The perfume artist Meo Fusciuni imbues intangible memories, emotions and thoughts into experimental fragrances. Each scent grasps the elusive essence of things to which it gives a new smell and identity. Like a contemporary alchemist, Fusciuni collects the finest ingredients and blends them together to create intense olfactory experiences. We met Meo Fusciuni in Paris and discuss with him about his work and the extraordinary craft of perfume-making.
Meo, how do you transform life moments into olfactory experiences?
Sometimes I imagine the absolute end of everything, of every thought and existing creature. I close my eyes and I think of my fragrances. My scents reflect my life; they are specific frames made of molecules, like fragrant memories. All my work is strongly autobiographical and that’s why episodes of life naturally evolve into perfumes. This happens because my mind and my body have developed a special sensibility for smells and perfumes, which are kept within my olfactory memory.
There is no air without a scent. Breath and fragrances are strictly connected. What are your thoughts about this intimate relationship?
It is a very subtle relationship that I tried to describe with the Trilogy of Journey. In this cycle of fragrances I expressed my nomadic trips, which are strictly related to my anthropological studies, and deeply influenced my nose. The Trilogy of Journey includes my breath, the breath of the men and women I met while I was wandering through Istanbul, Morocco and Sicily, the smell that wraps the locals and hits traveler who arrives in those lands. I created the scents listening to the sound and smell of this mixed breaths.
Different individuals perceive a single fragrance in many ways, although the smell doesn’t change. How do you think it’s possible?
Psychology has described very well the collective memory connected to historical events, although it forgot to point out that people are culturally attached to certain scents. A Swedish feels the smell of a crispy morning in a very different way than a Sicilian. Each of us has a different story, a different DNA and the perfume reacts with his skin in a different way according to that. I am very intrigued by how people perceive my fragrances. The evocative power of scents it’s what pushes me to bring furthers my researches by turning the memories of my life in liquid memories, in fragrances.
Perfumes are among the first impressions of newborns. Describe the subtle connection between smell and memory.
Everything is embedded in the limbic system, which collects permanent memories of our stories. Each scent or smell is collected and stored. The connection between memory and smell is natural because the newborn instinctively gathers together different fragrances from the first moments of life. The culture and the environment in which he grows up shape his nose, and he begins to make basic distinctions between good and bad smells, until he fully define his personal taste.
You studied by chemical herbalist and historical anthropologist. What influence the scents have on the life and moods of individuals? Do you think that the essence of a culture can be expressed through a single smell?
My experience in the field, gained in Morocco and Turkey, would suggest me to answer that you cannot enclose the essence of people in just one smell. A perfumer can do it in a single fragrance because he works with several notes that catch a great variety of shades. From the head of the perfume, to his heart, and at its base, each part is complementary to express the characteristics of a certain population. I remember that when I left my native land, Sicily, the olfactory memory was the only glimmer of happiness that bound me to my home, so every smell that reminded me of Sicily was a pure joy but also brought tremendous longing. Life is constantly influenced by suggestions related to our olfactory memory.
Your fragrances are hypnotic and totalizing. It is possible to speak of a “language” of smells that overcomes the limits of ordinary language?
I think so. In a dark room, the first sense we use is the smell, the smell that surrounds us. In aromatherapy this process is called “subtle aromatherapy.” When I am working on a new perfume I often try to recall the deepest feelings hidden in the corner of my soul. It’s like a lullaby, a continuous cycle that involves finding a smell for each of my thoughts to build new olfactory languages. I do not care to hear that my perfumes are good or bad, I just want people to tell me that my scent reminds them of something and evokes a sincere emotion, as genuine feeling it’s all we have.
How do you select the primal materials? When you create a fragrance, are you guided by chemistry or instinct?
The raw materials come from all over the world and I source them after I decided a precise theme that I aim to express through my fragrances. Everything in my work is guided by the instinct, by my simple experience of life as a man on the earth. Poetry always comes first and chemistry follows. The rational knowledge starts to works when the mind is already cold, and the burning feelings are quiet and in peace.
Discussing together, I had the impression that creating scents is for you a sort of cathartic experience. Do you ever fear to intimidate the wearer by sharing too much of your ego through your creations?
This question is quite difficult to answer. As I said before, my work is heavily autobiographical and I live it as an intimate cathartic process that brings up both the dark and the bright sides of my experiences. That said, I don’t think that people perceive my ego as something imposing. Over the years I have met many customers who have told me “Your scent has become the scent of my life”. Sometimes I can’t wear my own fragrances because they bring me back to the creation process. Somehow I know their secret and thy do not speak to me as they speak to others.
You often organize performances that present your creations, giving them a narrative context. How these events contribute to express the message contained in your fragrances?
The music always surrounds me while I am working. The sound, as the movement, is important components of my creative process. They complete my olfactory story by giving it a body and a voice. My performances are curated in collaboration with Federica Castellani. With them, we aim to multiply the strength of the scents and showcase experiences that involve all the senses. By assuming a visual shape and a sound, the fragrance penetrates into the invisible dimension of our consciousness, smell, memory, dream.