Interview
Exploring the South of France

With Veronique Gabai

As her perfumes launch exclusively at Liberty, the beauty veteran takes us on a fragrant trip around the region in which her scents are made

Shop Veronique Gabai

Having spent years creating fragrance and beauty products for the industry’s most formidable brands, Veronique Gabai thought it time to translate her knowledge and creativity into her own perfume line – and much to our delight, her complex scent stories are now starting to unfold. Aiming to transport us to new places, New York-based Gabai’s perfumes are inspired by and made in the South of France, the region in which was born and rasied. Here she takes us on a sensory journey of the place she knows and loves.

I was born in Antibes, South of France, by the Mediterranean Sea...I left when I was 17 because I wanted to discover the world, widen my horizon and enlarge my life. I travelled to Paris, then New York and all around the world. I enjoyed these travels greatly but by comparison, I realised that the place I was coming from was very special and unique as it offered a blend of stunning nature, shining culture and incredibly glamorous lifestyle.

The smell of the sea is one of my favorite scents… I learnt to swim before I learnt to walk. To this day the scent of the sea is a miraculous joy ride. Rose and Jasmine are scents that shaped my childhood, as my mother would grow them in our garden. We also had an orange bigarade tree and a mandarin tree, and I still have in my nose their sparking scent. Orange blossom was a real boost of joy and comfort in the trees but also as we would use it everywhere. It would flavour pastries and we would also add a drop of orange blossom water in our coffee.

Then there was the Aleppo trees. These trees produce pine nuts. As kids, we would pick up the cones, extract the nuts and break their tiny shells with a stone to eat the delicate nuts… what a treat! Our fingers would be dark with the black resin of the tree – I just loved the scent. I have tried to capture these scents in my perfumes.

The Cote d’Azur is a great source of inspiration... Humanism and hedonism were born there…what is luxury if not an exercise in hedonism, bringing beauty to every day life? And in a world that becomes more virtual and more technological every day, what is left of our humanity if not for our capacity to sense and to feel?

All my perfumes are built around one core ingredient native to the Cote d’Azur. Let’s not forget that Grasse, the historic centre of perfumery belongs to that region! But beyond the ingredients, I wanted the perfumes to be drenched in light, like the light that exists there that transcends everything. I also wanted the nose to be attracted into the scent, and be free to wander in it without limit.

It was important for me to bring in the sensuality that exists in the South of France, where naked skin is made golden by the sun and refreshed by the sea. All my fragrances have been developed on skin, so they bloom on skin and evolve on it - the experience is unique and extremely intimate.

In Antibes, I would take you… To the market in the morning where you would find the most succulent fruits and vegetables, in the most glorious setting, in the old city. From there, I would take you on a stroll through the little streets going towards the port and the Picasso Museum in the Grimaldi Castle.

In St Tropez, we would… Have a drink at Senequier after a day spent at the Beach; La plage des Graniers in the village or Loulou in Pampelonne are among my favorites. We would have dinner aux Salins, a restaurant, right by the water or on the port to indulge in people watching and dance after hours on the tables.

Of course, I would insist we go to St Paul de Vence… St Paul de Vence is an artist village off the coast, with its iconic Colombe d’Or Hotel, where artists would pay in art works. The swimming pool of the hotel is under a giant Calder sculpture and after a short trip off the village, we would go to the Maeght Foundation, one of the most incredible contemporary art foundation in the world.

What’s more, let’s venture east in Nice to the Cours Saleya… We will eat with our fingers the Socca (a chickpea pancake we find there and only there), or west towards the Island of Porquerolles or in Rayol Canadel, one of the most beautiful hidden treasures of the coast.

Let’s go to Grasse in May for the rose harvest, or Tanneron in February where the mimosas grow. So many places, so many enchanting moments.

The scents we’ll dicover are… Rose Centifolia; indigenous of Grasse and grows only in May (Noire de Mai is inspired by this rose). Jasmin Grandiflora is too, and is harvested in July (my Jasmin de Minuit recalls the scent of jasmine at night, when it blooms). The Aleppo trees are all around the coast and have this unique shape of an umbrella, as if they were here to protect you from the sun. In French, we call them Pin Parasol, probably because of that. They have a distinct resin-like woody note I wanted to capture in Cap d’Antibes. Of course, Mimosa in the Air is all around the Mimosa growing in Tanneron.

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