I used to make sculptures from sugar. That’s when I started to incorporate scents made by wonderful perfumers like Jean-Pierre Bethouart and Thierry Wasser in my art.
In 1999, I used 5 tons of sugar and 50 kilograms of fragrance oil for an installation in Japan. Everyday during the exhibition, 2 kilos of scent created by Thierry Wasser was sprayed on the floor. The visitors to the exhibition left with the scent on their clothes and shoes. As a result, an old downtown neighborhood in Tokyo was scented for a several block radius during the exhibition, and the scent remained for more than a year in the former rice market which housed the installation. Surprisingly, there wasn’t even a complaint, and I was still receiving messages from people who wanted the scent a year after the exhibition.
There is a question from Sariah which I want to answer in this post. This is the same question I had when I first stumbled in the fragrance industry – why are the industry’s most talented and creative forces hidden behind the curtain?
There are mainly two different types of players in the fragrance industry: the clients (i.e. L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Dior, Calvin Klein, and so many more) and the suppliers (i.e. Firmenich, Givaudan, IFF, and a few more).
Now, the relationship between these two is not like the one between a fashion designer and his client. If a rich woman orders an haute couture dress from Giorgio Armani Prive, the dress will be saying “I’m Armani!” to the world. Everyone would know Armani’s creativity is woven into the fabric.
Although the word “supplier” doesn’t imply a serious act of creation, these few major suppliers in the fragrance industry are the true source of creativity. Their scientists develop new molecules, and their perfumers create scents. Things become complicated since their clients are supposed to be the creator of fragrances in the eyes of the consumers. There is another factor which contributes to the complication – there is only a limited number of suppliers that can handle the demands of these clients. As a result, a perfumer will often be working simultaneously for several clients who are competitors. Imagine if the perfumer has a great formula which may set a new trend, and all his clients want it for their new fragrances…
The perfumers are very much aware of their circumstances and mission. Jacques Cavallier was once quoted as saying, “Our profession is based on the notion of secrecy. We are the temple guardians.”
It’s not really relevant to the interview, but I’m curious what it is like to work with other perfumers on a particular fragrance. I’d imagine that there’s a lot of discussion and such, but was wondering if they run off and make mods and then meet up and decide what direction they like best, back and forth, until it’s finished? And who makes the decision to have multiple perfumers work on a fragrance? Is that more or less common than having a single perfumer?
And, here is Clement’s answer to the question.
Thanks for your question.
More and more fragrances on the market today are the result of teamwork.
So, why has it become like this over the last several years?
- Short deadlines: we often have to make new mods in one day.
- So many briefs to work on at the same time: each perfumer needs to prioritize his projects. Some projects will need other perfumer’s help to be finished in time.
- Sometimes we get stuck in a formula. The involvement of another perfumer could help take a fresh look at it.
- There are often requests from our clients or the management to have such and such perfumers work together.
When we work together on one project there are a lot of discussions not just between us but also with the evaluator and the client. Many back-and-forths usually happen.
Molecular Love: March of Perfume Posse sent me a message a few weeks ago, and it has been bothering me. Well, she had some great points in her message which made me think to do something about it…
Portraits: I love portraits whether it’s photography, painting or sculpture. I’m thinking about showing the great black and white photos of all 34 fine fragrance and beauty care perfumers at IFF on the website. It will probably be the first time for any major fragrance houses to show their most valuable assets to the public. [by Nobi]
Laurent Le Guernec didn’t turn his childhood dream into a career but is still very passionate when he speaks about music and piano. He explains about the importance of studying GC (gas chromatography) at an early stage, “We tend to think learning GC is not important, but it’s like practicing solfège, it’s one of the basics.”
Ahaa I see, it sounds quite boring but seems as important as practicing to throw jabs and one-twos millions of times. In boxing the rule is simple: keep your feet and hands busy, or you ain’t gonna survive.
It seems not much is happening lately, but both Clement and Laurent are working hard for Marina’s and Katie’s next rounds. Actually, Laurent and Katie had a phone conversation recently, and Katie’s post on the conversation will be up soon.
In the meanwhile I am going to willfully invade this blog to write about my new ideas…
As some of you may know, I sell perfumes called S-Perfume, S-ex and so on. Perfumer Christophe Laudamiel is the author of S-Perfume (he remixed Alberto Morillas’s original scent) and S-ex. Christophe is always willing to show his formulas if his clients are OK with it. But of course… no company will want to talk about their secret formula, and he hasn’t been able to do it. So, maybe we should at least make it happen with S-Perfume and S-ex. The formula will be written all over the bottle, I like this idea visually.
There are raw materials which will be banned by future regulations (don’t think they are only synthetics). These materials are the endangered species, and some are critical for creating certain notes. I’d like to make a list of seven most critical and fatal raw materials and called them The Seven Deadly Scents. They will also be available in precious packaging and be accompanied with a list of well known perfumes which include these materials. Maybe this is a bad idea…
There is a company selling Iso E Super (by IFF) as a perfume. OK, that’s unusual. But there are more interestingly smelling molecules, like Galaxolide or Muscenone for instance. How about making some of these molecules available in safe level of alcohol solutions. To make this more interesting, I would ask perfumers like Sophia Grojsman or Dominique Ropion to choose one molecule and one natural to create a “super short formula.” The composition will be so simple that the perfumer wouldn’t mind sharing the formula. Now, I think this is a good idea. [by Nobi]
The unusual looking rear of the car in front of us caught Veronique’s attention when we were driving back from Marseille to Toulouse a few weeks ago. I couldn’t figure out what kind of car it was till she said “It has a Mercedes emblem and is written McLaren.” Not to say that I’m too unfashionable to recognize an exotic car, but I haven’t cared about cars since I left my enthusiasm for them behind in Tokyo a long time ago.
McLaren is a racing team based in England, best known as a Formula One constructor. The name brought back memories of the time when Honda engines had completely dominated the F1 scene season after season. I then realized that McLaren had now been using Mercedes engines for some time, and the stunning car in front of us was the byproduct of F1 Grands Prix. As the glorious rear end moved further away from us I was guessing the price – to be around 350 thousand dollars (the actual price is almost half a million!).
After we had lost sight of the glamorous car with a Swiss license plate I asked Veronique an idle question. “Is there a perfume you can compare to that car or Ferrari F40?” I just had in my mind a perfume like a prestigious car with daring style and performance that had combined the most advanced technologies and materials. Veronique’s reply was instant, “No, I don’t think so.” Since there wasn’t anything for me to do in the passenger seat I kept thinking about it… maybe it was an irrelevant comparison… what has a perfume got to do with the word performance if it’s not about higher sales figures with lower manufacturing costs?
I guess we would have to wait for something revolutionary to happen in the fragrance industry before we could catch a sniff of the Mercedes SLR McLaren of perfume, and that’s only going to happen if one of the major fragrance houses starts to “Think Different.”