Monday 15 May 2017


Shyamala Maisondieu is a Malaysian born perfumer who collaborated with Calice Becker and Nadège Le Garlantezec on L’Occitane’s Terre de Lumière. After studying at the Givaudan Perfumery School in Grasse, Shyamala moved to their Paris office and has worked with Comme des Garcons, Lancôme and Etat Libre d’Orange amongst others. Her love of Iris is well known, but what else would I discover during “Stephan’s Six”?

What is the first smell that you can remember?
My first memory has to be the night-scented jasmine. I grew up in Malaysia and remember the smell of jasmine wafting into the house through the open windows from the garden. There is something soothing and cooling in the evenings, as the days in Malaysia are always warm and humid, and this gentle relief is when families reunite and gather around diner. The insects start singing at the same time so, yes, this smell reminds me of all that at the same time. There's a homely comfort and that magical twilight feeling when the stars come out.

What was the first perfume you remember your mum or dad wearing?
My parents didn't use perfume, back then in Malaysia people perfumed themselves in other ways. Funnily enough I do remember my dad's hair cream smelling of neroli and when I first smelled neroli in the Perfumery School in Grasse it reminded me immediately of my dad, and cuddling up to him. As for my mom it was talcum powder, most of the time rosy and aldehydic, which is probably why I loved the perfume Ombre Rose when I first discovered it.

What was the perfume of your twenties?
In my teenage years I was wearing Poison by Dior but I really discovered perfumery and the industry when I was twenty-three. While I was working with Givaudan in Hong Kong I found Montana [later renamed Parfum du Peau], and I fell in love with it because of its strong Chypre accent. Then in perfumery school, Antoine, whom I was later married to, gave me a bottle of Chanel No19. He knew Jacques Polges and also knew that orris, which it features, was one of my favourite perfumery raw materials. So, I'd say those three fragrances were really the perfumes of my twenties.

What was your biggest perfume mistake?
I think in perfumery you always make mistakes and in a way it's good because you learn so much from them. Overdosing a raw material for example could be a mistake, but it could also lead to something new and original. I remember smelling phenyl ethyl alcohol for the first time in school and it reminded me of jasmine, but my teacher told me I was wrong because it is a rosy note. I now have it classified in my head like all perfumers as a rose raw material, and yet I still like that idea that it could be jasmine. Remember, it depends on the jasmine you've smelled, the time of day, and what perspective you are looking at it from.

You can only choose one perfume?
It would be the perfume of someone I love, either the perfume of my kids, or one of my kids, or a lover, just because it would remind me of them. For me perfume is very intimate and if I have to choose one perfume it would have to be for an intimate reason.

What perfume should I try?
I really love that you are open to wearing female fragrances! I would say Terre de Lumière, but I know you have already worn it, so just out of simple curiosity here are two of my first fine fragrance creations with Givaudan, Eau de Sisley No 3 and Bois Marocain in the Tom Ford Private Collection.

Terre de Lumière, which Shyamala created alongside Calice Becker and Nadège Le Garlantezec, is available from all L’Occitane boutiques and you can click here to read my review.

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