A Perfumer’s Creed

Erwin Creed makes scents all his own while staying true to a long and noble family legacy.

Seventh-generation perfumer of the famed House of Creed, Erwin Creed has a genuine love of the family business and its carefully crafted aromas. Photo by Hugh Zhao

Erwin Creed, 37, is heir to one of the world’s most prestigious perfume houses. The House of Creed was established by his great-great-great-great grandfather in 1760 to serve the English royal court. When King George III rested his chin on his gloved hand, he inhaled the aroma of the first Creed fragrance, Royal English Leather. Scented gloves were one of the company’s early specialties.

Creed expanded throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, creating custom fragrances for many European royal courts. Through the 20th century and up to today, celebrities and heads of state have

continued to favour Creed — Winston Churchill commissioned the scent Tabarome Millesime, John F. Kennedy wore Creed’s Vetiver, multiple Hollywood actors (especially those connected with James Bond) have reportedly worn Creed’s Green Irish Tweed.

Today, Olivier and Erwin Creed, father and son, carry on this legacy. Not only do they run the business, they also craft the fragrances. Erwin recalls one of his early lessons in perfumery: as a child he filled a bathtub with the many scented shower gels on hand at his house — with no water — and jumped in.

Erwin naturally gravitated towards the family business; his father didn’t push him, he says. Erwin loved watching his father’s alchemy, the search for the perfect mixture of aromatic ingredients, in creating a fragrance.

Creed Love in White for Summer. This scent transports wearers to the French Rivera, where chic white accessories, crisp waves, and long holiday escapes reign. Love in White: Photo courtesy of Creed

A perfume is timeless.

One of Erwin’s great joys as a perfumer is the smell of freshly harvested fruits, used as ingredients in Creed’s perfumes. Bergamot’s citrusy scent is one of Erwin’s favourites. He and his father used bergamot, for example, in the fragrance Himalaya, inspired by Olivier’s treks in the Himalayan mountains. Among the ingredients of Himalaya is a touch of gunpowder.

It’s not the rare or exotic ingredients that make a fragrance, Erwin says; it’s the composition, the precise mingling of scents. The House of Creed takes its time producing new fragrances. It’s not like the fashion world, Erwin says, where novelty is paramount and brands come out with whole new collections each season. “A perfume is timeless,” he says.

The House of Creed stands stoically amidst the din and rush of modern life. It doesn’t care to expand, it doesn’t seek popularity through advertising campaigns, nor does it hurry itself to produce new products and keep revenues surging. “Slow and steady wins the race” is something of a Creed family credo.

Himalaya Perfume

Erwin explains, “When you push too much, you arrive at the peak. When you’re at the peak, and if you are not so strong, what happens after? You go down. [It’s better] if you go step by step, slowly but safely. We don’t want to go too fast. We are happy today.”

When you push too much, you arrive at the peak. When you’re at the peak, and if you are not so strong, what happens after? You go down.

His father taught him not to be swept along with the current, but rather — like The House of Creed itself — to remain surefooted on his own path. Erwin recalls his father’s words, “Sometimes people give you good tips you can use. But sometimes the good tips are not good tips for you. You have to have your own personality. As a creator, it’s important to have your own interpretation and ideas. Don’t just do what they say.”

A limited-edition selection of three women’s fragrances in an exclusive Travel Atomizer Coffret. Photo courtesy of Creed
Erwin inherits a business that has remained the same in many ways throughout the generations, but has also changed. Modern regulations, for example, have made it hard to create custom scents — it can take about six months and cost more than $15,000 to do the safety testing on a single fragrance. He is a modern perfumer who still honours the traditional quality and heart of his House. Photo by Hugh Zhao

Having taken this lesson to heart, Erwin has sometimes challenged his father’s ideas as well. “I see my father today more as my boss than as my father, so we have some tension,” Erwin says.

He recalls an instance in which he questioned his father’s judgment. When Olivier created the Aventus scent, Erwin felt it wasn’t going to be well received. In fact, it has been one of Creed’s most celebrated scents since its release in 2010.

In some ways, Erwin has struggled with living in the shadow of his family’s legacy. He is known for being his father’s son, a famous Creed. And some people peg him as the rich kid, he says, playing with his expensive toys — his car collection.

But for him, driving is about clearing his mind. “I don’t think too much about who I am,” he says. “I don’t want to lose my focus on the perfume.” Making a good perfume is “my first love.”

Erwin would be happy to see his young daughter enter the family business one day, but he says he will not push her, but rather let her follow her heart. Photo by Hugh Zhao

Erwin Creed’s favourite things

Erwin Creed’s aesthetic is relaxed and minimalist, with a spark of eclecticism. In his laid-back ensemble of dark Acne Studios denim, retro-inspired Cutler and Gross sunglasses, and playful Onitsuka Tiger sneakers, he’s the model of casual, energetic chic. He loves the simple, classic style of a Patek Philippe 3940 watch. When heading out on business, the perfumer totes a Hermès Serviette briefcase. He makes a point to appreciate a variety of fragrances, not just Creed — Miyake’s L’Eau d’Issey Lotus has greatly inspired him. At home, he enjoys the functional simplicity of USM furnishings, paired with a pop of graphic art, such as funky prints by Boudro. His favourite book is Le Lion by Joseph Kessel — a Kipling-style classic about a little girl and her lion friend. His favourite film is the 1995 action comedy Les Anges Gardiens. He loves to treat himself to a meal of good Japanese food (which, he notes, is more than just sushi!). His love of things Japanese extends to Tokyo’s Park Hyatt, his favourite hotel. He frequents quaint Brittany for inspiration, and wherever life takes him, his trusty Tumi luggage tags along. A walk in the mountains is bliss, amidst his favourite flower, edelweiss.