Paris - Richard Fraysse is not very fond of his nickname "the nose." After all would an artist be flattered to be called "the eye," he asks. Fraysse would much prefer to be referred to as a "composer" yet the fact of the matter is that he is known for his sense of smell which reveals to him a world hidden to most mortals.
As a perfumer the otherwise unremarkable Frenchman is emperor of an invisible world of fragrances. He has created more than 80 artificial odours in three decades and he numbers oriental princesses and international stars among his clientele.
For this particular 59-year-old the world consists primarily of scents and smells. Other people may be enraptured by the fading colours of a late summer landscape but Fraysse's senses take in the odour of dry hay and freshly-mown meadows instead. At such moments he reaches for a notebook and writes down his olfactory impressions.
For fragrances are ephemeral and the expert needs these aides de memoire in order to recreate in the laboratory the sweet smell of a summer's afternoon. "I translate that which I see or feel into scents," explained Fraysse. An unknown land, a fascinating work of art - the world inspires the creations of this perfumier and he is always on the lookout for something new.
The fine sense of smell runs in the family. Both his grandfather and father worked in the perfume business. "My father often used to bring home scent samples and let me try and guess the fragrance. It was just a game," Fraysse recalls.
After studying economics he set off for the French perfume capital of Grasse in order to learn the trade. Grasse plays a key role in the celebrated 1985 novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by German author Patrick Suesskind whose central character Grenouille murders 24 beautiful virgins in a bid create what he regards as the ultimate fragrance.
The work of a perfumer is a blend of technical skill and creativity. "It can be compared to that of a musician. You must first practice the notes before you are able to play," said Fraysse.
He is already familiar with around 3,000 perfumery notes and works with 600 of these regularly. The Frenchman is not interested in fashion trends. "I create my fragrances and hope that people like them," he said. The "heart" of a perfume, as Fraysse puts it, consists of between 10 and 15 different essences.
The unique character of a perfume derives from the addition of further essences. On average one perfume contains around 30 basic scents but there are no hard and fast rules. "Sooner or later the moment arrives when you simply have to stop," said Fraysse who admits that he is never entirely happy with the fragrances he creates.
He prefers mixing perfume for women since this gives him greater creative freedom. "Fragrances for men have to be be drier, clearer and more direct. With women's' perfumes I can allow myself a little dalliance," said Fraysse whose "nose" has been in the service of exclusive Paris-based perfume-maker Caron for the past 10 years. According to the expert, the time is not yet ripe for a unisex fragrance which would break down the barriers between the sexes so for the time being a men's scent with a hint of strawberry or coconut remains taboo. However, he believes this will change with time.
"Every perfume depends on the personality of the perfumer," said Fraysse. The judgement of whether a perfume is good or not is a very personal thing, he added. The maestro does not believe either in the perfect fragrance which Suesskind's hero sought in vain. At the same time he nurtures a desire to create a "universal perfume" so intoxicating that everyone would declare: "From now on I will never wear another perfume." (dpa)