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Life Through the Eyes of a Nose: Meet Award-Winning Italian Perfumer Paolo Terenzi

Upon landing in Cairo to launch the classic Tiziana Terenzi Collection at Fortune, Paolo Terenzi explains how an untraditional childhood turned him into a world-renowned perfumer.

Paolo Terenzi

Paolo Ternazi cuts an impressive figure in any space, in any context. He’s the kind of man you can’t help but notice – not least for his gloriously-shaped moustache. But, he’s the kind of man you look at and would bet anything that he has an interesting story – and he does indeed.

You see, Paolo is a perfumer – a trade affectionately referred to in the industry as a Nose - and one half of Italian brand, Tiziana Terenzi , which he founded with his sister, continuing a line of work which is deeply rooted in their family for generations, since the 1960’s.

But more than just a trial-and-error process of mixing a bunch of plant and flower extracts with various chemicals, Ternazi speaks about his profession as an art. That spirit and passion were quite evident and reflected at the Egyptian launch of Tiziana Terenzi Collection at FORTUNE Stores.Born into a family of skilled-perfumers, Paolo tells of how he remembers watching his father trying to mix perfume oils with candles; a thankless task that eventually led him to creating the world's first scented candle in the 1970s. His father's lab became Paolo’s during childhood, and he was given room to work on his own perfume mixes from very early on. By his adolescence, he had already grown impressively discerning to different smells and odours, setting in motion what would turn out to be a gloriously successful career as one of the world's most renowned perfumers.

"I trained my nose to recognise the odour,” Terenzi explained to CairoScene. “I had made my first perfume in the lab already, as a teen, and I started taking notes of what my father used to create. I would usually work on very small projects, nothing as big as a collection, but I mostly tried to create smells that represent how I felt at certain moments," recounted Paolo. "Until now, I try to recreate a feeling in a shape of perfume."

One might assume that Paolo had spent his entire life in pursuit of the perfect scent. But that would be wrong for two reasons; for one, he’s also a professional musician, has a degree in law and philosophy, has studied chemistry and physics and is also a poet. The second is that he doesn't believe in perfection. In combining his immense knowledge and creativity across different fields, this captivating storyteller has grown not only to embrace his imperfections, but to be empowered by them, too."They call me the politically-incorrect Nose, because I don't like to follow the rules,” he says unapologetically. “I like to explore new frontiers of perfumery. Life is beautiful, but it's not perfect. My perfumes are merely a reflection of that fact. Imperfection makes things beautiful."

This almost rebellious approach is something that’s reflected in Tiziana Terenzi  as a brand. It’s a perfumer that isn’t interested in mass production, instead upholding the founders’ firm belief that scents and perfumes reflect personal stories and illicit genuine feelings – they shouldn’t be concerned with being appealing to everyone.

"If you want to smell like a rich person, you go to Chanel, Dior, or Givenchy" exclaims Paolo. "But if you want to translate your passion, personality, temper and mood in how you smell, then that's what we create."

Paolo's storied career has seen him gain several awards, most significantly the FIFI Award - dubbed the Oscars of the perfumery industry. But Paolo doesn't seem to care much for the applause."I don't care, it wasn't my decision," he says. "They phoned me to say that I'm nominated and have to go to New York. I said I was busy and didn't know if I could make it. It was also a black-tie event, and I don't have a suit. I'm not interested in this part. I don’t think it's what represents me. I appreciate it, but it doesn’t make me happy; what makes me happy is delivering my art to my customers. That's what makes me happy."

Paolo was in Cairo for the launch the Tiziana Terenzi collection in Egypt, the first collection he crafted with his sister upon the launch of the brand. Each bottle in the collection represents a memory or feeling for Paolo, some of them beautiful and others just simple.

"All of these bottles come from my own journey," said Paolo. “For instance, my perfume Ecstasy is different because the extractions are imbalanced oils that will make you feel shocked at first, but then your body blooms into the scent and it makes you feel euphoric and you want more of it. Nothing is impossible to extract, that’s why me and my team work endlessly in the lab to break the rules and create any scent possible. That's the freedom of art; expressing yourself and not having to follow a certain rule-book."

Interviewed by Bahira Amin

Find the Tiziana Terenzi Classic Collection at FORTUNE Stores, Mall of Egypt.