Made by Blog - Page 3

Report on the phone conversation with Clement Gavarry and a review of the latest mods

This concludes Marina’s Round 4 with mod R4/L and R4/M.

© What We Do Is Secret

I had a wonderful opportunity to talk on the phone with Clement Gavarry, the wonderful perfumer who is creating my Holy Grail. He said that my idea behind the scent was very “niche” and “avangarde”…and that is the best compliment I have received in a long, long time. In turn, I told him that I loved one of the two latest mods, R4/M, and that I thought that we were on the right track.

R4/M has all the qualities I am looking for in my ultimate fragrance. It has soft spiciness (cardamom), sweet amber, quite prominent leather and musk, and a comfortable and comforting but not too “fluffy” vanillic drydown. What I want now is for all these qualities to be amplified and emphasized. I would like more spice (I asked Clement to experiment with pepper and coriander), more leather, more musk, even more vanilla. Plus I’d love for the scent to acquire a distinctly smoky undertone. Not so realistically smoky as to be borderline disturbing, like CB I Hate Perfume Burning Leaves; I am looking for subtle, elegant and softly-enveloping smoke of Bois d’Armenie.

The other mod, R4/L, although not drastically different from R4/M, still had, on my skin, the saffron note that I apparently cannot stand anymore. I realize that I actually specifically asked for saffron in my proposal. I loved the note but now the love is gone. I wonder if perfumers in general and Clement in particular find their clients’ ever changing requirements exasperating. I also wonder whether working with one individual client is actually harder in that respect, whether it might not be easier to deal with a committee who submit their brief once and don’t mess with it again, like I do with my “brief” for Holy Grail. In other words, I wonder if it is easier to satisfy a corporation than it is to satisfy one fickle perfumista.

In Response to a Question from Sariah

© What We Do Is Secret

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.”

A question for Clement


Recently, there was a very good question for Clement which made us think about the current trend in perfumery…

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.

Hi Kuri,

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.


Good answers, no?



Things related to finances are the farthest thing from my mind. Therefore, I have no idea why IFF’s stock keeps going up while the rest of the industry is generally sluggish. Is it because they are hiding the best young perfumers? But then, Wall Street wouldn’t know about such a thing…

As the stock started to rise in the end of July, everybody at IFF started to look overloaded with tasks. I remember both Clement and Laurent didn’t take long vacations last summer as French people normally would.

This also reminds me of another thing I should mention here. Made by Blog has become possible thanks to Mr. Nicolas Mirzayantz who let Clement and Laurent use their work hours for this project. There are about a few hundred major fragrance launches every year and probably less than hundred perfumers in the world who are capable of handling these projects. So the workload of each IFF perfumer is huge and it’s not an easy thing for the group president to allow two of the busiest perfumers to spare their time for something that has no financial objectives.

Thanks, Nicolas!


The Prize for Kuri

arles.jpgBefore my vacation last summer we had left a quiz. We had asked what was Clement’s favorite music genre. Kuri who answered Reggae became the winner of the quiz, and we promised to send her one of the scents from the huge IFF library which we hoped she would fall in love with. We needed to spend some time to choose a perfect scent for Kuri among the thousands of scents in the library. Finally, we have found something and are sending it to her. It took a long time but was a fun process! [by Nobi]

To choose the prize, we asked Kuri for some information. Below is the excerpts from her messages.

In her first message Kuri wrote:

My favorite notes are almond, gardenia, and black tea. I really love straightforward smelling almond scented lotions like Caswell-Massey and Crawford & Williams, and the smell of Lush’s Snowcake soap.

I’m still searching but perfumes I like include:
Les Parfums de Rosine Un Zest de Rose
The Body Shop Indian Gardenia
Emanuel Ungaro Desnuda

I find interesting but wouldn’t wear:
Bulgari Omnia

I don’t like:
most Chanel perfumes that I’ve tried; they smell like old school perfumes (Chanel Chance is boring)
l’Eau d’Issey; I think the ozone note bothers me, it smells empty
Anna Sui Secret Wish; tires my nose out although I like it to begin with
Lanvin Eclat d’Arpege; liked for a while but in the end it also tires my nose out
Bulgari Eau Perfumee
most of the Shiseido perfumes I have tried are interesting but too heavy – Saso, Chant du Coeur, Jeanne Arthes Sultane
most Guerlains haven’t worked for me either

Later she added:

Current explorations:

Fragonard Eau du Bonheur solid perfume: cheerful, bright, and fun. I really like it and it’s fun to put on (1 1/2 weeks so far). I have a feeling that the solid perfume consists only of the top notes, though. It’s got a lot of oomph and impact but doesn’t feel heavy at all. I probably really like citrus. Essential Oils of Portland’s Grapefruit essential oil smells addictive. So does Muji’s fragrance hair essence (grapefruit and orange?). I don’t know if I want to smell like that, but I could breathe in the scent all day long.

4711 Original Cologne; rather addictive, but doesn’t last at all. At first the spice(?) was a bit surprising, but I soon needed a hit more than once a day. The citrus doesn’t have the same impact as in Eau du Bonheur.

Jean Patou Sublime; I have an old sample, so it’s probably gone a bit off, but I rather like this. It’s pretty subtle, but elegant and pretty and still interesting. In contrast, I re-tried Estee Lauder Beyond Paradise and found it rather boring. It’s very nice and I can totally see why it would be popular, but it was too refined and restrained.

CK Summer was better the second time I tried it. I got a bit of a tea note this time. Rather nice.

In her most recent message Kuri states:

I discovered I don’t like Caswell-Massey’s almond that much. It’s nice but too sweet for my taste.

Some fragrances were not at IFF, so we searched for them at stores. Veronique Ferval, the Director of Fragrance Development at IFF, has tested all the fragrances mentioned in Kuri’s messages and chose one of the newest addition to the library which was created by Laurent Le Guernec.

Since Ms. Ferval has enjoyed the selection process so much she wanted to give recommendations on fragrances on the market that Kuri should check out, too. Here is her message to Kuri.

Dear Kuri,

Congratulations on winning the quiz !

It was a pleasure searching the right scents for you to try from thousands of great products available on the market.

From widely available fragrances I would recommend the followings:

Fracas by Piguet … it’s a classic if you like white flowers like gardenias and tuberoses. It’s not only an amazing floral but also has a very skin like sensual back, musky and slightly animal…

Eau Parfumee Au The Rouge by Bulgari … this addictive red tea could also be a black tea to me with it’s slightly smoky dimension and a luscious “cooked berry” note, like a blackberry. Love it !

Castelbajac from Castelbajac … an edible almond. quite monolithic but powerful. Brings back the memory of green almond from a French glue called “colle blanche.”

Farnesiana from Caron … another classic. Almond-ish, heliotrope, wrapped in a classic floralcy between orange flower and violet. Addictively feminine. Only at Caron stores. One of my old time favorites.

Code Donna from Armani … not exactly what you are hoping in terms of
ingredients but close in terms of sensations. Tuberose and almond have very feminine comfortable “white” voluptuous sensations to me, and tea is an easy fresh qualitative appeal. Code Donna is an extremely natural orange flower on a bed of warm, light edible vanilla and musks (like a “fougasse” : famous French pastries) with a crisp bright top.

Now, for your prize, we are sending you a beautiful gardenia, wrapped with an intimate almond accord and with a subliminally addictive background reminiscent of the Madeleine cookie. The top is more like a bergamot tea…. Enjoy !!!!

V e r o n i q u e F e r v a l
Director of Fragrance Development
International Flavors & Fragrances

Oh, and one last thing. Kuri will be posting her review on the scent she receives in her own blog some time in the future. We’ll let you know.

Laurent’s answer to Anya

Back in August, during my vacation, Anya left a question to Laurent at Laurent’s video interview. You can find her question here. I’m finally posting Laurent’s answer to the question. The reason for this time lag is due to my lack of communication with the perfumers. My apology. Nobi

Dear Anya,

We perfumers definitely feel roundness and scratchiness. When we say that a fragrance is round it means nothing is sticking out, all ingredients or notes are well balanced, not even one note will take over the others. And usually a fragrance that is round smells almost the same from the start to finish.

A fragrance which is scratchy tells something is sticking out, and it is usually not pleasant, it’s almost like having something in your throat.

Going back to your question, I do not use shape as an inspiration.



Tuesday, October 17, 2006, 3:35pm.


It’s soggy in New York City today. I was with Laurent and Clement a few hours ago for an interview. After the interview we spoke about this blog and have agreed on both perfumers to be a little more involved in the blog besides working on Katie’s and Marina’s perfumes. So, there may be some posts, quizzes from the two perfumers… or you can help us with your suggestions.

By the way, we haven’t forgotten about Anya’s question to Laurent and a prize for Kuri. We will respond to them here soon. [by Nobi]

On the Phone: My Chat with Laurent for Round 3

As Nobi noted in the previous post, I had the opportunity to talk on the phone with Laurent regarding the next phase of development for our project.

It felt rather surreal, to say the least. Well, let me explain that: I was wearing my grubby jeans with the hole in the knee and faded varnish stains, and a worn out t-shirt that long ago has turned the corner into rag territory but I won’t throw it out since it’s oh-so-comfy. I’d just finished shoving half my body under the kitchen sink counter to clean out stank goop from the plumbing trap, pulling out gobs of unspeakable ickiness. And this, just so I could do the dishes without pinching my nose shut. Yeah, my life is simply one glamorous event after the next. Chatting about “my” perfume contrasted wildly with the rest of my day. (Or more accurately, with my life in general.)

We talked a bit about the email and my feelings about the previous mods, just to clarify things. The worst part is, I keep getting the letters mixed up unless I have my notes or scent strips with the letters written down right front of me. Perhaps I ought to consider giving them goofy nicknames from now on, so I can better remember which is which. It’s kind of like when companies use numbers instead of names for their lipsticks – unless I bring the old used-up tube with me to replace it, I’m lost, y’all.

The way leather shall be used was one big topic of conversation. I mentioned how much I liked the animalic growl of leather as used in older fragrances. One such example I cited was the growl smoothly contained in vintage Chantilly (as opposed to the triviality it has now become.) But Laurent pointed out that of course, those older fragrances were animalic because they WERE animal. He mentioned that we could go ahead and try natural animal ingredients, but I feel like it would be for the best if we avoided that. He then pointed out the limitations, if not impossibility, of sythetics mimicking that quality so deeply. However, as much as I enjoy those old perfumes, I’m a vegetarian, and wearing them calls up a whole ethical conundrum as it is. Hopefully in this modern day fragrance we can spare others that same conundrum, by continuing use of non-animal ingredients to imbue a lovely leathery expression.

We also discussed other choices for notes, one such being use of a honey note. I found Laurent’s suggestion very interesting, but as I said on the phone, I find honey too cloying usually. What’s crummy is that sometimes honey notes are able to convey a sense of feral wilderness to a scent, but I know I’m not alone in finding my skin turns honey notes into something approximating the aroma of sweet, sugary cat pee. Eeek. Those of us who can’t carry off honey well pretty much despise and envy those of you who can, heh heh.

The overtly soapy smelling character that some of the mods exhibited was also discussed. While I do like it in some small measure, I don’t want it to be anything that predominates our final product. There’s already too many “clean/soapy” fragrances out there, and it was the one thing that my guinea pigs specifically cited as something they didn’t like so much. Laurent explained that when certain ingredients are used in combination, this quality can come out. So, we shall see what he can devise to lessen the effect. He did say what the likely cause was, but I forgot it almost instantly, since that sort of information kind of sails right over my head. Perhaps the reason all us perfume-nuts remember metaphor- and adjective-based descriptions is because, for many of us, the technical details are simply too far removed from our everyday life to be mentally recorded.

Hm. What else? I think I apologized over much to him about my amateur-hour knowledge. Excessive apology is just as rude as never apologizing for anything, so I hope he didn’t take too much offense. Part of that was due to my feeling that ultimately I wanted to make sure that he felt like the various mods were solid concepts and balanced. While it’s my imagination that spaked the creation, when it comes down to it, the entire project should be credited to his work and his creativity. I have this terrible fear that if I try to insert myself too much into his own ideas, Auxeos will meet some laughable Wile E. Coyote end. No one wants to smell the aromatic equivalent of a “splat!” as the end result of this process; Letting me get ahold of the Acme catalog to order up item-specific failure is not an option. I feel more strongly than ever that my input should be kept to general descriptions, rather than me trying to specify in details, when obviously I am not as intimately familiar with them as Laurent. Attempts at interfering too deeply with his own wisdom and judgement seems to me like a destructive action. It’d be like telling Picasso “too much blue!” or Donizetti “no minor keys!” In other words, it would be downright silly. Consequently, my input as far as notes go is more along the lines of vague preferences, rather than anything even close to resembling a strict edict.

It’s so funny to me that Nobi created a “roadmap” for Made by Blog. That’s precisely what this project feels like. The whole process seems to me like an open-ended road trip. We have the vehicle; we have a general destination. But how we get there, and all the little stops and detours we make along the way are up to us, to be decided on the fly. I might express a desire to head north, but it rightly should be up to the driver, meaning Laurent, to decide if we take the scenic route or the freeway to get there.

100% LOVE

what’s up?

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]