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Guerlain

Delphine Jelk and Violette Serrat Bring Guerlain’s Historic House Into the Future

Whitewall sat down with Guerlain's makeup and fragrance directors to hear how they approach creation.

Merging Makeup and Fragrance at Guerlain

Pierre-François-Pascal Guerlain founded Guerlain in Paris, a perfume store at 42 rue de Rivoli, 195 years ago. For nearly two centuries, the maison has focused on preservation and innovation to move into the contemporary landscape, offering the world a slice of beauty beyond scent. Lines of skincare, makeup, and more have followed, all still bearing a fragrance of their own.

Today, one woman is at the helm of continuing, protecting, and expanding Guerlain‘s many fragrances: Delphine Jelk. Her work recalls the brand’s storied ethos and concoctions yet brings attention to the evolving dynamic of our lives. Building from the house’s go-to collections, including Les Extraits Signature and L’Art & La Matière, her latest scents—including Tobacco Honey and Neroli Plein Sud—blend emotion, nature, and nuance for new expressions of familiar scents like neroli and honey.

Guerlain Delpine Jelk, portrait courtesy of Guerlain.

The house’s Creative Director of Makeup, Violette Serrat, strives to modernize Guerlain’s iconic product line. As a young girl, she was inspired by the pastel-colored pearls in the brand’s Météorites product, which led to a future in the industry. Today, she’s revisiting that exact product, alongside Jelk’s fragrance infused in its spheres, to offer something chic and contemporary for the woman of today.

Whitewall sat down with Jelk and Serrat to hear how their perfume and makeup take us to back to the past and into the future.

Co-Creating Guerlain Beauty

WHITEWALL: You both have different roles, yet at times, get to work together. What do you consider when approaching items together?

VIOLETTE SERRAT: I think what we do is so complementary. We think of the allure overall—what the emotion we create is going to mean to that person. Lipstick, eyeshadow, hair, clothes, I feel like everything is connected. To be able to work with Delphine, and be at the same maison at the same time is amazing. We have the same vision to bring it to life. Delphine is kind of a muse herself, so I’m always glad to have her feedback. It’s a sounding board. Then we had a baby together— Météorites, launching in March 2024.

Guerlain Violette Serrat, portrait courtesy of Guerlain.

WW: This was the first product you created together. Delphine, what was Violette’s initial feedback?

DELPHINE JELK: She told me she didn’t want it to smell like her grandmother. [Laughs] She also told me about the aura she wanted to show through Météorites. At the same time, the scent is so Guerlain. It’s been here for many years. It was a challenge to keep this iconic scent, but have this new aura that Violette brings to Guerlain.

WW: How would you describe the new aura?

VS: Météorites was in existence a million years ago. It’s generations of women, from mother to daughter. When I was a kid, I saw it on my mother’s table, my grandmother’s table. I said, “I think this is an iconic product. We have so much more innovation now that we could use in service of that product.” I would love to know what the creator of this product wanted to achieve. Then I realized he wanted to have this glow, almost like an aura, a visible charisma. I thought this would be an interesting innovation for powder because we could achieve this matte effect, but more importantly, this vibration from your complexion.

I started to work with the chemists, but the challenge was the fragrance because it was strong and it’s a big part of the product. I wanted to change it. It smelled like a dried violet flower. They said everyone loves it, did feedback tests to see if that was true, and it was true. They love it.

DJ: Of course people love it! It’s something that you have in your memory. When you kiss your grandmother, or your mother, that’s what they smell. It’s very emotional. But you were right to want to go further and give it something new. So, we did.

Guerlain
First created in 1987, the iconic pearls of powder, Meteorites, will relaunch in March 2024, courtesy of Guerlain.

Crafting a Fragrance Aura at Guerlain

WW: Delphine how did you make a fragrance out of this aura?

DJ: I was inspired by what Violette had in mind, talking about the aura. Aura for me was adding some sandalwood. It’s mystical and almost meditative. There is something about the aura. I think it fits very well with the violet scents. But that is Guerlain—keeping with what is really emotional and patrimonial. Violette and I love all the vintage Guerlain, we don’t want to change it, but we want to be in our time. It’s a mix of being inspired by all the treasures of this wonderful house and, at the same time, being what we are today. 

WW: Women have been wearing Guerlain perfume since the 19th century. How would you describe those who wear it today?

DJ: My work with Guerlain perfume began with La Petite Robe Noire—an idea I brought to them—but I wasn’t working for Guerlain at the time. I thought it was such a wonderful house, an amazing brand, but I couldn’t find something for myself. I thought Mademoiselle Guerlain was missing.

I was inspired by Marie Antoinette with Sofia Coppola, where she’s eating macaroons from Ladurée, has pink hair, and is wearing Converses. That for me was exactly Mademoiselle Guerlain—this historical part, and at the same time, so today. The story started like that, but I am still in the same mood. 

Guerlain The newest fragrance, Néroli Plein Sud, created by Delphine Jelk for the L’Art & La Matière Collection, launching January 2024, courtesy of Guerlain.

WW: Delphine, your latest creation, Néroli Plein Sud, launches in January 2024. What’s special about this scent to you?

DJ: I started working on Néroli Plein Sud a long time ago. I love it because I think there is a “feel good” element to it. When you have the orange flower in your tea, in your juice, you feel it’s good for you. It’s the same with the scent. I love this idea, so I wanted to express it as a trip to the south of Morocco. I’ve smelled an amazing quality of organic neroli there. There are fields of kilometers and kilometers. It’s kind of crazy. Imagine flying above the fields of orange flowers, going to the desert. L’Art & La Matière is a lot about tension. It’s not taking the raw materials and going where you would expect. The idea was to have a fresh, pure neroli, with cold spices—like ginger and turmeric. The bottom of the fragrance is a warm smell with suede and cinnamon—leathery notes that give this contrast between the top note and enveloping parts.

I love the idea that even if we don’t want to be masculine or feminine, I wanted this one to seduce men. I think we need to have in the collection perfumes for men. I love when a woman wears it, but especially a man.

Guerlain’s “Beauty Bee Secrets” Collection

WW: Violette, you joined Guerlain two years ago, and next year the brand is releasing many new products you designed—including the “Bee Beauty Secrets” collection, featuring a lip oil, a mascara primer serum, an eyeliner, an eyebrow pencil; the Terracotta concealer line and blush compact; and Météorites, which you co-created with Delphine. How does that feel?

VS: It’s exciting! Lip oil is for the contemporary woman. The new eyebrow pencil is important, too. It’s mistake-proof—you can draw hair by hair. And the concealer, as well as the blush? I’m obsessed. There are a lot of products, but we want a new Guerlain. It’s Sleeping Beauty—and we’re waking her up.

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