Sniffapalooza Magazine Exclusive Interview
Caroline Ilacqua of Téo Cabanel
Ms. Ilacqua, please tell us about the Téo Cabanel history and company. I understand it was originally
created in Algiers in the nineteenth century.
It was actually created not too far from Algiers, in Boufarik in 1893 by a French doctor: Théodore Cabanel.
The Cabanel company dedicates itself to creating essences for colognes. It also grows its own orange trees.
Téo Cabanel sets up in Paris in 1908 and soon becomes the Duchess of Windsor’s favorite perfumer.
The brand is highly appreciated by an exclusive clientele. Théodore Cabanel’s daughter then chooses to follow
in her father footsteps in the true craftsman’s tradition of “Maître Parfumeur”. She will be creating perfumes
until the age of 92 years old.
What an incredible history this company had, what led you to it, how did you discover it?
Mrs. Cabanel was the last member of the Cabanel family. She never got married, had no children and was an
only child. She was my mother’s godmother. She considered my mother as a daughter and therefore decided to
donate her the company. As my mother was working in a very different field of activity she gave me the opportunity
to take over the company. I was already very interested in the perfume business as I had been able to immerse
myself to the perfume business while spending time at the Téo Cabanel premises. Starting from the 150 perfume
formulas I inherited, I had to work on new and modern products. I started to work on the packaging and marketing plan.
It is only a few months after that I was introduced to Jean-François Latty a very famous perfumer who created Eau Dynamisante (Clarins); YSL for Men and Jazz (Yves Saint Laurent); Givenchy III as well as many other fragrances for companies like Coty, Van
Cleef & Arpels, etc. He is now our in house-perfumer and is working only for Téo Cabanel.
I understand that the daughter ran the company in the true tradition of “Maître Parfumeur”
after her father’s death. Can you explain to us the linkage between the founder and his daughter?
Mrs. Cabanel was an only child and was the most important thing in Théodore Cabanel’s life. The father and his daughter were very closed. They had a very special relationship. She was spoiled by her father all her life. They were traveling a lot together in order for Théodore Cabanel to find inspiration for the creation of its perfumes. When he died, she decided to not disappoint her father and to follow the true tradition of “Maître Parfumeur”. She did so until she died in 2000 at the age of 92, she was still working. She was not a perfumer herself and lived her whole life on the formulas her father created. Nevertheless, she was very good at selling and marketing her brand.
I understand that Téo Cabanel was the Duchess of Windsor’s favorite perfumer and was
appreciated by an exclusive clientele of private connoisseurs as well as pharmaceutical
cooperatives and independent pharmacists. Tell us about that.
As I told you before and thanks to the success his creations encountered in Algeria, Théodore
Cabanel decided to come back to Paris in 1908. He opened a store in a very aristocratic
surrounding called “Montmartre”. It was an immediate success. He became highly appreciated
by an exclusive clientele of connoisseurs who were coming to his shop to buy their perfumes as
well as their “extraits de mouchoirs”. He also started to sell its fragrances to pharmaceutical
cooperatives and independent pharmacists. At that time, people were buying their perfumes in
pharmacies when they had no local shops close to their house.
The Duchess of Windsor was in fact a very faithful client for years. She considered Téo Cabanel
as her favorite perfumer. Each time she was in Paris she was ordering litters of two creations of
Théodore Cabanel: Julia & Yasmina. We still have letters written by her private secretary on
the hotels Ritz or Meurice writing paper.
Obviously you have a great deal of experience in the industry. Please tell us about
yourself. Are you also a perfumer? Actually, I didn’t have much experience in the industry
before working at Téo Cabanel. I took over the company at the age of 22 (5 years ago). Before
that I had been working several months as an account manager for the advertising agency
Ogilvy & Mather in Dublin, Ireland. But as mentioned before, I had been immersed in the
perfume business from very young.I was spending a lot of time with whom I considered as a
grandmother: Mrs. Cabanel. I learnt a lot with her. I am not a perfumer myself and this is
the reason why we have Jean-François Latty with us. He is the creator of all the Téo Cabanel
perfumes. To date in the industry, very few brands have their own perfumer. This is why we can
consider ourselves as very lucky to work with such an experienced artist and professional as
Jean-François Latty. I am still learning a lot with him. I am giving him the brief for each new perfume we decide to create and he is the one who builds the fragrance. I have always been passionate by the perfume industry. It was then easier for me to learn about fragrances. I spent hours reading books about perfumes and smelling ingredients in order to know how to recognize them!
At the young age of 22 you actually took up the responsibility of re-creating and managing Téo Cabanel and leading it into the future. You must have felt a great deal of passion for this lost company. What motivated you to resurrect it? I couldn’t be indifferent as I have alwaysknown the Cabanel company. It has always been part of my life and the Cabanel were a second family for me! I couldn’t let the company die at the same time as his manager. Moreover we had to perpetrate the sophistication and quality of the French perfume industry. Téo Cabanel has always been working with
qualitative and natural ingredients. Today, most of the fragrances available in perfumeries are not as constructed and qualitative as they were in the 1950s-1960s. Our credo his to offer high quality perfumes which last on the skin. To do so, we take the greatest care in using the finest natural ingredients and the
most unexpected and precious essences.
And you found over 150 perfume formulas from 1893 to develop a new concept for the company?
So you do have one foot in the past and one in the future, don’t you think?
We definitely cannot deny such a long history. We get the inspiration from the creations of Théodore Cabanel.
The quality of the products that were created by the Cabanel family is also key for us. They always remind us
that we have to offer extremely qualitative fragrances and packagings to our clientele. This is what real perfumery
is all about! You know, tradition and creation always go hand in hand. Téo Cabanel, always true to its heritage,
moved toward fully elaborated and modern perfumes. These new creations remain true to our original values: quality, elegance and generous natural ingredients.
Please tell us how you met up with perfumer Jean-François Latty and what happened from there?
When I inherited from Téo Cabanel I did not know if it was still possible to produce some of the formulas created by Mr Cabanel. I then decided to go to Grasse (the world capital of natural ingredients). There I met a very important woman called Monique Rémy. She created, in Grasse in the 1960s, a company specialized in natural ingredients. She was immediately seduced by the Cabanel history and introduced me to Jean-François Latty. I went to Jean-François’ place to let him know about Téo Cabanel. He explained me that he had stopped working a few years before as he was fed up creating low quality perfumes. Nevertheless, he immediately told me that he would be pleased to work for “such a brand”: a brand which was willing to create perfumes without financial constraints and using natural ingredients. We are using a minimum of 45 ingredients to create one perfume. This is huge if you consider that most of the brands are using between 5 and 15 ingredients per perfume! We started to work together on Oha and Julia the week after!
Please tell us more about Jean-François Latty.
Jean-François Latty took his first step into the world of perfumery in 1965 when he entered a very famous perfumery school in Grasse. 3 years after he started to create its first perfumes: Givenchy III, Drakkar (Duy Laroche), YSL for Men (Yves Saint Laurent). IIn 1971, he was hired by IFF where he created Portos (Balenciaga), Estivalia (Puig), Eau Dynamisante (Clarins), etc. In 1987 he left IFF for Takasago where he soon created Jazz (YSL), Universo and Avatar (Coty), Love Story (Ferraud), Backgroung (Jil Sanders), Tsar (Van Cleef), 360 (Perry Ellis). In 2000 he founded his company specialized in perfume creation and selling natural ingredients. He then stopped working until I met him and presented it Téo Cabanel.
Jean-François Latty and you are to be congratulated as you truly have taken the tradition of French perfumery and highest quality of natural ingredients and have turned them into stunning fragrances with a modern and beautiful twist. What were some of the challenges in accomplishing that?
What is the most popular fragrance in the Téo Cabanel line?
It varies from one country to another and even one city to another. It can also vary from one season to another so I don’t think we really have a most popular fragrance! We tried to create fragrances that are very different from one another in order to be able to answer the needs of any woman. Julia for instance is highly appreciated for its floral and fruity notes. Oha and Alahine are more powdery. Oha is a very special fragrance. It is in fact very difficult to create a floral chypre as it is usually an olfactory family more targeted to men. It requires a great deal of experience to create a feminine chypre like Oha. To create Alahine we are using the finest natural ingredients. It is a very rich fragrance that combines up-market ingredients such as: rose, iris wax, bezoin, jasmine, etc.
I understand that only natural ingredients are used in the fragrances, please tell us about that.
We tell our clients the truth. Today, it is impossible to create a fragrance with only natural ingredients. Téo Cabanel is using a maximum of natural ingredients. Nevertheless, a perfume cannot be well created without ingredients such as musk and amber. These ingredients are of animal origin and are now prohibited. This is the reason why perfumers had to replace them with synthetic molecules. We use between 85% and 95% of natural ingredients to create our perfumes. Téo Cabanel’s signature is to use 2 different types of roses: Bulgarian and Moroccan rose. We are one of the only brands to use two roses in a perfume. Natural ingredients are very expensive but give to the perfumes an incredible quality. Some of the ingredients we use:
Rose – approximately 8000€/kg – we need 5000 kg of petals to produce 1kg of essence.
Iris wax – the most expensive ingredient: between 10 000€ and 15 000€
Jasmine – one of the most delicate flower – only 5 to 6 tons of essence are produced per year which explains the price: between 6 000 € and 8 000 €/kg.
Caroline, please us about the newest fragrance Meloe that was just released. I had the opportunity to smell this and it is a gorgeous fragrance. Méloé is a fresh, green and fruity fragrance. It is very elegant perfume that we created both for summer and winter. It is inspired by the orange tree that the Cabanel were growing in Algeria. Méloé was the name of Théodore Cabanel’s wife: Méloé Cabanel. The fragrance generously draws its top notes from citrus and spices. Bergamot from Calabria, mandarin and lemon from Sicily, lavender and basil play their part in perfect harmony. The sparkling citrus notes linger until a dainty floral bouquet of Neroli from Tunisia, orange blossom and jasmine with just a touch of nutmeg comes to full bloom to make up the heart notes. Sensual base notes of musk, amber and just a hint of woody create its trail! Méloé is a modern and mysterious fragrance perfect for all occasions.
Please tell us about the amazing solid perfumes of Téo Cabanel.
First came solid perfumes… This is why we decided to go back to the very origin of perfume and to offer each one of our eaux de parfum in solid form. Jean-François Latty very well captured the three existing fragrances to deliver them in a gold plated engraved compact. Cuddled in its garnet-coloured faux-leather case, the solid Téo Cabanel fragrance fits perfectly in any handbag. It is a practical and deluxe solution for women who like to travel. Soft to the touch, it melts on the skin. It is also alcohol free and totally natural. It is thus suited to all skin types, even the most sensitive ones, and of course it can be wear in the sun without any risk of stains appearing on the skin. The solid perfumes have to be apply on pulse points, on the flat of your wrist, behind your ear and in a low neck line. The product comes with a refill. A gold needle is pinned on the flap of the case and allows you to flip off the original pan and clasp in the refill.
Caroline, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit with us. We at Sniffapalooza Magazine are honored and we truly wish you and the Téo Cabanel company great success.
Reviews next issue! Téo Cabanel fragrances available at Henri Bendel.
images courtesy of Teo Cabanel. All rights reserved. Images not to be used without permission. 2008