Founder Virginie Choné introduces us to the beautiful Binet-Papillon


What happens when a contemporary Paris-based indie fragrance brand helmed by an industry veteran merges with a French house with a perfume legacy dating back to the 17th century? In the case of Papillon Rouge + Binet, it was a partnership that led to the magnificent Binet-Papillon — and founder Virginie Choné was kind enough to tell us more about the beautiful collection that resulted...

Q. You’ve worked in fragrance for most, if not all, of your career. What initially drew you to the idea of working in the category?

A. I was introduced to the magic of scents every summer during my childhood in my grandfather's aromatic garden in Lacoste in the South of France. Twenty years later, I joined Guerlain as Marketing Director for France and never left the magical and mysterious world of perfumery.

Q. What motivated you to leave a successful career in the fragrance industry to start your own independent perfume brand?

A. After 15 years as Marketing and Communication Director in big Luxury groups like LVMH, Kering, etc… I decided to go into entrepreneurship to make the most of what I learned, bringing unexpected yet gorgeous fragrances to the market. 

Q. What was the most important thing you learned about the fragrance world while at Guerlain? And, what’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned as an indie brand?

A. At Guerlain, I learned how to evaluate a fragrance and the magic of complex perfumes made out of mainly qualitative natural raw materials that evolve all day long according to each person's skin.

As an indie brand, I discovered that genuine perfume lovers are everywhere, any age, any country and they are so keen on discovering perfumes that they want to smell everything, and are ready to have a 10-hour flight to come and discover the new fragrances at a trade show.

Q. How would you describe the ethos and/or aesthetic of Binet-Papillon?

A. Our work is to modernize iconic raw materials of fine perfumery, melding 17th century tradition and 21th century passion for fragrances.

The most important thing for Binet-Papillon is to stay independent, sticking to our creative intuitions to propose uncompromising singular fragrances.

Q. How did the merger of your original brand, Papillon Rouge, with Binet come about?

A. It came by chance as a synchronicity at first sight. Our work, our universe and the historical background… In addition to that, the workshop of the master perfumer Sylvestre Binet was located in rue des Petits-Champs, only 50 meters away from our Parisian showroom located in the magnificent Galerie Vivienne. 

Q. You use an uncommonly high percentage of natural materials (90% natural, 84% organic). What are your absolute favorite natural perfumery ingredients, and why?

A. Yes! Using both natural and synthetic ingredients permits us to develop a creative perfumery, but the natural materials are irreplaceable when striving to bring richness into the evolution of a fragrance. Among them, patchouli is with no doubt our favorite ingredient.

Q. While you honor 17th century perfumery with your compositions, you also mention ignoring conventions and coming up with more modern combinations. Can you give us some examples of this approach?

A. At Binet-Papillon, we work with four hands. I am the classical part of the team with my experience at Guerlain. My partner [Jean Sauvage], the in-house autodidact nose, is the creative side of our brand. Some of our olfactive accords are modern and surprising, such as in No. 10 Malt Night-Fighter, which includes a YIN side with the powdery carnation, melded with the YANG of malt.

Q. What is your creative process when developing a new fragrance with Jean Sauvage?

A. He imagines and creates all the new accords for our perfumes. I come in after the first few submissions and work closely with him to smell and edit them until we both decide a new fragrance is ready to launch.

Q. Our team loves Binet-Papillon and are particularly curious about how you and Jean Sauvage came up with the wonderfully unusual composition for No. 10 Malt Night-Fighter...

A. It's funny because I hadn't read that question while I was answering the previous ones! And No. 10 was the fragrance I'd chosen as an example of our work on niche perfumes. I do, however, have another to highlight: No. 7 Rose Impolie.

This totally modern rose fragrance was of course based on Jean Sauvage's intuition, but when we smelled the first submission, he initially didn't want to pursue this project.  But even though the first try wasn't wearable, I insisted on going ahead with the project because I could feel the potential of this juice... and it's now one of our top 3 best sellers!

Q. What’s next for Binet-Papillon — anything you can share?

A. We're currently working on two new fragrances. The first is a modern perfume based on real oud, the famous raw material that costs €22,000 a kilo — an oud perfume that is both soft and has enormous projection. The second is a soft gourmand that is as desirable as soft skin... I intend to present them at the next Pitti Fragranze show in Florence in September. 

Thanks, Virginie! We can't wait for the fragrance community in the US to experience Binet-Papillon. 🦋