Interview with Alberto Morillas

There is something highly powerful in the way a smell can trigger our memory and revive some parts of ourselves with which we have lost touch. Thanks to the artistry and commitment of key people in the fragrance industry, we are capable of experiencing such connections with specific fragrances. One of them is Alberto Morillas, Master Perfumer for Gucci and the one behind their latest fragrance, Bloom. Romantic and feminine, yet mysterious and dark: the Gucci Bloom fragrance collection has unveiled its newest addition, Profumo Di Fiori, via a campaign like no other. Starring some truly legendary women, Florence Welch joins Anjelica Huston, Jodie Turner-Smith and Susie Cave in bringing the fragrance’s powers to life in a beautiful series of images shot in the mystical Umbrian countryside. 

By Marie-Ève Venne

We had the chance to ask the master perfumer a few questions to demystify his work and the whole olfactive universe surrounding Bloom.

How did you become a master perfumer? I started hearing about the metier of Perfumer when I came to Geneva to study, after completing L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts [The School of Fine Arts] in Geneva, I joined Firmenich as a Junior Perfumer in 1970 and was fully trained in-house; at the time no independent perfumery schools existed. Having lived in Seville, Spain, New York City and Paris over the years, I was able to hone my craft, and in 1988 I was honoured with the title of Master Perfumer at Firmenich.

Succeeding as a perfumer is a long process that requires time, dedication, hard work, and perseverance. You also need to be passionate, sensible, and curious.

Describe a day in the life of a master perfumer when working on a project like Gucci? What is your schedule like? I smell all day long! I go to bed, wake up, eat lunch, walk in my garden, cook in the kitchen…I am smelling in all of these moments. All day!

I have an indestructible passion for creation, and all of my fragrances have come from this love. When I work on perfumes for Gucci, I work very intuitively with the Creative Director Alessandro Michele, who comes with an idea, and it’s my job to transform this idea into a tangible product and scent. For me, all of my perfumery springs from emotion. The technique is intellectual, but every perfume has to have a soul, a story, and must be based on emotion.

No two days are similar, and I work around the clock, as my brain never shuts off. Anything at any given moment can spark inspiration in me, and I will immediately start to write down a new formula or test new accords.

How do the creative processes differ depending on whether you are creating for a major brand or for your own company? I take a different approach for each fragrance I create, not necessarily what company or brand it’s for. When I get a brief, it usually let’s me know if I am creating for day, for night, gender-specific, a designer or different markets – each fragrance project needs to be approached independently.

However, when I create for my own brand (Mizensir), I only think about what inspires me, what memories I have…there are far less parameters that I need to design into.

In either case, I never compromise on the elegance of a fragrance. I purposefully choose the best possible ingredients to work with, and carefully blend them to create an emotion, a feeling, a memory, a unique experience that will bring pleasure to the user.

How do you decide which one of many formulas will be the right one and chosen for production? Like an artist, I first create for myself, not for others. I need to believe in my idea or concept before sharing it. I am always creating new accords and olfactive ideas, everything can be a source of inspiration: a memory, a recipe, a new synthetic ingredient, music, culture, etc. Sometimes theses accords end up being part of a new fragrance, and if not they remain in my “repertoire” of ideas.

Often, if I am collaborating with a designer or brand, I don’t make the final decision on the formula produced, but I create it, and work with the client to make sure that the fragrance speaks to them.

I know when a fragrance is the ‘right one’ because it evokes a certain feeling in me, and there is an honesty to it

What do you think makes some fragrances stand the test of time and some do not? For me, a ‘classic’ perfume is one that has a genuine signature, a personality – and that brings something unique to the wearer. It even imparts a special status to the person who has chosen to wear it. Any fragrance that stands the test of time in popularity has these properties.

Do you believe in night fragrance versus day fragrance? If so, what is the ideal way to embody the new Bloom fragrance? Yes of course. I believe in the power of seduction at night, I think this is when people often choose to wear their most captivating fragrance. That said, there is no rule book for wearing perfume, which of course is the magic of fragrance, it’s a completely personal experience. Gucci Bloom is no different, a person can wear it during the daytime or evening, it simply matters what mood they’re in, and what they’re trying to convey to other people.

Do you like to listen to music when creating a fragrance? What music are you listening to right now? For me, music is an art form, just like perfumery, so I often listen to music while I work as it helps inspire me, and I am able to let my mind wander to spaces it hasn’t visited in a long time. Additionally, I have definite emotions and memories attached to specific songs and artists, and when I hear their music it takes me to a different place and can enhance or change the course of my creation. In terms of what I listen to, I really enjoy everything – jazz, classic rock, orchestra, etc. It just depends on my mood. That said, I am completely comfortable working in silence too; I like the stillness and white space to create.

Written on: November 18, 2020