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. In addition to running 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.
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.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”