I am Maïa Lernout, I am perfumer, I work in Paris for a Fragrance House called Takasago where I have been working for 10 years. Before I used to work as a perfumer for a natural extracts producer, which brings me the love and the knowledge of natural materials. I am born in Paris, but in my teens, I moved in the south of France, in Avignon and so I discovered the light and the smells of Provence. I love my city, I love to have a huge access to culture, to historical patrimony, but I also do love to go back to the south where I partly grew up and where you are very close to nature – I have two loves, as Josephine Baker sang. I was 13 years old, quite young, when my French teacher gave us a book list in which we had to pick one book — and there was Le Parfum from Süskind. I was intrigued by the title, but I did not know it was a thriller. I was captivated by the olfactive descriptions. And then completely by chance, I saw a documentary a few weeks later on television about perfumers, which was barely mediatized at that time. That was when I realized that you could actually learn this job in a school or in a company and it was not just a skill that you have or don't have. From that point on, at each birthday, I would ask a book about perfumes, to learn more about this world.
I wanted to capture the light of the two queens of white and solar flowers to take the consumers on a sensorial journey of blissful happiness. The inspiration for Flora Luminare was the two beautiful flowers: Tiara from Tahiti and Ylang-Ylang from Madagascar. Coming from a paradisiac and dreamy island, resembling shards of an ethereal, warm morning light. I think in the islands there is always a specific atmosphere, maybe a closer connection with nature. Tahiti and Madagascar are very inspiring; they are like the paradise of flowers. With their pure, gorgeous nature, where traditions are very linked with the use flowers. I chose Ylang-Ylang as the signature note for the eau de parfum to accentuate the fragrance’s solar and textured floral facets.
My vision for it was to bring the people who will wear Flora Luminare in beautiful landscapes. I never had the chance to go to Tahiti but you can travel through smell. In my previous job, working for a natural producer, I had the opportunity to receive and smell fresh tiara flowers and try different processes of extraction. The smell was amazing and thanks to that experience I could picture the wild island. I also wanted to introduce the dimension of taking care of nature, which is a cause I have been supporting in our industry for a long time. That is why I really wanted to use and associate Tiara with a special quality of Ylang-Ylang. This quality of Ylang complete is more sustainable, as it is not a fractioned oil, but a complete distillation, less firewood is needed and the wood used is coming from plantations and not from the forest.
The name of this collection is made of two words; Flora, which was the Goddess of Flowers, which is still a much-used word in the English vocabulary. And Luminare, which derives from the Latin word lumen and means light. So I would say that this fragrance is dedicated to people (women or men) who want to feel like the queen or the king of their life, who want to feel confident and also who want to escape in some wild, and gorgeous island. Floral Luminare is a very white floral fragrance but I think that the black smokey tea facet in the EDP sets apart Flora Luminare from others floral classic perfumes. It is really an overdose of floral notes in the heart combined with a fresh sparkling top thanks to mandarin, petit grain and pepper oil. Especially compared to Milk Musk, another of my creation for Molton Brown, which not at all floral but very musky, ambery and oriental.
I do not have a very clear process that I can describe step by step. I just need some pictures or a few words to allow me to escape and reminisce about a moment I have lived, sometimes from my childhood, or a moment in which I can picture myself living in. And then I try to translate that moment in an olfactive speech. For instance, if the brief is a garden in the spring, I will picture everything from the trees that are in this garden, which flowers, the moment (is it in the morning?), the dew — or is it at the sunset? Is there a house? What is the weather? Is it windy or maybe there's a warm wind? I picture everything like if I have lived this moment, so that it’s easier then to translate that moment and feeling in an olfactive language.
My inspiration can come from everything that can give me emotion. It could be a landscape or a ballet, a piece of art, a character in a book, even a public person who inspires me a lot or anonymous people in the street.
I discovered with the lockdown that you can live a moment intensively even through Instagram or a zoom meeting. For instance, I attended a Kundalini yoga and meditation session on Instagram and even though I wasn't physically with the teacher, I felt like she was talking to me, dedicated to me. I think people have realized that they can handle many things from home. And while the consequence may be more digital sales, it may also lead to more bespoke digital experiences. For example, you can take an appointment to have private chat with an expert to guide you on your choices and maybe more masterclasses with creators. I am a book lover and I am always looking to listen to the writers, to watch their life or listen to podcasts sometimes before I read the book. It makes me want to buy and read their book even more.
With this worldwide outbreak and the lockdown, we have suddenly discovered in two months, in a big city like in Paris, that we were able to breath pure air, hear more birds sing and see more animals than ever. So it really means that we have an impact on the world. Many fragrance houses have already initiated the process to focus on sustainable sources of our natural and synthetic ingredients, but I think we need to go faster. And thankfully, brands such as Molton Brown really appoint this question as a priority.