Two Articles on Fragrance-Making: The Aesthetizing of Perfume Discourse {The 5th Sense in the News}

M--Sigrid-Mademoiselle.jpgTwo articles in Le Monde cover the topic of perfume and indirectly reveal some discrepancies between the discourses of the actors, namely the perfumers here, and the more hard-nosed and less poetic reality of the business of perfume-making.

As a preamble, I would like to say that it is very difficult for professionals to side-step this glamorizing discourse because it is in their eyes essential to the perception of fine fragrances. You can tell the truth but only up to a point. Their job is to make people dream not be overcome by a fit of lucidity. Each article, to me, reveals in between the lines, the somewhat (ouch!) slightly distorting and aesthetizing discourses of perfumers, which in some cases can lead to pranks played on clients that deserve it...

"Il ne faut pas faire l'unanimité, tomber dans le côté zapping, céder à la facilité dans les parfums", affirme M. Rivoire. Au contraire, est recherchée l'addiction à un parfum, seule condition pour avoir envie de le racheter.

Translation: "One must not create consensus, fall into a tendency to practice perfume-zapping, cave in to facility."

- What this remark does not reveal is that in order to find this addictive level of attachment to a fragrance, brands and perfumers will not hesitate to copy other successful perfumes. It's a commercial mind-game with the consumers and the clients that order a fragrance through a brief. The latter will often not hesitate to ask to do something that smells like X which they liked.

Thierry Wasser from Guerlain explains that he did not like the initial marketing argument presented to him for what was to be Idylle. He ended up working without a brief, was delighted that the name Idylle was chosen finally because he was listening to Janacek Idylle all the time.

- What this behind-the-scenes revealing (which is a sophisticated marketing tool to some extent) does not explain is why Idylle obviously makes reference to a popular rose-patchouli-white-musk accord found in competitors' fragrances, what one might call a shoe-in accord to offer a familiar, easy-to-register sensation to consumers. 

François Demachy from Dior says that "it's no use to launch perfumes just to occupy shares of the market" when explaining why he took his time to introduce the Escales series. It's true that generally speaking Dior offer interesting, worthwhile flankers but the very fact that the brand is prolific in flankers nevertheless points to a vigorous marketing approach. The second Escale à Pondichery was, to my nose, a crowd-pleaser for the consumers that liked the first one, Escale à Portofino

- What this comment does not elaborate upon and explain is why there is such a high number of perfumes and flanker launches at Dior each year compared to the fifties, say.

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The second article is about l'Osmothèque and includes an interview with its co-founder and vice-president Yves Tanguy who delights in revealing how Ernest Beaux played with the sense of smell of Coco Chanel by making her believe he had added more ylang to the No.5 in order apparently to satisfy her demands.

Perfumers can be real tricksters.

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Finally, some news:

• The upcoming Jimmy Choo perfume is described as a "warm floral chypre" which is also very sensual, glamorous, sexy, feminine, ostentatious, up-to-date" (per the brief). They wanted to have an American perfumer work with them because they are like painters and influenced by their environments.

• Thierry Wasser at Guerlain is working on a new eau de cologne and one of the next Aqua Allegorias 2010 will be based on seringa.

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