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Monday, February 25, 2008

Bespoke Perfumes? Perfume in the Glossies March 2008.

In the March Letter from the Editor, Allure's Linda Wells describes her unexciting experience of creating a custom fragrance and the less than mediocre result ("...this was no bouquet. This was an odor. Imagine dabbing Mr. Clean on your pulse points, and you get the idea."). "My keen sense of smell and large nose", says Wells, "don't make me a perfumer (...) Masters in the field train for decades before they're able to create a fragrance. And I defer to them." Wells is just as skeptical about custom dressmaking or custom makeup blending. "To me, customized products are a from of applied narcissism. Besides, I don't want my perfume, my lipstick, and my gold-lace evening suit to be only as good as my imagination. Surely they can be better than that."

Perhaps, if Wells experienced custom fragrance creation not an an unnamed "cosmetics company in the Midwest", but, say, at Jean Patou or at Miller Harris, the results would have been different. Perhaps not. I do understand her point of custom creations being only as good as one's imagination. My feeling on the matter is that, if the result one expects from such custom blending is the one and only ultimate signature fragrance, one might be disappointed. There is no ultimately perfect perfume that can fully express the essence of its wearer. There just isn't. One should expect to receive, at the end of the long process of custom blending, a beautiful fragrance to love and enjoy along other beautiful fragrance. But then, of course, I don't believe in signature scents and in monogamy in perfume.

What are your thoughts on the subject of custom perfumes? Is it worth it to try to create something perfect just for yourself or does it make more sense to express yourself by picking and choosing among the endless variety of ready-to-wear scents already available? Do you believe in signature perfumes, in those elusive perfect scents one would be remembered by after one is long gone? Have you had a bespoke perfume created? Was it all you hoped for? Was it the one and only perfect perfume? Do share!

50 Comments:

Blogger elle said...

I share your thoughts about custom scents. I have had one made for me as a gift and it has to be my favorite gift of all time. The scent truly does speak to my soul, but it was by a perfumer I feel is hugely talented and the notes were *exactly* what I love most. However, is it the only scent I'd want to wear? Of course not. I don't care how perfect a scent is, I could never wear only one or even one hundred. I have zero interest in being remembered for a particular scent since I only wear scent for myself anyway - couldn't care less what anyone else thinks about my choices except I have no wish to ever overapply and offend. But, back to deciding whether to have a custom scent made - yes, I think it's a superb idea if you get a perfumer w/ whom you feel in sync and whose talent you have faith in. I am seriously considering at some point having a scent created by Neil Morris. I think it would be not just a chance to have a fantastic scent, but also a unique and wonderful experience to go through the process.

9:46 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

L,
What is your scent like?

Oh, and have you tried NM Gardenia? Mmm, it's good. I blame Mark-David for making me fall in love with it :-)

9:50 PM EST  
Blogger elle said...

M,
It was by Yosh and the dominant notes on my skin are tobacco, honey, vetiver, oak moss, cardamom, cedar, carnation and rose - exquisitely blended and comforting to the extreme.
No, Gardenia has to be one of the only ones I have yet to try. Frankly, I haven't because I'm so certain I'll adore it, I didn't feel the need to sample it immediately - it's close to being an unsniffed FB choice for me based on the things I've read about it. It was a very, very sad day for my bank account when I discovered NM's scents.

10:04 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

OMG, that sounds amazing! Tobacco AND cardamom, yum!

10:07 PM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Marina, I read that piece and I think this is an interesting discussion. I feel like I wouldn't have any idea how to go through the process -- and following Made By Blog has shown how frustrating it can be, even with a great perfumer. I'd love to hear more about Elle's process. I think I'd want to feel a certain rapport with the perfumer? It's a tempting idea, that's for sure.

10:12 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

March
I think it's probably more frustrating for perfumer when he is stuck with a client as fickle as moim I want saffron, I don't want saffron. Give me lots of leather, no,I just want a hint of leather. Arrgh! :-)

10:17 PM EST  
Anonymous MarkDavid said...

It is absolutely worth it. Im having soo much fun working with Neil Morris on mine.

Its a very green Narcissus scent with a base of exquisite woody incense.

galbanum
fresh cut grass
tomato leaf
basil blossom
hyacinth
french narcissus
aldehydes C11
Arabian Rose
Iris
Iso E Super
Oak
Patchouli
sandalwood
frankincense
myrrh
oud

The best part about a custom scent is that atypical notes can be used - notes that are usually far from commercial. And it can be formulated the way you want it. I told Neil I want my scent to have nuclear sillage and lasting power and so far - it has. We're not quite finished with it, but we have a great thing started and the process is so fun, I know I'll be sad when it ends. Probably so sad that I'll just start another one.

11:14 PM EST  
Anonymous MarkDavid said...

M - Im SOO happy you like NM Gardenia. I had a feeling you might...

11:15 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Mark David,
Your scent sounds fantastic. I would love to smell it when it is done.

11:17 PM EST  
Anonymous Billy D said...

Mark David,

I'm still counting on a squidge when you're done! You had me at "French narcissus."

I think my ideal scent would have to be something like Chene meets Fleur de narcisse meets Iris Silver Mist meets Terre D'hermes. Vetiver+iris+oak+narcissus--actually, I'm not sure how those notes would pan out, but individually, I love 'em. I would certainly love to have a perfumer work on them to create something just for me.

You are exactly right though in acknowledging the inherent disappointment that would come along with thinking that a custom scent means a Holy Grail scent, that literally eliminates and blows away every other scent you've ever smelled. If you go in with that mind set, there's no way to avoid it.

12:53 AM EST  
Blogger carmencanada said...

I'm kind of on the fence on this. The process must be fascinating: to have input into perfume creation and to feel it evolving, coming into focus, would certainly be a fantastic experience. And also terribly gratifying. There's so much to learn for perfume lovers like us. As MarkDavid says, you could include rare or even restricted notes and that's an intriguing proposition.
But I have never felt the need for it (supposing I could afford it) because 1/ as you mention, I couldn't possibly be faithful to one scent; 2/ as Elle says, I wear perfume for myself and not to leave a signature imprint on other people's minds -- perfume-wearing is part of my identity, but not a particular perfume or even a series of particular notes.
And 3/ I love the idea of being taken beyond what I could've imagined, or even thought I'd like, and that can only happen when I meet a beautiful stranger or re-discover a fragrance I thought I knew but didn't...
Mind you, if I'd been Mme Roudnitska, or Robert or Guerlain, it'd be another story.
And if I ever got an offer, I'd jump on it with both nostrils.

1:54 AM EST  
Anonymous MarkDavid said...

It should be noted that the NM Gardenia being referenced is the NM Flowers for Men: Gardenia, not to be confused with NM Intimate Gardenia, which is also available but I have not tried. I just remembered there was another one, so I wanted to clarify.

Adding to the discussion developing here, if you were to look at my holy grail list - the scents run the gamut from greens, to orientals, to florals, to aldehydes - in other words - I think its damn near impossible to create one scent to satisfy a perfumista on every level. Thats why Im pretty sure that once Neil and I finish this scent, I'll soon get to work on another one to satisfy another facet of my loves.
The scent being created is merely a scent that I seem to have been unable to find already existing in the world.

And also - very early on, I thought I might want a perfume where the top notes were practically non-existent - where the emphasis was entirely on the floral heart. I soon changed my mind and complexity won out. However, had I not changed my mind - a custom scent would have been the only way to get what I wanted.

Its an investment piece, but when I think of all the money I spend on perfumes that I "like" - spending the equivalent of 3 bottles of niche perfume to get something that not only do I LOVE, but also means so much to me - completes me when I put it on, feels entirely familiar and fitting b/c it is mine and no one elses, is also an experience that is absolutely worth every penny to me. I may love Iris Poudre, and I do. But when I put it on, I also know that Marina loves it, too. Not to mention about 10,000 other people around the world. So it can't really ever be very personal.

Couture Perfume is the ultimate luxury - but unlike the DiModolo diamonds you might wear once a year - it can be enjoyed any time, anywhere. And lets face it - everyone loves the feeling of having something thats entirely their own.

1:58 AM EST  
Blogger risa said...

i started making my own perfumes because i was dissatisfied with what i could afford that was out there. i think if you can afford a custom perfume and you choose your perfumer with care, it can work marvelously. i know that while i can make a perfume for some people, i would not be able to compose a perfume for someone who could only attach themselves to a few notes.

it's a tough circumstance. the perfumer has to be both creative and responsive in the case of bespoke perfumes.

2:09 AM EST  
Blogger kamala said...

on one hand, i already am finding perfumes that i feel are "made for me" or that take me on incredible, very personal journeys when i wear them.

on the other hand, being able to work with a perfumer to create my own scent would be an incredible experience in itself, not to mention the actual perfume you get in the end - though once it was made, i think i'd want everyone to be able to get some! rather than thinking i'd want to smell like no one else, i'd be thinking, "this stuff is great! everyone should smell it!"

and there's no way it would be my one, signature scent - each day i feel different, and want different perfumes to reflect that.

2:47 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, of course I’d love to have my very own bespoke perfume : it would be mine, and only mine (see, I don’t really like to share…) – but on the other hand, what for all that effort and fuss when I don’t believe in signature perfumes ?! I’m a person of few signature perfumes which I’ve found for me during the recent 2-3 years of becoming overly perfume obsessed. My signature perfume of the day depends on my clothes and mood and I don’t believe that there is a perfume (existing or to be created first) which could be the one matching all my clothes and moods.
In the office I’m known for my perfume craze and after a little survey today I found out that people think that Farnesiana is my signature perfume. Well, not too bad…

p.s. Strangely, the system allowed me to post as anonym only - but I'm the good old Lady Jane Grey

3:28 AM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Billy,
I'd definitely wear both your's and MD's scents :-)

7:11 AM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Denyse,
I completely agree with all your 3 points...and with your last statement :-)

7:12 AM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Mark David,
Well I am sorry I can't let you have Iris Poudre all for yourself :-)
So Gardenia is a men's fragrance? How interesting.

7:13 AM EST  
Anonymous Silvia said...

I join the ranks of those who think that being part of the creation process (with the right perfumer) would be an amazing experience and almost a natural step in the evolution of a perfumista (I have been seriously tempted to pick up a chemistry book again...).
Loving scents is a little bit like loving food: cooking is fun and rewarding, but eating out in a Michelin star restaurant brings you to a totally different type of ecstasy.

7:37 AM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Risa
How amazing that you create perfume!
As for perfumer being put in a tough position if the client is stuck on a few notes, that reminds me of all those challenges on Project Runway where designers have to do what the client wants without losing their own point of view

7:38 AM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Kamala
I know, I am exactly the same way

7:39 AM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Melinda
Re: sigbnature scents. When I am gone, I want my daughter to say that everything reminds her of me, because I used to wear so many perfumne :-)

7:42 AM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Silvia
Absolutely. But imagine that chef coming to cook just for you. I choose Bourdain :-)

7:44 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

I would love to have a perfume made, and I would hope that a good perfumer could push me beyod the limits of my imagination. But like most here, I would make this scent only one (though a special one) among many--and I would send it to all my friends!:) L's fragrance sounds perfect to me!!

PS Haven't tried the NM Gardenia, but so far (thanks to the lovely Chaya), I am in love with both Gotham and Parfum d'Ida (speaking of custom perfumes:) And there are more samples left to try. . . poor CC, indeed!

8:02 AM EST  
OpenID divalano said...

Argh, blogger ate my comment! Trying again.
I agree re: the limitations of my imagination but I believe the job of a creative professional hired by a client is to listen to the wants/needs/visions of that person & then interpret, refine & elaborate through their own imaginative creative style. You check their portfolio & previous work to see if their style suits you & part of the fee you pay is to access that creative vision & have it applied to your own living room, ball gown, wedding ring or perfume. I am not paying for MY imagination, I'm hiring theirs.

Signature scents ... no. Boring.

8:46 AM EST  
Anonymous leopoldo said...

I'm not sure the me that's me today will be the me that's me tomorrow, if you get me. I.e. I'm one fickle bugger...

Heard from Ina? Has she settled in back home?

12:25 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, I could never be loyal to one single perfume, whether it was made for me or not. But the problem I have with the custom perfume phenomenon is that sometimes you are good at knowing what you like, and sometimes you are not. There are some perfumes that I could have predicted I would love very early in my perfume obsession (L'air de desert marocain, Bois des Iles and Egoiste, Kenzo Flower Oriental, the drier Bois of Serge, the classic male lavenders etc.) I'm good at remembering that I like woods and spices and men's.

I'm generally not good at remembering that I like things that are *good*. I love Apres L'Ondee and other great violets (violets!). I've recently fallen in love with PdN Odalisque (LOTV! The horror, the horror!) and I like any number of other creamy, opaque white floral scents (OJ Champaca, CdG 2, Gucci Rush, Boudoir, Amoureuse.) If well done, I've discovered I can love fresh, synthetic smells (Thierry Mugler Cologne), "fur" perfumes (MKK, Femme original), tropical fruits (Jungle Tigre), roses (Une Rose, various Rosines, etc.), even oils (Tango). Many of my faves are the last ones I tried from a given line (CdG #2, MKK), not suspecting I'd like them. I would definitely need a perfumer who would remind me of the intangibles of perfumery, who would not just follow my instructions about favoured notes. And I suspect such a nose would be expensive!
- Erin (who can't log in today)

12:33 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I'd love to have a bespoke perfume, in the same way I'd love to have bespoke pants.

Doesn't mean I still wouldn't buy Levis and doesn't mean I still wouldn't haunt ScentBar.

I'm sure that mine would remain untouched by others- can you imagine the musk that would survive my skank-eating skin on someone else?

1:11 PM EST  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

I don't need a custom scent, I'll just take Mark David's, LOL! Sounds lovely.

1:13 PM EST  
Anonymous MarkDavid said...

oh R, haha. Of course. I'll send you some if we ever finish it. Its a drawn out process at the moment b/c Im in NJ and Neil's in Boston. Mods by Mail has been our MO.

I should also add that I could never have an exclusive signature scent. I'll wear my couture scent often, but I could never part with my other lovelies - Iris Poudre, No. 19, 28 La Pausa, the list goes on...

Scent matches mood, its impossible to be exclusive.

1:41 PM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Well, yeah -- I was thinking specifically of your experience. Saffron! No saffron! (although I am soooo happy to read you've fallen in love again w/saffron).

2:46 PM EST  
Blogger Jane said...

If I had loads of money to spend on whatever I wanted, I suppose I'd have a custom scent. But then it would be a mixture of all the notes that I know I love... a bit of patchouli here, lots of sandalwood, some vanilla... maybe bergamot and vetiver for summer. Now that I think about it, wouldn't it just smell "familiar"? Could I really afford a "nose" that managed to create something unique, different, from my taste? I'm not so sure. Perhaps it's better to own different fragrances for different days and experiences, just like we do.

3:12 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love to have an exclusive fragrance, with all things that I love together... But I would stay changing everyday (I have one new love everyday-as mood, temperature, cloathes, ect changes).
Anyway, I think the same fragrance smells different in different person. So, we always "exclusive smelling".
Katie O

3:23 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

I would love to have a custom scent, thoughI doubt it would be my "one and only" - there are too many others I love. I fantasize about recreating classic perfumes that have been discontinued - I would love to find a talented perfumer who could give me something very close to Patou Vacances, for example. I have yet to smell its equal.

I thnk the key would be finding a perfumer who is really interested in what the customer wants and whose style you love. Of course, doing this sort of thing is out of my budget range, but I can dream!

Markdavid, we are ALL lining up to smell your Neil Morris creation! Everything in it is what I love!

4:19 PM EST  
Blogger Beth Gehring said...

I have wanted forever to have Christopher Brosius create a scent for me. I knew him early in the beginnings of Demeter, he was a dear friend of one of my tableware reps from NYC and she introduced us because of our mutual love of interesting perfume. I was fortunate during that time to have many wonderful conversations with him and although it's been many years since we've spoken I know that he could capture what I'd truly love to wear. I think that it would be a fragrance of tobacco and woodsmoke, sex and violets, punctuated by notes of amber, cinnamon,chocolate and wine! (my husband says that I am a simple creature!)

7:11 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Judith,
Well, I hope you do get one made and I hope I get to try it :-)

8:05 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

M,
I agree with everything you said :-)

8:06 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Lee,
As someone very fickle too, I hear you! :-)
Ina seems to be settling fine. I am hoping she will tell us all about it herself one day, on her blog. I miss her.

8:07 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Erin,
"I would definitely need a perfumer who would remind me of the intangibles of perfumery, who would not just follow my instructions about favoured notes." Amen.

8:07 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Tom,
Well, I would at least TRY yours. With caution :-)

8:08 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

R,
Yep, me too :-)

8:08 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Jane,
Good point about it smelling familiar...

8:10 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Katie O,
And another good point. Nothing smells the same on two different people. Nothing.

8:10 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Donna,
We are all such scent-hussies here. not a single person said (s)he would want the oe and only signature scent to wear exclusively for ever and ever :-)

8:11 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Beth,
Now I am torn between wanting yours and Mark David's :-) I want both :-)

8:12 PM EST  
Anonymous Mrs. Honey said...

I used to think that I would have to have a perfume custom made because I did not like any of the stuff in the stores. Then I got involved in a perfume-oriented online community, and my eyes (or was it nose) was opened. There are so many beautiful fragrances, and each smells a little different on each wearer. I don't see the allure of having one perfume, no matter how lovely.

8:48 PM EST  
Blogger Colombina (Marina) said...

Mrs Honey,
Yep, agreed. One perfume is impossible to be content with.

8:53 PM EST  
Blogger Scentman said...

Greetings to all you perfume lovers on Perfume-Smellin' Things! First, thanks to all - especially Mark David - for the kind comments about Neil Morris Fragrances. They are truly appreciated.

Having created hundreds of bespoke fragrances for hundreds of clients, it is so interesting to read what you all have to say. Actually, you are all correct! Having a bespoke perfume created (or co-created, as I consider it a team effort) can be an incredibly poignant event for the client AND the perfumer! My approach to bespoke creation is to try to discover who the person is, find their happiest, most joyful memories, and put them in a bottle for them. I have seen the look someone gets in their eyes when we first spray their custom scent on their arm - that look of "Ohhhh....I've been searching for this scent everywhere and forever... and here it is!" That's a moment no one forgets. A future joyful memory. I can tell you all from experience that it fills my heart with joy to see this happen. I never tire of it.

And those of you who feel it's impossible to have the "ONE" perfume that will replace all others - I couldn't agree with you more!! That's why I refer to the process as creating a bespoke or customized scent - not a "signature" scent, as that would infer that it's the one and only. Impossible. And who would want it anyway? Like a surfer finally catching the "perfect wave" - what a tragedy! What does he/she do after that???

Instead, I look at it as an opportunity to find a new way to express yourself through scent. I have 3 clients who have been to see me three times to have a NEW scent created! Yes, they can afford it but more importantly, they love perfume and the personal touch. And perfume is all about connection. Another way to touch each other's hearts.

Love to all and Fragrant Dreams!!

Neil

9:48 PM EST  
Blogger Eleven European Mystics said...

mm...itis about a dream, a glimpse of a phantom, a veil of luciferic whims intertwined with one's own physical - carnal, temporal - body of passion, pain, duties and creativity. Then, how far can we look into the phantom's whims if the only mystery left in the fragrance is that of our own biography or, alas, the quality of our communication skills when engaged with the nose in question? Myth tagged Creed hues. And I've read of Lorenzo Villoresi creating a fragrance for Hilary Clinton or, somewhere else, about Laura Tonatto creating for the King and Queen of Sweden...tempting to be thus enlarged in the space of ether by a nose of talent and renown, but...what about the literal quintessence of fragrance, that 'tromp le nez' of sorts? Wouldn't it be boring to be deprived of that travestite quality by having oneself, again, now exclusively portrayed in fragrance?

3:52 AM EST  
Anonymous SUE PHILLIPS said...

I know that the original blog post began in March 2008, but I just came upon this and have read all the comments with great interest. As someone who has been in the fragrance industry for many many years, having developed the TIFFANY perfume, Burberrys "Society", fragrances for Trish McEvoy and many other fragrances for other companies,for the past 3 1/2 years I have been involved in offering Custom Fragrances for individuals, corporations, bridal showers and Event planners. It is so much fun to see the joy on people's faces as they learn about the magic and mystery of scent, and explore 18 different exquisite blends which represent the Olfactory palette. Then when they select 3 or 4 blends they love, their eyes light up and they fall in love with their own unique formula. In this day and age of an over saturation of Celebrity fragrances, having a unique 'custom' fragrance is exciting, confidence-building, and gives the wearer a sense of 'specialness' by knowing that what he or she is wearing expresses their individuality and reflects their personality. It is also quite delicious knowing that they have created a unique fragrance that hasn't cost an arm and a leg - only a nose!

11:30 PM EDT  

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