It's 1994 and just a dab of Calvin Klein’s naturally clean, fresh, androgynous CK One is 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 most probably Estée Lauder Pleasures – in all its sparkly, floral glory – or Kenzo Flower – bright and warm – that takes pride of place atop your university dressing table, a spritz of each encapsulating everything from raves to new relationships and beyond.
And today, the likes of Gucci Bloom – the latest addition to the fashion house’s ever-expanding fragrance dynasty – is no doubt a firm fixture in your millennial pink-tinged bathroom #shelfies.
Of course, each and every one of these perfumes looks and smells entirely different, 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 perfume-making career that spans over three decades. In that time, he has artfully created concoctions 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 besides inventing the iconic designer perfumes that beamed from magazines and billboards across the globe, Morillas has his very own fragrance brand on the side, Mizensir. Despite big name stockists like Selfridges, Liberty and Harrods, Mizensir remains a creation that is very much under the radar – but it shouldn’t be.
From Bois De Mysore (sandalwood and violet leaf – a Refinery29 favourite) to L'Envers Du Paradis (cardamom, pink pepper and bergamot), each unisex fragrance is just as mesmerising as the last, and nothing like the sickly sweet scents that may have lined your bathroom shelf in the past. Think of them as grown-up versions of the teenage perfumes you spritzed so liberally. But the question on everyone’s lips is, 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 Refinery29 UK. "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 (perfume Little Bianca is created 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 favourite 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!
"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. However, I do believe that 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 heaps 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 centre stage: CK One. The New York Times reported that CK One had annual sales of around $90 million (£62 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. 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."
"It’s emotionally overwhelming when I smell someone wearing my creation – especially CK One – on the street. I have this compulsion to tell them that it's my creation," he laughs, "and although I can’t really do that, it's genuinely magical. It still instils 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."
He continues: "In terms of future fragrance trends, I think big florals will make a comeback – it's why everyone loves Gucci Bloom. I think perfumers have so many inputs so 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. That is what fragrance is all about."