Interview with a Perfumer Elena Countess von Olnhausen

What does elegant even mean these days? Elegance is beauty that shows unusual effectiveness and simplicity. Elegant things often show refined grace and suggest maturity. Like our outfits, our fragrances have become more casual over time.
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Perfumer and owner of LA MAISON LEN Elena Countess von Olnhausen has a nose for making people feel good. She is our next pathbreaker, who creates engaging scents. During the interview she spoke about the creative process of making exclusive scents and shared many other insights about fragrance industry.

How did you become a perfumer?

Since the war with Napoleon, in 1812, our family has kept old perfume recipes presented to my great great great grandmother by a French perfumer. They loved each other and he dedicated many perfumes to her.  I grew up with this family legend. When other girls collected dolls, I always asked to buy me a new perfume. Being a perfumer and having my own brands has always been clear to me.

How would you define the style of your perfumes?

Perfume style is the concept of the brand and the concept of each scent in partcular. Scents are the key to our memory - that's why the brand logo is the head of an old key.  Each perfume tells a story of love that happened to me or to people I have heard about or whom I know personally.  it's always a rendezvous, romance in unusual places.

Describe a day in the life of a master perfumer when working on a project like LA MAISON LEN? What is your schedule like?

Every day is a mixture between creative tasks and business meetings.  I spend 80 percent of my time in my atelier working on new scents.  Before the pandemic, I traveled a lot. Now the number of flights has been significantly reduced and there is more time for creativity.

How do you find your ingredients?

I carefully select them from biological plantations in different countries.  This is an extremely long process, because all my perfumes are highly concentrated, long-lasting and are mostly made from natural oils.  Roses from Bulgaria and Turkey, a rare oud from Madagascar, Italian wood oils - my oil suppliers are located in 47 countries.

Picture: Galerie Lafayette

Do you have any favourites among your fragrance collection?

I love all the collections - now there are two of them - HISTOIRE PRIVÉE and BURJ AL ARAB EDITION.  But my 3 favourites are LAST CALL TO IBIZA, the smell of eternal summer, travel, holiday and romance. The story of love of Nostradamus and his wife. Another one - 27 in Macao - the precious smell of luck, romance and success. And always PRIVAROT - means in Russian language love spell - female mysterious fragrance of 27 flowers.

How many scents should a person have in their scent wardrobe?

Ideally, each outfit should have its own perfume. I have more than 500 perfumes in my collection.

All creative projects have their challenges. What was you biggest challenge working on your collection?

The biggest challenge was and always is still the same - how to reflect history of love in the scent, how to find the ingredients for events and emotions, to find the famous perfume keys to memory and imagination, transferring to another place, to another time.

What are your three favourite smells? 

Iris, rose, oud.

LA MAISON LEN has a unique bottle design ideas, what was your inspiration?

When designing the bottle, I thought about what I dislike about other brands of perfume bottles and how to avoid it in my perfumes. I don't like it when the cap of the perfume is lost in my bag, so all caps are equipped with the strongest magnet you can find on the market. The heavy crystal bottle has a hand-applied black frame - like a work of art and this paint is special, it seems that it is inside the glass. It cannot be easy scratched. Expensive metal embossed label is covered with a protective film. And on new perfumes, the design of the packaging is repeated on the design of the bottle, expensive four-layer printing, manual French work. All elements, by the way, are made in France.

What are your goals for the next 5 years?

The collection will grow to 27-35 scents and there will be another new brand directly related to my love of flying on the air balloon.

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