It's 1994, and just a dab of Calvin Klein's naturally clean, fresh, androgynous CK One feels like enough to provide you with the same effortlessly-cool credentials as the brand’s white tee- and blue jeans-clad poster girl, Kate Moss.
Fast-forward a few years, and it's probably Estée Lauder Pleasures — in all its floral, effervescent glory — or the bright, warm Kenzo Flower that takes pride of place atop the shabby dresser in your dorm room, a spritz of each encapsulating everything from sneaking into bars to new relationships and beyond.
Of course, all of these perfumes look and smell entirely different from one another, but there’s one thing they all have in common: the nose behind them, master perfumer Alberto Morillas.
The self-taught fragrance expert, 67, has a scent-making career that spans over three decades. In that time, he has artfully concocted perfumes for the aforementioned brands, as well as Cartier (one of his very first briefs in 1981, FYI), Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent and Marc Jacobs — yep, Daisy is one of his, too.
In a way, he’s a household name. But what many people don’t actually know is that in addition to inventing iconic designer perfumes that have beamed from magazines and billboards across the globe, Morillas has his very own fragrance brand on the side, Mizensir. Although it's carried by big-name UK stockists like Selfridges (which ships internationally), Liberty, and Harrods, and you can find the brand's candles at NYC fragrance mecca Aedes, Mizensir remains a creation that is very much under the radar — but it shouldn’t be.
From Bois De Mysore (sandalwood and violet leaf, one of our favorites) to L'Envers Du Paradis (cardamom, pink pepper, and bergamot), each unisex fragrance is more mesmerizing than the last, and nothing like the sickly-sweet scents that may have lined your bathroom shelf in the past. And it begs the question: After all these years creating legendary fragrances for the biggest brands in the world, why did Morillas decide to go it alone?
"I wanted the liberty to create whatever scent I wanted," he tells us. "With my very own brand, I never have anyone to answer to. I simply start with an idea and I just go about creating it. These ideas can come from signature memories, family members" — like Little Bianca, named for his granddaughter — "past emotions, or certain things I've seen that remind me of a past event. My perfumes are mostly visual expressions. For this reason, it’s difficult to tell you what my favorite Mizensir fragrance is. I feel like they're my children!"
So what’s the difference between Mizensir and every other perfume Morillas has lent his nose to?
"For Mizensir, creation is much easier," he explains. "That’s because, technically, the brand is for me. Things I create for Bvlgari or Gucci, for example, are different, mainly because I have a brief to follow. For Mizensir, I can take anywhere between one to six years to create a fragrance, and I include notes that are specific to me. Sometimes I work one or two days a week and stop and come back to it at a later time because I want to be sure that I like it — almost like perfume shopping," he says.
And when it comes to Mizensir, having the freedom to tweak any given scent is a luxury for Morillas. "I change my mind all the time, but really, a perfume is never finished. Think of it as a movie. There will always be alternate endings," he says. "However, I do believe that if you spend too long on something, you can destroy your idea. I go in with a strong concept and work technically. I don't like changing so much."
Aside from serving up a number of stunning fragrances under his own brand and having created close to 7,000 (yes, you read that correctly) perfumes in total over his career, one in particular will always take center stage: CK One. The New York Times reported that CK One had annual sales of around $90 million in the mid-1990s; did Morillas ever expect it to be as popular as it was and still is?
"In all honesty, I never expected CK One to be that famous. Sure, I hope all of my creations are successful, but I never knew it would be so quick and leave such a lasting impact," he says. "In as little as three months, everyone in the world wanted CK One, and it’s the first time something like that had happened in my career. Young women, men, everybody enjoyed wearing it and that was such a unique thing — it still is. In the world of perfumery, things like that don’t happen very often."
Even after decades in the industry, and all those fragrances to his name, Morillas says that he's even been known to get emotional when he smells someone wearing one of his scents on the street. "I have this compulsion to tell them that it's my creation," he says. "Although I can’t really do that, it's genuinely magical. It still instills such a sense of pride in me because it’s proof that people love the creations I've been working so incredibly hard on — sometimes for years on end."
So what's next for Mizensir?
"My inspiration is always modernity," says Morillas. "I aim to create very modern fragrances with very strong intensities, and I now like to use natural molecules specifically. I also believe we'll start to use fragrance as a way of portraying our personalities more. People always want a signature scent, and a lot of people want others' first impressions of them to be that stunning aroma. I enjoy creating exclusive things immensely and often get requests, so I predict that fragrance will become much more personal."
In terms of future fragrance trends, Morillas sees big florals making a major comeback — which he says is part of why Gucci Bloom has been so popular. "I think perfumers have so many inputs, it's hard to pinpoint what will be popular, but definitely florals and also elixir de musc — it's a very unique, very extraordinary note because it sits well on everyone's skin and it allows your personality to really come out." And that, Morillas says, is what fragrance is all about.