Sumit Bhasin, the elusive (no photos, please!) fragrance expert behind Dolce&Gabbana Pour Femme, reveals the inner-workings of the fragrance world and how he crafted the Italian house’s latest scent:

“I’m a biochemist by background—skincare and fragrance are all about chemistry. To be a male involved in makeup and fragrance, I think you’ve got to have a sensibility for… finer things. [Laughs] I gravitate towards things like woody notes; I just love the smell of rain when it hits shavings of wood, whether it’s cedar wood or even certain elements of patchouli.

There’s a myth about where one should apply fragrance on the body. People say, ‘You rub it here,’ or ‘You rub it behind the ears.’ I think you should put fragrance where it can waft for a time because what you want is continuous wafts that you can smell. For me, really, it’s on the neck—you know, it becomes very sensual; it’s a good place to put it. Some women wear it on their hair because as you move your hair, you get the wafting of the fragrance. But generally, putting it on one’s pulse points is considered a good thing because those tend to really be good radiation points—the wrist, ears…

I think, physically, the woman wearing Dolce&Gabbana Pour Femme has a certain element of voluptuousness to her, and a duality: she’s caring yet strong…physically, very approachable but really very deep. The fragrance is rooted in the Mediterranean, but to me it symbolizes everything about today. As I was working with Stefano and Domenico, they really wanted a fragrance rooted in the brand’s Mediterranean heritage but which was actually still modern and contemporary, because the whole brand is about that duality. The makeup, the fragrance, the whole experience is about the duality of classic and modern, and that’s what they wanted for this. So then we took on the task of, what does that mean in olfactive terms, in perfumistic terms? How do you keep the entry of the Mediterranean in, which is all the neroli and the citrus and the orange flower that comes through, while keeping the base notes really strong and lingering? I’m talking about the vanilla, the element of marshmallow, sandalwood…things that drive what we call the ‘passionate base’ of the fragrance. It was a challenge.

Every day, I actually wear no fragrance. We have a rule at work that no one in my group can come to work wearing fragrance because you’re trying fragrances all the time. So, our whole environment is fragrance-free—not even body lotion. On any one day, you’ve got different things on you; you’re working with different things. We have rooms that we clear the air out of every thirty minutes because you don’t want the air to be corrupted. It stands out straight away if someone comes in wearing fragrance from the night before. I mean, you can also tell if someone has had a heavy garlic meal. [Laughs] The thing with fragrance is that it’s made up of such complicated notes, but I could smell a citrus from ten different types and I could tell you the exact smell.”

—as told to ITG

Photographed by Emily Weiss in Sicily, Italy in May 2012. This feature is sponsored by Dolce&Gabbana Pour Femme.

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