Perfumer Maia Lernout Discusses Her Latest Fragrance ELIE SAAB Le Parfum Essentiel and Her Love For Natural Ingredients

Lindsay Judge   |   30-03-2020

ELIE SAAB Le Parfum Essentiel came together under the vision of renowned perfumer Maia Lernout who has worked with the House previously.

The French perfumer is known for her love of working with natural materials since being inspired by the landscape and nature of the South of France as a young girl. She moved from Paris to the South to immerse herself in nature that she loved so much and it was here that she was inspired by the scents of the landscape and the emotions they evoked. Here Lernout decided to train as a perfumer and she continued to train with many mentors, all who were inspired by the beauty of nature.

Lernout has created many scents for international brands and prides herself on her unique use of ingredients. Here we discover more about ELIE SAAB Le Parfum Essentiel and the elements that brought her to the final formula.



Who is the woman you created this scent for?

She is a very active woman. She lives in a big city and is very involved in her work but she is getting tired of this her fast-paced and dizzying lifestyle. She wants to come back to her roots, to nd herself and be aligned with her true values. I completely recognise myself in this story.


How do you believe this perfume embodies the DNA of the Elie Saab House?

Le Parfum Essentiel naturally embodies the DNA of the Elie Saab house thanks to its key olfactive facets interpreting all the Houses’ values: the radiance personality of the Elie Saab woman with the sparkling and luminous top, the femininity enhancer thanks to sublime flowers worked with high precision. Then confidence, thanks to the richness and sophistication of a chypre. And finally, for me fluidity is also a key element of the Elie Saab silhouette, so I always work in this way also when creating fragrances for Elie Saab to give fluidity.


How do you go about translating the idea of an Haute Couture House into a scent?

This is achieved thanks to the white bouquet composed of Gardenia flowers, almond flower and jasmine which convey delicacy and sophistication much like the couture designs.


Which emotions does this scent bring to your mind?

Peaceful, blissful, confidence.



What was your starting point for creating this perfume?

There was an image on the initial mood board that featured a Lebanese garden, full of white flowers, I imagined it to be a pause in our overloaded life. So I decided to work this notion of a beautiful fresh garden, that we could discover behind closed doors in the middle of a big city. The garden could be a bubble where you can relax and go back to basics.


Can you talk us through some of the key ingredients and why you chose them?

The main flower I have chosen is a Gardenia accord, it brings oral notes and femininity. It is a symbol of purity. I also included Mandarin; which brings fresh, luminous, and fruity facets, expressing joy, sparkling and shining moments. And finally, a Lebanese cedarwood accord.


How do you think this perfume sits in the Elie Saab fragrance family?

Faithful to its DNA, you will recognise in Le Parfum Essentiel the olfactive signature of Orange blossom and Patchouli.



What is the one ingredient that you love to work with the most?

It depends on my mood but there is a spice, which is kind of pepper called Timur which I love to use. It has some grapefruit facets. And I also have a love for orange blossom, when I smell it I feel like I am in the sunshine, even if it’s a rainy day.


What is the first scent you smelt that still stays in your mind?

I have a special attraction for Diorissimo by Christian Dior, because my grandmother wore it for her whole life. When I smell it, the emotion is so powerful, it is like she is standing with me. Another scent I remember from my childhood is the apricot jam my grandmother used to cook.


You have chosen to work with raw natural materials through much of your career – why is this something you are drawn to?

I believe I need nature to feel alive. I was raised in Paris, I love the city and it allows us to have access to so many cultural places, but I feel the need to go back to nature quite often. Maybe because when I was younger I would spend two months of the summer at my grandmother’s house in the south of France, where the nature was so wild. I used to embrace nature there.



How do you get inspired?

From nature, from my memories, but also anything that evokes emotions. It could be a painting, a movie, a picture, a landscape, a very inspired speech, or a book.


What do you think is the biggest challenge for a perfumer today?

To create fragrances with a memorable signature. There are so many launches each year and a brands invest a lot into fragrance so they want to be reassured through consumer testing in order to ensure success.


What in your opinion, is the secret to creating a fragrance that becomes an icon?

First a very strong belief, and then commitment from the brand to be open to new ingredients and to be bold. There also needs to be an understanding that to become an icon a fragrance needs time needs to be communicated in the right way. I always remind people that when J’adore was launched, many people found that it smelt like shampoo, because consumers were not used to these very fruity watery top notes, and now it is a best seller in almost all markets.


What is a scent that you would still like to develop?

I have many creative notes in my drawers waiting for their bottles! There is one smell very difficult to describe because it is more a sensation that I would like to express, it is the smell of the snow.



What is the professional motto that you live by?

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars.” This is a quote by Oscar Wilde.


Where do you go when you want to switch off?

The South of France, to my family house, among vineyards and hills.


What is a book you’ve read recently that inspired you?

I have a love for British Victorian literature. I have read “Jane Eyre” many times. Charlotte Brontë expresses the feelings and torments of the soul so well. Jane has a strong character, which was not common for a woman in that period. Throughout the story, she gets more confident and her inner voice expresses her beliefs. She is the original feminist.



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