INTERVIEW: REMI PULVERAIL, L'ATELIER FRANÇAIS DES MATIERES
I met Rémi Pulvérail, founder of luxury niche perfume lab L’Atelier Français des Matières (The Atelier of French Materials) a couple summers ago in Paris. ERIS perfumer Antoine Lie introduced us, and I became intrigued by Rémi’s background in perfumery as a sourcer for major perfume houses, his stories of working friendships with crop-growers around the world, and his dedication to wrenching from every petal, leaf, bud, stem, root, and rind their most beautiful olfactory facets. I also got to smell some of the amazing fragrances that used AFDM extracts.
There was poetry and purity in his vision of perfume ingredients. In a perfume world that is ever flattening the unusual qualities of perfume ingredients to standardize each one’s scent profile, Rémi appreciates the subtle variations in each ingredient, variable due to provenance or the season of harvest. His “Grands Crus” terminology, borrowed from wine parlance, indicates that the ingredients come from rare and limited crops. These will never be ingredients for mass perfumery. Their rarity and the care with which they’re handled hark back to a time before perfumery went industrial and mass.
In addition to providing extracts and full-production capabilities for niche perfume brands, AFDM has its own fragrance line. In a fragrance like the limited edition Jasmin de Chérifa composed by Nathalie Feisthauer from his Anthologie de Grands Crus line (named after Chérifa the jasmine grower in Egypt he worked with), not only do you get real jasmine (not a given in most jasmine perfumes), you also get olfactory snapshots of various seasons in this authentic jasmine’s life cycle. Chérifa was asked to use flowers from his fields’ early, middle, and late crops to impart— in one fragrance— complex facets of jasmine, at once fresh and fruity, creamy floral, and animalic indolic. It takes an artful approach like this to capture multiple facets of an ingredient’s character.
In the Antoine Lie-composed Iris Perle by Les Indémodables, Rémi’s wife Valérie’s perfume line, the Moroccan mimosa absolute is extracted from hand-selected flower buds, not the entire flower and stem as characteristic of most mimosa fragrances. This creates a rich and pure mimosa without herbaceous qualities.
Are you getting the picture of an almost fetishistic attention to detail I’m talking about?
And of course ERIS’s Mxxx., the more animalic version of Mx., benefitted from AFDM’s gorgeous ingredients - a sumptuous Trinidad cacao never before used in perfume, chosen by Antoine Lie for its spicy, rich, animalic qualities; specially-selected ambergris chosen for its balance of creaminess, saltiness, and animalic character, tinctured in-house; the rarely used Hyraceum, also tinctured in-house; and a “green” Madagascan vanilla processed using special freezing and extraction techniques to preserve a creamy, fruity, confectionary vanilla.
As a perfume lover who came to appreciate the quality of vintage perfumes I encountered as I researched and wrote my blog and book, it was heartening to know that there are still people like Rémi who want to preserve the values of quality over quantity (or cost) in perfume, and who appreciate the variability of nature’s wild beauty over the airbrushed flatness of a standardized ingredient.
I recently interviewed Rémi and asked him to tell me more about AFDM, to share his perfume philosophy, and to explain why we need perfume more than ever.
FIRST OFF, HOW ARE YOU HANDLING THE PLAGUE TIMES? I IMAGINE ANNECY ISN’T DEALING WITH COVID-19 THE WAY PARIS OR NYC ARE, BUT THERE MUST BE RESTRICTIONS?
REMI: In France the restrictions were the same all over the country, so no exception for our place! We have been able to shift a large part of our manufacturing capacities very quickly to the production of hydro-alcoholic lotion (hand sanitizer), which has totally offset the loss on perfumes sales. Our work to develop innovative botanical extract recipes is growing fast and has not been impacted; the same for our expert consultancy (technical projects, strategy, acquisitions). For the time being, we’re the lucky ones!
FOR READERS WHO ARE UNFAMILIAR WITH L’ATELIER FRANÇAIS DES MATIERES, WHAT IS IT, HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN AROUND, AND WHAT ARE ITS PROJECTS?
REMI: The company was founded 5 years ago…time flies! We create and manufacture limited edition and bespoke perfumes. And we create and manufacture innovative natural extracts using in-house technology compliant with the principles of “green” chemistry and sustainability. These extracts are for use in our own projects and which we offer to select independent perfumers who share our philosophy of excellence. We also fully manufacture finished perfumes here. Some of our Grands Crus ingredients are from small crops that only AFDM has access to, and we are the only lab in France that combines all of these specific forms of perfume expertise in one place.
We also provide technical consulting for the fragrance and flavors industry, and in addition to the two lines of perfume I and my wife started, Anthologie des Grands Crus and Les Indémodables, we have clients including Rolls Royce, 5-star hotels, and the RICHEMONT Group comprising famous watchmakers and jewelry brands.
On the natural extract side, we work with a few perfumers and also for companies involved in food supplements, which is a huge market for natural extracts.