Welcome to our series, ‘My Life in Perfume’. We’re asking our favourite fragrance fans to reveal all – from their first perfume purchase to their signature aroma; here are their scent stories…
Histoires de Parfums is a unique fragrance house that approaches perfumes as rich stories on the skin. They have curated a library of fragrances that tell tales of historic people, places, and works of art. Gérald Ghislain is the genius behind the brand, and it’s clear from his approach that he loves scent, using it over the last 21 years to weave fascinating stories that we can experience as olfactory adventures. Today, Gérald will be taking us on a journey through the history of yet another fascinating person: himself. So, sit back, relax, and be ready to be transported into Gérald Ghislain’s life in perfume!
I’m Gérald Ghislain, the founder of Histoires de Parfums, of course, but if I had to narrow down my personality to one thing, I’d say that I’m a dreamer-entrepreneur. That’s what’s always driven me throughout my life: my dreamy nature and the energy to make them come true. Because of this, I launched Histoires de Parfums some twenty years ago. Because I felt perfumes were the best way to share my stories and “coups de coeur” with most people around the world through a medium that is the most intimate of all.
1. My First Perfume
My first perfume was Mûre et Musc, by l’Artisan Parfumeur, which I wore when I was thirteen. It was a gift from the woman who would become my fiancee. I will never forget this fragrance and all the memories I have attached to it: not only was it my first perfume, but it was also my first love, and I admit to still buying it every once in a while, to smell it and reminisce about the days of my youth, my first coming of age.
2. The First Perfume I Bought
There was more than one fragrance I first bought myself, and I bought them all at roughly the same time. They were Mouchoir de Monsieur and Jicky by Guerlain and Tabac Blonc by Caron. You can already see that I was quite far from the Mûre et Musc territory, which often happens when you start wearing fragrances that you’ve chosen for yourself instead of ones that you received as gifts. I always found this gap interesting between how we see ourselves and how people see us. The funny thing is that I did not remotely consider starting a career in perfumery at the time. I just loved a perfume with a strong personality, a fragrance that, in and of itself, had already a lot to say, and while I evolved a lot over the years, I like to look back at the Characters of Histoires de Parfums because they were my first collection. They all bear that brazen, uncompromising signature of my young self.
3. My All-Time Favourite Perfume
This is a tricky question. The answer echoes what I already said about my first perfume and the ones I first bought for myself. I dabbled quite a bit in the restaurant business, so let me ask this instead: what would a chef say is their favourite dish? Their mum’s, the one they had for a first date, the one they cook on lazy Sunday mornings. The technical masterpieces they had in a three-star Michelin restaurant or the ones they put their hearts in and share with the people they love most, the signature dishes their family keep asking for, year after year? As a chef, I can tell you that my answer would have to be the last one. My all-time favourite perfume is not one; it is the whole Histoires de Parfums project. We regularly receive messages from clients telling us how such fragrance affected their lives, how it lifted their mood during the Covid, and how it reminds them of specific fond memories they thought were forever lost. I cannot help but feel like I am part of these lives. Now, if I had to pick one all-time favourite, I believe I’d have to say Mûre et Musc. I mean, I don’t even wear the fragrance, and I still buy it – that says a lot.
4. My Most Sentimental Perfume
This will probably sound cliché, but I would say mine. All of them. Not because of some underlying narcissistic sentiment but because I have put so much work and effort, tears and passion, so much joy and sometimes anger into their making that I almost feel like they’re my children. There is so much history behind every one of them. 1/.6, for instance, was inspired by a line from my favourite poem, “The Earth is blue like an orange”, and it took years and years to develop. Others started with a joke whilst having a little aperitif with my friends. The Opéra collection was inspired by my childhood when I would sit and listen to my mum, an opera singer, rehearse famous arias. They all have a deep sentimental value to me, to the point where I sometimes say that they’re my children
and, as with my actual children, I love them all equally.
5. My Everyday Scent
Fragrances that will mostly never come to exist because they’re primarily mods of my upcoming creations. I try every new idea on my skin. Since I have many, many ideas, I can end up wearing five different perfumes every day, exploring some ideas, abandoning some midway, coming back to old ones, constantly mining my imagination until it’s exhausted. I have found the perfect balance, which takes time and even more trials, to the point where my desk is hidden under a myriad of perfume bottles and marmottes. However, once I settle on a version, I will become obsessed with it and wear nothing but it for days.