A few weeks ago, sitting on a bench inside the Fulton G station, I became aware of a soft, honeyed-rose petal scent.
Not typically one to engage with subway strangers, I pulled out my earbuds and turned to the woman next to me.
“I’m sorry—what are you wearing?”
Her reply—Ambre Nue, from Atelier Cologne—led me to visit the small Atlantic Avenue parfumerie a couple of weeks later, where I was instantly greeted by an intoxicating smell, and Gerard Camme, president and partner of the six-year-old company, who handled my predictable greeting—”It smells great in here!”—with a gracious, “People always say that, and, I say. thank god, right?”
The word cologne is difficult for Americans; we think it means a scent for men. But Camme says this could not be less true. The original cologne was concocted more than three hundred years ago by an Italian man who desperately missed home. Instead, he created Italy in a bottle, using ingredients like bergamot orange, lemon, and mandarin—each one bright and citrusy.
Atelier Cologne’s creation story is a bit different: Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel, the founders, met while working at a fragrance distribution company; they fell in love and when Sylvie had an idea for her own cologne brand, the two pursued the dream together.
Ganter and Cervasel may not be homesick Italian men, but all of Atelier Cologne’s 23 scents are inspired by that original cologne, fragrances that are light but evocative, citrusy and unisex. Two fragrances join the collection this season (“we only add, never subtract,” says Camme): Jasmin Angélique and Oud Saphir. The first has notes of Egyptian jasmine and pepper, and the second, oud and birch wood lightened with bursts of bergamot and lavender.
Before departing, I want one more whiff of Ambre Nue. Camme sprays a generous puff onto a sample stick. I bring it to my nostrils, giddy. It is… nothing like I remembered.
“That’s the beauty of these scents,” says Gerard. “They really become who you are rather than a commercial fragrance that smells the same on everybody. These are intended to work with you.”
Instead, I leave wearing Rose Anonyme, which Camme calls “a rose turned on its head.” I’ve never loved florals but this one—Turkish Rose wrapped in spicy ginger, Somalian incense and patchouli—was apparently just the kind of subversive rose, as Camme suggested, that was perfect for me.
357 Atlantic Avenue, Cobble Hill