5 questions with the nose of the Bulgari Splendida collection, Sophie Labbé

5 questions with the nose of the Bulgari Splendida collection, Sophie Labbé

Scent of a diva

Text: Angelyn Kwek

Regarded as the femme fatales of the fragrance world, Bulgari re-ignites its most iconic fragrances with master perfumer Sophie Labbé flying down to grace the stately affair

Who is the Splendida woman? That was the quiet query that floated in the air along with occasional whiffs of Bulgari's Iris d'Or, Rose Rose and Jasmin Noir at the media launch of the Italian house's new fragrance collection. Though if these familiar names rattle a distant memory in your head, you're not far off — Bulgari Splendida is directly descended from a trio of iconic scents that made a splash in the '90s. Glamourous and brimming with the essence of dolce vita, each of these fresh interpretations is a contemporary olfactory code that characterises womanhood, transformed by the hand (and nose) of esteemed perfumer Sophie Labbé.

Highlighting a noble flower each, this trinity of fragrances cuts right to the heart of femininity to elevate a woman's personal style, whether she's a sophisticate, a seductress or an ingénue. And there you have it: The Splendida woman is all of everything — a charismatic, timeless diva whose scent is as much a part of her as it announces her presence. Bottled in the signature flaçon topped by a luxe, golden stopper that evokes Bulgari's artistic sensibilities as a jeweller, the collection additionally marries the perfumes with facets of fine jewellery, two utterly feminine realms that doubtlessly go hand-in-hand.

Bulgari Splendida media launch

Curious to discover why this Bulgari ideal makes for aromatic aspirations? We got to talking with Labbé, the French master perfumer whose nose knows — and whom happily shared that designating a fridge specifically for storing your fragrances is de rigueur to prolong their longevity — on a woman's bond (including her own) to the Bulgari Splendida.

1. Your artistic process begins with an olfactory story from which your scents spring to life. What story do you envision when you were conceptualising the Splendida?
What is fantastic about the Splendida is that it's so different — it's recreation. The idea was to transform the original fragrances that have been in the market for more than 20 years. It was really to keep the identity of these fragrances and magnify their beauty in different ways. I really wanted to have a specific approach to each of them because they were all different and each of them has its own identity and own personality. So I really had to think on what would be the best transformation for them, and it was also very interesting because this was a special request from Bulgari and it was amazing to have this kind of adventure, which is very different from what I usually do. For the parfums, it was all about the aura and this of projection femininity, you know. It was really interesting to work around the most precious ingredients; in fact, I already had the sketches of the different fragrances. My role was to sublimate them with their history to make it more contemporary and even more luxurious.

Bulgari Splendida media launch

Iris d'Or, for example, is really all about luminous femininity. When you have the words, you can translate them into ingredients — into accords. Rose Rose has a tenderness and a sort of romanticism while Jasmin Noir is all about this olfactory oxymoron. It has this contrast between the immaculate jasmine flower paired with a dark, mysterious side.

 2. What is the provenance of the florals behind each fragrance and how did you come to the decision on choosing the iris, the rose and the jasmine to be the heart of Splendida?
In Iris d'Or, the most precious ingredient is the iris — and it's the most expensive ingredient in our palette. It takes a long time to grow and harvest, which is why it's so costly. Rose Rose, on the other hand, has a trio of natural roses: The rosewater essentielle, the rose oil and the rose absolute that we smell. And in the Jasmin Noir, we have the Sambac jasmine absolute, an ingredient that wasn't used in perfumes 20 years ago. Back then it was reserved only for ceremonies such as weddings, so this is something very special in the fragrance.

3. Although the Splendida is chaired by three unique fragrances that focus on the essence of a distinctive bloom each, is there an ingredient that ties the trio together as sister scents?
There's the tonka bean for the Iris D'or and the Jasmin Noir... but I would say the common thread between them is the overall luxury and rarity of the ingredients. It's for this reason that they're sisters!

4. The Splendida celebrates the many facets of femininity, from sophistication to glamour and sensuality. As women, we can be all of these qualities at once; could the fragrances thus be worn layered over each other as one collective scent?
Wearing perfumes is like wearing jewels. You could not wear, you know, three statement necklaces at the same time. I would say it depends on your mood of the day. In the morning, you can wear one [fragrance] and after, you can wear another one. The three are very different and I would not mix them together (laughs).

5. Seeing as the collection represents Bulgari's close bond being both a jeweller and perfumer, can you share with us what precious gemstone you associate with each fragrance?
Sure, there was an exhibition in a museum in Madrid some months ago and I took some pictures. So for each of the fragrances, I had a stone in mind. For the Jasmin Noir, there was this piece from the Diva jewellery collection that was all in black and white and for the Rose Rose, there was this beautiful, magnificent necklace with pink sapphires of varying hues. And the Iris d'Or, there was this (Labbe cheekily gestures to the Bulgari necklace she's wearing) that I'm wearing, which is also from the Diva collection.

Bulgari Splendida media launch

Just like how we wear beautiful fragrances, I liken that same effect to accessorising with Bulgari jewellery. When you're wearing a beautiful necklace, or earrings, there's something special — you feel different when you have them on and it empowers you, so there's really a true connection between wearing precious stones and wearing perfume.

The Bulgari Splendida collection will be available at all department stores and Sephora from May