Founder & Perfumer, Maison Louis Marie
In his novel À la recherche du temps perdu, Marcel Proust describes a scene in which a character recalls vivid, long-forgotten memories after smelling a tea-soaked madeleine biscuit. This experience, termed the “Proustian phenomenon”, is one we have all undoubtedly faced. Consciously or unconsciously, we have tripped upon an olfactory trigger that conjures a well of distant, albeit interrelated memories. Scents transport us. More than that, however, smell is emotive. Beyond the aestheticism of a particular note, the power of smells to conjure images and connections means that certain odours can arouse a vast array of feelings; from desire to loss, vitality to relaxation.
Marie du Petit Thouars, founder of fragrance house Maison Louis Marie, is no stranger to the phenomenon described in Proust’s writings. All of her scents are lovingly arranged to bring to life childhood memories, places and the history of her ancestors. “The exercise of conjuring up memories and developing scents”, she tells us, “enables me to memorialise and in a sense catalogue all of the scents for generations beyond.”
Name: Marie du Petit Thouars
Occupation: Founder & Perfumer of Maison Louis Marie
The first scent you fell in love with: Cristalle de chanel
Introduction Chynna Lao
Art Direction Edana Isobel Jamora
Portrait Marie du Petit Thouars
Images Calvin Wang
"...My memories and the scents stay the same but I change and my perception of the scents change too. "
Marie du Petit Thouars
Christian Dior once said that “a women’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting.” What is your scent of choice and what does it say about you?
That is a funny quote and I guess I can agree with it too! My scent of choice changes throughout the seasons but I would have to say that right now I am enjoying our no.09 Vallee De Farney eau de parfum and perfume oil. As far as what it says about me, I think with the no.09 there is an intricate balance of fruit (grapefruit / orange) with a little edge and kick that veers slightly masculine. Wearing this scent gives me confidence since it’s not overly feminine and fruity and has many interesting layers, which adds a sense of intrigue.
Can you speak of any smells that you hold dear? What relationships and memories do they provoke?
One of my favourite smells is Lily of the Valley. I remember seeing and smelling some in my grandmother’s garden while playing outside. We were never allowed to pick them but sometimes we would go out to the forest and try to find some. In Belgium on the 1st of May it is a tradition to receive one stem flower from a boy. It drives me back to my days of innocence and feeling light and happy without a care in the world. One of my other favourite smells is the smell of bread cooking! It’s the best smell to me when I am still in bed and it is a crisp winter and I want to stay warm a little longer. It reminds me of a time that no longer exists. That is why it brings nostalgia, especially when comparing my life as a child without worries to the world I live in now as an adult.
How do memory and scent come together in Maison Louis Marie?
Well it would take too long to go through all of the scents but to give you an example, the no.04 Bois de Balincourt was inspired by my childhood experience at our summer home which was called Balincourt. This scent is specifically inspired by my long walks in the woods and the smell of damp sandalwood through the mist, which is the dominant note in that scent. The scents are influenced by my childhood and history, as well as Louis Marie’s stories and experiences.
"The exercise of conjuring up my memories and developing scents enables me to memorialise and in a sense catalogue all of the scents for generations beyond.”
In distilling your childhood memories and sentiments, and in bottling them as commercial products, do you ever fear that these scents will lose their meaning to you
I think quite the contrary. The exercise of conjuring up my memories and developing scents enables me to memorialise and in a sense catalogue all of the scents for generations beyond. Without creating them, they would have only been in my head and now I have brought them to life and can go back down memory lane whenever I wish. Of course there is something to be said about my own personal over-exposure to these scents but I have created enough diversity in our collection so I can leave a scent for a while and when I come back to it at a later time, it is just as exciting or even more so. This is because my memories and the scents stay the same but I change and my perception of the scents change too. This idea is incredibly interesting to me.
Do you think fragrances are universal? Or do you believe that culture interprets and associates certain notes differently?
I wouldn’t say that fragrances are completely universal. I see with our scents that geography does play a part in our customers’ ordering tastes but then there are a few scents in our collection that seem to be well received universally and sell throughout the world fairly uniformly. I think, generally speaking, that as time progresses, culture will be spread so fluidly throughout the world due to globalisation and the ease of travel that a song or scent can be well-received more globally than ever before.
Lastly, why is fragrance important?
Why smell bad? Also, scent can be the first impression that you make and you can underestimate the power you may have in someone’s else’s memory for eternity with your unique scent!