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ANGEL CHEUNG OF INTIME ARTISAN DE PARFUM TURNS SCENT INTO STORYTELLING
As the founder of Intime Artisan de Parfum, Angel Cheung uses scent to shape experience, express emotions and create memories. With over 10 years of experience in the perfume industry and profound knowledge as an aromatherapist, in her workshop, bespoke perfume can be a scent signature. What captures our attention? What brings us back for more? What is the perfect vessel for memory? How does a story keep us hooked, haunt us forever? The answer for Angel Cheung, of course, is scent. “Scent over the sentence,” says Cheung. “The experience can be shaped, the emotions can be expressed and the memories can be created.”
A Journey of Self-Discovery For her, for her brand, perfume-making is a journey of self-discovery from the inside out. Brought to life by the trigger of an irresistible scent, the memories, the emotions, the feelings, every tiny detail comes to the fold, surrounding us in the present. But before that — what is the story? What created it, inspired it? What are the most fitting notes to match, and what scent makes you smile, conjures up those memories? The perfumer is the composer of fragrances, but you are the composer of your own stories.
“ An Inspirational Trip"
In 2015, Cheung travelled to Grasse, the cradle of the perfume industry. Resting in the peaceful hills above the famous French Riviera town — far from the hustle and bustle of city life — she found herself immersed in the world of scents. Apart from studying perfume mechanics at the local school, she visited Grasse’s historical museums, local perfumeries and botanical gardens. When she came across a perfume workshop designed for those with a budding interest to learn and create their own fragrances under the direction of experienced professionals, she found an answer to what her heart had long been searching for. “People love perfume, but they can just buy it at a store; they have no concept of how to create it or much knowledge about perfume,” says Cheung. “It is my inspiration to create extra value for people who love perfume. So I brought the whole concept to Hong Kong, and then started to launch my brand.” This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
“ What was your inspiration behind the launch of Intime Artisan de Parfum? "
I have some background — I was a marketer for big beauty brands, and perfumery was part of my role. I’m really fascinated about how scent can be so exciting, and really use a scent to engage people, instead of the brands just selling the products, and then people buying the perfume only for the brand name, the advertising and the fancy packaging. I wondered whether I could just use the scent instead of all this marketing to really engage people. I started to think about making something new and bringing additional value to people.
“ Many brands have their own muse, do you have one? If not, where do you draw your inspiration？"
I don’t say I have a specific muse, because I think as a perfumer. I position myself as a scent storyteller; you have to be very observant and sentimental to the things that happen around you, and also the people you deal with. And then you have to remember to set mental events for lots of things: your feelings, your emotions and so on. My creations are actually mainly from what’s happening around me and people around me, more than just one muse. They inspire me to create. My creative style is really a kind of a storytelling approach, so my collections, every one of them has their own story. Like The Love Collection, I put it into a discovery set showing the six chapters of love. Every woman will have these kinds of feelings and emotions with every different stage of love, so these six different chapters have descriptions of feelings and emotions. And this is the performance material, like the different chapters of a film. I also get inspiration from my own memories and stories, like skiing at Niseko. Even though right now I cannot fly there, I still can feel the emotion. Like the Nice Collection, which is the feeling that I have for the guys I came across. When I smell it again, I can remember the people there — this is the way that I create my creations, and all of the things actually are the muse for me.
“ If you had to use perfume to tell your own story, which ingredients would you choose and why? "
I haven’t had this creation yet — to make scents to create my own story — but in case I have to do that, I think I will pick a core to be the base note that has some oriental, woody and animalic notes. And also have the openings of some citrus and green with some sweet rosy notes, with a hint of some spice. It will be a kind of reflection of my state of mind. It is a sophisticated and grounded personality, and with a romantic heart filled with joy and hope. But I think because it’s kind of conveying my present state of mind, so it should be changing from time to time.
“ If you could describe perfume in one word, what would it be? "
Storytelling. As I mentioned, they’re always talking about how to use scents to express memories, emotions and experiences. If you really seriously look into perfume, it’s not just a nice, pleasant smell. Actually, what you wear defines your identity, or defines what kind of person you are. Or most, your inner self and your public self. So I think this is something more in-depth, for when you appreciate a piece of scent or you first get to know somebody, and then from the scent that you have some questions or ideas of what that person will be.
“ What’s next for Intime Artisan de Parfum? Do you have any upcoming workshops or projects that you can share? "
I think what impressed people the most is the bespoke perfume-making experience. The perfume is really your own and controls lots of different kinds of ingredients. And I think this is the first phase for my brand, which I am pursuing now. But I think maybe it’s time for me to move to the next level — corporate scent branding will be one of my major focuses in the coming years. The business scent represents the brand; it helps people to register the brand, how to differentiate it from competitors and also engages customers in emotion and boundaries. I incorporate my knowledge and experience in marketing and perfumery to help brands to create their olfactory logo, which is not just a pleasant smell, but also carries a brand DNA to create the desired brand image and brand memorability. The recent project that I did for The Peninsula Hong Kong — I am the fragrance curator for the room. I have to understand the hotel, its history, its culture, its brand DNA and also understand more about the customers, and what message they want to convey from the scent, to make it unique and differentiate from the competitors.
Also, the image of The Peninsula, which is very prestigious and very unique. It is quite difficult to manage ingredients; it’s very powerful and has strong masculinity, so I have to balance it and make it more unisex. I have to make use of this scent to represent a Hong Kong story — that’s why I combines agarwood, a native Hong Kong wood used to make the world’s most prized incense, with jasmine and amber to create a unique scent that ties Hong Kong’s long legacy as a trading hub with the story of The Peninsula Hong Kong, exemplifying the hotel’s grandeur and prominence. What comes out is a very unique scent that is unisex for prestige and heritage, and also a smell that can make people feel relaxed and calm. People staying in the hotel want to get away from the crowd and the hustle of city life; they want to totally refresh themselves through the vacation, so it is important that we know the scent really helps them to have this emotional improvement in their state of mind. This is what makes it different. That’s why I think it is very important for a brand to make use of scent branding, to increase its brand equity in the long run. This is the next move we’re going to do or pursue.