Courtesy of Versace

In this present moment, the zeitgeist has gone unrelentingly retrospective. This focus on neo-nostalgia is not surprising in the least – after all, most of us are unable to travel internationally causing a cohort of sun chasers to reflect on the golden days that were; cerulean waters, gilded limbs, Rosé.

They say when one human sense is lost – be it sight, sound, smell, touch or taste – the areas of the brain usually devoted to handling that sensory information are rewired to strengthen another. With this in mind – and in the absence of being able to physically touch a non-immediate family member – one must wonder: Have our world-weary souls spent the majority of this year subconsciously absorbing more stimulus with our eyes, ears and tongues? Have we been stopping to smell the roses?

It’s an interesting time then for a perfumer (or a nose, as they are endearingly referred). Their role is to essentially capture and freeze moments, places and feelings, and thus transport people to a singular pocket of time with one spritz. For Sophie Labbé – the nose at the helm of one of Versace’s greatest beauty biopics since Kate Moss smeared dollops of sparkles across her face on its runway in ‘95 – bottling escapism in a climate where people are void of the two T’s (travel and touch) is quite exciting. “Due to the global pandemic, and the multiple lockdowns across countries, people need to escape, if only mentally, and I am thrilled to know that my fragrance can be a moment of joy, of self-indulgence,” she tells GRAZIA.

Courtesy of Versace

Labbé is being modest. Versace’s new fragrance Dylan Turquoise is the light and zesty olfactive translation of the house’s idyllic depiction of the eternal Italian summer. Read: a private island wedged between Corsica and Sardinia – one with unique rock formations, blue water and Hailey Bieber. One burst – with your eyes closed, if you will – and you’re somewhere else. “I’m enchanted by the isles of Sardinia, places that are naturally beautiful. Time seems to stand still there and I can enjoy the turquoise colour of the sea and the beautiful roundness of the rocks,” says Labbé.

“The refreshing and slightly crisp fragrance notes remind me of summers spent sailing the Italian seas. It captures the smell of warm sun on citrus plants and invigorating dips in the ocean,” she continues.

For Bieber, who fronts the Dylan Turquoise campaign, the scent makes her feel lighter and untroubled. “I love when a smell triggers a memory,” Bieber tells GRAZIA. “That happens to me often, I’ll smell something that reminds me of something from my childhood or a special time in my life with special people.”

“Dylan Turquoise is a fragrance that reminds me of the sun during summer and makes me feel carefree,” Bieber adds. “I love the freshness of the Guava scent, it gives the fragrance an exotic and tropical undertone.”

So how do you bottle the scent of a small Mediterranean Island and move people globally? How do you colour their memories in a rather colourless world? How do you even fall into such a job?

And how – no really, how – do you transport people from the mundane to the magical using only one human sense? Over to you, Ms. Labbé.

You grew up between Paris and Charente-Maritime. When you look back at your childhood in both, what are some of your favourite memories?
SOPHIE LABBÉ (SL): I love the spicy and addictive smell of everlasting flowers that grow on the Atlantic coast. It reminds me of the pleasures of swimming in the ocean, walking on the beach…the pleasures of summer. The fruity scents of grape harvests, rain, and soggy earth all remind me of Fall. In Paris, I love the blended scents of cafés, bakeries and bread. Also, I find all the perfumes worn by the people I cross in the metro and in the streets so alluring.

GRAZIA: How did these two scenes – city and countryside – shape the woman you have become?
SL: I think it was important for me to see the balance between nature and city life and it helped shape my strong sense of gratitude for people and the countryside. Both places are so full of life, in different respects. I feel invigorated by city life as much as when I hear the crunch of tree leaves under my feet on a hike in the country. The country offered me a huge reservoir of scents and olfactive memories that I still use today in my creations.

GRAZIA: You graduated with a degree in chemistry and went to perfume school. When did you decide that you wanted to become a perfumer?
SL: I have always been very interested in smells and perfumes, but I didn’t know that the profession of a perfumer existed. When I was at University studying chemistry and biology, I read an article on ISIPCA [a fragrance and cosmetics school in Paris] who were training students to become noses. I went to visit the campus, and I was very lucky to meet with Jean Kerleo, the in-house perfumer at Jean Patou at that time. He explained to me what his profession was and I was so enthusiastic about it that I decided to apply to ISIPCA!

Courtesy of Versace

GRAZIA: You might be inspired by a conversation, a novel, a succession of images, a new ingredient or closing your eyes and imagining yourself in a beautiful destination. Can you describe to me where your imagination ran off to when starting out with Versace’s Dylan Turquoise?
SL: Mrs. Versace asked me to create a vibrant, glowing fragrance, one that combines tradition, heritage and modernism – just like the house of Versace.

The colour turquoise was an inspiration as was the bright and colourful universe of Versace: citrusy, colourful fruits, lots of sensuality through the woods and musky notes.

GRAZIA: What happened next? How did you arrive at those citrusy notes of Primofiore lemon, Italian mandarin from Sicily and pink peppercorn?
SL: After years of research, I created a high quality, ultra-luxe fragrance where I used both sustainably-sourced ingredients and modern molecules. Pink Pepper is a cold spice, rich with sparkling facets. This extract is olfactively very close to the fresh red berries and is obtained thanks to a special method called SFE, carried out at a low temperature. To push the fresh facets of pink pepper, I blended it with citrus: lemon primofiore and mandarin from Calabria. The lemon I chose is considered to be the most wonderful quality and is sourced in Sicily. Each lemon is freshly picked early in the season. The first fruits of winter differ from other lemons. Their pulp in more juicy and acidic. The essence of the mandarin offers a beautifully facetted note combining the scent of the peel and the juice of the fruit.

The addition of Clearwood has given this fragrance some of that Versace sensuality. Can you explain to me how this is extracted from sugarcane?
SL: Indeed Clearwood® is the key sensual element of the fragrance. It’s an innovative woody molecule that is very addictive, sparkling and it offers the warmth of amber and a dark woody character. It’s the result of a modern and clean production method: White Biotechnology that employs micro-organisms to produce  fermentation. Starting with sugar cane, and playing with enzymes and fermentation, we are capable of producing a new element. What is amazing is that the Clearwood is biodegradable, it uses less natural resources to create it, and it’s made from 100% renewable carbon.

GRAZIA: How do you want a woman to feel when wearing this scent?
SL: This fragrance encapsulates all the pleasures of summer days spent on the Italian coastline through a balance of freshness and sensuality and musk. I want the Versace Dylan Turquoise woman to feel confident and joyful.