Q&A with Sabine de Tscharner – Perfumer, Artist, Creator of Lilac Daydream
We sat down with Sabine de Tscharner, perfumer at Firmenich and daydreamer, to talk about her path and approach to perfumery, and her creation of Lilac Daydream - our most popular fragrance this spring.
Aera: To kick things off – we want to wish you a (belated) Happy International Women’s Day, and Happy Women’s History Month! In celebration, we’d love to know what women have inspired you, and why?
Sabine: I admire the courage and passion of women changemakers like Amelia Earhart, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and the scientist Marie Curie, who was the first woman to be granted a Nobel Prize. In my world of perfumery, I am also inspired by Germaine Cellier, the first female perfumer, known for her avante garde creativity and bold style. All these women trailblazers have inspired me to be true to myself and follow my dreams.
Aera: Let’s talk Lilac Daydream… Thinking of the name, Lilac Daydream, we want to know – do you daydream, and what of?
Sabine: I daydream all the time! It’s essentially part of my job, imagining the possibilities of new scents and exploring how to make them a reality. I like to put on music and let myself dream as part of my creative process. It’s often how I get my best ideas.
Aera: In your quote about Lilac Daydream, you mention a lilac tree blooming in the perfumer’s yard, and waiting in anticipation for spring – are you that perfumer and can you talk about the ways in which the spring season is expressed in this fragrance?
Sabine: Yes, I have a lilac tree in my garden, and I look forward to it blooming every year. It signals spring, which is all about renewal and hope. Lilac Daydream is meant to evoke these emotions. The delicate scent of Purple Lilac and Hyacinth in first bloom captures the hope of new beginnings, and the dew-drenched greens, combined with juicy pear and sunlit woods, evoke a fresh sense of positive expectations for good things to come.
Aera: Lilac Daydream is so very spring, but it also feels full of poetry and shades of purple. What inspires you when you create such scents? Colors? Places? Memories?
Sabine: All of the above. The creative process is a journey. It’s never just one thing. A moment in time, nature, people, travel - just about anything can be a source of inspiration. Once I was in Costa Rica, visiting a volcano and the jungle around it. It was so captivating that I was compelled to create a new fragrance that would transport people there. Another time, while visiting Africa, I had an unforgettable breakfast of juicy mango and papaya at sunrise. The memory of that brilliant sky and the bursting flavor combination of those fresh fruits inspired me to explore another new scent idea.
Aera: All of us here at Aera can’t get enough of the fresh feeling of the fragrance that you describe as “green notes.” Can you tell us a little about these green notes, and the other notes or ingredients that communicate freshness to our noses, and give us a sense of how you created that fresh spring feeling?
Sabine: Lilac Daydream features a combination of vibrant, leafy greens that you might see surrounding a beautiful spring bouquet, cut fresh from the garden. Juicy pear adds a refreshing dewiness to the scent, contrasted with sweet notes of the early spring flower Muguet (Lilly of the Valley). Delicate Lilac also brings an element of freshness, along with a breezy floralcy. Together they create a soft, floral freshness that carries an air of spring.
Aera: It’s clear that much more than inspiration goes into the making of fragrance like Lilac Daydream, can you briefly walk us through your creative process as a perfumer – what does that journey look like that takes you from inspiration to home fragrance?
Sabine: You start with an idea, but then the fragrance takes on a life and journey of its own. I blend scents in a lab and work with a Fragrance Development Manager to evaluate the fragrance and its performance in different size rooms. We even take it home and live with it, so we can emulate the customer’s experience. With Lilac Daydream, I also shared the development journey with Raymond Matts, Aera’s fragrance designer, bouncing ideas off each other before achieving the final fragrance. The process requires evaluating many iterations of the fragrance before we achieve the result we want. It’s all about creating the right balance of ingredients to blend in perfect harmony together.
Sabine de Tscharner, Lilac Daydream Perfumer
Aera: On the topic of journeys, we’re curious about your own journey. What moved you to follow the path of perfumery? Was there a specific scent that moved you, a mentor who guided you?
Sabine: My early years were entirely deprived of the sense of smell due to chronic sinus infections but, after corrective surgery at 13 years old, I discovered a new world which began to spell out my future. I still vividly remember my first scent memories: my father’s rosebushes, my mother’s roasting chicken! I was delighted with my new-found sense, which would become an outlet for my creativity. Everything I did after that was to become a perfumer, so now I’m living my childhood dream. I had many mentors who guided and encouraged me along the way. One you may recognize is the award-winning Master Perfumer Harry Fremont. Harry’s brilliant craft, ethics, and business sense continue to inspire my work to this day.
Aera: Thinking of the past, is there a specific scent memory that you find especially lovely or fun you’d like to share, or a certain smell that transports you to another place and time?
Sabine: Fragrance can evoke so many memories, experiences, and emotions. For me, the smell of Orange Flower, which is also known as Neroli Oil, immediately reminds me of my grandmother, who used a skincare product fragranced with it. Every time I smell that scent, I am reminded of her and it fills me with a sense of comfort and love.
Aera: Circling back to daydreaming, and dreaming in general – if you could recreate any one dreamy moment using fragrance, what moment would you choose and what would it smell like?
Sabine: I would choose, spring, which is my favorite season. I start dreaming about it as soon as the summer ends and fall begins. That’s what inspired me to create Lilac Daydream. Now, I don’t have to settle for just dreaming about spring, I can experience it all year long.
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Aera Scent Stylist