Modic Interview: Ramon Monegal reveals the true image of perfumery
“The perfume is 50 % communication. It’s not an accessory as the fashion presents it. It existed for thousands of years and it was always about the communication between the gods, the kings, the aristocrats or the priests. Now, everyone uses perfumes, but most of the people haven’t understood the language of perfume. It’s so important to create this base of knowledge about perfumes in order to be able to understand an opera or to communicate attitudes.” – Ramon Monegal
Modic Interview: Ramon Monegal reveals the true image of perfumery
I met Ramon Monegal on a rainy day at Obsentum’s sanctuary and I remember it like it happened moments ago. When I entered the interview room, the smell of Entre Naranjos perfume hit me with its freshness and joy. Ramon Monegal was waiting for me and he welcomed me with a big and warm smile. The two hours spent in his company flew like minutes and I got to discover a face of the perfumery that no one is talking about or showing it. After reading this interview, you will have the opportunity to better understand the phenomenon and to know what you are communicating to the world when you choose a perfume.
- RAMON MONEGAL
- is a Spanish perfumer. Ramon studied architecture, but in 1978 he joined the family business
- he is a symbol of the Spanish perfumery because his family founded in 1916 the house Myrurgia
- the Monegal family represents a long tradition of perfumery
- in 2000 the perfume giant Puig bought Myrurgia but Ramon Monegal continued to manage all the brands and licenses from Myrurgia even as it was controlled by Puig
- because his right to creativity was limited, after 7 years under Puig helm, Ramon decided to leave the company
- two years later, he put the bases of a new business and continued the family tradition under his own name
- Ramon’s children Laura and Oscar are traveling the world by his side and share the same dreams
Modic Interview: Ramon Monegal reveals the true image of perfumery
1.How would you describe your trajectory as a perfumer since you created your first fragrance in 1978 until now?
Ramon Monegal: Perfumery has evolved, the client has evolved, the ingredients have evolved. Also the legislation regarding the norms of perfumery has evolved, but for the worse. When I started doing this, it was the paradise. I was free to use any kind of ingredients, to spend how much money I wanted, there were no limits. But step by step, when the independent brands made the change and were bought by bigger companies, the resources used in perfumery dropped. The freedom to create has been constrained. Something that is so easy became so complicated. Among the ingredients, the tests and the final product, are so many people and ideas that interfere with the creation process.
This is the situation of perfumery today: we have the best ingredients possible, we have the best technology and techniques, but we have the worst process of evaluation ever. You are constrained by the CEOs to create for sure a successful perfume, you can’t take risks anymore and you can’t invest money in tests. Your creativity is limited. So if you want to escape this, you have to go independent. Like this you can create, transform, take risks, invest how much you want and present concepts. This is the reason I went independent.
2. What is the starting point of your creation ritual?
Ramon Monegal: I don’t have a starting point. Picasso was saying that the inspiration finds you at work and this is so true. You are more inspired when you work. If I go to paradise I won’t invent anything there, but when you are working, you are looking for information and from all this process comes the inspiration. Sometimes a person can inspire you, an emotion or an ingredient. But most of the times, is the ingredient that pulls the trigger.
I love the natural ingredients because they are so versatile. One day you can see and smell them in ways you never did before, other day the whole perspective can be different. Our sense of smell is weak and this is why every time you smell something we perceive it differently. Today you can feel the same ingredient more strong, tomorrow more spicy and in another day more flowery. Our smell is really poor, so if we smell the same thing many times, we will perceive it differently each time. I am a professional and smelling is my job, but also for me is very different. The perception is always another so, this is why sometimes, the ingredient is my starting point in inventing one perfume.
3. You are also a writer. Do you have in mind a story when you create a new fragrance?
Ramon Monegal: The perfume wakes up emotions when it’s used during emotional situations. When we smell it again, all those emotions and feeling are coming back. We associate and memorise a smell with an image, an emotion or a feeling. Each of us does it differently. But in order to memorize it, you need to add an experience, a story or a poem. Seduction is the main function of a perfume. I always have a story in my mind.
Each ingredient I use to create a perfume has its own story. So, when I put a flower-based ingredient, I add it to the fragrance because I want it to seduce. This is the purpose of a flower. When I use woody ingredients, I want to communicate power, protection and security. I don’t choose the ingredients just because I like them, but because they send a message to the world. It’s very important to be conscious about the fact that every ingredient that you put inside a fragrance has a message and this is how it creates a story.
The problem is that the marketing gives you only limited information about a perfume. You just know that one is made from bergamot, lily, roses and jasmine. But what does it actually want to say? If I understand what the ingredients really mean, I won’t just say I like it or not. I will appreciate what it means for the society and what represents for me. I will understand its story.
4. When we are choosing a perfume, should we take in consideration other aspects than just liking it or not?
Ramon Monegal: There are two ways to evaluate this: when you don’t have the knowledge about this subject you just think you like it or not. But when you know more and you are conscious that your perfume will generate your olfactory image, that talks about you and your attitude, you can’t react as I like it or I don’t like it level. Of course you have to like it, but it’s not the most important fact. The key is to have a coherence between the message you send trough your olfactory image and the visual one.
The perfume creates your own olfactory image. It walks in front of you and it remains there after you are gone. This olfactory image communicates an attitude. Our visual image should speak the same attitude. We have a visual image that we create through our voice, body and way of acting, on which we add makeup, clothes and accessories. So the perfume you are wearing should be in connection with this image. There are no good, or bad perfumes, but we can say that one perfume is in connection with the visual image or not.
A real perfume is unisex. It’s not only for men or women. This is just an invention of the marketing. Who says that a woman can’t use woody notes, or a man can’t like the flowers inside his perfume? Both, women and men have their strengths and sensibility so, their perfumes should have flowery ingredients to seduce and woody notes to express the strength and the power.
“We have to get out form the laboratory and communicate what we do.” – Ramon Monegal
5. What is the message that a fragrance we are wearing should communicate to the world and to the people around us?
Ramon Monegal: I like the Japanese philosophy because it asks for respect. I think that the most important message to express these days is for sure the respect. You can think as you want, I can do the same, but I respect your choices and you mines. Of course, this is a utopia. It’s the ideal, a hard one to achieve. We still don’t have enough education to understand and assimilate the fact that we are all equals and we have the same rights. We are far from accepting this, so this is why the most important message that a perfume should communicate is the respect.
6. What’s new about your fragrances?
Ramon Monegal: A close to my soul collection is “Don’t touch my Ouds”. It’s created around the oud, which is an Indian root. It is burned like the incense, but is less popular. It has the same liturgical power, but for you it’s more exquisite, you find it among the kings and princes. The Arab culture is going crazy about the oud. But in the West it didn’t exist for a long time. It is a root we didn’t use that much because is very hard to find and is even harder to reproduce the same perfume including it. When we create fragrances with the oud, we should write on the bottle that they are made in 2018 for example, because when we are going to produce them again in 2019, for sure the result will be a bit different.
7. What would you change about the niche perfumery?
Ramon Monegal: I am fighting to recover the authentic perfumery. I am fighting against the fashion, the trends or the false myths that are sold to us: like the sex of the perfume, the trends or the fact that one is for summer and another for winter. The fragrance, like Beethoven’s no 5 symphony, is not made for summer or winter. This is only the result of the industry that tells you that you have to buy a perfume for the summer, other for spring and another for winter. I want to bring back the real perfumery, which is getting lost because of the big players like, marketing, big companies and IFRA (The International Fragrance Association).
IFRA was created by us, the perfumers. In the 70’s, in Italy was a problem with a baby powder, it provoked some rashes and allergies on the skin. After this incident, we got afraid because we were using ingredients that we didn’t know what consequences could have for us. So in order to protect ourselves, we created a scientific organization, which was testing all the ingredients that we were using for the beauty and perfume industry. From that point, IFRA started getting bigger and bigger, after it started working with the governments from all the countries. IFRA gained the power to make laws with the help of the governments and it has now the supreme authority.
But people with the same vision and goals like me, are fighting too.
IFRA is testing and looking for all the bad ingredients that can provoke side effects. But you see, if we would apply this principle to food, we shouldn’t eat fish because it has mercury, we couldn’t consume alcohol because it’s carcinogenic. But IFRA doesn’t say anything about this, instead, prohibits the use of natural ingredients. Is not doing anything against the chemical ingredients, only goes for the natural ones. Why? Because from hundreds of molecules that we find in one natural ingredient, maybe one is bad. Now we can’t use anymore natural Vetiver, cinnamon, roses or other ingredients. If we continue like this, in short time, we won’t be able to use anymore natural ingredients.
But people with the same vision and goals like me, are fighting too. And it’s incredible because the change is happening everywhere: Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Europa, everywhere. This is a signal, which makes the industry tremble. I don’t define our perfumery as being niche. I don’t like this invention. We are free. We are independent perfumery. We are free from the big players. But when a brand is sold to a big company, it loses its independence. Our perfumery is born because the clients want to be unique, to have their own perfume and the mass industry can’t provide this, when everyone smells the same. You can sell everywhere in this world, but you should do it in limited places.
8. What’s next for you? What plans do you have in the near future?
Ramon Monegal: I have many. One is writing a book, but this asks for a lot of time. It’s an educational book about perfumes. I want to explain the language of the perfume, the theory behind it and help everyone understand better this phenomenon. It’s going to be a novel book for everyone, not only for the professionals. I want to mix all the technical information with a story, so it won’t be boring. I am still looking for the plot, but I will find it soon.
On the other side, as I told you before, I want to bring light into this world of perfumes. I would like to find a way to define the perfumes. We have laws that restrict us using different ingredients, but we should also have a strict protocol about defining the perfumes. We should know why in this bottle you find a perfume, an extract or an Eau de toilette. There are no norms about this. But because people don’t know which are the real differences between the types of perfumes anyone can do whatever he wants. There are no rules to measure when a fragrance is an Eau de perfume, Eau de Toilette or an extract.
The client has all the rights to know what is buying. If I want, now I can sell an Eau de Toilette and say that it is an Eau de perfume and no one can do something about this. The client should know all the information. The industry is more preoccupied to tell you what are the ingredients, but this is not important. What matters is the structure of the perfume. These days, is so hard to find a perfume made from natural ingredients with the right structure.