Perfumer’s Portrait: Dominique Ropion

At once an excellent team player and an imposing soloist, Dominique Ropion is considered to be one of the most technically advanced perfumers of all time by some respected industry experts.  His profound knowledge of French perfumery and his singular versatility in creating scents are his critical contributions to many current significant projects.  Wild at heart, he is not averse to executing surprising twists.  What We Do In Paris Is Secret goes one step further.  It unveils what lies under the perfumer’s virtuosic skill – the secret of a perfumer’s soul.

“Even as a child, I could smell everything, even a handshake!” Dominique Ropion says amused, “I saw the world through its odours more than its perfumes…. Ironical for a Parisian who grew up with a mother and a grandfather who both worked for Roure in Argenteuil, one of the most important perfume companies of the 20th century. “I was very much aware of the profession very early on but the idea only came to me much later” he resumes a bit astonished. Even though I had had many summer jobs at Roure, once I passed my baccalaureate, I decided to study physics and become an engineer…”

The opportunity which made Dominique Ropion one of the great contemporary perfumers, took the form of a training course at the end of his studies in the chromatography department at Roure where he was asked by Jean Amic, the President at the time, to join the company’s school of perfumery. “I was told this profession was a journey of patience and learning and that fit me like a glove. I met Jean-Louis Sieuzac and Pierre Bourdon (the company perfumers at the time): everything was set up for me and I let myself be convinced” he says.

What happened afterwards is almost history: three years of training in Grasse, followed by a job as a junior perfumer at Roure in Argenteuil. With his first projects came his first successes and Dominique was able to demonstrate his talent with home fragrances and then hairspray and shampoo. Proud of his first experiences, he remembers them as important steps in his career: “quite a few technical difficulties and not many raw materials, it was very interesting and extremely educative. I even made a toilet cleaner based on a famous women’s fragrance which I was very proud of.” he whispers with the joy of a magician thrilled with his latest trick. Luck put him in the perfumery spotlight again at the beginning of the 80’s. One of his submissions was chosen at the end of a particularly challenging competition by Givenchy and this perfume, Ysatis, was to become one of the stars of the brand. His first masterstoke and at 27, the young perfumer suddenly became famous “the doors were flung wide open for me in the world of perfume – I had suddenly become part of an elite!”

After 12 years with Roure and 10 with Florasynth where he joined up again with Jean-Louis Sieuzac (an old accomplice from his time at Roure) and a short while with Dragoco, Dominique Ropion joined the IFF Fine Fragrance team in 2000 in Paris. A breath of fresh air, a new creative momentum, he was then able to further perfect his already famous know how and his craftsman’s approach (in the true sense of the word) and make his list of successes even longer. “I like the idea of working with perfume as an olfactive form, like a sculptor or an architect… Going to the core of a scientific study of the make up of a natural raw material and then suddenly being seduced by its beauty all over again is a great satisfaction for me” says this discreet epicurean with that intellectual air he has about him.

Neither abstract (perfume by its very definition always is a little) nor figurative (really not his style at all) he claims to have a very solid approach that is both technical and manual: “a perfumer has to be a craftsman, someone who loves the incessant encounter with so many different ingredients, be it cassia flower, jasmine or aldehydes. Where do I get my inspiration? I often find it in a central theme composed around one raw material. Then I work on its contours, its volume and contrasts. The vocabulary of music and perfume are often presented as being very similar but I think the job of a perfumer is a lot more tangible!” A job he shares willingly with the members of the dynamic team he works with… A job he is still passionate about and believes will bring him new and even more exciting discoveries in the future.

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