In the world of fragrances, the eau de cologne has long been considered inferior to the more long-lasting eau de parfum.
But niche fragrance company Atelier Cologne has set out to change that by devoting itself completely to cologne, a citrus-rich fragrance created in Cologne, Germany. Most perfume houses develop eau de cologne, eau de toilette and eau de parfum.
Founded in 2009, by husband and wife duo Mr Christophe Cervasel, 40, and Ms Sylvie Ganter, 42, the 17 scents by the brand are said to last longer than the average cologne.
“Both Sylvie and I have worn only cologne our entire lives, as we both love the freshness of it. But very often, cologne has been criticised for not lasting, so we thought a lot more could be done with it,” says Mr Cervasel. The Frenchman was in town in May for an Atelier Cologne media event.
Last month, local multi-label beauty store Escentials launched the brand in its stores at Paragon and Tangs Orchard. A 100ml bottle of scent is priced from $170, while a 200ml bottle costs between $250 and $300.
Mr Cervasel explains that how long a fragrance lasts depends on the concentration of essential oils. A typical eau de cologne has an essential oil concentration of about 5 per cent, with the rest comprising alcohol and water. Eau de toilette has between 5 and 10 per cent; eau de parfum has between 10 and 15 per cent; while parfum (pure perfume) has anything more than 15 per cent.
Atelier Cologne blends have an essential oil concentration which is between 15 and 20 per cent, which places them within the pure perfume range. The founders have coined a new category – cologne absolue – for their creations.
“Like an eau de cologne, these are citrus-based, but blended with personality and an outstanding long-lasting power,” says Mr Cervasel, who has spent 18 years in the fragrance industry.
At the age of 22, he joined Kenzo Parfums. Three years later, he started Selective Beauty, making perfumes for luxury brands such as John Galliano, Jimmy Choo, Sonia Rykiel and Agent Provocateur.
His wife is also an industry veteran, having worked at Hermes Parfums and beauty brand Fresh, which also produces fragrances.
Mr Cervasel says other factors that determine how long a fragrance lasts include the quality and combination of ingredients.
In keeping with the characteristics of cologne, Atelier Cologne scents are packed with a lot of citrus, but he says they are blended with “precious raw materials for perfectly balanced creations”. Ingredients are sourced from across the world, including Egypt, Brazil and Haiti.
The brand’s top-seller Orange Sanguine ($250 for 200ml), which is also its first scent, has top notes of blood orange, red mandarin and bitter orange; heart notes of jasmine, geranium and black pepper; and base notes of tonka beans, sandalwood and cedarwood.
Tests by Urban found that the scent, which smells like mandarin orange peels, lasted at least three hours on the wrist while in an air-conditioned room.
His personal favourite is the Trefle Pur, which contains top notes of bitter orange, neroli and cardamom; heart notes of basil, galbanum and violet leaves; and base notes of patchouli, oakmoss and cedarwood.
“It smells like freshly cut green grass; Sylvie calls it my lucky guy scent,” he says.
Despite focusing on only one type of fragrance, the five-year-old company has showed promising growth.
It is distributed in more than 20 countries, including Singapore, Tokyo and Britain. The brand has two stand-alone stores in New York City and another two in Paris. Future store openings are planned for Shanghai, Dubai, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
According to industry sources, who spoke to fashion publication Women’s Wear Daily, the company could have generated about US$13.5 million (S$16.8 million) last year.
Cologne has traditionally been associated with men rather than women, but Mr Cervasel says that his creations are suitable for both men and women.
“What matters more is that they fall in love with our scents. A fragrance is very personal and there are no rules,” he says.
The perfumer, who grew up in Toulouse, says that he took a keen interest in scents from a young age.
“My mother was a typical French woman. She went through about 15 bottles of perfume every year,” says Mr Cervasel, who has a Master of Business Administration from the Ecole Superieure de Commerce de Paris.
As a result, he gradually developed an appreciation for fragrances. “You know in France, we kiss each other on the cheeks as a form of greeting – well, the girls were always impressed that I could tell what scents they were wearing,” says the boyish-looking perfumer with a laugh.
Atelier Cologne may have been a product of Mr Cervasel and Ms Ganter’s love for cologne, but it was also what brought them together.
In 2006, Mr Cervasel had decided to expand Selective Beauty into the United States and hired Ms Ganter as the company’s chief executive there. During the interview, she told him that she wanted to launch her own brand of eau de cologne, but he told her that they needed to make the company profitable first.
“It stated as a fun and successful professional relationship and we fell in love along the way,” he says bashfully.
The pair grew Selective Beauty, but left two years later to start Atelier Cologne. At about the same time, they also decided to become a couple.
“Now we spend all our time, love and energy to nurture our ‘babies’: Atelier Cologne and, of course, our five children,” he says.
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on July 4, 2014. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.