Fabrice Lecler, the creator of the innovation lab for L’Oreal Prestige, described Maria Candida’s creations as “reaching the heart because they come from the heart.” After graduating from the Perfumery School of Grasse, she learned more under the direction of Carol Andrew and went on to work with lines such as Sinfonia di Note, Farmacia SS, and Profumi del Forte. In her line, there are two groups – classic (inspired by the natural treasures of the Mediterranean) and exclusive. Using a large percentage of natural ingredients, she channels her energy to make them sing in a truly inspired way.
Ron Slomowicz: Becoming a mother affected your love of perfumery and why you became a perfumer; can you explain more about that?
Maria Candida Gentile: My grandfather was a pharmacist, and when I was a child I played in the pharmacy; I would distill the clair matin roses for fun. I didn’t know at that time that my real interest was in perfume, and after I became a mother I became even more interested in perfumery. When my son was born I went to live in the beautiful valley of Valle d’Aosta. My life changed, and when I was there I met some people that worked with perfumes. There was a woman who lived near my house that had a lot of experience with herbs. When I lived in the mountains I smelled the smell of the snow, the trees, and nature, and I understood that was my passion. I started to study at a university of cosmetology but only went for one year. One of my professors told me that I was so far advanced from the other students and asked me why I didn’t want to go to a school of fragrance in Grasse. I took her suggestion and started going to school in France, but still lived in Valle d’Aosta which was very hard for me at the time because I had two sons and it was such a long drive back and forth. Going to school is a lot easier for younger students. I started working in a laboratory with my professor, named Carol André, and once I started I didn’t want to go back to any other enterprises. It is so important for me to create my perfume with a lot of creativity, and that is difficult to do if you work for a large enterprise. Some of my best friends worked for large companies and they didn’t get to follow their heart and do what they really wanted to.
RS: When you were a little girl you took clair matin roses and made distillations of them, I was wondering if your Cinabre fragrance was inspired by that.
Maria Candida Gentile: I love the smell of roses, and when I was younger I used to water the garden with my aunt. For Cinabre I chose to use special roses, different than the ones that you can usually smell. I don’t like to use fruity or citrusy smells, I like to use a mystical rose, something that is an aphrodisiac and has a smell of seduction. For my creations I use a cold spice on the top because the top of the perfume is spicy and I blend the roses with Mira and vanilla to create my special smell. 97% of my products are all natural.
RS: How long does it take you to make your fragrances starting from your idea to its completion?
Maria Candida Gentile: I usually come up with ideas while I am driving, sitting in church, or visiting a garden, and once I find that my idea I start the process of making my perfumes. I have to find the right balance between the idea and chemistry, it is difficult for me to mix everything and often I feel very neutral to the smell. I don’t complete the final product until I have a lot of time alone and listen to music.
RS: Why did you start your own line?
Maria Candida Gentile: I started working with a company as an independent and have always worked for myself. I have worked on a lot of tailor-made perfumes for important people. Just as a painter paints when he has emotions, I do the same with my perfumes. My perfumes are very close to me, and I don’t ever want to sell them to a company. I prefer to meet a client or customer to discuss my perfumes and to get a full understanding of what they want me to create for them. My line is personal, but I like to share with the people that are passionate about my perfumes.
RS: Since you have been in New York, has anything inspired you to start working on a new fragrance?
Maria Candida Gentile: Yes, of course, I have been in New York for two nights and it is very active here. I would like to work in New York, I arrived two nights ago and have been very busy- but I am planning on working on a new fragrance.
RS: Do you have any idea what the notes would be?
Maria Candida Gentile: New York is a place where there are many different races. I would like to blend many smells of the world, so to speak. I would like to use rhubarb in my next perfume.
RS: Oh wow, really?
Maria Candida Gentile: It has a deep smell and I think it would be a great material for my perfume.
RS: I have never thought of that, that’s why you are so creative.
Maria Candida Gentile: Have you ever smelled rhubarb?
RS: When I think of rhubarb I think of a rhubarb pie that you would eat in the south.
Maria Candida Gentile: Yes, it is a very incredible and particular scent. I think that the rhubarb may bring something special and different to the table. When I travel, I usually have a lot of my perfumes with to share with other passionate perfumers, but it was difficult to bring them through customs this time.
RS: I will go home and find some rhubarb to smell. What would you like to say to all of your fans?
Maria Candida Gentile: Please continue to use my fragrances and thank you for choosing my perfume line. It is very deep and different from other perfumes, especially with the raw materials and the passion that goes into my creations. Which one of my creations do you like the most?
RS: So far, Luberon, but I like others as well. They all seem really special to me.
Maria Candida Gentile: They are very different from other perfumes because they come from the heart and I use natural and raw materials. For me it nature that gives me the gift to make perfume and I want to respect the natural use of materials. I think that it is easier to communicate emotion with raw materials because they have their own vibration. It is impossible to create that with synthetic materials.
RS: Which one of your fragrances is most popular?
Maria Candida Gentile: The most popular of the classic line is Sideris- that means stars. Exultat is a holy perfume and it is very mystic. It is incense blended with violet leaves and vetiver and sometimes when people smell my perfume they start to cry.
Interview conducted January 2013 during Elements Showcase. Photo Credit: Carla Fiori from Maria Candida Gentile website.