AURÉLIEN GUICHARD X MAI HUA
Aurélien Guichard, perfumer – the seventh generation of his family –, and Mai Hua, colour designer, video director and blogger, travelled together to Zamami Island, in the Okinawa archipelago, Japan, to create a collection of fragrances: Shades of Paradise. An incredible occasion to witness the force of the natural elements and the ever-changing scents and colours of the place. Here is a little behind the scenes of their rendez-vous on this piece of paradise.
What was your first impression when we landed on Zamami Island?
Mai: I was moved by the place, which I found absolutely magnificent. There is something special on this island, lots of energy circulating, lots of wind. An idyllic and solar side, but you also feel so small in the middle of this vast ocean. And then, there is the jungle… We were surrounded by nature. On our journey to the island, we were in these deep blue waters, then we perceived the land, and suddenly we saw a turquoise bank. It drove me crazy, it was astonishing. I brought some water back with me, and it is so pure, just like mineral water. As the sand is very white, the turquoise is extremely intense. Exceptional.
Aurélien: To me, there was something very mineral to Zamami. And the force of the elements is, indeed, central. This is not a classic naturalness though, but a very estheticised nature. Minimal, essential. Just like Issey Miyake’s vision.
Mai: I was born in France but raised in the manga culture, later I fell in love with Japanese textiles… When you go to Japan, it is like finally meeting your idol. There, everything is beautified by the hand of man.
Aurélien: The link between what nature brings, local crafts and creation is incredible. Also, when we were walking, you told me something that was decisive in the creative process: anywhere you look, you see gradations of blue. This thought guided us for the whole trip. And water is life. Its freshness comes from its movement and the light, as well.
Mai: To me, freshness is invigorating. I wanted colours that were both warm and fresh. Sunrise on Zamami Island was magical, too. Each day, we started when it was completely dark, and the sun slowly started to rise. We were all silent, gazing at every single change, it was happening so fast. It was beautiful.
Aurélien: Something we experienced just ten minutes before seemed already distant, almost like a memory. As for the scents, I wanted to evoke the wind, the colours…
Mai: Yes, because you are a synesthete. I learned a lot, just watching you work and listening to you. It was all about emotions, so it was easy for us to communicate.
Aurélien: It was. When I am somewhere, I need to touch raw materials. Smells are like physical textures, colours, everything is in tune with the seasons. That is when emotions come into play.
Mai: For my part, I had to find colours which smelled good. Like the hue I worked on for Pure Shade of Flower, which was both inspired by flowers and corals. When we arrived on the island, a typhoon had blown all flowers away. But at some point, we found one flower, another one… and finally discovered that a whole street of the little hamlet where we were was covered in them. It had been protected from the winds. One grandmother was taking care of them, just like in cartoons, with her scarf, her hat and her beautiful watering can. On another note, Aurélien, I was curious to know what was your relationship with Issey Miyake before you started to work with them?
Aurélien: I first knew the house because of L’Eau d’Issey, which was the perfume of my first girlfriend. This fragrance is timeless. I also knew M. Miyake himself: I met him when I was a child, attending one of his fashion shows with my father. At the end of the event, he asked me: “What are you doing here, little man? Would you like to be a fashion designer?” I answered: “No, I want to be a football player.” When I saw him again 20 years later, he still remembered that moment. His integrity, his creative awareness is very special.