“Tradition is not to preserve the ashes, but to pass on the flame”: This aphorism that is often attributed to Renaissance humanist Thomas More seems to perfectly describe the attitude of Jeroen Oude Sogtoen towards the legacy of Mona di Orio.
Mona di Orio was an exceptional perfumer – in the world of Haute Parfumerie, she became a legend even when she was alive. When the former pupil of famous master perfumer Edmond Roudnitska died in 2011 at the age of 42 as a result of post-operative complications, more than a few hearts and perfume blogs flew their flags at half-mast.
However, Jeroen Oude Sogtoen carries on the torch. Into the future. Together with him, Mona di Orio once established the eponymous perfume house: She was “the nose” while he was “the eyes” of Maison MONA DI ORIO. The two creative masterminds left wonderful fragrance collections to the world such as Les Nombres d’Or or the sublime Signature Collection.
Recently Jeroen Oude Sogtoen gave an interview to Essenza Nobile. In the course of the interview, the CEO and creative director of Maison MONA DI ORIO took a detailed “look back to the future”…
Essenza Nobile: In 2003 you met Mona di Orio for the first time. Can you tell us on which occasion you met Mona?
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen: While creating a luxury hotel amenity line for a hotel concept I created in Amsterdam I was in search of a perfumer who could create the fragrances for this ZENOLOGY line. I approached the museum in Grasse, and asked them which company I should contact for this. They suggested I contact Accords et Parfums. I contacted this firm and miss Mona di Orio picked up the phone. We started talking and I shared my ideas with her. After three weeks I went to meet her in Grasse and we worked together for a couple of days. We shared our thoughts, ideas and passions. For me this was the introduction into the world of quality perfumes, and the story of monsieur Roudnitska. After some days of working together we decided to start our own fragrance house, with Mona as the nose, face and ambassador of the brand, and myself as the creative director of Maison MONA DI ORIO.
Essenza Nobile: Do you still remember your first impression of Mona?
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen: Yes, she was different. Different in a way that she was intriguing and fascinating, with a sparkling personality and a characteristic personal style. Almost the style and grace from a different era, very Art Deco. Her enormous passion for fragrances was my introduction into the world of quality perfumes.
Essenza Nobile: You are actually a fashion and interior designer. Can you tell us a little bit about your life before Maison MONA DI ORIO?
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen: After graduating from the University of Applied Sciences with a degree in fashion design, I worked for ten years as a fashion designer. I transitioned from fashion design to interior design and created, alongside field specialists, the concept for The College Hotel in Amsterdam. Whilst creating a luxury hotel amenity line for this boutique hotel, I founded my other company ZENOLOGY ®. For me, creation, style, and design were the gateways to other fields and opportunities.
Essenza Nobile: Had you already been interested in perfumes before you met Mona? Or did she bring the “perfume aspect” into your life?
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen: Mona opened up the world of quality perfumes to me, which I didn’t think existed anymore. She taught me about her life alongside the famous mister Roudnitska and step-by-step the perfume stories were revealed to me.
Essenza Nobile: In which way did Mona change your life, and in which way did you change hers?
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen: We completely changed each other’s lives. Mona became the ambassador and front figure of Maison MONA DI ORIO; but being a nose can be lonely. Studying raw materials, looking at the creations, and working in full concentration on a new creation for about nine months is a tedious job. The business we started changed Mona, she had to also consider the outside picture. Building up a company takes one hundred percent of your life so my whole life completely changed from then on. I now follow the road that will bring the brand to the future. I want to make sure that the brand lasts by focusing on quality and credibility.
Essenza Nobile: Your encounter with Mona was undoubtedly a stroke of luck for the world of perfumery. However, Mona has of course already been a master perfumer before you two met for the first time. But she didn’t have her own fragrance label back then. So why was the encounter of you two so necessary to “get the ball rolling”?
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen: Mona just wanted to create perfumes; she did not see herself as a brand yet. By meeting each other we were able to create a brand around the person of Mona. I triggered her to see herself as a name giver of a brand, because I thought it would be very interesting for people to know who created the fragrances. When we met, she shared her personal creations with me, and together we created fragrances with a story. Step by step during the years we built the foundation of Maison MONA DI ORIO together.
Essenza Nobile: In 2011, the news of Mona’s decease shocked the world of perfumery. Do you regard yourself as an “executor” of Mona’s artistic testament?
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen: No, it was our artistic testament. Not only Mona’s artistic testament. It is something we have built up together. Of course I was very challenged with how to continue the brand after Mona’s passing but it was not only Mona’s testament. The brand was our mutual artistic testament. Mona and Jeroen together created Maison MONA DI ORIO. It is something we have established together. Of course it is a wrong comparison, but its like parenting. It was our mutual testament, our child. So no, I do not see myself as an executor. But we do continue the ideas of Mona, and her ideas in fragrances, and as you can see, I brought the brand to the future. Instead of being in the background, my role is now to be the brand ambassador.
Essenza Nobile: One of the most stunning fragrances by Mona is Violette Fumée. By the way, it is a signature fragrance which Mona once created especially for you! Can you tell us more about the development of this extraordinary perfume and how it came about that Mona created such a fragrance for you?
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen: Mona wanted to create a fragrance for her partner, for me. It was a story about my life and my memories. My life as a fashion designer, my love for luxurious interiors, the smell of pipe tobacco from my father, couture cashmere, and suede. This fragrance was my childhood story. With flirty floral scents like violet, and rose fumed with pipe tobacco, the exquisite smoothness of cashmere and suede, and deep resinous undertones. This warmly smoldering scent evokes my sensorial love for luxury, and makes me feel, dream, travel and remember. Violette Fumée was my personal fragrance so I was the only one that wore it, and I only wore it on special occasions. After Mona passed I introduced this fragrance because I wanted to share this beautiful creation with the world and show what it meant to me.
Essenza Nobile: Which of the other Mona di Orio fragrances do you prefer to wear?
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen: Oudh Osmanthus, Cuir, Eau Absolue, Vetyver, Lux, Nuit Noire and our novelty Myrrh Casati. I wear everything except for Vanille and the florals even though I think florals are wonderful on male skin as well. One of my favorites is Carnation, which will be brought back soon. Oudh Osmanthus is my favorite because it’s so special and created with the magical Oudh tainted by the delicacy of Osmanthus.
Essenza Nobile: Last year, the design of some of the Mona di Orio flacons has been changed. The new design is said to be inspired by sculptor Constantin Brancusi and his love for oval shapes. Why did you decide to change the design?
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen: After Mona’s passing I reviewed the years and looked back. I also looked forward to what I wanted to do with the brand, how to bring it to the next level of luxury. I realized that our square bottles were not symbolizing the fundamentals of our house: ART, LIGHT and NATURE.
Sensuality has always been a main inspiration for Mona and I felt that the square bottles were not symbolizing this. Since our fragrances are not square but round I wanted to capture this in the bottle. I wanted to have more sensuality in the design of the bottle and with the whole sensual feeling and the love for Art Deco that Mona and I shared, it was a logical decision. The new design especially captures Claire Obscure and this was not the case in our previous designs.
Essenza Nobile: Will all the old, angular-shaped flacons with their allusion to a champagne bottle completely disappear step by step – and perhaps become sought, expensive rarities one day?
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen: Yes. This September the entire collection will be available in the new packaging. And already we see that collectors of the squared ones are trying to purchase these collector items.
Essenza Nobile: A further innovation was the introduction of a new line called “Monogram Collection”. It aims to continue the spirit of Mona di Orio’s art of perfumery and her typical “Chiaroscuro” style by the creation of new perfumes. The very first fragrance of this collection was Myrrh Casati by perfumer Mélanie Leroux. Is there a further “Monogram Collection” perfume in the pipeline yet? We heard something about some kind of a “twin brother” of Myrrh Casati… can you tell us more about it?
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen: Yes that’s true, Mélanie Leroux and I are simultaneously working on new fragrances.
Essenza Nobile: Are there actually any perfume formulas and fragrance compositions by Mona left that haven’t been unveiled yet – and that will be launched one day?
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen: Mona created lots of formulas but I have decided to close the collections made by Mona. However, as you probably know, we also had candles in this collection that might be brought back in the future.
Essenza Nobile: Can you tell us finally something about your future plans for Maison MONA DI ORIO and what we can expect next?
Jeroen Oude Sogtoen: Future plans on the short term are to change the whole present collection to the new packaging. Step by step we will reintroduce other fragrances from the Signature Collection. I am also working on new creations for the Monogram Collection, samples, travel sprays, and discovery sets that are in line with the new packaging of our Maison. Lots and lots to discover!
Essenza Nobile: Jeroen, hartstikke bedankt voor het interview!