Childhood memory to modern scent: How Maison Crivelli's founder plans his next perfume

Thibaud Crivelli creates luxury scents inspired by his childhood memories

Thibaud Crivelli wants to evoke a sensorial experience through his fragrances. Photo: Maison Crivelli
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Thibaud Crivelli is a natural storyteller. As founder of French perfume house Maison Crivelli, he conjures worlds out of words, weaving them into perfumes with evocative names such as Hibiscus Mahajád and Oud Maracujá.

His latest scent, Tubéreuse Astrale, is no contradiction. “My first memory of smelling tuberose was with my dad in my childhood. My dad loves anything connected with the stars, and we would leave the house, go to open fields where we could hear the sounds of crickets and look at the Milky Way. Sometimes we would see shooting stars,” he explains while in the UAE to launch the perfume.

Founded in 2018, Crivelli’s company aims to evoke these moments by using familiar ingredients in unexpected combinations. Starting from this childhood memory, Crivelli did not set out to make just a lovely scent, but to evoke a sensorial experience. From memories, comes his mission: “There is really a simple objective; to surprise you with perfumes you’ve never smelt before.”

“The whole idea was to create a tuberose with this sparkling, powdery top note. Then we added a bit of cumin and a velvety note of leather to evoke the Milky Way,” he says. Through the sensual warmth of cinnamon, the perfume unfolds into three key ingredients – a creamy, honeyed Indian tuberose; a Chinese osmanthus flower that brings a peachy, leathery quality; and carrot seed oil that stretches out the fruity, powdery notes.

As the fragrance dries, it reveals leather and musk that Crivelli describes as “addictive and comfortable. It’s like a pillow, you just sit down on it”. With a base of patchouli and Spanish cistus – a fragranced oil secreted by a shrub – the scent is warm and supple, with velvety, leathery accords and notes of vanilla. Rich and complex, it is beautifully audacious.

And it's all in the detail for Crivelli. “There’s a Japanese concept I love called ichi-go ichi-e, which means one moment, one opportunity. It’s a mindset that moments never repeat themselves the same way, so we need to cherish them,” says the founder.

“If you think of the best moments of your life, you will remember where you were, but also what you were wearing, the people you were with, the dish you were tasting and the music you were listening to,” he explains. Such moments, he says, are the very essence of life.

Childhood memories as sensory inspiration

Although born in Paris, Crivelli says his fascination with scent stems from his childhood in the French countryside, growing up in Western France's La Roche Posay. “We spent all our weekends walking around the forest. I grew up smelling the forest, the ferns, and hearing the cracks of the branches,” he explains.

Being raised in a town known for its thermal water’s healing properties with a father in pharmacy shaped his curiosity for creating potions and formulas. “I grew up watching my father work on these preparations.”

Living in a small town didn't hold him back from worldly insight, however, as an interest for seeing the world stemmed from his mother's side, whose family lived in Lebanon, Vietnam and Tahiti. “The generations before her were fluent in Arabic and Vietnamese [ …] I grew up with that strong French identity, but I always heard about these places,” he says. Such a vivid cross-pollination has instilled Crivelli with what he describes as a “curiosity and open-mindedness”.

“The core value of the brand for me is the spirit of adventure,” he explains. “I discovered perfume over time by mixing my sense of adventure and the synaesthesia of perfume. This is not technical. It’s very sensory,” he says.

Creating his signature in scents

All grown up, Crivell spent a decade working in Asia – China, Hong Kong and Singapore – before returning to Paris to pursue his dream of being a perfumer. It's a lot of uprooting, but as an adventurer, he welcomes “change with a positive mindset, it can become a source of inspiration. And I think we can all do it. But I, just maybe, do it a bit more than most people.”

As a perfumer, Crivelli has his way of doing things, which is exactly how he's made his mark in the competitive industry over the last six years. He opts for eau de parfum and extrait de parfum over eau de toilette, keeping the oil concentrate high. At Maison Crivelli, he favours plant-extracted oils that are intensely aromatic, sourcing from Givaudan, a French house that has been producing high-quality raw ingredients for more than 250 years.

Asserting quality control, Givaudan created the Orpur scheme to safeguard more than 200 natural ingredients that are deemed to be of the finest quality. Tubéreuse Astrale, no outlier among his scent library, uses no fewer than five, and boasts 32 per cent oil concentrate.

We create perfumes with a bit of danger, that are a little outside the comfort zone
Thibaud Crivelli, Maison Crivelli founder

For this latest iteration, the sixth extrait released, Crivelli has teamed up again with Quentin Bisch, the perfumer behind the cult creation, Ex Nihilo’s Fleur Narcotique. Speaking about this second collaboration, Crivelli says: “It’s about connection, and I only work with those I connect strongly with.

“When I brief him [on the perfume], the options that he proposes to me are always right. And there’s not even a lot of back-and-forth because he understands the brand.”

To create the best possible outcome, Crivelli often seeks out a different perfumer for each project, for the personal approach he or she brings. “Imagine you ask five artists to paint a huge storm, and you are going to get back five very different paintings. So, the painter who will be able to paint exactly what you have in mind is the one with whom you have the best connection,” he says.

Connecting aromas to time and place

While each scent may begin from a moment personal to Crivelli’s life, often in a far-flung location, he understands he must allow space for others to inhabit the scent as their own, which is why he never links them to a specific place.

“If I tell people where I was [for each place that inspired a perfume], people would think of there rather than connecting with the perfume personally and projecting themselves. I want people to have this personal connection that will take them to places, which will be different from person to person.”

While Crivelli uses familiar ingredients, he is intent on finding new ways to combine them, not least because his customers expect him to offer something different and exciting. “Young people don’t want to smell like their grandparents,” he says with a laugh.

One particularly challenging example of this was creating a new variation on oud, the heady scent that runs deep through Middle Eastern culture. Given that families have been using this rich, enveloping scent for generations, and often have their own supplier direct from the source, Crivelli knew he had to come up with something original to capture anyone’s attention.

“I told myself, let’s create an oud-based perfume that respects the codes of the region but creates a bridge between the West and the East. It had to have a twist. And then I remembered eating passion fruit.” Oud Maracujá was launched in September and was created by the perfumer Jordi Fernandez. Intense and long-lasting, it opens with a medley of fruits that give way to warm notes of saffron and oud before ending with a rich spiciness.

Moving away from the classic structure of rose and saffron, instead, Crivelli added passion fruit. The twist offered the precise outcome he craved. “I think Jordi was surprised, but he totally understood. And he created this kind of elegant, Mediterranean, Latin passion,” he says.

The names of all Crivelli perfumes provide insight into their construction, and Oud Maracujá is no exception. “There is always an ingredient in the name, and the second word is linked with the experience. Maracujá means passion fruit in Portuguese.”

Another Maison Crivelli scent that has had a big impact is Hibiscus Mahajád, which was inspired by Crivelli’s experience of drinking hibiscus tea in the heart of a gemstone market. A flamboyant pairing of hibiscus and rose that sit in contrast to the softness of vanilla beans, leather and musk, like the other scents that Crivelli has created, it is daring, unexpected and, well, rather astonishing.

“We create perfumes with a bit of danger, that are a little outside the comfort zone,” Crivelli explains. “But they are always made with kindness and care. That’s important. Even within the company, I need people who are curious and willing to take risks, but who are caring about others and who are kind. It’s about people. It’s about sharing.”

Updated: April 23, 2024, 4:01 PM