Beauty / Fashion

An intimate lunch celebrating Jean Paul Gaultier’s Classique 30th Anniversary in Grasse, France

Jean Paul Gaultier classique

The best scents instantly transport you to a time and place. It’s the blink of an eye, a moment in time that compresses that heady, pure moment of the first time you smelt a perfume that will somehow live with you forever. A fragrance we fall in love with - no matter our age, is symbolic and sentimental. But sometimes the ones that carry the most significance, we find early in life.

The memories you associate with the smell of teenage curiosity and fun, and the fragrances that sit alongside that chapter are monumental. This is part of the tapestry and magic of wisdom – you can only get it with time. For so many people, that very scent is the one, the only Classique by Jean Paul Gaultier. My first memory of this scent is seeing the bottle sitting on my cousin’s bedside table. I had never seen an object like it – the pure femininity of it struck me, it was so mysterious – and masculine, too. The frosted glass felt so gentle. Opening the lid and gently spraying it on my Billabong t-shirt, I had been abducted into another world. My cousin was in her mid 20’s at the time. In my 13 years on planet earth, I hadn’t experienced scent like this.

Traveling to Grasse recently to celebrate Classique’s 30th Anniversary with an intimate lunch at Villa Botanica Firmenich hosted by the Jean Paul Gaultier Fragrance team, I was happily carried back to that time - all the while making new memories with this scent, smelling the many magnificent iterations of this iconic scent. Speaking to Fabrice Pellegrin, Head Principal Perfumer and Director of Innovation of Natural Product at DSM-Firmenich, I felt amongst a revelation of some of the wizardry that goes into mastering a fragrance like Classique. One that is responsible for countless memories for so many people over its 30 years.

In your words, what are some of the most enduring facets of Classique’s identity?

The original eau de toilette is an opulent floral composed with a controlled balance between tradition and innovation. It is a timeless creation, composed by Jacques Cavallier who was one of my mentors. It combines the sweetness of orange blossom with the audacity of spices. Ginger surprises and brings lightness to the fragrance; it makes the composition vibrate with its fresh and slightly spicy tones. The bottom is ultra-enveloping and very soft, with the roundness of vanilla and the retro smell of rice powder. Finally, the ambos give a timeless, addictive and sensual character to the perfume. Classique has the codes of the great classic floral bouquets combined with more contemporary ingredients such as ginger. Its wake is very powerful, it is soft and strong at the same time, it is rich, heady, and above all very chic.


Of the base notes in this timeless fragrance – being orange blossom, ginger and vanilla,
what have you found that each of them represents – after many years working with the scent?

Orange blossom, joyful, sunny and attractive, it has strongly inspired me for my creations because it gives a "smile" to the perfume. Vanilla is one of the most sensual smells, but it is complex to use in perfume. Known to all, it evokes desserts whereas in perfumery it is multi-faceted: at the same time soft, enveloping and sensual. Ginger with its pungent tones and elegant freshness is an interesting spice for bringing vibrancy to creations and modernity.


Classic has been worn by countless people, of all genders and backgrounds over 30 years. Who do you think is the quintessential Classical person – can you sum them up?

The classic Jean Paul Gaultier fragrance expresses the idea that femininity is not limited to softness and delicacy but can be a captivating and charismatic force. Jean Paul Gaultier had this vision of a multifaceted personality which was very modern 30 years ago and it still resonates today. A person who dares to be herself, without compromise, who assumes her sensuality while maintaining an undeniable elegance. When we think of the person who wears this perfume, we inevitably imagine them to be sensual, powerful, with an assertive character.

What has your time working as Head Principal Perfumer and Director of Innovation of natural product at DSM-Firmenich taught you about the future of fragrance - particularly, making fragrance in the region of Grasse?

At dsm-firmenich I am both a perfumer and Director of Innovation for natural products and my job, with the teams in Grasse, is to make the perfume plant tell new stories. Indeed, it is interesting to discover new essential oils and absolutes to enrich the perfumer's palette and create new perfumes. However, innovation also involves new extraction methods that reveal the hidden facets of the well-known ingredient, such as lavender or jasmine: supercritical fluid extraction (SFE), co-distillation or even micro-liquid extraction that we call Firgood®. Thanks to this clean and solvent-free technology, we now can extract from traditionally "silent" flowers such as lilies or fruits. The perfumer's job is to constantly bring out the best nature has to offer in a fragrance.

Jean Paul Gaultier classique

You have worked in fragrance from a young age – your Dad worked with perfume too.
What were some of the reasons that lead you to taking after his footsteps?

My father was a perfumer, and from my childhood this profession filled me with admiration and curiosity. My craft is a true family story, set in Grasse. I was born in the hills around Grasse, my home and heart town, which is where my family and my vocation come from.
But my passion for perfumery really entered my life at the age of 15, during a summer internship at Robertet, where I discovered the transformation of raw materials and the process of creating a perfume - it was magic.

With a palette as broad and refined as yours, you must have a close connection to scent and memory. What is your strongest memory associated with Classique and do you remember the first time you smelt it?

At that time, I was a student perfumer and I remember having undertaken a chromatographic study to unlock the secrets of Jacques Cavallier's Classique creation, but my efforts were in vain. From my first encounter with the Classique perfume, its avant-garde audacity immediately imposed itself on me. However, what stood out to me just as much was its comforting feel, with its notes of orange blossom and musk evoking sweet childish nostalgia. The whole thing was enveloped in a bewitching addiction thanks to ambros.


Do you believe in finding a unique scent to carry with you through life, or that each scent represents a singular chapter and that as we grow and change, so too do our fragrances?

I regularly change perfumes according to the occasion, but I have, among my favourite perfumes, a certain regularity. I usually wear the creations I am working on to see how they evolve on my skin, but when I can wear perfume outside of work, I take care to select my perfume according to my mood, the place I am going and the people I am going to meet. To me, perfume is also a medium of expression and it is interesting to explore new horizon! The most important thing is to feel good and in tune with your fragrance.

Jean Paul Gaultier classique


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