To speak to Baptiste Bouygues and his mother, Marie-Lise Jonak, is to entertain the fantasy of being adopted into their family. They seem to genuinely get along; both are easygoing, and Bouygues, always with a literary or artistic reference, perfectly counters his mom’s business sense and spontaneity. Their shared stories (best narrated by Jonak, with her mellifluous French accent) are enchanting, beginning with how she met Bouygues’s father: He was a diver on holiday in Paris; she was a model and had just competed in the Miss France pageant. He asked her to visit him in Singapore; she went and the pair stayed in Asia for eight years, during which time their son was born.
Cut to a few decades later: Jonak is now a veteran fragrance consultant and Bouygues, 30, has worked in communications for Louis Vuitton and Givenchy. Their overlapping professional interests made a collaboration between them almost inevitable. “I’d been thinking about creating a perfume for a while,” Bouygues remembers. “Of course, there is that thing of not wanting to do what your mother is doing, but I was seeing, more and more, that I knew about that world <em>because</em> my mom worked in it.” In the spring of 2016, he approached Jonak with the idea to make a wholly natural perfume — and she promptly told him it couldn’t be done. “I heard myself and thought, ‘Why did I say that to Baptiste?’” she reflects. “All of my life, I have been driven by challenges. When someone says, ‘It’s impossible,’ I think, ‘O.K., I’m going to do it.’ So, I went back and told him, ‘We’re going to try it.’”
Marie-Lise Jonak and Baptiste Bouygues, the mother-and-son partnership behind the new fragrance line Ormaie.
Today, Bouygues and Jonak officially launch their brand, Ormaie, with a collection of seven fragrances made from all-natural ingredients. For 18 months, they went back and forth with a handful of perfumers who specialise in raw materials to develop the scents they’d imagined. “We were asking them to make a cookie without the eggs, flour and milk,” Jonak explains, “but it had to taste like a real cookie.” It took “hundreds and hundreds of modifications to get to the notes we were looking for,” Bouygues adds. During the process, he traveled to different jasmine and rose fields in the French countryside; he plans to ultimately visit the source of each ingredient.
He applied the same attention to detail to the packaging. “I remember my mom buying Chanel No. 5 just for the bottle,” Bouygues says. “I wanted to design something that people admired as an object and wouldn’t hide in a cabinet.” The bottles themselves are crafted by a sustainable glassmaker, the tops are whittled from beech trees cut from renewable forests and the boxes and labels are produced by the renowned fine-art print shop Imprimerie du Marais. Bouygues even commissioned the novelist and photographer Guillaume de Sardes to write a manifesto for the brand.
Le Passant is a homage to men’s fragrances; the lavender scent reminds Bouygues of his father.
The fragrances range from fresh and citrusy (28 Degrees and Les Brumes, both with lemon and bergamot) to richly layered and hyper-specific. The licorice-twinged Papier Carbone captures the childhood scent of the carbon paper that French schoolteachers formerly wrote on; Toï Toï Toï, which borrows its name from the expression of good luck offered ahead of a stage performance, smells woody and waxy, reminiscent of the Opera Garnier or the Bolshoi Ballet; L’Ivrée Bleue, heavy on vanilla and rum, evokes the intoxicating, tropical paintings of Paul Gauguin and Henri Rousseau.
Perhaps dearest to Bouygues and Jonak, though — and central to this family business — are Le Passant and Yvonne, the brand’s takes on classic masculine and feminine fragrances. The lavender-infused Le Passant reminds Bouygues of his father, who wore a cologne that incorporated the plant. And Yvonne, a mixture of roses and red fruits, is named for Jonak’s mother. “When I talk about smell, I can talk about my grandma’s soap, and my mom is the only one to be able to understand it and to be able to translate it to a perfumer,” Bouygues says.
The real Yvonne responded to the gesture in true grandmotherly fashion. “I tried to explain the project to her, that I wanted to try to make her immortal,” he recalls. “And she said, ‘You look skinny, you need to eat something.’”
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