” Hélène de Champlain by Claude-André Hébert!” I respond to everyone who compliments me about my perfume. And God knows how many compliments I get every time I wear it, whether it’s from people I meet in the industry of Fashion, colleagues or complete strangers who stops me in the street or in the metro – and I am not even exaggerating. What I am mostly proud of, is that this fabulous perfume creator is from Montreal. Le seul qu’on peut compter ici au Quebec. A talented one.
I first met Claude-André Hébert at Goran’s exhibition last fall in the Mile-End. ” He worked ten years for Thierry Mugler, then one day he left everything to work on his own” whispered to me Steven, a guest I have met that same night who introduced me to him. A week later, I was stepping inside his perfumery for an inspiring journey through the scents of different continents, stories and times. Every perfume has a story, a character or represents a specific place in the world. Hélène de Champlain, The perfume I chose among over 30 creations, was conceived to celebrate the 400 th anniversary of Quebec city. ”Imagine an old castle built of stones. Green Gardens out of sight. Long corridors, candles are the only light . Picture a Beautiful woman in a white dress walking in these corridors, Her long black hair that fall on her shoulders frame her angelic face.. ”J’étais conquise.
In the Montreal Fashion Blog, we aim to celebrate our talented local designers and creators. And if you ask me, Claude-André Hébert is the only authentic perfume creator our city counts – Which is why I wanted to introduce him to you, dear readers. Enthusiastic, funny, he kindly accepted to answer my questions :
Thank you so much for meeting me Claude ! You’re the first perfumes creator I am ever meeting and this industry has always been a mystery for me and certainly for a lot of people also. Let’s start from the beginning, is it a passion that you developed or has it been always part of your life ?
CAH : It has always been part of my life, I never did anything else in my life other than creating perfumes and gathering a variety of fragrances to create something out of it. It started very early for me – back when I was five years old, my mom used to organize beauty parties for her female friends – It was all about manicures, hair dying, facials etc… What I was doing back at that time is to collect bunch of flowers for each one of her friends and personalize them depending on their character and personality. I was able to associate scents to personalities and I developed a real passion for developing fragrances through stories I composed. I always have been a dreamer, I was living in world of fantasy and imagination. In my head, I was travelling the world, the time and exploring different kind of personalities through what I create my perfumes.
You started concretely your career when you were 18 years old. You worked for different companies and the last one was Thierry Mugler, for who you were the regional manager of the perfumes Angel. What dragged you to resign from your high position and start off your own perfume line ?
CAH : Disappointment. I was very disappointed to see that in this industry, creators were talking only about ingredients. Then once the perfume is ready, they would create stories for marketing purposes. it was mass production, super industrial… I didn’t feel fulfilled with what I was doing. In 2005, I wasn’t able to work for anyone anymore. I wanted to revive all these stories I have imagined when I was a kid; Revive this passion I have deep inside me… Make people travel through the scents and make them live an experience that is not axed on ingredients but something deeper than that . I started creating my own perfumes then opened a store in Laurier.
It’s crazy to jeopardize your whole career with Thierry Mugler, Leave everything behind you to follow your own path and destiny. I guess it was a hard decision to take. Any regrets ?
CAH: You know, I found myself living in this comfort zone, doing a job I wasn’t enjoying anymore even though the pay was extremely good. But it wasn’t enough. In life, we need to accomplish and be accomplished. One morning, I just decided that this not the life I wanted, especially not in a domain I love. I quit my job, sold my worthy car, my town house and started everything from scratch. It was the best thing that happened to me. I’m way happier and more passionate than ever about perfumery…
Talking about perfume, what’s the process of making a Claude-André Hébert perfume ?
CAH: It always starts from a white paper where I write story. Each key word of that story turns into an ingredient afterwards. For example if it’s a romantic story, Rose de Bulgarie is what represents romance for me. If the story happens in an old theater, Musc as an ingredient will bring out this dusty side as if it’s an old perfume. Each perfume was inspired by a specific story…
Tell us the story of a perfume you created…
CAH: Sure! there is so many, it will be hard to choose… Let me introduce you “La Milanaise”. ( He sprays some of the perfume in a touche d’essai and hand it to me to smell it). It’s happening in a hot afternoon in Milan. The Milanaise is a gorgeous woman. She is the Monica Belluci. She is wearing this Oscar De La Renta black suit that reveals her sexy curves. She is wearing Louboutin high heels and bright red lipstick. Men looks at her when she walks right by them. Her walk is loaded with great confidence. She is the business woman you really do not want to mess with her. She is a winner.
Another character that would contrast the Milanaise ?
CAH: We have a lot of different characters… The Geisha, such as, has an enchanting beauty. She wander through the crowd but she doesn’t speak. She is very mysterious, she likes to be low-profile.She is very soft. However, she’d choose who is going to possess her. Satin sheets, ivory skin… those who get to know her intimately discover a destabilizing depth, another dimension of power. Elle les envoûte…
Any signature in your perfumes ?
CAH: I am very spiritual you know. Each time, I create a perfume, I hold it and pray that the person who will wear it enjoy herself and spend memorable moments. Each perfume is different, each story also… so love is my signature.
If I may say this, you’re the only perfume creator here in Quebec, do we find any inspiration quebecoise in your perfumes ?
CAH: Some of the perfumes represents a specific place here in Montreal or in Quebec. The perfume Mont-Royal is inspired by that specific district. Sainte-Catherine street also has it own perfume. As you know, the one that you are wearing has been created after the great Hélène de Champlain and I also did one for her husband, Samuel de Champlain, at the invitation of the mayor of Quebec city.So yes, I would say that the Quebec inspiration is omnipresent in my creations.
Last Question – You can’t leave your home without… ?
CAH: Perfume !!!! :))
Claude-André Hébert is the BEST KEPT SECRET in Montreal. A great local talent we should all support. I really suggest that all of you go visit his amazing boutique on Laurier, where he can spend hours presenting you his perfumes and telling you all the little stories behind it – Oh My God, Great souvenirs !
However, do NOT think you’re done hearing about him in the Montreal Fashion Blog!
Come visit us the 15th of each Month to discover a story and its perfume, and to win a sample of each perfume.