Aliénor Massenet studied perfumery at Cinquième Sens and Firmenich before beginning an internship at IFF
Aliénor Massenet has been with IFF since 1995. For her, perfume has shape and colour, almost like architecture. She prides herself on her abstract, instinctive approach to perfumery. Her creativity suits her temperament and she has taught herself most of what she knows.
Of Hungarian origin, Aliénor’s life included a tremendous amount of travel, adding that cultural diversity to her childhood. It was during this period, that she exercised her sense of smell like other children practice the piano. Says Aliénor, “I used my sense of smell much more than any of my other senses. an aptitude I learned to play with and which in the end made me different.”
When she was 13 years old, her favourite game was guessing what perfume people she came across on her way to school were wearing. “Everyday was a different challenge and this motivated me far more than anything I did at school.”
But how began the journey of a perfumer? Aliénor shares that when a friend of her mother’s told her about the existence of the profession, she didn’t even dare to think about it. It was too good to be true!
The idea to become a perfumer began to take shape only when she completed a preliminary training period of a month with Firmenich when she was 16. Then followed a second one the next summer as a laboratory assistant. “I decided to become a perfumer at 20, when I paid for my vacation by selling perfumed candles I had made myself in my kitchen while others lined up baby sitting jobs.”
Working towards becoming a perfumer
Trained in olfaction and raw materials by Monique Schlinger (Cinquieme Sens), Aliénor signed up to do an MBA (in Paris) which she completed while at Florasynth on a part time basis. In 1995 she joined IFF in New York.
She streamlined the rules of composition alongside mentors including Sophie Grojsman and Pierre Wargnye (which whom she created Intuition for Men by Estée Lauder ). “I learned a lot from them,” she says. “They have an extraordinary intuition about modern perfumery and an incredible intelligence in regards to formulation.”
She originally set out to stay six months but finally stayed seven years – a period during which she perfected her technique and was given her first major project: the American dream.
Back in France at IFF Paris this time around – after a third child and an interval of two years – she now has a certain maturity which comes from a great deal of hindsight and a faculty for concentration: “My work is different. I am less dispersed in my ideas, I feel I have more depth, more perspective. I don ’t make as many changes for example and I feel I understand how it all works so much better.”
Extremely independent and a bit of a rebel when it comes to the art of approach, Aliénor has found her ideal mode of expression in perfume. She has a preference for masculine compositions. courtesy her childhood. Shares Aliénor, “I have lots of brothers, I am very fond of men and it still remains a world of surprises where there is still so much you can do.”
Very spiritual, she holds onto certain values that come from her religious education – “Myrrh, incense or labdanum are always included in my perfumes, an attachment for things religious. ”
Fighting a constant battle to create perfumes that are both highly original and over and above concepts and briefs, Aliénor never loses sight of the fact that it is the public her projects are for. “To find new ideas all the time that have an impact on what people are looking for ….I always try to surprise myself, that way I am more inventive ”!
Her style of perfumery is rather abstract – “I’m not into landscapes ” – and she gets her inspiration from other artistic fields. “I often think of perfume in terms of colours, shapes and materials, like architecture or painting. I picture certain fragrances like solid blocks and others like staircases ”…