tree because they are the favourite trees of scorpions. They love climbing up to suck the nectar of the fruit. It is also a very thorny tree so picking the tamarind fruit can actually be quite risky. The leaves have a very specific scent that is green and bitter. So here again, like the date fruit accord I created something that was a little bit of fantasy. I did a Headspace analysis and then I created a bitter, green accord that gives a bracing effect in the top notes.”
What is Eaglewood?
Rodrigo and I spoke about the vocabulary used to describe perfumes. He recommended that poetic license was needed; otherwise the list of notes would be limited to common descriptions such as bergamot, rose and moss. Perfumers combine raw materials using a palette that numbers in the thousands and finding the right words to describe those combinations, in a way that a consumer can relate to, is important.
“Eaglewood is the English name for oud but calling it oud is dangerous because the fragrance does not contain oud and it was not inspired at all by this oud mythology. We used the word eaglewood in order to make reference to a captive ingredient that is available exclusively to Givaudan perfumers. It is a woody specialty called Agarbois. It is an expansive woody note that has bitterness and a leather quality, similar to agarwood or oud. It is a very specific chemical and John Varvatos Classic has a healthy amount of it- around 3%. Some perfumers, friends of mine who work in other companies have said to me, ‘you know, we did a GC analysis (gas chromatography-mass spectrometry technology, perfume companies use to analyse a competitor’s fragrance) of your perfume and there are a couple of woody things that are showing up on the analysis and we don’t really know what they are.’ So it is Agarbois, a captive of Givaudan and it was used in a big amount. But there is no oud and there is no claim of it being an oud perfume.”
JOHN VARVATOS VINTAGE (2006)
Notes include – Moroccan coastal plants, artisanal quince fruit paste, cinnamon leaf, Indian cubeb peppers, Albanian juniper berries, Canadian fir balsam, Egyptian jasmine templar, Florentine iris, Yugoslavian oak moss, patchouli, Venezuelan tonka bean and Turkish tobacco.
“John Varvatos Vintage is a flanker that is not a flanker. The process of creating it started as a standard flanker. At the time, John’s license wanted to do a splashier version of Classic and by that I mean they wanted to take down the volume or concentration and that was it. I don’t particularly like that approach to making a so-called flanker. I find it too easy and not very interesting. I looked at the project from another point of view and they were very receptive to my ideas. John in particular said, ‘Why don’t we think about a younger brother?’ If John Varvatos Classic was the John Varvatos man that wears a white dress shirt, who would be the John Varvatos man that wears his boots with a short leather jacket? So we borrowed some ingredients from the first one but it became something else completely. John Varvatos Classic is completely devoid of oak moss and patchouli. With John Varvatos Vintage, the base is a woody-patchouli-oak moss concoction. When I was doing this I was thinking of a man that was very macho. I was thinking bigger pectorals than Classic as there is a frank leathery note constructed around quinoline; this note is not at all present in Classic. Then the aromatics became more prevalent, so the oriental tone of Classic basically disappeared.”
For me, I pick up on the tobacco note. Is this part of the macho bad-boy image?
“For John Varvatos Classic I used some tobacco flavouring agents and there is a trace of tobacco absolute. For Vintage I developed this note further, increasing this kind of tobacco note. Vintage also has coumarin and hay absolute, which are tobacco-like too. You have to be careful using tobacco. Some perfume makers do not like it in fragrance because of the nicotine content and its supposed bad reputation. But I couldn’t resist combining leather and tobacco to achieve an unmistakable masculine effect. On the other hand, there is a clearly floral note in the heart of the perfume, which is real jasmine and it disturbs just a little bit the whole masculine scheme. Additionally John wanted to twist the floral leathery accord with a new fruit, so we did a tasting of something called Ate de Membrillo. It is a very popular, flavoursome desert in Mexico, which is basically quince fruit paste. So from that idea, I made an accord, more or less as I had done with the date accord for Classic. For Vintage it is a fruit confit, made from quince. The fruitiness here is more quince, pear-like, and damasconey. For Vintage, John really pushed for the bottle to be related. It was basically the same shape with a leather band but different tonalities for the box, the glass and the leather; everything changed so it adopted a new identity. So as I said, it is a flanker that is not a flanker.”
Notes include – Sicilian clementine, Florida tangelo, Mexican mandarins, thyme, Spanish marjoram, Greek lavandin, North African orange blossom, Indian Murraya flower, ginger, Kephalis, Georgywood, Belambre, Serenolide musk.
“With Vintage, the sales were very good so everyone realised the John Varvatos brand had wings. John became interested in creating a trilogy. I remember him saying, ‘Now this is exactly the moment when I want to go fresh.’ So the vocabulary he began using described something that was very natural, very wet and very breezy. He was talking about driving to his house on the lake in summer, putting down the window of the car and feeling the humid air; he was evoking ideas like that. He was thinking about vacations and something very relaxed. At one time the name ‘Relax’ was even considered for this fragrance. He was not thinking about the beach itself, it was more about the feeling of openness and of freshness. Around this time I was in love with a candle from Diptyque called Maquis. This candle had very big amounts of essential oils from the Mediterranean, particularly cistus oil, which is very resinous, very piney. It can also be hard on the nose. Not that I misread John but I was very interested in doing an overdose, like an Eau de Cistus kind-of-thing. We went down that road and it was quite a big perfume. It did smell sandy and beach-like but not at all wet, refreshing or citrusy. It was a little bit too assertive. And also I should say, when something gets a little bit too niche or too esoteric, John is not into that. He likes elevated but when it gets too exotic or it gets too complicated, it has to be simplified or toned down. So this fragrance I made had a very big amount of cistus. We all loved it but at the same time we knew it would be a hard sell to John. So we continued working on that but we were also thinking about lavender because John spoke about lavender in connection to crafts and artisanal things. We created some simple lavender concoctions with citrus notes and that is when he started bringing little baskets of lavender to the table, baskets that were woven jute or canvas. He said that this was the feel he wanted to have in this product. ‘I want it to be extremely tactile, I want the bottle to be covered in jute or covered in canvas or woven like a basket.’ Then somebody gave him a bottle of bay rum, you know those bottles they sell in Jamaica that have cane wicker around them? It was a very cheap souvenir but John was actually very interested in that bottle. So at the same time he was thinking about that, we started thinking about crafts and this artisanal concept but the fragrance was not there yet. This all happened around my 40th birthday in 2008. I had travelled to France for a meeting and I was laughing to myself because the jetlag hit me very hard and I normally never experience jetlag. I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is my 40th birthday and I am getting way too jetlagged!’ I was very sleepy during the day and the first night I didn’t sleep. I was staying at the Hotel de Lutece, a small hotel on the Ile Saint-Louis in Paris, where I have stayed many times. Like most hotels in Europe, they have their little writing pads with the name and telephone number of the hotel printed on them. It was during that night of my insomnia, I grabbed the hotel pad and I started writing a very simple formula. It was basically a citrus concoction, something that was very citrusy, built around the smell of a mandarin. I started writing seven or eight lines; it was a very rough sketch. Maybe a day went by and I came back to the hotel, after going to work and then having dinner, I wrote on my pad in very poor handwriting, ‘maybe for John Varvatos.’ So I polished the idea in Paris without putting it in the computer and when I came back to New York, I started a new idea and I called it Eau de Fizz. It was a very short, succinct formula. I don’t know, it was no longer than 20 ingredients and it was around this idea of a mandarin. This story also has a personal twist because in Mexico when you go to a party, particularly during the time of Christmas, you break a piñata especially for the children. Around Christmas time we have these piñatas that look like stars. They are made of clay and we decorate them with many colours, metallic foil and we fill them with candy, peanuts and a specific kind of fruit called tejocotes, which are similar to plums. In this mix we also put small pieces of sugar cane and mandarins. When the piñata is broken, all the candy and fruit falls to the ground and everybody scrambles around in order to pick up all of the prizes, all of the paper, the candy and the fruit. So you can imagine it becomes a mess; everybody is trampling on each other and they are trampling on the tejocotes and the mandarins. So at the end of a piñata, the floor of the courtyard or terrace is completely covered in sticky, gooey crushed fruit, particularly exploded mandarins. I wanted to capture this very festive scent of a mandarin exploding on the ground amidst the party. So it was the juiciness, the wateriness and the sweetness of the mandarin that I wanted but I also wanted to have the smashed mandarin peel that everyone had trampled on the ground. You know, inside the peel of the mandarin is an interesting sulphur note that smells almost like a match. I studied that effect very, very carefully and the resulting fragrance had several interesting sulphur materials particularly one that is exclusive to Givaudan, which is called Anjeruk. When you smell it undiluted it smells like a skunk, it is absolutely horrific. But in very small doses it gives you a bitter, pleasant, green, almost matchbox-like smell that is very characteristic of this perfume. It was not the first time that it was used but it is certainly a very specific, very characteristic note of John Varvatos Artisan. So this fragrance for me is a very personal experience, it is a very personal perception of a citrus fragrance and I can add it is very signature of the brand. John was exploring the possibility of creating a bottle that was like no other and he did it with this beautiful handcrafted bottle that you see today. The first ones we saw were very crude, the weave was very big so that it didn’t fit a bottle so small but they continued to perfect the idea and meanwhile we had this very simple, very true to nature, very photographic scent, Eau de Fizz, which continued to be our working name for the fragrance. It didn’t go through a lot of modifications; we had fallen in love with it immediately. We added a little twist of ginger and we reinforced it with a little bit of wood in the back and it was finished. And I kept those very precious notes written on the Hotel de Lutece paper. I scanned them and gave them to John with the dedication, ‘from one artisan to another, this is the origin of the John Varvatos Artisan fragrance.’ And he has this framed in his office so it is a very personal thing. The fragrance has received a lot of accolades. People talk about it having a new freshness that is simple, natural but still very manly and so I am extremely proud of Artisan.”
ARTISAN BLACK (2010)
Notes include – tangerine, Meyer lemon, Italian blood orange, Calypsone, wild thyme, Thai black basil, spearmint, Murraya flower, Tunisian neroli, Moroccan orange flower templar, Indian jasmine sambac, ginger, cardamom, coriander, Kephalis, Belambre, Boisiris, Serenolide, Vetyvert CO2, Patchouli Singapore ORPUR, Mexican cueramo wood, leather and orris extract.
“For Artisan Black we took a similar approach. It has a juicy, citrus deliciousness on top and then we constructed an eau fraiche with a chypre feeling that had a little bit of an old world character to it. When you smell Artisan Black very carefully, you end up with a chypre because there is vetiver and patchouli. So we wanted to make an eau fraiche instead of an eau de cologne. The fragrance starts very green, very citrus, and very juicy but then it twists itself into an incredibly elegant, woody eau fraiche that has elements, if I can flatter myself, of Eau Sauvage, which was one of the references we were looking at. We wanted a citrus with a little more substance that was much more gentlemanly. This took quite some work because the fragrance was more complex but it evolved into what we wanted, a beautiful eau fraiche. There are some shared notes but Artisan Black is to Artisan what Vintage is to Classic. They really don’t have anything to do with each other, other than being complimentary like two brothers. That is how I see it.”
Exclusive Givaudan raw materials: Belambre and Calypsone
Working for Givaudan, Rodrigo has access to exclusive raw materials that have been developed by Givaudan research and development. They are called captives. Normally captives are only available to Givaudan perfumers.
“Belambre is a woody, raw material here at Givaudan and whenever I add it to one of the John Varvatos fragrances, John likes it. I have learned that if you show the same fragrance with and without Belambre, John will pick it. He likes it. It is an incredibly powerful, dry ambery material. Some people describe it as having a little bit of a metallic edge to it. It has its own character and is unlike other things on the market because it doesn’t relate to Karanal or to Amberketal or to any of those types of notes. It is on its own and it mixes well with a mossy environment and it pushes citrus notes. It is one of those really strange, abstract manmade raw materials that creates a point of different and gives a signature. Calypsone is a very special raw material. We did research on the molecules that give off the scent of the peel of cantaloupe or honeydew melon. Calypsone is a twist on one of those molecules so it is very wet, very marine and very ozonic. It has a little bit of a privet flower or honeysuckle smell to it as well.”
Innovating with the use of Murraya flower in a men’s fragrance.
ScentTrek is a proprietary technology, which gives Givaudan perfumers the ability to study the odour compounds present in the air surrounding a scented object such as a flower, plant or fruit. Based on an analysis taken in vivo, Givaudan perfumers can create true-to-life effects, replicating the scent of rare flowers or fruits that do not give up their scent by traditional solvent extraction or steam distillation methods.
“So, Murraya is a plant that is grown in tropical countries. In Mexico it is used as an ornamental in gardens. Its scientific name is Murraya paniculata. In Latin paniculata refers to plants, which bare bundles of flowers. I think the plant’s origin is India but it has become prevalent in the tropics. It is not a citrus tree but it is a far relative of citrus trees and it produces these big bundles of tiny white flowers, which are super-perfumed. Using headspace technology we captured the very beautiful and floral, fresh cologne smell, which is also extremely rich and indolic. It also has a touch of green that you would find in hyacinth. For me it seemed important to explore a floral accent because when you study the genealogy of eau fraiches in perfume history, there is always a very important jasmine-floral component in these fragrances. For both Artisan and Artisan Black we used jasmine sambac but next to it I wanted a new note that emulated orange blossom so that is what our Murraya became.”
10TH ANNIVERSARY AND PLATINUM (2010 AND 2013)
Notes include – Chinotto orange, Ceylonese cinnamon, clary sage, coriander, myrtle, Patchouli ORPUR, Haitian vetiver, amber, cistus resin and tamboti wood.
“The 10th anniversary fragrance was a limited edition to celebrate 10 years of the John Varvatos house. It was an incredibly expensive bottle to produce because it was metal plated and it had a sort of metal soldiers tag that hung from the bottle’s neck. It was a patchouli-leather fragrance with an interesting top note of Chinotto orange. Chinotto is a spicy sweet Italian orange. Overall this again was a simple fragrance in terms of construction and it was very ambery. It was the first fragrance when John started understanding and liking amber; anything before it that was very labdanum or amber, he related to incense sticks and headshops. But here in an environment that was very patchouli with an interesting dose of vanilla, he was very agreeable to it. So like I said it was a very simple fragrance, I mean it was one of those ones that it took maybe one or two twists and it was done. And in order to revamp it and put it in the line as a mainstay as Platinum, we refreshed it a little bit. We increased the Chinotto orange and we added bergamot to make it less ominous and less dark. It is very rich and lot of people love it. There are a lot of women who really like it too.”
STAR USA (2011)
Notes include – Laotian red ginger, juniper berries, Sicilian cedrat, blue spruce, cardamom absolute, osmanthus absolute, vetyvert, Belambre and Venezuelan tonka bean.
“Star USA is a side of the brand that is more relaxed. You know John also worked with Converse designing limited edition sneakers, so Star USA is basically the clothes that go with the Converse style. For his Star USA brand they wanted a fragrance that was as John calls it ‘imperfectly perfect or perfectly imperfect.’ And he was very adamant to use a different bottle this time. I think the bottle is absolutely beautiful but it was not the most practical and I think that didn’t help the fragrance to take off. I am very proud of this fragrance because it is an interesting encounter of ozonic notes with a new development of red ginger oil, which we used for the first time. With marine notes there is also dry leather notes. The fragrance is very masculine, it is very distinctive and very refreshing.”
ARTISAN ACQUA (2013)
Notes include – tangelo, mandarin, Paradisamide, galbanum, lentisque, angelica root, clary sage, lavender, coriander, Toscanol, basil, geranium, palmarosa, jasmine sambac, moss, patchouli and fir balsam.
“Artisan Acqua is also a little bit of a tour de force and it is a very emotional perfume for me. After the launch of the anniversary fragrance the John Varvatos license changed hands and it became part of the repertoire of Elizabeth Arden. During this transition it was made clear that I would continue working as the perfumer for the brand and my friends at Elizabeth Arden were very gracious and understood that John wanted to continue working with me. Since both John and I were incredibly happy with the success of Artisan and Artisan Black, we wanted to continue the idea of making a fragrance that was fresh, open, which was splashy. In this particular fragrance, I wanted to represent something that was very Mediterranean. For Artisan Acqua I was looking at the Sicilian coast. I was looking at wild fennel, basil, lavender, thyme, rosemary and aromatics that were mostly from the Mediterranean coast. A little bit of maritime pine as well. So I made an accord and then I grafted it onto a classical, elegant fougere base because it does have a little bit of oakmoss and patchouli but it also has a lot of tonka bean. The fragrance has contrast with this beautiful fougere base that has a well-groomed quality about it as we discovered the very natural, agrestic coastal herb theme. Furthermore this fragrance boasts a significant amount of essential oil of the resin of the pistachio tree, which in perfumery we call lentisque. Normally in perfumery we use lentique in an absolute form, as the essential oil has been previously deemed very pungent and difficult to use. But this explosive and refreshing topnote was a perfect environment to showcase this unusually beautiful Mediterranean raw material. On top of that was the signature juicy citrus theme of the John Varvatos Artisan series. But we shocked the balance with an introduction of the resinous green note of angelica root, galbanum and lentisque essential oil. This pungent green accent added character, strength and naturality. For the creation of Artisan Acqua, the person I wish to publically thank is Mr Art Spiro of Elizabeth Arden. Art is not only a fantastic source of inspiration; he is also a dear friend. Basically Artisan Acqua is a fragrance we created in order to please ourselves(!) John agreed to the theme we proposed to do and in order to perfect the fragrance, Art played a guiding role, helping me to optimise the strength of the fragrance against the freshness, versus the longevity, versus the sharpness of the herbs etc. He has a long career developing fragrances for a lot of brands and he has developed many successful perfumes that are in the market. He said Artisan Acqua is the best perfume for men he has ever developed. We developed it together so that is why I need to mention Art Spiro very specifically. This fragrance is as much his as it is mine.”
In our conversation I noticed Rodrigo talked about perfume creation as ‘we’ more than ‘I’. Hearing him talk about his collaboration with Art Spiro, I asked about others he had worked with, who played an important role in making fragrances for John Varvatos.
“I want to mention some other people that internally at Givaudan have been instrumental in making this all happen. The person with whom I developed Classic is Trudi Loren. I developed Vintage with my friend Sophie Bensamou and then the person with whom I developed most of the fragrances for John Varvatos, who is instrumental, is my friend Amira Mcquillan. And I also need to mention Lauren Bitet who takes care of the Elizabeth Arden people. She takes care of me too, so without her the Varvatos fragrances don’t exist. And a big thank you to Tamara Steele, Brian VanderMeyden, Gretchen Dowling and Robin Mason for all the support and friendship.”
What Men Should Smell Like thanks Rodrigo Flores-Roux for openly sharing his wealth of knowledge and experience for this interview.