Erwin Creed Thinks Finding the Right Perfume Is Like Falling in Love

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Photo: Melissa Hom

In a market overrun with celebrity and spinoff fragrances, Erwin Creed is a rarity: As the future head of luxury brand Creed Perfumes, he's a seventh-generation perfumer. The 29-year-old Parisian first started sniffing scents at the age of 8. "Early on, my father would do 90 percent of the work, and I would experiment with maybe 10 percent," he says. Today, he helps develop new products and handpicks the company's natural ingredients, traveling around the world to meet with flower, spice, and fruit growers (he's been to 35 countries so far). Creed is in New York this week — he'll be signing bottles and introducing the company's new Spice and Wood fragrance at Bergdorf Goodman on Wednesday from 3 to 5 p.m. — before setting off on a whirlwind two-week trip through the U.S. and Asia. But despite the brand's worldwide recognition, Creed isn't looking to expand. "Some people think Creed is a big brand, but we want it to remain a small, prestigious brand," he says. "I don't want to be in the mass market." We caught up with the dashing French fragrance heir to talk about spices, suits, and extreme sports.

Did you always know you would join the family perfume business?
Before I was 18 I wanted to do something different; I wanted to create something by myself. But I matured — especially after I realized the care and craft that goes into the perfumes.

You're known to have rather adventurous hobbies.
I love extreme sports like skiing, base-jumping, waterskiing, and car racing. As a teenager, I did more motocross, but I stopped because it's too dangerous. From the time I was 8 to 16 I broke everything: my legs, my arm ...

You handpick many of the ingredients at Creed. What does that entail?
We use natural ingredients, so it's a little bit like a wine. The quality of the ingredients depends on a lot of factors: weather, the sun, the exposure, the country. We're very conscious about maintaining the quality.

Do you do much traveling?
I travel every year to China, India, and Iceland to sample ingredients. Bergamot is the No. 1 ingredient put in perfume. Then there's mandarin, lemon, orange, roses, jasmine, pepper, and ginger. The best roses are from France.

Any tips for finding the right fragrance?
I think with fragrances, you just fall in love, you know? Before you fall in love, you see a woman for the first time and develop a crush. It's the same with perfume. Some of it may just be marketing. It's very important to try a fragrance on your skin, because sometimes perfume can turn bitter.

Who are you favorite designers?
Martin Margiela, François Girbaud for jeans, and Isaia suits from Naples.

Where do you like to shop in New York?
I come to New York around twice a year and Adam makes a very nice, classic T-shirt that I can't find in France.

How would you describe your personal style?
Classical, with a good shape. Shape and texture are very important.

What are you saving up to buy?
I prefer to shop for food rather than clothes. I like to go shopping for vegetables, fish, and meat when I'm in different countries. When I'm in Japan, I like to bring back a gadget for the kitchen, and I bring back spices when I'm in Morocco. When I'm in New York I stock up on Bloody Mary mix — we don't have it back in France.

What should every man have in his closet?
A nice leather belt and a great pair of shoes.

What's something you never leave the house without?
My helmet, because I usually ride my scooter. I have a light-gray Vespa.