Today the exuberant Italian sells perfumes, raw materials and bespoke fragrances through his online store, the three scents under the Sammarco brand name being Alter, a feminine concoction of sambac jasmine, rose, incense and mimosa; Vitrum, a smoky mix of rose and vetiver; and Bond-T, a gourmand scent with notes of cocoa absolute, patchouli and osmanthus.
In the following interview, Sammarco discusses his love of animalic raw materials, the challenges of running an independent perfume company and why nature is the master perfumer of the world.
Tell me about your journey from law student to self-made perfumer.
I don't know exactly how it all happened to be honest. I was often asked about it and sometimes I thought about creating an intriguing story to tell..but the truth is that it was all spontaneous. After my masters degree, I began to be interested in the perfumery world and then one thing led to another.
As a company that sells tinctures such as civet and ambergris, what is your opinion on the synthetic alternatives to these materials? Are they a more sustainable solution or a soulless fragrant alternative?
For me, synthetic substitutes of animalic raw materials are not a suitable solution. If you smell the naturals and the synthetics you will notice immediately that these are two different worlds. If you use them in perfumes, the difference is clear: only the natural ingredients have the soul and power to excite and give life to the perfumes.
What are the challenges of running your own company and creating on an artisanal level?
There are many challenges. The first is to sell. Being independent, there is a lot of competition and you have to find your space in this world.
If you really make everything on an artisanal level, this means that you have to take care of the administrative side of the work; you have to stay in contact with suppliers, couriers, public offices and Alcosuisse.
Also, obviously you have to create the perfumes, bottle them, prepare the tinctures, develop new ideas and products, promote yourself, follow perfume blogs and communities, choose fairs to attend, and last but not least, look at your bank account balance.
Making everything by hand gives you total control of the production process and quality, but it's not easy.
Seeing as you also create bespoke fragrances, what are your thoughts on the idea of finding one's signature fragrance in a store-bought version? Can one's true signature fragrance only be found in the highly individual art of bespoke perfumery?
I think that one of the leading values in perfumery has to be freedom. If one finds their signature fragrance at a store, then that's great and it does not have lesser value than a bespoke fragrance.
A perfume must give us positive feelings, so if I find my perfume in a store, why not?Bespoke creation is something different, not only a signature fragrance but more a tailor-made perfume because you (the client) are the creator together with the perfumer and you can also choose to have exclusive use of the final formula. Only when both say its okay is the perfume really finished. This requires a lot of time and many meetings, but the perfume will be tailored to you and nobody will have the same perfume.
I also create so-called mini bespoke fragrances for those who want a personalized fragrances but can't afford a fully bespoke creation or have a lower budget. Mini bespoke is a single bottle of personalised perfume: no meetings, the customer tells me their preferences and I will work on them and send them samples of different trials. The mini bespoke doesn't include the exclusivity of the formula.
Each one of your fragrances really harnesses the natural power of raw materials - from the moist, earthy smell of Vitrum to the rich cocoa notes of Bond-T and the lush florals of Alter. Do you think there is any connection between these olfactory experiences and the fact that you create them in the nature-entrenched world of Switzerland?
Here in Switzerland, especially where I live, in Appenzell, nature is part of my daily life. Here it is easy to come across cows, goats and sheep and the mountains are around the corner. I love this place and the strong contact with nature that the Swiss have. I usually search for farmers to buy fresh milk, cheese and eggs from, and every time I discover a new world of smells and tastes. And yes, I think this influences my work and my connection with raw materials, because I never forget that nature is the master perfumer of the world.
Bond-T, Alter and Vitrum are all very individual fragrances in their own right, but what would you say is the Giovanni Sammarco olfactory trademark?
I don't know if my creations have an olfactory trademark. I think that the common thread is something dark and animalic. I love to work with animal scents and even when I don't use them in the perfume I like to create a sensual and dirty effect.
What is the one scent that sticks out in your mind to this day?
The smell of raw goat's milk. I had searched for it for a long time and found it yesterday on a farm here in Appenzell. I did not imagine how tasty it is. And its smell is really amazing.
Giovanni Sammarco's website is at http://giovannisammarco.ch