A Conversation with Frank Voelkl, World-Renowned Perfumer of the Preston

Our first new personal fragrance since we launched GUY FOX was created by an incredibly successful and critically-acclaimed perfumer named Frank Voelkl. You may not know his name, but whether you know it or not, you've smelled something he created. We asked Frank a few questions about Preston and his view of the fragrance industry. Enjoy!

GUY FOX: Frank! First and foremost, thank you for being an amazing influence in the fragrance world. We've been big fans since before we even knew how fragrances were made. We'd love to ask you some questions about our 7th fragrance, the Preston, that you created and the fragrance world in general.

GF: First things first, how do you introduce yourself to someone at a party? Do you say "Hey I'm Frank" or "Hey I'm Frank, the world-renowned perfumer?" 😉

Frank Voelkl: Haha…I’m very low key, I just go by Frank.

GF: What were you like as a kid? Were you inspired by fragrances from an early age or did that develop later in life?

FV: Honestly, from a very young age I was a super curious kid. I wanted to touch, see, hear and smell everything. I was born in Bonn, Germany, and was surrounded by countryside scents during my childhood, such as pungent wet earth, hay and barnyard smells. As I grew older and began to travel, I spent time in the Netherlands and France, as well as many other European countries, and my interest in people, different cultures and the arts became more intense. I remember living in Paris during the 80’s and walking the streets smelling wafts of the latest designer ‘statement’ perfumes that women wore and were trendy back then. I actually began wearing fragrance during that time as well, and started to consider becoming a perfumer. Later, I enrolled in and graduated from renowned ISIPCA, and began my career as a perfumer soon after.

GF: If you didn’t work in the fragrance world, what other profession would you love to try?

FV: Actually, until I discovered that the role of a Perfumer existed, I always wanted to become a Diplomat. My father was a Diplomat, and throughout his career had assignments which allowed us to travel and discover the world, which I enjoyed very much. I also like to unite people together, and I saw this role as a perfect example of that, and career.

GF: What inspired you when you were making Preston? Green Apple, Pink Pepper, and Tonka are quite the combination.

FV: I wanted to create something modern, full of optimistic energy that didn’t feel too serious. These are some the characteristics I imagine the GUY FOX consumer representing. I liked the idea of combining a crisp apple note with the energy and fizzy quality that pink pepper can bring for something that hooks you in right from the top. And there’s some interesting texture here with a little saffron which brings a leather-y quality mixed with strong woods like cedarwood, and then a touch of warmth from the tonka bean. I also thought of my son too because I think he’s right at a target age of GUY FOX, and I can totally imagine him wearing this fragrance.

GF: We've noticed the aforementioned Pink Pepper in previous fragrances you’ve created, and it's fairly prominent in Preston. What do you like most about that ingredient?

FV: I love working with Pink Pepper as it can ‘wake up’ a formula by adding a bright and spicy essence to a fragrance. It adds a real zing and vibration to the formula in a magical way. Additionally, the type of Pink Pepper used in this perfume is sustainable and harvested by hand on the island of Madagascar and extracted by farmers in an eco-friendly way.

GF: You’ve worked with a lot of celebrities. Is there one who surprised you with how knowledgeable or passionate they were about fragrance?

FV: You might be surprised but actually all of the famous individuals I’ve had the pleasure of working with have brought fantastic ideas to the table about the type of fragrance they’re hoping to create. Some of them had a very advanced technical knowledge of perfumery, and others didn’t, but each person had a vision, and this vision always helps guide my creative process, and ultimately, the end result.

GF: Is there a fragrance you’ve worked on that didn’t get too much commercial success but you were super proud of?

FV: Covet by Sarah Jessica Parker was a fragrance that I’m extremely proud of. Working with Jessica was also very special, she is very passionate about fragrance, and has a very distinct taste. The fragrance I created for her was a Fougere for women (a structure that’s typically used for men’s fragrances). I feel it was way ahead of its time when the fragrance launched in 2007 though.

GF: The popularity of various fragrance notes rise and fall over the years, how would you classify Millennials in terms of our "scent" profiles?

FV: I find that currently, many young adults are gravitating towards fragrances that have a ‘clean’ scent profile, as well as genderless or unisex perfumes, which is exciting for me. It’s an interesting challenge to create a unisex fragrance, something that appeals to both genders and has a strong signature, but I relish creating perfumes in this category.

GF: In a past interview, you said, "The true meaning of fragrance is for yourself," (as opposed to wearing it to appeal to others). We love and live by that same sentiment. Do you think more companies will start marketing their fragrances from this perspective or will it largely continue to be the standard, clichéd approach?

FV: I believe that more and more fragrance brands opt to create ‘from the heart’ in this way, and have a founder or creative director that truly invests in making a fragrance that speaks to them (and hopefully others). Particularly in times where we are looking to be safe, reassured and comforted and live in isolation or socially distant, people increasingly see the benefit that fragrance can have for yourself. I really see the times we’re living in as an accelerator for this trend, which to me is a good thing.

GF: What are some trends you see coming on the horizon in the fragrance world? Could be notes that you think are on the rise or maybe production techniques that are becoming more popular, for example.

FV: One trend that I don’t see dissipating any time soon is that of sustainability. I’ve been tasked frequently in recent years with creating fragrances that are sustainable and use a palette of natural ingredients and green chemistry molecules. Luckily at Firmenich (the largest privately-owned fragrance producer in the world, employer of Voelkl, partner of GUY FOX), we have a program called #NaturalsTogether where many of our natural ingredients are sourced from eco-friendly farmers who use sustainable methods of harvesting and extraction. In addition to that, our R&D team works around the clock to create new green chemistry molecules to be used in our formulas as well.

Transparency also becomes increasingly important to consumers. They like to know about all the ingredients in a product, where they come from and who created them. That means that we have to be very responsible about the ingredients we use. On the other hand, that might take away a little bit of the ‘mystery’ about fragrance that has always made them so intriguing.

GF: Again, thank you for your amazing work on this scent. We're so excited for our fans to try Preston!

FV: Thank you both, it’s a pleasure to be a part of this launch!