ISIPCA: The Gate to the world of perfumery

By Melani Fernando

Have you ever wondered what it takes to become a perfumer? Or did you even know that such a career exists? Perfumery, to date is one of the well-kept secret professions in the world, which was traditionally handed over to their generations mainly in France, Italy and the orient regions. However, these closed gates to the world of fragrance, is gradually opening to welcome new talent from the rest of the world. And as a result, increasing number of young professionals are born with amazing creative talent.

ISIPCA (Institut Supérieur International du Parfum de la Cosmétique et de l’Aromatique), the no. 1 perfumery school in the world, and the no. 1 educational brand recognized by the fragrance industry today, is a place where

young chemists and scientists are trained in perfumery and cosmetic science, magically transforming them in to fully fledged professionals ready to dive in to the fragrance and beauty industry. ISIPCA is situated in Versailles, nick named the Royal City of France, which is also famous for its palace, Chateau de Versailles. The school was founded by Jean Jacques Guerlain in 1970, from the Guerlain family, the founders of the Guerlain luxury perfume brand. Guerlain perfumes were later acquired by the French Fashion Giant, Louis Vuitton. From the rich French traditions of King Luis IV at the Palace of Versailles, to all the fashion brands today including Guerlain, Chanel, LVMH, L’Oreal, Lancôme, YSL, etc. are so typically French making it the second most revenue-generating industry in France, next to Airbus.

 After graduating from the Chemistry special degree from University of Colombo, I was fortunate to enter ISIPCA where I followed a master study program, which has so far been a life-changing and quite a rewarding experience for me. The program allowed me to study Perfumery in France, to intern with IFF (International Flavours and Fragrances) in Singapore during the summer, take a business masters in Italy and complete my double-master-thesis with Procter and Gamble in Germany, with the WELLA hair care brand. ISIPCA has now diversified in to many branches including cosmetic science, aroma studies and flavours. It recently started a joint program with International Flavours and Fragrances to train future perfumers and scent-design managers. On a visit to Paris, I had the pleasure in sitting with the Managing Director of the school on a quiet afternoon. Mrs. Cécile Ecalle Montier, who was a principal of a technological school before joining ISIPCA says, she loves teaching and inspiring young professionals. Being the first non-perfumer managing director of the school, she had to undergo specific training before she was able to accept the position. ISIPCA is not a school that provides academic knowledge, rather a school where the students develop skills and competencies directly used within the fragrance companies. Therefore it’s not a traditional university, but it offers a traditional craft, probably older than the system of formal education itself. After a moment of reflection, she adds that however, it is a constant challenge to understand the changing needs of the companies and hence the trainings need to be tailored accordingly. She says, ISIPCA loves to welcome ambitious students.

It is interesting that she finds foreign students, especially outside Europe, very dynamic and creative. She also adds that the young students are always open to sharing and they are quite personal in their expression. She strongly believes in the power of internationalization, and is keen to study the olfactive behavior of the young, in a world where as close to 700 perfumes get released every year. Mrs. Montier smiles stating that the youth is no longer loyal to a brand and they are always ready to try new things. Therefore this results in shorter production cycles for most of the brands. When asked about what she would like to share with our young readers wanting to take to creative fields, she says that no matter what you do, it is important to be yourself, believe in yourself and never give-up!!