On a recent sunny day in Paris, Romano Ricci, founder of Juliette Has a Gun, showed us round his new boutique in Le Marais and gave us the backstory on his latest enthralling fragrance, Liquid Illusion. The visit was the perfect opportunity to quiz him on all there is to know about his exciting niche perfume brand
To what extent do you think your lineage influenced your career choice?
I grew up in a rather creative environment. My great-grandmother was Nina Ricci, founder and designer of the luxury fashion house. Her son, my grandfather, Robert Ricci, was the nose of Nina Ricci perfumes: he taught me the rules of perfumery as well as how to transgress them. At the age of 18 I started to think about perfumery more seriously, so I dedicated myself to learning about this beautiful industry for six years. In 2006 Juliette was born, a very personal interpretation of perfumery.
When and where did the idea for Juliette Has a Gun come from?
I’m a classic, with a twist of originality, much like the story of a Shakespearean heroine with the added twist of a gun. The story behind the name Juliette has a Gun is simple and complex at the same time; simple, because the gun simply stands for perfume, and complex because there are many ways to interpret the name. The only thing I want to avoid is to read the brand literally.
How would you describe the brand’s DNA?
There many things that we do very differently: we are exclusively dedicated to women, we create homemade fragrances without going through a fragrance house, we have an original name, an urban DNA, packaging … Juliette has a unique position in the niche perfumery world. I often get asked ‘Who would you compare the brand to?’ and there’s a good reason for that: I think there is no real accurate answer. I think Juliette Has a Gun stands out.
Juliette Has a Gun offers a very bold, modern approach to perfumery – how do people respond to this?
It really depends and this is actually what I like about it: being bold makes people talk about the brand and I like the fact that everyone can then make their own interpretation. But most importantly, it never leaves people indifferent.
What did you want to achieve with your new fragrance Liquid Illusion?
I drew my inspiration from the idea of artificial paradise: why should these ‘journeys’ only be provoked by the ingestion or inhalation of a substance? Why could we not get there by an olfactive way? Through my research, I came across a particular ingredient: heliotropin. At first it has a pleasant smell of almonds – hints of violet too. But on studying it, I also discovered that it is one of the ingredients present in ecstasy, more precisely in MDMA: a psychostimulant, hallucinogenic molecule, from the amphetamine family – so much so that to procure the ingredient from laboratories, you have to prove your credentials! But this is only a part of my proposal: the formula is first and foremost about iris, which, when combined with heliotropin, forms an explosive cocktail.
You describe each fragrance as an olfactive portrait – talk us through the process of creating such a portrait.
Before even starting to create, I imagine a person, a woman, the one who’ll guide me through all of my creative process. I imagine her style, the colours she likes to wear, her hairstyle, her make-up, her smile, her character, her attitude and last but not least, her perfume. When I start to compose a fragrance, I’ve got a clear idea of the end result that I’d like to obtain; I therefore only launch the perfume once my goal is reached.
You recently opened a boutique in Paris. Why did this feel like the right moment to open a retail space?
I launched Juliette Has a Gun over 10 years ago now and I felt it was the right time to write a new chapter in its story this year. But once again, it’s only a first milestone. There’s more to come.
Why Café Juliette? How did you set about developing this concept?
The idea of Café Juliette is to propose a perfumery with the look and feel of a Parisian café. A waitress or salesgirl, replacing the traditional perfume demonstrator, welcomes our guests behind the bar and offers a complementary glass of champagne, a cup of Mariage Frères tea or a Coutume Café coffee. The boutique features a multitude of intriguing details, such as speakeasy-style restrooms with a GIF booth to share the experience on social networks. We are also the first boutique in Europe to have Paperscent [a connected device that delivers scented perfume strips] – no need for any more testers or blotters. Guests can also get personalised recommendations or speak to me by dialling 911 on the Red Phone which is directly connected to my personal line.
What’s your advice for someone looking to buy their first Juliette Has a Gun perfume?
A fragrance is something very personal, so I would recommend either heading to our boutique or trying several fragrances thanks to our discovery kit to find the one that matches your own personality, mood or specific desire.
Which perfume do you wear?
I don’t just wear one. But I love Gentlewoman. It is my first cologne, and I really like the idea of proposing a men’s fragrance dedicated to women … and not only to women, since I wear it myself.