Coming to TV Screens Near You - Project Perfume
I love Project Runway. I miss Project Runway. And I wonder…if we are amused by designers sewing on TV and chefs cooking and models posing, wouldn’t we (and by “we” I probably mean mostly perfume nuts) be enthralled by a show, in which contestants are young-ish aspiring perfumers who in each episode have to live up to a new challenge? Just imagine…The permanent judges would include Laurice Rahme (because I just know that she’d be capable of delivering the kinds of snarky remarks that make great TV), Maurice Roucel (because he is one of the greatest noses of our time), and yours truly who would humbly volunteer to be the “Nina Garcia” of the group ("Whatever you do, don’t bore Colombina!"). Since Heidi Klum is otherwise engaged, we’d get Nadia Auermann who is even more gorgeous and has the same kind of cute accent. Now, the Tim-Gunnesque mentor position is harder to fill, what with the charisma, the vast experience and the “nurturing” side that this person would have to posses… I think that Sophia Grojsman would fit the bill perfectly.
The challenges would include:
Episode 1. Creating a perfume only from the ingredients found in the perfumers’ new NYC digs. The winner cleverly mixes cognac, cayenne pepper, sandalwood air freshener and a fellow contestant’s Kiehl’s Musk. Judges are optimistic and proclaim that the show is off to a great start.
Episode 2. Updating a perfume “icon”. The perfume of the winner smells like Diorissimo with a touch of Cacao, on a base of nail polish and tar. The loser takes a short cut by watering down Bandit and making it “sparkle” by adding grapefruit and pink pepper. Despite the protests of the guest judge, the President of Lanvin, the contestant is eliminated for boring judge Colombina to tears.
Episode 3. Coming up with a perfume wardrobe for a fellow contestant. Jo Malone guest-judges, talks about layering, understatement in perfumery and the difficulty of making scents last. The loser is eliminated, because even when worn all at the same time, his scents disappear within seconds. "Your perfumes make Pierre de Lune seem almost Loukhoumesque in comparison”, sneers judge Colombina.
Episode 4. Making an iris scent on a budget of $100 (Good luck, make it work!). Maurice Roucel scoffs at the insipid offerings. “Bah! You call that iris? There is more tuberose in Le Labo’s Tubereuse 40 than there is iris in your so-called iris perfume! Have you even sniffed Iris Silver Mist? Bah!”
Episode 5. Creating an anti-perfume. Guest judges, Christopher Brosius and Rei Kawakubo, help choosing the winning scent. It smells of nothing in particular with a vague hint of gasoline and baby heads.
Episode 6. Creating an “exotic” scent. The contestants are whisked to Morocco to meet Serge Lutens. The winner’s scent, a dark brew of leather, roses, honey, balsam and patchouli, joins Lutens’s export line for a period of one month. (Aedes and Barney's are immediately sold out; the price of decants on ebay goes through the roof; overnight, the scent becomes more cult than Matthew Williamson Incense). The loser is eliminated for overloading a perfectly nice blend of oakmoss, labdanum and immortelle with some strange caramelized nuts and licorice.
Episode 7. Making a supremely chic scent. The guest judge, Frederic Malle, teaches the contestants the basics of chic perfumery. “When creating a perfume, ask yourself, would my friends' maids wear this?”, advises Malle. “If yes, your perfume is not chic”. The loser, a slightly hippie girl from a farm in Ohio, struggles to grasp the concept of one’s friends having a maid and is eliminated for creating a perfume that is judged to be "too busy” and “cheap”. “It’s as if your perfume is full of…of…oh, I don’t know…fleurchons or something”, declares Malle. “C’est ne pas chic”. The winner’s blend, L’Eau de L’Eau, is praised by Malle for being sublimely subtle and joins his line of perfumes for a period of one month, amidst the protestations from judge Colombina, who thinks “it's too similar to that scentless scent by Ellena, only more aquatic”.
Episode 8. Learning about Inspiration from Laurice Rahme and creating a homage to one of the landmarks of New York. The loser is eliminated for making a scent inspired by The Statue of Liberty smell “too floral, too obviously feminine, too much like Fleurissimo”. Letting her Gallic temperament show, Laurice Rahme reproaches the contestant for not thinking outside the box and not having the X factor. “And besides, did you not know that the prize for this challenge is for a winning scent to join my fabulous collection of scents for a period of one month?! I cannot allow some Creed smellalike in my award-winning line! Tsk!” The winning contestant creates a tea-caviar-vodka-blinis blend inspired by the defunct Russian Tea Room. “It’s like she read my mind”, enthuses judge Colombina, shedding nostalgic tears.
Episode 9. Coming up with a modern scent for the House of Guerlain. The guest judge, the Guerlain CEO, explains to the remaining contestants that the house needs for a new scent to be young and edgy. “We want hip, we want cool, we want something that is not formidable”. The episode is full of drama. Judges Roucel and Colombina squabble about Insolence. Judge Colombina threatens to leave the show as the contestant whose scent she liked the most is eliminated for, in the words of Guerlain CEO, making his entry smell “too dark, too complex, too much like a Guerlain”. “We don’t want that kind of brooding, heavy, sensual base", tells the CEO to the poor contestant. “We want to attract young audience, not scare them off! Haven’t you read the marketing reports that clearly show that customers are incapable of appreciating fragrances that are not pink and fruity?!” The winning scent, with notes of peony, freesia, red currants, magnolia, white musk and vanilla, makes the CEO well up with tears of joy and optimism for the future of perfumery. The perfume joins the Guerlain line for a period of one month and is eventually made part of the permanent collection.
The Reunion Episode, apart from much spritzing, hugging, air-kissing and bickering, makes it known that the losing contestant from the Guerlain challenge has started his own perfume line. Perfume blogs and forums are raving about his scents and Barney’s is already out of stock on his collection. The losing contestant of the Update the Icon challenge is hired by Lanvin to work on the re-release of the legendary Scandal.
Episode 10, The Finale. For the final challenge, the two remaining contestants, the one with the pink Guerlain scent and the one with the exotic Lutenesque scent, must create 10 perfumes each. They are urged to think outside the box, to make their scents smell fierce, to show a different side of themselves and to generally make it work. After sniffing the 20 final entries, the judges deliberate. Well, actually they fight trying to choose between the Highly Marketable & Mainstream and the Obviously Niche & Kind of Weird. Judge Colombina loses temper and attacks the guest judge, the President of Lancôme. “You and your so-called Magie re-issue! [bleep] [bleep] Sikkim my [bleep]!” "Only you and your pretentious blogger friends who think that perfume is some kind of Art would want to buy this guy's stuff", lashes back the President. “It’s a catfight!”, excitedly observes Roucel as Laurice Rahme sardonically looks on. Finally the two contestants are called back. After a pause pregnant with tension, Nadia Auermann proclaims the Niche Weird Lutenesque guy America’s Next Top Perfumer. The winner gets $100000 to start his own line, an internship with Bond No 9, a red Ferrari and a spread in Perfumer & Flavorist magazine shot by the renowned fashion photographer Gilles Bensimon. (The loser is hired by Guerlain as an assistant in-house perfumer.)