Scented Quote of the Day, from Perfumer Laurent Le Guernec:

Marguerite Duras -- Academy Awards both © Richard Avedon

Who Created This, I or Us?

The perfume industry is struggling with official definitions of authorship. Compared with the movie industry which is much more mature on this topic, I think it is fair to say that the perfume industry is experiencing more soul-searching because it is both so much more steeped in ancient traditions and so modern in technological means and scale of production. Having evolved from an artisanal craft to become a scientific discipline in many cases, the shift in mentalities is not always easy to process.

Perfumer Laurent Le Guernec offers a look into the humane complexities of a trade that has thrived for centuries based on secrecy and insiders' knowledge.

If you read Guy Robert's book Les Sens du Parfum you garner insights from practitioners of the trade and you realize that perfumers were and are actually in the habit of sharing their knowledge, but perhaps not in having to systematically work on one of those "perfume committees" that have become a little bit like perfume Taylorism in order to keep up with the pace of new launches....

There will probably always be perfumers who prefer to operate as authors, and perfumers who accept the rules of the industrial game like a team of screenplay writers do in the movie industry, each contributing a portion of the story. Ideally, perfumers would be able to choose and vary their types of work. And ideally, all members of the crew would be credited like they do so nicely at the movies with a really long list of credits.

Here is a quote from Le Guernec to better understand today's professional perfumery,

"In today's world, because you work so fast, you have to work as a team," says perfumer Laurent Le Guernec of IFF. Growing teamwork means multiple perfumers collaborate on projects, and Le Guernec acknowledges not everyone is comfortable with such a change in culture. Still, he maintains that perfumers are perhaps a bit more trusting of each other than in previous eras. "Today, it's an open book," he says. "People share a lot ... We share the win at the end."

The addition of multiple points of view benefits the process, he adds, eliminating some of the myopia one may find in a "single-author" system. One perfumer may have a solution that another was unable to see due to being too close to the project.

"You learn a lot, and fast," says Le Guernec. "The difficult thing in working on a team is you have to let go," he adds, pointing out that perfumers are bound to occasionally lose a beloved aspect of a formula in the course of team-oriented collaboration. "If you want to keep it, explain why," he says. "But don't keep it for the wrong reason: Because you put it in and somebody took it out." For many--perhaps all--perfumers it is difficult to cede one's creative sovereignty, but Le Guernec keeps in mind that the team's overall success is always goal one. "If it works, let it go. What you end up with won't be less creative, but the main idea may be different. It can be even more beautiful."

Source: Perfumer & Flavorist magazine September 2009

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