May 14, 2023
5 min read

Into the mind of perfumer, Gérald Ghislain

If you're familiar with mymind at all, you've likely noticed our taste for romance and nostalgia. While we aim to reinvent the way you typically organize yourself online, we believe much is to be learned and appreciated from the past. It's clear Gérald Ghislain agrees.

Ghislain is a perfumer and founder of Histoires de Parfums, a Paris-based fragrance house inspired by "stories about famous characters, mythical years, poems and music." We've always appreciated the way Ghislain thinks and sees the world, so we asked what's been on his mind.

What’s the best compliment you received recently?

That I smell good. It sounds shallow but when you think about the fact that I am always wearing fragrances that I am developing, hearing this means I am doing my job well and that others will eventually receive the same compliment and feel the same way about themselves.

What’s the last thing you read?

La Divina Commedia by Dante. It’s a poem about a man traveling from the “obscure forests” of Hell to the “sovereign light” of Heaven, all weaved in with love.

Its core message is that love converts, love transforms, and love saves. It is so beautifully written, so true to the struggles of human existence to an almost shattering degree. It moved me so much that it became the inspiration for our perfume 1472, which we launched last year.

"Our society dreads aging as if we could but wither away, but I see it as an even bigger opportunity for growth."

What book do you want to read next?

I’m still trying to digest the last one. A friend of mine recommended me "Heaven and Hell" by Jón Kalman Stefánsson and, judging by the name, we’re not that far off from Dante’s Comedy.

A quote that’s meaningful to you?

It’s more of an expression I’ve been saying often lately: “As I walk into life."

Our society dreads aging as if we could but wither away, but I see it as an even bigger opportunity for growth. The more you walk, the more endurance you’ve garnered and the further you can walk in return. Your journey only ends when you decide to stop walking.

Best gift you’ve ever given?

The best gift I’ve ever given was a chance for someone to become their best self.

We often confine people to the vision we have of them – it’s easier to deal with the world this way. Everyone fits into a pattern we’ve established and as soon as they move away from this pattern, we may end up disappointed in them or disoriented, when they’re just evolving.

This “gift,” in a way, ties back to what I said earlier; as I walk into life, other people do so as well, and it’s my responsibility to accompany them. I always feel proud when I see former employees of mine rise to new challenges, explore other fields and fly off on their own, knowing that I played a part in their growth.

Where do you want to travel to next?

I want to go back to Bali. I was hopping across South-East Asia for work and discovered the isle and have been mezmerised by it. There’s nothing quite magical as catching the sunrise in Sidemen.

What would you buy, if money weren’t an issue?

I’m happy with what I already have. If money weren’t an issue, I would set up a charity tied to perfumery. That’s something I’ve already started doing with my new brand, Olibanum, some of the proceeds of which go towards helping different communities around the world.

What hobby would you take up, if you had the time?

Gardening. Back when I lived in Marbella, I had a flat with a huge terrace which I kept filling with all sorts of plants and trees. I had even rented out a parcel in a community garden because I needed more space to grow my fruits and vegetables. I used to spend hours there every day, but that was back when we couldn’t travel and the workload had slowed down. Now that the pace has picked up, I miss it dearly.

What’s an image or piece of art you can’t get out of your head?

“The World Is Blue As An Orange” by Paul Éluard. It’s short, but it’s one of the most beautiful love poems ever written in my opinion, and I just keep thinking about it, every day. I also stumbled upon the video of Marina Abramovic reuniting with her long-lost lover, Ulay, during a performance she gave at the MoMA in 2010. We’ve all seen this video but I will never tire of watching it.

A product of any kind you’ve been appreciating lately?

I don’t know if we could consider it a product, but I’m completely baffled by AI tools, especially considering that I work in a creative industry – to think that we’ve only been skimming the surface of the intersection between AI and perfume creation, with all it encompasses, is truly mind-opening.

The funniest thing you’ve seen lately?

I’m a very good audience and an even better scroller, I’d have a hard time narrowing it to one, but I’ve had some pretty good laughs watching bits of Atsuko Okatsuka’s stand-up special lately.

If you could build an extension of your own mind, what would it look like? How would it work?

Perfume is the closest thing to my own mind because it’s boundless and it can take up many forms – it can be a perfume, it can be an incense, any scented product that is used differently and so touches different parts of your psyche.

I think that if my mind had a shape, it would be a hydra, with glowing, glass tentacles, at the end of which would be unthought of or downright insane perfumes that would turn into songs and speak to everyone’s hearts. A quantic mechanism that would change according to who interacts with it. You’d simply touch it or plug it to some sort of chip, and it would tap into your neural connections, into your memory and maybe recreate that one perfume hidden in your memory or the perfume of your soul, the recapitulation of all your life, perhaps the scent of your future?


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