Born in a small town in Romania, Gabriela Chelariu grew up in a restrictive social regime far away from the world of fine fragrances. Nonetheless, it was a place redolent with the scents of nature, and life was punctuated by the ebb and flow of the seasons.
“It was a way to learn about the world,” Gabi tells us. “Spring was a mixture of the freshness of the lingering snow with new shoots of vegetation and the humid earth. In June the linden flower would bloom; I knew summer was approaching and vacation would start soon. I also remember my mother’s smell when she came into the house from the cold in winter – smelling musky and cool….”
Her grandmother was also a big influence. “She showed me the love of nature and taught me what the earth can give us if we pay attention and take care of it. Her garden had peonies, lilies, tobacco plants, linden, and armoise. I used to pick the tomatoes and, from age 11, my sister and I carried them to town to sell at the market. The scent of green tomato leaves permeated my clothes… my hair…my skin. That was really my first fragrance!”
Gabi thought of becoming a pharmacist, studying at Romania’s University of Pharmacy. When the country began to open its doors to the West, fragrance products were very high-priced but they captured Gabi’s imagination. Her introduction to the fragrance industry was working in the research lab of an aroma chemicals company during her last year of school. She then visited Grasse and “It all crystallized. Suddenly I truly understood the role of a perfumer. This world became fully alive for me, and I immediately knew that, somehow, this would be my life.”
Gabriela moved to the U.S. in 2000, becoming a perfumer’s lab assistant – with the understanding that she would begin her training as a perfumer. Her determination was rewarded and her knowledge grew, and in 2015, she joined her one-time mentor Honorine Blanc as a Firmenich perfumer.
Gabi’s favorite things in life all connect to her work. She loves hiking : “Those landscapes were here long before me and will remain long after – solid, humbling and inspiring – yet somehow familiar and emotionally nourishing.” She relishes traveling : “The customs, cultures and crafts of a new country open up a million opportunities ; I love to immerse myself and discover !” She is mesmerized by the theatre in her adopted home of New York where she adores the diversity and talent of its creative community. “What a privilege to be here and to be able to absorb it all !”
Still, her childhood in Romania is with her each day when she comes to work. “My upbringing still informs the way I create, and my earliest olfactive memories are still powerful: vibrant, juicy, and fresh… Connecting my past with my present every day and using these memories to touch people’s lives with my creations is an ultimate privilege.” We are pleased that Gabi continues her grandmother’s legacy at Firmenich, telling beautiful and fragrant stories for so many to enjoy