Interviews Ashoka by Neela Vermeire Creations: An Interview

Ashoka by Neela Vermeire Creations: An Interview

04/02/13 13:32:03 (2 comments)

by: Serguey Borisov

Coming back from Esxence, and looking at all my treasures I brought with me from Milan, I always feel myself so rich and greedy, just like Koschei from Russian fairytales. And it's always hard to choose something to start with, so we'll start chronologically. On the very first day, after the exhibition opened its doors, I went upstairs to meet Neela Vermeire. I consider her perfume brand Neela Vermeire Creations one of the best discoveries of the last few years.

Neela Vermeire Creations Logo

Neela explained to me that her old flacons, which she showed to me in Florence (sleek and simple), she rejected and introduced the new ones, created by the guru in perfume bottle design, Pierre Dinand. Pierre Dinand plus Bertrand Duchaufour is an unmistakable union of artists!

The new flacons represent a column with 24 ribs, with the Neela Vermeire Paris logo in the cross-section. She adapted it from the Indian flag, but also added something from herself—her Dharmacakra is constructed out of stylized little Eiffel Towers, if you haven't noticed it before.

This harmony of India and France is not random—Neela ws born in Calcutta and now lives in Paris. She tries to reflect these two places which are very dear to her in all her works. The symbol of her house, the Dharmacakra, is now directly bound to Neela's new perfume, Ashoka.   (See also more information about the notes in Elena Knezhevich's article.)

Ashoka the Great, a legendary king of India from the Maurya dynasty, after converting himself to Buddhism in the 3rd century BCE, constructed a temple in Sarnath, the deer park where Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma. 

The very place is commemorated by the Ashoka Pillar with its top of four lions and the wheel of Ashoka or Dharmacakra. You can see this symbol in the flag of India! Examining the pillar, you can notice another symbol—the lotus, on which the lions are standing—a spring of life. In the perfume composition of Ashoka, lotus, a very important ingredient and symbol for this perfume, is represented in two versions.

At Esxence, Neela confirmed her choice between two versions of the future Ashoka perfume. In Florence, I had the honor to be introduced to both of them, 108 and 110.

108 is more masculine, green and harsh, with a fierce start recalling the period of the youth of Ashoka—a fearless hunter, cruel warrior and a great conqueror. 110 is more lactonic and sleek; it shows Ashoka after his enlightment, as a kind and compassionate person who saw what he had done, terrified by his own cruel deed in the province of Kalinga after the victory of his army. The view of the devastation and the thousands of people killed by his soldiers resonated with pain in his heart. Ashoka decided to devote the rest of his life to the promotion of Buddhism, the most peaceful religion.

For the first time in human history (23 centuries ago!) laws on animals and forest protection were enacted. It was forbidden to kill animals for entertaiment and the list of animals under protection was announced. Animal sacrifice was also forbidden.

Mahabodhi Temple, believed to have been constructed by Ashoka

Serguey Borisov: The version bears the impressive number of 110. Is it because of the number of attempts you had?

Neela Vermeire: We had been working on this fragrance during the whole year. It was difficult work indeed. Bertrand suggested several different base accords for the fragrance—they became first numbers of the project, and I chose those fitting it the best.

Afterwards Bertrand made several different versions for some of the perfume development directions. It took us quite a long time to choose the right way to continue.

First we had to choose the right direction, the base elements and the soul of the future fragrance. Then you have to arrange this core accord with other important notes and polish it to perfection...

Bertrand must have hated me for this—our search for the fragrance's soul took a lot of time. We came back to the beginning several times to start the work all over again. It is a very difficult task to create a perfume for a legendary person! 

Serguey Borisov: Tell it to those who create perfumes for celebrities!

Neela Vermeire: Modern celebrities, I do hope, choose their fragrances by themselves. Ashoka didn't have such an opportunity, and I feel a great responsibility to make a fragrance in his honor. I wish the fragrance to reflect his character and life path. I just want to be frank in this important thing for me—if I do not like something in our creation, I simply say it.

Serguey Borisov: It means the rest of the clients are not very frank?

Neela Vermeire: Oh no, people are different. Some decide to trust and accept the perfumer's work entirely. But I need to feel in his work what I had imagined before we started. Bertrand said at one of presentations: "Neela Vermeire is a very demanding client, that is why the result is excellent." I believe every perfumer has his/her clichés and a level of quality of the final product. It's fair to say about all of us, not only perfumers. We develop, we try to outdo ourselves. And I do believe that the role of the art director is to help an artist to make it.

Serguey Borisov: Yes, I agree with you, I also think that a good art director is a powerful weapon. I realized it while smelling perfumes by Chanel and Serge Lutens—it's hard to believe that they were made by the same perfumer, Christopher Sheldrake.

Neela Vermeire: I hope that my perfumes also have their own different signature.

Ashoka, as always in Bertrand's work, is a journey on which you smell the starting point and try to guess where it will lead you in the end, after many turns and paths. Of course Bertrand always leaves signs of his personal style in his perfumes, and this is normal and general for every artist. It's hard to distinguish his favorite ingredient or note, but you can recognize his nose and hand in their complexity, the layered structure of their development.

In Ashoka the beginning is very fresh and weird. I've never come across such a conjunction of tart dry leather and green fig leaves. On the rough leather base there gradually appear soft bread covered in flour and ripe juicy fig fruits. Then the light mist of flower pollen of mimosa, rose water and the sweetness of osmanthus starts to rise. It is inter-layered with the sweet smoke of wood, resins and balms. In its trail Ashoka leaves a cloudy, milky, balsamic, barely sweet impression.

If you want to find anything similar in perfumery, you can try to smell Djhenne and Bois Naufrage (Parfumerie Generale), two warm woody fougeres with a green start and a balsamic mineral drydown. In their compositions are two main directions: love of life which is expressed in greenness and flowers, and death, in dry leather, the resinous blood of woods and smoke.

There is a fatherly warm feeling in Ashoka, something that I want to call strict, but fair: "A king-father. He feels love and accepts everyone as his own child."

PS: If you are curious about Neela's future creations, I'd like to share some news with you. Neela is working with Fabrice Olivieri on a new perfume which is devoted to the French colonies. It will be an interesting combination of French and Indian in a perfume. I smelled two very different versions of it, and must say that in 12 months Coromandel Chanel will have a competitor telling about French India!


Serguey Borisov

Serguey Borisov has been known in the Internet world of perfume under the nickname moon_fish for more than 10 years. Now he writes about perfumes for and, and contributes on the subject for glossy magazines.





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What a great interview! Thank you for this introduction to Neela's newest perfume. She is not only lovely and talented but a very kind and generous person as well.


This fragrance is so complex, that I need time to think and feel it, to go through all its notes. It's definetely milky and light in the end, I like it, and it's very aromatic at the beginning. Quite unusual combination, very new ;o)


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