Renowned perfumer María Ángeles Santiago talks about her love for oriental perfumes and what inspires her to create mesmerising scents…
Perfumer María Ángeles Santiago joined international fragrance house Iberchem 16 years ago. With a marked interest for oriental fragrances, she rose to become one of the company’s dedicated perfumers for the Middle East area. During her recent trip to Dubai, ParfumPlus Magazine got a chance to interact with her and learn more about her passion for oriental perfumes.
ParfumPlus (PP): Hi Maria. To start with, please tell us something about your passion for oriental perfumes and its origin?
María Ángeles Santiago (MAS): For as long as I can remember, I have always been attracted to oriental fragrances. I’ve always thought that they provide elegance and richness to any composition. However, I would credit my work at Iberchem that made me fall for the charm of oriental perfumes. Even when I took my first steps as a perfumer, and I was working on ‘French perfumes’, I couldn’t help but add an oriental twist to a great majority of my compositions. It somehow turned out to be my distinctive signature, in every fragrance that create. The same way that the painter Monet found inspiration in the countryside, I find mine while working with oriental notes. In fact, I think that anyone wearing an oriental scent surrounds himself with a halo of mystery and seduction.
PP: Are there any raw materials that you prefer working with?
MAS: I do have some “go-to” ingredients in my palette that I tend to use more regularly when creating a perfume, such as leather, galbanum as well as earthy and smoky notes. However, I prefer not to think about them as my favourite. Restricting myself to only a certain set of ingredients never makes sense to me. It would be like asking a musician what are his favourite notes on the scale and then restricting his creation of melodies to those favourites. Beyond each ingredient that can be found in a perfume, I personally think that it is the harmony that truly matters. This probably explains my constant quest of finding a perfume that would be simple, yet rich and evocative at the same time.
PP: In your opinion, is there still room for innovation in oriental perfumery?
MAS: There is and there will always be a way to innovate. Personally, I like to play with accords that, at first sight, may seem a bit uncommon, such as agarwood and tropical notes. However, the question we should ask ourselves first is, “Is it necessary to always innovate?” Sometimes, I feel that the concept of innovation is oversold. Let’s be honest, very few perfumes become famous overnight. It takes time. People need to wear it for a certain amount of time before being able to say it is their favourite perfume. In other words, what is trending today might become tomorrow’s classic. The only way to find out is to be patient, and give the fragrance some time to prove its worth. After all, there are still a lot of avenues that are yet to be explored in what we could call today’s map of perfumery.