Patricia de Nicolai

In partenarship with the Osmothèque of Versailles

The Osmothèque

A true international conservatory of perfumes (existing or extinct), the Osmothèque was born out of a joint initiative of the Société Française des Parfumeurs (French Society of Perfume-Makers), the Comité Français du Parfum (French Perfume Committee) and the  Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie (Chamber of Commerce and Industry) of Versailles-Val d'Oise-Yvelines to protect fragrances from the wearing effects of time, loss and oblivion by establishing museums and libraries to perpetuate their memory. This one-of-a-kind institution was designed to take an inventory of existing perfumes but also to track down the great classics which have fallen into oblivion and to bring them back to life.

Such famous perfumes include those of Paul Poiret, the first important designer to have created his own perfumes starting in 1910 under the name “The Perfumes of Rosine.” Other ancient perfumes include Le Parfum Royal, a Roman perfume from the 1st century, L'Eau de La Reine de Hongrie (14th century), l’Eau de Napoléon 1er at Sainte-Hélène, the  Houbigant perfumes, the famous Fougère Royale (1882), Le Parfum Idéal (1900), Quelques Fleurs (1912), Mury perfumes with Narcisse Bleu (1920), Millot perfumes and the famous Crêpe de Chine (1925), Lucien Lelong perfumes, including Le Jasmin (1930), Le Dandy (1925) from Parfums d'Orsay, l'Eau de Lubin (1798), Zibeline (1928) and Antilope (1945) from Parfums Weil.

The Speaker

Patricia de Nicolaï was born in Paris and raised in the Guerlain town house, side-by-side with four generations of the Guerlain family.  Her childhood was, of course, perfumed with the most delicate essences.
After studying chemistry, Patricia de Nicolaï joined the ranks of the Institut Supérieur International du Parfum, de la Cosmétique et de l'Aromatique alimentaire (ISIPCA), an institute for professionals in the perfume, cosmetics and flavoring industries. She quickly proved to have great talent for creating scents. Thanks to the benevolence of her uncle, Jean-Paul Guerlain, she entered the perfume industry as a part of several development teams, including Florasynth (1982-1984) and Quest International (1984-1989). In 1989, following in the steps of a long family tradition, her husband Jean-Louis Michau suggested that she launch “NICOLAI, Perfume Creator.” The concept was to put the profession of perfume-maker back in the forefront, to give the perfumer freedom of choice and the latitude to use the most beautiful raw materials.
Over the past 20 years, Patricia de Nicolaï has created one of the richest collections of contemporary perfumery, including 12 women’s perfumes, 6 perfumes for men, 5 “eaux de Cologne” and 4 “eaux fraîches”, all with particularly evocative or exotic names; 1989- Number One, Odalisque (F); New-York (M); Cologne Sologne (EDC); 1996- Juste un rêve (F); 2003- Balkis (F); 2004- Eclipse (F); 2007- Le Temps d’une Fête (F) ; Eau de Cédrat (EDC) ; Maharanih (F).

Her personal style, with a predilection for white flowers and musky notes, blooms out of these creations. The rich palette of natural essences in each of her formulas characterizes this style.
Patricia de Nicolaï is President of the one and only Osmothèque, the Conservatoire International des Parfums (International Perfume Conservatory). She is also a member of the technical committee of the Société Française des Parfumeurs. In 1988, she became the first woman to receive the International Prize for the best creative perfume-maker. Exactly 20 years later -in  2008-  she was awarded the Legion of Honor.


The Profession of Perfumer Designer
Perfumer designer is a fascinating profession: Is it a gift? Can everyone become a perfumer? Is it a profession passed down from father to son? What exactly does a perfumer designer do? What are the raw materials?
This profession can be compared to a musical composer. The perfumer works from a multitude of raw materials (about 500), which we can call notes, that he has spent years memorizing individually before being able to assemble them and thus create “chords.” These natural and synthetic raw materials with sometimes enigmatic names like essential oil, absolute, resinoïd, or aldehyde, acetate, etc. are assembled on a perfume “organ.”

The perfumer will then compose his formulas in the middle of this “organ”. To do so, he depends on his experimental knowledge gathered during long years of practice. Starting from a simple “chord” of three or four constituent parts, he will produce bases which he will slowly “dress” to produce perfumes. Some of them would prove to be true symphonies: Chanel N°5, Shalimar, Joy, Air du temps, etc.
This lecture is an invitation to travel: first, you will discover that the sense of smell is the most faithful guardian of memory; then you will learn to smell the main natural or synthetic essences which compose the “organ” of the perfumer; and finally an explanation of the classification of perfumes will be unveiled for you: the Hesperides, floral, oriental, etc. families.

Introduction to Synthesis in Perfumery
The advent of organic chemistry and the technological progress in the field of extraction of raw materials led to an astonishing revolution in perfumery, enabling it to move from an artisanal period to the industrial age. The perfumers of the 19th century progressively left behind eaux de senteur (body spray) for simple scents to venture towards more sophisticated perfumes.

From the end of the 19th century, all the true creations in perfumery were based on discoveries of new aromatic products coming out of research in chemistry, combined with irreplaceable traditional natural products. Thanks to the incredible enrichment in their palette and their talent, perfumers were able to strike out in new olfactory directions. No longer content to just imitate nature, from then on they worked on more abstract constructions, thus becoming true artists.

This lecture is an homage to the precursors of modern perfumery: Houbigant, Coty, and Guerlain who were the first to use materials of synthesis. You will also have the pleasure of smelling masterpieces like Fougère Royale (1884), Parfum idéal (1900), Ambre Antique (1904), Chypre (1917), Heure bleue

The History of Perfume from Antiquity to the Present
From the Parfum Royal given to the kings of the Parthians, in the 1st century C.E. (A.D.), to the numerous contemporary creations, the use of perfume has been, in turn, religious, therapeutic, or an instrument of seduction. The history of perfumery can be told in two stages: pre- and post-19th century, from medical perfumery to perfumery for beauty.

This intoxicating session outlines the ways and customs related to perfume. You will first travel back to civilizations of Antiquity. Egyptians, Greeks and Romans were all crazy about perfume. The Arabs took up the torch and through their judicious discoveries made breakthroughs in the perfumery of the time.

It was in Italy that the incredible history of “eau de Cologne” began. During the Renaissance, Catherine de Médicis made perfume flourish in the French court. The 19th century marked an important turning point in the development of perfumes by making them affordable to a larger public. The first famous brands of perfumers would appear, such as Lubin, Guerlain, Bourjois.

In 1904 François Coty launched his company. Poiret was the first couturier to associate dressmaking and perfume; he was to be followed by others who were to have great success. At the same time as French perfumery, the 20th century saw the birth of American perfumery with Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein. Finally, at the dawn of the 21st century, perfumery is undergoing new transformations.

Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein: Two Visionaries of Female Beauty
These two authoritarian and determined avant-gardist women revolutionized the world of cosmetics. Talented and persevering, they invented marketing before its time by proposing innovative products responding to the needs of their clients. These formidable rivals pushed a traditional home-made trade towards the industrial, and were able to build cosmetic empires. They are the pioneers of the basics of modern cosmetics: its language and its body language.

Early on, Helena Rubinstein surrounded herself with scientists, trained estheticians in original massage techniques and launched the idea of skin types with a broad spectrum of skin-care products adapted to them. For her part, Elizabeth Arden invented daily skin care, her leitmotiv: clean, tone, nourish with a whole range of specific care.

These internationally famous women both imagined fragrances in their image.

Through this lecture, you will discover the career path of these two strong women and will smell their most beautiful creations: Blue Grass or homage to the range by Elizabeth Arden in Wyoming, It’s You by Roudnistka, or Red Door, a nod to the atmosphere of her New York beauty salon … Among Rubinstein’s fragrances, you will be able to savor Apple Blossom, Emotion, Men’s Club, etc.

Technical instructions

Each conference allows for different ways of understanding and appreciating the scents. As part of each conference, there are samples provided from the collections, which are made available for the appreciation of the public. In order to guarantee optimal conditions during the sampling of the scents as well as during the discussions, it is highly recommended that audience size be kept at no more than forty persons.


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