It all started in 1998 with a scent dedicated to the famous oriental sweetness. It is called Loukhoum and is still being produced today, remaining one of Keiko Mecheri's bestsellers.
“True, I myself do not like sweet aromas on my skin,” Keiko honestly explains. - Something woody is closer to me - for example, sandalwood. But then the idea arose - to make a scent-delicacy … And we did it”.
We are sitting in the lounge area on the 10th floor of the Ararat Park Hyatt hotel overlooking the Central Department Store. There, in a few hours, the official opening of the Keiko Mecheri perfume corner will take place. For this, Mrs. Mecheri ended up in Moscow today. She arrived just a few hours ago, but on her face - no fatigue, no effects of jet lag.
Keiko is ready to talk about how her perfume is born for hours. Each bottle of dark heavy glass on the table in front of us has its own unique story of inspiration. “I get ideas from everywhere. Literally. Traveling, in music, in movies, in pictures, in some smells, in memories …"
There are already 66 fragrances in the Keiko Mecheri collection (the last two were released this April). You know each of them, but surely you have your favorites?
Genie des Bois. I consider it one of my main achievements. I was inspired by footage from Akira Kurosawa's black-and-white film Throne in Blood. This is a Japanese interpretation of Shakespeare's Macbeth. There is a scene in the forest, it is almost tangible: trees, fog, mosses … as if spirits actually live there. Hence the name Genie des Bois, that is, "Genie of the forest". I really like the elegant restraint of this fragrance and the way my partner wears it …"
“Elegant restraint” is just about Keiko Mecheri fragrances. In general, you need to understand that behind each of the 66 bottles is the personality of a woman born in Japan, in a country where the mentality in relation to fragrances is completely different.
“In Asia, fragrances are worn quite differently than in Europe, in Russia. For example, in Japan, you will be unpleasant if you have a flashy or heavy scent. The train is also out of favor. The scent should be delicate. I think, of those that I already have, Peau de Peche is the closest to this idea. It is white peach combined with sandalwood and musk. It is worn like a second skin. And he, by the way, is very popular with Japanese women. I have an idea to make a line of alcohol-free perfumes in the future. They will be just that - intimate, felt only on the skin. " (Read: You will be heard: 6 places on the body where to apply perfume)
My first acquaintance with Keiko Mecheri began with a fragrance that was presented to me as "masculine", and I tried to apply it to my skin and realized that it was mine
Keiko smiles: “It is much easier for women - we can wear almost any fragrance. Men are more conservative in this regard. Many people do not recognize sweet scents, considering them feminine. It is better not to voice floral notes in men's fragrances. Do you know that many men's fragrances have a rose, and men wear it without even knowing about its presence in their perfume? But if you say bluntly that there is a rose in this fragrance, a man can answer “no, I will not wear it”.
Rose is one of the very ingredients of Keiko. She admits this in every interview for many years.
"I like how she knows how to hide inside a perfume composition, how delicate and unobtrusive she is, but at the same time decides a lot."
Do you remember your very first scent? The one that can be called the scent of your youth?
Keiko breaks into a smile. “It was Anais Anais, Cacharel. My friend showed me her mother's perfume with the words "you need to smell this!" I tried it and I liked them so much that I immediately bought myself one. It was not just my first perfume, it was my first perfumery experience. And the next love was Chanel # 19."
Did these first two have any influence on your work on fragrances?
“On a subconscious level - of course … But not only them. I was born in Japan, in Atami, it is also called the "Japanese Riviera". Opposite our house was a Buddha temple, and next to it was a garden, from which it smelled of flowers and moss, and from the temple - balsamic wood, cedar, sandalwood (sticks were constantly burned there). And all these incredible smells mixed with the salty breeze of the ocean … So, fragrances are part of my DNA. My childhood was spent among them."
How will your sons remember their childhood around you? What scents will they associate with the memories of their mother?
“What a good question, I will definitely ask them when I get back (laughs). But I think most of all I will remember him for the smells of vanilla and homemade baked goods. Especially the youngest (he will soon 12) - he has a sweet tooth. Also in our house sticks with incense are constantly smoking. I think this is what will remain in their memory …"
Are your sons interested in what you do? Have they not expressed a desire to follow in your footsteps?
“My eldest son (18) is already studying medicine. So, most likely, he will go his own way. Junior - yes, he is curious. He likes to smell everything, discover new scents. So it is possible that he will continue our work. But even if not, it is very useful for children to get acquainted with different scents, to explore them. This develops olfactory memory, makes the child's mind open to creativity."
Has motherhood influenced your own olfactive work habits?
“In an unusual way, yes. At first, I created fragrances for myself. But with the advent of my son, I realized that I want to make very different perfumes, I want my fragrances to be diverse, I began to get more involved in the process itself, pay more attention to how the fragrances are revealed."
The smells of vanilla, baking … But what about the perfume? Are there any favorites now that you yourself wear?
“Very often I don’t wear perfume at all. It's very simple - I don't want the scent to interfere with my new impressions. I draw inspiration from the world around me, so I prefer to leave my skin free from perfume. But, of course, I also wear perfume from time to time. For some special occasions."
Which of your fragrances would you recommend to a woman for a business meeting?
"There are a lot of them, but first of all, probably DaturBlanche or White Petals, rather even the second." (Read: Perfume dress code: What perfume is appropriate to wear in the office)
And on a date? Especially at first?
“Is this a sequel date? (laughs) I think Loukhoum would be a win-win. He's so cuddly, cozy, with vanilla. I know that many men like it on women. In general, traditionally, sweet notes, vanilla are associated with women in men."
When the fragrance is just being created, do you already know who it is intended for, first of all - a man or a woman?
"Never. Big perfume companies, of course, purposefully make fragrances for women and men separately. We have a different approach. We create a fragrance inspired by the very idea, and only then, when it is ready, we can think who will like it more - men or women. It's obvious that there are notes that are stereotypically associated with masculine or feminine. But, using them in creating a fragrance, we do not think about who exactly the final version is intended for … In general, I think that floral notes suit men well. You know, jasmine opens up very nicely on men's skin."
Keiko has a special relationship with jasmine
“Even before my marriage, I had a favorite book about the famous Muslim palace and the Alhambra park in Granada, Spain. I inserted a jasmine flower between the pages describing the jasmine garden and forgot about it. Much later, the book caught my eye again. I started leafing through it and found that dried flower. What surprised me most was that it did not lose its flavor. And this find, after so many years, inspired me to create the Jasmine fragrance, it was released in 2009. It's so amazing, because when I read that book, when I left the flower there, I didn't even suspect that one day I would create perfumes, and these objects would become one of my sources of inspiration."
There are many amazing things in Keiko's life. For example, she has an academic art education, at first she painted pictures and did not think that one day she would begin to create fragrances, and even at such a serious level.
If you could return everything, what kind of education would you like to receive, maybe in the field of organic chemistry?
“No, I would leave everything as it is. In my work, 90% is still art, not chemistry. Coming up with perfume concepts is creativity. And already when the idea is formed, it is easier for me to involve professional perfumers, whom I trust, so that they help me materialize this idea”.
Does it bother you that you live so far from Grasse, from the "place of power" of perfumers?
“The ingredients are more important than the place where you mix them. If you have expensive, high quality ingredients, you can create a very good scent even with a simple set of notes.
Should the ingredients be natural?
“Let's be realistic. It is difficult to use only natural ingredients in professional perfumery. First, they can irritate the skin. This is a fairly common problem. Secondly, natural substances are often unstable. Therefore, we are forced to use them in a reasonable combination with synthetic ones. Here you need to understand that artificial components also have a gradation of quality. They are not necessarily cheaper than natural counterparts. Often, when it comes to a high-class synthetic substance, it can even be more expensive than a natural one."
Describe your perfume line in a few words
“Eclectic, artistic, aristocratic. Perhaps so. We have very different scents. You may have noticed that many perfume brands have very similar scents. They differ in nuances, but in general they are about one thing. We all have very different scents. And this is an important part of the concept - to tell about the olfactive diversity of the world in which we live through aromas. I want everyone to be able to find their own."
Have you already created your own main scent?
“Not yet (laughs). I am working on it. Each scent is an achievement of a goal. But then we set new goals … I think that this is such a continuous process - we are constantly changing, and what seems to us a great achievement at some stage of life, ceases to be so over time in your own eyes. My harshest critic is myself."
PS: In April 2018, the Keiko Mecheri collection was replenished with two new fragrances: Rebel Hearts and Turn & Stare:
Rebel Hearts contains notes of Keiko's beloved Madagascar vanilla and Turkish rose, and the base of the fragrance is an amaretto accord. The second is Turn & Stare, chypre, floral with notes of black currant buds, osmanthus, patchouli combined with tart notes of suede.
Photo: Press Services Archives, Getty Images
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