5 Minutes With Olivier Polge

The famed French nose talks about perfume's power of attraction


Perfumer Olivier Polge is a native of Grasse, the fragrance capital of France (if not the world) and has used his nose to build dozens of scents, including the Viktor & Rolf blockbuster Flowerbomb and Balenciaga Paris, the debut scent of the French fashion house. Polge’s most recent effort, Balenciaga L’Essence, from $110, is a greener, more herbal take on the original violet leaf scent. (We also love the L’Essence candle, which for $75, will make your house smell cool and French.) We spoke with him about about perfume’s power of attraction.

Are there certain fragrances that have been proven to attract the opposite sex?
“The answer is a little complicated, for the very good reason that I think that, more than any other artifice, perfume’s resonance depends on its wearer. It happens that a beautiful perfume can be worn badly. It’s about finding the magic balance. Also, I think that among the five senses, the olfactory one is the most animal – and therefore essential – for recognition and attraction. I think what the odours are is different to everyone.”

Are there specific notes that are known to attract? “It’s hard to say that one essence has something more than another. As I was saying earlier, perfumes and body odours are essential to attraction. It’s about alchemy – smells have different effects on different people.”

Does using a fragrance make someone behave differently ­and perhaps more alluring to the opposite sex? “What I love about perfumes is that often they address something in us that is subconscious. People react to fragrance instinctively, and I think that for that reason the effect is even greater. I can tell for example the fragrances I love – I love notes that are woody, spicy and rather dry.”

Do you have any tips on finding a signature fragrance? “Personally, I think it’s a matter of being constant, not changing too much. A good perfume is not something you come across every day. When people ask you what you’re wearing, or they recognize you in a certain scent, that’s a good sign. It’s highly subjective.”