Interview with Neela Vermeire: an olfactive trip to India

There are some journeys that turn into legends. Some others, turn into real treasures for the soul. In the very center of Bucharest there is a place where one can take a break from daily routine, a place where emotions take over and where you can experience the 8th Art in its purest form.
I discovered Neele Vermeire fragrances at Createur 5 d’Emotions and I felt instantly in love when Alexandra Paven sprayed Mohur on my wrist. I remembered my grandma who used to spend the evenings, choosing the perfect scent for dinner.

Neela Vermeire Creations are stories worth telling with open heart and mind. That’s why I decided to offer you the chance to discover Neela’s amazing journey:

Adina Necula: A trip to India is above all an experience of the senses, an olfactory experience marked by intensity and complexity. How would you describe your journey in the world of perfumery?

Neela Vermeire: Over a period of time because of my passion for fragrances developed over the years. I was lucky to live in cities where I was able to study and explore the beauty of fragrances. I was particularly interested in niche or unusual perfumes. I am personally not very interested in the chemical aspect of it because it is rather scientific. We cannot all do everything so it is best to leave the scientific part with aromachemicals to the specialists like Bertrand.

Adina Necula: Indian perfumes are often used in therapies and balances the doshas (vata, pitta, kapha), supporting Chakra energy. Have you ever thought that your perfumes could be a remedy for the soul and mind, beyond the aesthetic value?

Neela Vermeire: Excellent question! Yes but without ever speaking or mentioning or actually basing the perfumes on them. People otherwise consider it as a hippie fragrance line which we are not.  From the reaction we have received it seems that the entire NVC collection has achieved this through the perfumes even through the finesse of French haute perfumery. Trayee has the ingredients and elements because of the history of the Vedic era and the connection with all elements of the body through the soul and mind.

Adina Necula: You started your own niche perfumery line one year ago. How did everything happen?

Neela Vermeire: Let us say kismat or fate, luck and plenty of blessings. Then some of my fantastic retailers who are truly passionate about artistic perfumes like Alexandra who encourages us to continue. We have been lucky to have a few good retailers who love and believe in our concept.
Adina Necula: When you made the move from being a perfume lover to a perfume maker, what was that biggest surprise for you?

Neela Vermeire: The intensely competitive perfume world. I studied social sciences in the US and qualified as a solicitor in the UK. Not being from a commercial background – I understand that people in this business often understand money first and the depth and beauty of fragrances can sadly be secondary.

Adina Necula: You have developed the line with Bertrand Duchaufour. Where did you first meet Bernard and how did you come to collaborate?

Neela Vermeire: We met through a mutual friend and I discussed my idea because I needed a perfumer who has travelled in India and knows and loves India (for all the complexities). None of the perfumers I had spoken with had visited and therefore did not have the understanding.

Adina Necula: Neela Vermeire Creations are inspired by India’s history, culture, ceremonies and customs. Which is the story that lies behind every creation and what make your fragrances so special?

Neela Vermeire: What makes them special is the journey, complexity and the multifacetedness of each perfume.

Trayee is an ode to the Vedic era – it is a complex fragrance due to the vast period it represents – thousands of years. It is my personal spiritual upbringing. Mohur is an ode to the Moghul-British Raj era  – my education and love for the arts and music and being a bon vivant. Bombay Bling is an ode to contemporary India – the India I grew up in and revisit.

Adina Necula: What are some of the most interesting responses you’ve received on your fragrances?

Neela Vermeire: Trayee – comforting the soul, Mohur – elegance in a bottle, Bombay Bling – serotonin in a bottle.

Adina Necula: If a perfume lover were to visit India, where would you recommend they go?

Neela Vermeire: To the local flower, fruit and vegetable markets and spice bazaars. These are great places not just for the olfactory education but also the beauty of Indian colours and the chaos.

To the “thieves market” or Chor bazaars for unusual products – the one in Mumbai is amazing – a great photo opportunity. These are where you can see, smell, touch, taste and hear the true essence of India.  When you take photos ask the stores or people. It is polite.

In some of these bazaars you find small attar stores where you can smell traditional Indian perfumes. These places are wonderful for taking photographs and interacting with locals from rural areas who visit to sell their wares and the town or city dwellers. Please avoid the occidental style malls which I find soul-less. If you want to see handicrafts – visit the central cottage industry emporiums.

People shy away from the local markets, which gives such a true impression of how people operate in India.

Adina Necula: What is your most precious olfactory memory and what perfumes did you used to wear before you created your own line?

Neela Vermeire: Many but I think the smell of sandalwood paste every day from my childhood. Many perfumes as I used to collect and still do from time to time– I love Chanel Bois des Iles and some Guerlains.

Adina Necula: What are the flavours that you associate with modern India?

Neela Vermeire: What you smell in the NVC perfumes especially Bombay Bling. We did not add the unpleasant smell of pollution and other ripe odour you can smell in countries with warmer climate.

Adina Necula: If you could capture the happiness in a fragrance, what flavours would you add?

Neela Vermeire: All that is in Bombay Bling and soon to be launched ASHOKA.

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