Founded in 1983, Amouage is the international House of high perfumery of Oman, and it is known to be one of the most elaborate perfume brands in the world. We speak with Renaud Salmon, Chief Experience Officer and Creative Director since 2019, about the changes he has made in the past few years, from new products such as the perfumes from the line Exceptional Extraits – Reflection 45 Man, Honour 43 Woman, Epic 56 Woman, Reflection 45 Man and Interlude 53 Man – while still keeping the highest quality and leaving the brand's heritage intact. It is a masterclass on how to stay relevant in our everevolving modern society and how to pay your respects to to your background, as the fragrances celebrate the villages, mountains and natural treasures of Oman, and legacy, having created more than sixty unique perfumes.
Tell me about your day-to-day work as creative director of a luxury perfume and fragrance company?
I look after every aspect of Amouage that any client can experience around the world. It includes mostly: the creation of new fragrances, bottles, bottle decorations and packaging, as well as being the guardian of the existing portfolio of Amouage products. I also direct retail architecture and design, communications, digital including e-commerce and social media, training and education. I also spend a significant part of my time traveling around the world, studying ingredients, meeting with perfumers and artists, suppliers or retailers. This means that there is not really a ‘typical day of the Creative Director of Amouage.’ But when I am at the Amouage Manufacture in Muscat (Oman), I would usually start the day evaluating fragrance developments with a fresh nose, then move to meetings and creative work and evaluations with my collaborators. At the end of the day, I would go back to the fragrances evaluated in the morning to understand their evolution and complete my evaluation.
What has been your aim with Amouage since being appointed Creative Director in 2019?
Since day one, I have been studying the exceptional archives and work of the House to understand precisely what makes it truly unique and exceptional in the world of perfumery. My aim with Amouage is to further realise the vision of his Majesty Sultan Qaboos when he commissioned the creation of the House: creating exceptional perfumes in Oman, infused with international creativity and talent, and share them around the world. I want more people to know about Amouage: such a jewel deserves more awareness among lovers of craft and luxury. I want to get there by elevating the craft and artistic direction of everything we do.
When you first stepped into the role, we saw you reworking with preceding perfumes first before releasing a long-awaited new scent. Why did you take the decision of this approach?
It was important to mark the creative change through various artistic decisions, including the creation of a first fragrance that would give our clients some ideas of how I like to work. I also wanted this first creation to be an olfactive moment of quietness in the middle of the transition, an ‘interlude.’ Nothing too directional from a conceptual point of view, as I felt like it would have been premature given the complexity of the heritage at Amouage. Therefore, I created Interlude Black Iris Man: my personal take on a classic Amouage eau de parfum, adding refined nuances and smoothening the composition with a generous amount of orris absolute. I am not a big supporter of creative transitions at luxury houses when the heritage and style are completely lost, and everything starts again from a blank slate.
Amouage Metalmagazine 1.jpg
And what can you tell us about the changes you made in the bottle design or the logo?
Changes were required at Amouage. The House benefited from a very solid reputation associated with its fully independent status, quality and creativity of its creations but it was slowly becoming a sleeping beauty: its client base was eroding and ageing, its boutiques had not been refreshed for some time, the House did not have much digital presence and the imagery could have been elevated. Most of the major creative directions had been set over a decade ago, when the take on luxury was different from what is today. I wanted to solidify the art direction of the house through a visual direction that would balance traditional codes with progressive aesthetics, leaving room for the scents to express themselves.
Many people have noticed your personal touch to new perfumes come with stronger, richer undertones and scents. Where does your affinity for richer smells come from?
For the past 3 years, I’ve been living in Oman, surrounded by rich, complex smells and fragrances that I had rarely experienced when I lived in Europe or in the United States. Also, Amouage gives me carte blanche to create perfumes containing a concentration of pure essential oils that I could never have dreamt of before. I have been able to craft the four exceptional Extraits containing between forty-three and fifty-six per cent of pure perfume oils; and requiring an extended two-steps aging process (called maturation and maceration) to reveal their full complexity. With the collection of Attars (pure perfume oils), I pushed the perfumers and our manufacture to their limits, requesting original fragrance creations in their purest form: an undiluted perfume concentrate to be used drop by drop. All of this is only possible thanks to the unique know-how of Amouage and skills of its employees.
What does the process of making an Amouage perfume look like? How many people are involved? When do you know when a smell is right?
I usually start the process of making an Amouage perfume with a collage. In perfumery, one reference or idea does not guarantee the originality of a creation. A collage, however, if you look historically at Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso or Kurt Schwitters, is the idea that you can force together things that weren’t necessarily meant to go into one another; and that this merger will create a new reality. When I am ready, I share my inspirations with the artists who I feel could merge their universes with the collage: perfumers, painters, musicians, architects, etc.
I like to work with people I believe in and who I have shared affinities with. We exchange ideas and trials in any way possible – through DHL, WhatsApp, Instagram, email, phone calls, etc. and ideas cross-pollinate across the different creative practices. At some point, it naturally feels complete, and we stop. Specifically, for the perfume, it happens when the last trials have not been adding any interesting facet or improving the technical qualities of the formula.
Amouage Metalmagazine 2.jpg
How different is the world of luxury perfumes in the Middle East compared to Europe? Are clients looking for a different scent, a different feel?
Perfumes are an integral element of the everyday life in the Middle East. It is part of people’s elaborate rituals but also part of history, religion, food etc. Clients tend to like fragrance that are diffusive and long lasting, and traditional ingredients or accords, like oud, rose, saffron, incense, are obviously very popular. However, I have the overall feeling that the differences between olfactive preferences across regions tend to soften a bit.
The string in which your perfume is shot is quite impressive – perfectly balanced on a flat rock surface or effortlessly stuck in between two cleanly cut pieces of rock. How do you choose where to photograph your fragrances? And how is it important to the story of the fragrance?
My visuals clearly reveals our House’s and Oman’s ethos behind the choices of colours, materials, shapes and other details: warmth, generosity, solarity, open privacy, abundance, natural richness etc. Even if these artistic choices are built on a rather simple and straightforward palette that comes from the observation of life, architecture, art and nature in Oman, their sequence at Amouage is unique and can make a strong impression as opposed to when they exist separately. Finally, Amouage is not about being literal. As a Creative Director, I like to leave room for interpretation rather than forcing personal ideas onto our clientele.
Whilst doing research, I found that a lot of customers’ favourite perfume include Interlude and Jubilation, though the opinions do vary a lot from person to person. What is your personal favourite?
It is quite difficult to choose but I would name Epic Woman, Memoir Man and Reflection 45 Man.
Lastly, what are some of your goals for the future of Amouage?
In one of the earlier questions, I mentioned that I would like more people to know about Amouage around the world. A growing international presence can carry some risks when it comes to the creative vision for Amouage as I might be tempted to become ubiquitous and think that I need to adopt a more mainstream language when it comes to my creations: fragrances signatures, artistic references, sources of inspiration, etc. My goal is to push the creative direction in the opposite direction: as Amouage gets exposed to more clients, I believe that it is crucial to reinforce the very essence of the House and have it stand for something unique and simple to appreciate in the perfume industry. A consistency in our creation philosophy. Everyday, I want to stay committed to what I am doing and not what others are doing.
Amouage Metalmagazine 8.jpg
Amouage Metalmagazine 9.jpg
Amouage Metalmagazine 10.jpg
Amouage Metalmagazine 11.jpg
Amouage Metalmagazine 3.jpg
Amouage Metalmagazine 4.jpg
Amouage Metalmagazine 6.jpg
Amouage Metalmagazine 5.jpg
Amouage Metalmagazine 7.jpg
Amouage Metalmagazine 12.jpg