Maïa Lernout and Karine Dubreuil on GINZA

Strength & femininity: a fragrance that will inspire many woman

T

he lively soul of Tokyo. GINZA, where East meets West. Japan’s most cosmopolitan district. More than a fragrance. A new paradigm. Ginza invites women to express their femininity in all its different facets and contrasts. To assume their duality, to nourish their sensitivity as much as their confidence. To magnify their inner strength. To reveal its unsuspected power!

GINZA was born from the encounter of contrasts, an art which Shiseido masters to perfection. A unique way of seizing tradition and guiding it towards the greatest form of modernity, of shaping it over and over until its truest, most inspiring expression is reached.
While in the West fragrance is considered a tool of seduction, in Japan it takes on a more personal and spiritual dimension. Long ago, the Samurai used fragrance and incense during Kodo ceremonies to give themselves courage. Or rather to free their inner strength. Indeed, their ancestral code of conduct called Bushido already encouraged them to believe in themselves and turn their personality into their magic power.

 

“”

“I have no magic power; I make
personality my magic power”

– Samurai Creed

 

GINZA by Shiseido

What does Shiseido bring to mind for you?
ML: I like how Shiseido combines advanced technology with a truly holistic approach. The brand is very cutting-edge!
KD: I’ve known of Shiseido since I was a teenager. I would go into perfume shops and was captivated by the different layering rituals. I’ve always been fascinated by the delicate, floral fragrances in the skincare products. These scented memories are very special and hold a precious, somewhat nostalgic place in my heart.

What was Shiseido aiming for with this new fragrance?
KD: To embody a woman who is both strong and feminine, who is confident and has found her inner strength. We were truly inspired by the idea of a female samurai.
ML: This description led us to a chypre accord to recall strength and femininity. With an abundance of wood, rooted in the earth to symbolise each woman’s inner strength.

What were your sources of inspiration?
KD: I worked with a jasmine note, using three different types of jasmine, which I’d been trying to perfect for years at that point. Being born in Grasse, I’m pretty well-versed when it comes to flowers. I always love to work with floral notes and feel like I’m one with nature. A trip to Kyoto also inspired me to use jasmine – I spent a wonderful time there in the rain. The humidity brought about some very similar scents to those of my childhood in the south of France. This jasmine is a link between Grasse and Kyoto, while the chypre accord adds sophistication to the natural fragrance.
ML: I was immediately inspired by the importance of representing brave women. Karine and I both have strong personalities. We like to express our opinions and are very attached to our convictions. We come from families where women have always been both powerful and feminine. My grandmother and great-grandmother weathered many challenges with great courage. They were just as strong as the men, yet also had an eye for elegance and beauty. The scent of flowers, of jasmine, was of great importance to them.

You work for a Japanese fragrance House. What differences are there with a western brand?
ML: The corporate culture is more about team effort and working together than about individualism. The sense of honour is also given pride of place. If you commit to doing something, even if it’s no longer necessary for the company , you’ll still do it. You keep your word! Actually, we learn a lot by talking to our Japanese co-workers. We had two decisive encounters which gave us a number of ideas for this project.
KD: Yes, we love talking to our Japanese colleagues to immerse ourselves in their culture and brainstorm new ideas!

Ginza was designed using an ethical approach. What was done to ensure this?
ML: Hinoki wood essence comes from woodworking scraps which would otherwise be burned, and the plantations of these trees are sustainably managed in the Okayama area, specifically by supporting the locals.
KD: We used mainly “renewable” ingredients, meaning either natural extracts or synthetic ingredients made up of at least 50% renewable carbon. Most of the molecules are usually synthesised through petrochemistry, but here we went for molecules produced by the pine industry. Finally, the alcohol we used is derived from natural beetroot.

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Were you inspired by the ancient samurai ritual of Kodo and, if so, how?
KD: Kodo is a silent ritual to recentre oneself and nourish one’s inner strength using a mixture of burning woods and a sensation of smoke. This was the main inspiration behind Ginza’s woody facet – the Hinoki, patchouli and sandalwood accord which added a chypre character to the floral note.
ML: I was lucky enough to attend a Kodo ceremony. At first, it seemed almost like a game to me. Small containers with pyramids of crushed wood are passed around, and you have to guess what they are based on the smell. It’s an organised ritual during which everyone remains silent and focused on the scents. I felt very connected to this solemn concentration. I like to work in silence, without any noises or music.

Just like Shiseido, Ginza is based on dualities such as the balance between tradition and modernity. How did these fit into your creative process?
ML: Duality is at the heart of the fragrance, with the flower which takes on a chypre dimension. The floral accord features the delicacy of jasmine and other ethereal petals like magnolia and freesia, conveying a white, almost cool and watery sensation, while the woods form a black stain, both dark and warm.
KD: The formula itself is all about duality, too. We infused three types of jasmine, a traditional ingredient in perfumery, and combined them with other molecules from green chemistry. So tradition and modernity come together with Ginza.

What’s it like to work on a fragrance together as a duo?
KD: Ma·1a and I work together quite a lot! We really understand each other, think similarly, respect and trust each other. We have the same tastes when it comes to fragrance, but our signatures are complementary. We make a good team, and for us, working together always means making common decisions. We work in the same room to create our compositions, smelling the different trials together and re-working them until we’re ready to share our fragrances with others. If we can’t physically be together, sometimes we even come up with the same ideas! Developing a fragrance is like running a marathon – you have to dig deep inside yourself to find the energy you need. It can be difficult sometimes, so it’s nice to know you can rely on each other. ML: To work together, you have to put your ego aside and make sure to respect the other person. On long-term projects that take years of effort, this keeps you motivated. Just like in a sports team, we support each other and sharing ideas sparks creativity.

How would you define Ginza’s unique place in the current perfumery world?
KD: Chypre in and of itself is pretty original these days, and our decision to create a chypre facet using a flower is even more unique. In the bouquet, the heart plays on the duality between the opulence of jasmine and the freshness of the other flowers – magnolia, freesia, orchid molecules – which act like a laser beam. This floral transparency pierces through the smouldering woods, vibrating beautiful energy. I think a woman who wears Ginza feels beautiful and confident.
ML: The woody note adds a femme fatale quality that we’ve been seeing more and more of in perfumery for a while now.

Ginza is a Shiseido fragrance created by perfumers at a Japanese brand. How does that set it apart from a classic fragrance?
ML: Through the Japanese ingredients we discovered when we met with local perfumers, specifically Hinoki, but also the synthetic molecule created from the Japanese orchid using green chemistry.
KD: Yes, this floral note at the heart of the composition brings natural modernity to the fragrance.

Two typically Japanese ingredients are featured in the fragrance: Japanese orchid and Hinoki wood. Could you tell us a bit more about them?
ML: Hinoki is truly a typically Japanese note, comparable to rose or jasmine in the West in terms of popularity. It’s the local cypress, but its aroma is smokier and headier than the European tree’s scent. It’s also a very spiritual wood in Japan, used in temples and sanctuaries. It brings both freshness and a slightly dry, smoky note.
KD: The small Japanese tiger orchid provided us with a floral note similar to lily of the valley, adding a transparent, watery, almost cold and slightly sharp quality. When blended with other softer ingredients, it makes the other flowers pop.

GINZA by Shiseido

What does jasmine symbolise in Japan? How did you bring out its finest qualities?
KD: In the symbolism of Japanese flowers, hanakotoba, jasmine stands for refinement and elegance. We used three varieties of the flower: Two grandiflorum types – one from Egypt with banana and even strawberry jam facets, recalling slight notes of tea, and the other from India with more voluptuous qualities – as well as a white Indian Sambac jasmine, the flower associated with special ceremonies featuring orange and strawberry blossom facets and a fruity/green quality. By playing with different origins, we took on the role of a painter using different shades of the same colour to create their masterpiece. The notes communicate with each other, each flower plays its part and harmony is reached.

How did you manage to make a fragrance embody strength, specifically a women’s fragrance?
KD: The woody quality echoes a structure rooted in the earth, inner strength. It casts a floral halo, a trail of white flowers with magnolia, freesia and the orchid note, leaving an almost unforgettable impression. This fragrance has a presence. Noticeable when nearby, but subtle and sophisticated.
ML: In yoga, we always start off by visualizing ourselves with roots, like a tree rooted in the earth, to feel the Earth’s energy flowing into us. The woody accord also brings this image to mind for me.

In your opinion, does the fragrance help increase our inner strength, and how?
KD: Fragrance is a second skin we feel good in. It reveals our personalities and, in a way, protects us.
ML: For me, fragrance acts as a protective aura. I’m convinced that smells possess vibrational energies. I hope that the women who wear it will get the sense that its creators infused it with all of their energy.

If Ginza were an emotion, which one would it be?
KD: Harmony, paired with confidence in oneself and in life.
ML: Confidence and determination. Ginza proves that women are not this cliche of a tiny, sensitive thing!

One word to define Ginza?
KD: Richness and inner resources
ML: Girl power.

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