Try to assign her a box, she’ll do everything to walk away from it. A dyslexic dreamer from a good family, Alienor Massenet shapes her personality as experiences goes by, from an English boarding school to the streets of New York. Her freedom is as sacred to her as her roots. Her personality is reflected in her perfumes, which embrace contrasts or go as far as forming improbable alliances, like sandalwood and pumpkin.
Resolutely independent, she likes to work alone as she explores her favourite ingredients, such as myrrh and labdanum. But she also values her peers’ opinions and tends to build working relationships that last – she has remained loyal to Memo since 2007. Her activities reflect this benevolence towards others. When her work schedule allows it, Alienor runs olfactory workshops for people who have suffered various accidents. She has been at Symrise since 2016, a perfumer who, despite not having studied chemistry, is mad about molecules and captives as well as new technologies.
What is your daily work routine like?
I work a lot. I sometimes end up working on formulas at home on bank holidays when a deadline is looming. I like it. I like switching between projects for clients from all over the world. It means I get to travel while sitting at my desk. I’d say that 65 per cent of my projects are international: I work with clients in Italy, Spain, France, England, South America, Brazil and a few in the USA, India and the Middle East.
Do you need a specific environment to create?
I like having my feet level with my hips. So either I sit on the ground in the lotus position or I put my legs on a chair. I find it relaxing. I used to do my homework on the floor. I’d love to have a Japanese-style office, with a floor-level table! That gives me an idea.
How would you define your style?
Good question. I’d be tempted to turn it around: “My style’s still evolving day after day; come back and ask me the same question when I’m 70!” I could also let my horoscope sign talks. I’m a Capricorn with the ascendant in Cancer, the marriage of two extremes. One is rooted in the earth, grounded, and the other is a water sign, very open to emotion and intuition.
Do you think of perfume uniquely
in olfactory terms?
Not at all. I often think of my scents in terms of shapes, colours and materials. Like architecture or a painting. Certain fragrances are compact blocks; others are more like stairs. Which reminds me of a collaboration with l’Officine Universelle Buly. The brand asked 10 perfumers to illustrate a work of art displayed at the Louvre as part of an ephemeral six-month installation at the museum. I chose a statue, The Winged Victory of Samothrace. I love it when perfume moves beyond the realm of body care and enters the artistic and spiritual worlds.
What perfume from your childhood continues to fascinate you?
Shalimar by Guerlain. I started wearing it when I was 10. I used to steal my mother’s. It’s one of those scents I would have loved to have created, like Ambre Antique from Coty.