Foreward

Eccentric and enigmatic Swiss perfumer, Vero Kern, is the visionary behind Vero Profumo, a niche perfume house founded in 2007. A trained perfumer with a background in aromatherapy, Kern’s approach is distinctive to say the least. Her debut perfumes, Onda, Kiki and Rubj are all highly playful and echo the style of perfumes from a different era. Released in May 2007, they were later followed up by Mito, Rozy and Naja (released in 2017 for the 10 year anniversary of Vero Profumo).

My first point of contact with Vero was through a small review I wrote about Rozy- an indulgent purple syrup rose scent if there ever was one. Cut to a few emails back and forth over the years, and here we are today. If I could say one thing about my contact with Vero, it is that she is deeply passionate about her work, her business, and the story of each perfume. She is so involved in connecting with her audience through social media, that each perfume release is an event unto itself. The build-up and anticipation to the recent release of Naja was a drip feed of artwork, metaphors and mysticism. Naja, named and inspired by the Naja cigarette brand, is also the genus and Sanskrit word for the Cobra- a venomous, and highly stealth creature. Add to it the smell of Kern’s Naja, a white floral tobacco scent and you need only imagine the power it renders. Released at Esxence 2017 in Milan, it was a hotly anticipated perfume thanks to the social media campaign Kern launched.

Kern’s cult status as a perfumer lies, I believe, in her instinctive method of marketing her perfumes directly to her audience, as well as her talent as a perfumer. As I mentioned, the first Vero Profumo perfume I ever sampled was Rozy. At first it smelled raw, rough and unlike any other perfume I had smelled that day. After a while I came to see Rozy for what it was, a loud volumptuous rose perfume that developed into an outsized and sensual scent on my skin. The more I would read about Vero’s perfumes, the more I began to uncover their ability to create deeply personal connections with those who use them. You need only read a review of any of her perfumes and see the passion that pours from each blogger’s pen as proof. Perhaps it is because Vero’s personality is effervescent, or it may be that her character is open and engaging, either way her perfumes capture a little bit of that vital essence.

It should be said that Vero’s style of perfumery is an homage to classical French perfumery and is unlike other offerings on the market. Where many references have drawn Kern’s style to that of classic perfumes, Kern herself states that perfumes such as Tabac Blond by Caron, Nahema by Guerlain as influences for Onda, Naja and Rozy- a sentiment that has been repeated in other interviews. If you smell them, you may find it hard to find a similarity, however it would be undeniable to say they do not pay homage to these pillars of perfumery. They do not shy away from standing out of the crowed. When I spoke with Vero, it became clear however that her perfumes were as much about people and times as they were about places- a creation of her own indefinable perfume landscapes.

Visually, the theme of vintage perfumery has been carried through. The falcons look like falcons from the Art Nouveau period. To achieve the look, Kern sought out an old glassworks company in Normandy that still produce bottles in old fashioned ovens. In keeping with classical perfumery, each of the Extrait de Parfum bottle are dyed straight through to a dark amber colour in order to preserve the perfume. Kern produces three types of perfumes: Extraits de Parfums, Voiles d’Extraits, and Eau de Parfums. The Extraits come in small blotters- roughly the size of your small finger; where perfume is dabbed on the skin as is the custom for perfume oils and oud. The Voiles d’Extraits and EdParfums are both atomised spray bottles- they look like the blotting bottle, only larger.

 

Before you read the interview, you may notice the theme of the artwork for this interview are postcards- these are in response to Vero’s reference that her work ‘’are like postcards’’.

In her own words, Kern looks for “originality, opulence and eroticism in scents”, and she does not disappoint.Below is an extract of our conversation, which outlined the general themes of Vero’s perfumes. This conversation took place prior to the release of Naja, and so only touches lightly on the perfume.


About Kiki…

HJ: I was reading Luca Turin’s review in the A-Z Guide, and he talks about how a lot of lavender perfumes give you lavender, but with Kiki it is a burnt sugar lavender- and I think that is so true, but for me I pick a lot of the lemon & lavender notes, its like a hot summers day. All the colours are intensified and there is a lot of narrative to it. That’s how I interact with it at least.
VERO: “It’s very lush, it’s powdery. It’s a little bit frivolous you know? It’s very shy in a way, very specials- it is lavender with geranium of course because they go together. A little bit of patchouli because the inspiration behind is Jicky from Guerlain. The Jicky perfume is lavender with patchouli and a lot of vanilla. I took caramel [instead of vanilla]- the smell of burnt sugar.”

“Yeah, it’s a lovely perfume really. It was the first one I did”

HJ: Really?
VERO: “Yeah Really.”

“I mean I’ve been working on the three initial ones- Onda, Kiki, Rubj- you spell it like Ruby you know? In German or in French, its only in English that it is with a ‘y’. I didn’t realise you know when I was looking for a name that it could be spelled like this. I actually wanted to name Rubj like a ruby- the stone. It was all a bit of a problem because so many words are already copyrighted, so I thought I would make it a little bit different (but I didn’t realise it would be spelled as r-u-b-j in English.”

HJ: I should have realised it was like Ruby with the ‘j’ being pronounced as a ‘y’. 
VERO: “Of the whole collection, Rubj is the one that is very oriental- that’s the one of the Sheik- the Perfumed Garden- the book. It is written in all languages, it’s a classical standard. He writes about sexual practices. It is very revolutionary because it is opposite the way today. But it is standard really.”


HJ: Is it like the Garden of Eden?

VERO: “[Laughs] no it is like the garden of Lust, of sex, or aerobics!”
HJ: Well now I can imagine it- and now that you say ruby I can imagine a beautiful gem stone- the lights going across it.

 

About Mito… 

VERO: “Mito is a green flowery perfume. It is a magnolia perfume- the Villa D’Este! An Italian Garden in Trivoli-”

HJ: Is it a garden of a hundred fountains?
VERO: “Yes- I had been there in 2009, and I was so impressed. So enchanted, and I wanted to make a perfume of this Garden. It is very green this perfume first of all. I don’t know if you know this, my perfumes come in different versions: Extrait (the high concentration) then Voiles d’Extrait which is the diluted concentration: I took off some notes- some animalic products so its lighter- its less heavy.
Then there is the parfum which is completely different- I mean completely different! It is built differently because you must imagine the top notes have to be more fresh- light. The base notes have to be less because you spray it. When you dab it – [unlike] the extract- it doesn’t say anything you know? It’s not talking to you.
I started with the Extract initially which I produced myself- I do everything myself, marketing, creation, production everything- so it was the small bottles-”

HJ: They are delightful, the small bottles.
VERO: “Yeah, this kind of perfumery is very French- the Extract- like classical perfumery. When I started, nobody made extracts. Now everybody makes extracts because you can make it more expensive. However, I did it for another reason. Because I wanted to do everything myself, and I am not the type [of person] who likes to be dependent on people for briefs or stock. That was the real niche way. I started in 2007 and next year I will have my anniversary 10 years!”

HJ: Will you have a perfume called Vero?
VERO: “[Laughs]”

HJ: Because I noticed that all of the names of your perfumes have four letters, and Vero has four letters!
VERO: “Yeah I know. We were talking about that, but I think it is too early. I think I will bring out Naja first.”

About Naja…

HJ: Where does the name Naja come from?
VERO: “Well I think it is Sanskrit/ Arabic. Naja is the name of the cobra snake. I think the origin is Indo-Arabic, something like this. But Naja is a science name of the Cobra snake.
The thing behind it is that I wanted to create a kind of tobacco scent. Tobacco because I love Caron ‘Tabac Blonde’- do you know that one? It is a wonderful scent- more leathery than tobacco.
I wanted to make a tobacco scent and so I was googling Caron Tobac Blonde and then I came across something about Naja- naja was also a cigarette blend in the 30s in the last century, a Tunisian cigarette called Naja Oriental Tobacco. I loved that so much! Then I started to do everything around this Naja tobacco [laughs] it really is lovely.”

Inspiration…

 

VERO: “My scents are very much related to places, people, less to my childhood you know? Kiki is Paris, Rubj is the garden of the Sheik- it is more imaginary- Onda is this leathery perfume, and it is something of my childhood- a pair of shoes. Leather was always fascinating to me. My parents rarely bought me new shoes, that was in the 40s you know. So when they bought me a pair of shoes I took them to my bed and I had them very close to my nose. I loved the smell of new shoes! That was something very special- I was obsessed with the smell of new shoes. So that is something really of my childhood- a line from the past.
But the others are places. What else do we have? Mito is the Garden of Trivoli, Rozy is of course Rome- an Italian story. They are like postcards.”

 

 

Acknowledgements

Thank you to the enigmatic Vero Kern for sharing her time and brilliant thoughts for the purposes of this interview.

You have been a pen-pal of sorts, and it has always been a pleasure to read your emails. Your enthusiasm is infectious, and I wish you all the success in the world.

Huda Jaber
SCENTSPY