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Friday, September 07, 2007

"A Frank Look at the State of the Fragrance Industry"

September Perfumer & Flavorist features a remarkable article by the Drom CEO, Ferdinand Storp. Dr. Storp talks about the danger tests pose to creativity, laments the continuing loss of raw materials and urges the industry to take risks. I was especially fascinated by the part of the article that deals with the industry's secretiveness. Dr. Storp admits that saying that a fragrance contains an ingredient like "blue Himalayan hyacinth" is "utter nonsense", when behind the nonexistent exotic hyacinth is hidden "phenyl acetaldehyde". Would "phenyl acetaldehyde" sell as well a a "Himalayan hyacinth"? The answer has always seemed to be, no. And yet, points out Dr. Storp, in "a related trade, namely that of a cook", TV chefs let the viewers in on their professional tricks. "Does openness kill the magic?", ponders Dr. Storp. "I don't think that a broader knowledge of raw materials and their application will destroy the magic of perfumery. On the contrary, it opens a new and much wider basis for discussion. The trade will enthrall more people and it will open channels to better understand our consumers".

"Where is the television show about a perfumer?" Storp aks the question that has been bothering me for ages (and I have a show all planned, Bravo TV, are you listening?). "Why has no one written a book called "Confessions of a Perfumer?" The stars of our trade are usually called the "quiet stars". I don't think this is good in the age of information."

In conclusion, Dr Storp half-jokingly dares his colleagues to undertake five of "the most risky actions for the perfumery business of the future:

1. Market your new fragrance prominently touting a new chemical (including a structural formula and a terrible-sounding chemical name) [Something that Escentric Molecules and, to a degree, Le Labo have already done.]
2. Throw your test winner of the men's fragrances on the market as a women's fragrance [And really, imagine if scents like Terre d'Hermes or Dior Homme have been released as perfumes targeted for women. Would we have even questioned their femininity, and would they have not been just as successful?]
3. Take care that your fragrance can only be bought illegally [Or only Dallas. Again, Le Labo comes to mind, and this is one risky action I would rather the brands did not undertake.]
4. Don't sign a contract with a hip-hopper; instead, hire Mr. Nobody off the street to be your new spokesperson [Can't think of an example and would gladly volunteer to be such a Ms. Nobody]
5. Fire your panel of experts and toss a coin."

And to that one could only say, amen!

The article, State of the Art- the Good, the Bad and the Truth, can be found in the September issue of Perfumer and Flavorist, page 18-22. It can also be purchased online, from Highly recommended.

Image source,


Blogger Gaia said...

6. Skip the focus group. They want everything to smell like a Victoria's Secret store.

A TV show about a perfumer... I can see Andy Tauer doing it. If anyone can make scary chemicals sound cute and charming, that's him.

1:01 AM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Focus groups are evil. They are responsible for the state of eveything watered-down there is: pale, anodyne movies, cars food and whatever else you can think of that have had any spark of life to them sucked dry by the desire to up the scores at a focus group.

Can you imagine what would result if wonderful things as diverse as Muscs Kublai Khan, a Jackson Pollack, the Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, or the flavor of black truffles were subject to a focus group?

1:27 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...


Andy would be great for a show like that. So would CB. Or Christophe Laudamiel! Possibilities are practically limitless.

6:40 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

MKK for a focus group, LOL. Or Secretions Magnifique...OK, you know, *sometimes* perhaps focus groups are a necessary evil :-)

6:42 AM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

Interesting article...doubt anyone in the industry is listening or cares, but still, nice to hear someone say it :-)

8:49 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...


10:06 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No comment on my talents being in a show ;-)
But I have another point: Instead of flipping a coin! ask your perfumers or better even: Make a perfumer the boss of your marketing.

10:15 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I agree.
As for a show, you should consider it ;-)

10:24 AM EDT  
Blogger Ducks said...

Delightful post, and anyone who missed the "idea for a show" post must go back and click it now... I'm laughing myself silly.

I am always excited by the idea of natural ingredients ... but I imagine they can be unreliable. I've only made fragrances for soaps, so I cannot say I know my stuff. Does anyone know if it is possible to do all-natural perfumery and be competitive? Help a complete duffer out?

11:02 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

There exists Natural Perfumers Guild, I should think the site would have all sorts of information about this. Don't have the web address at hand, google would probably have it.

11:06 AM EDT  
Blogger Ducks said...

Thank you much, Marina -- I will go wading around when I have a free minute. Alligators again. =)

3:38 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Wading around LOL. You scare me with those alligators. :-)

4:48 PM EDT  
Blogger Ducks said...

I think the phrase is supposed to be, "When you're up to your arse in alligators, you don't have time to drain the swamp." I don't know... I just remember mimeographed (yes!) office humor, line-drawn pictures of alligators.

6:33 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I love the phrase. I am going to use it a lot now :-)

8:17 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent list of suggestions -with the addition of No. 6 it's even better!

Andy would be perfect for a show, he is so charming, and I am sure several others would be equally adept. Anything is better than getting a trashy celebrity together with a focus group and then telling some poor perfumer that he/she has to come up with yet another fruiy-floral to be ready for test marketing in 3 months. Enough of that already!

3:16 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen! :-)

3:27 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful article and commentary. I have only been able to appreciate MORE the "mysteries" and artistry of the fragrance industry since learning some of its inner workings, including the importance of chemistry in the equation. I'm a classical musician and there is something nice about just sitting back and enjoying, but when one understands the structure of the music, where its going, the layers, the more one enjoys the experience. We all should be able to enjoy fragrance in the same more aware, more knowledgeable way if we desire. Thanks for sharing!!

8:30 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Dear Anonymous,
That is such a great parallel with knowing music, thank you!

9:04 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

focus group, accountants, bankers are evil!

1:02 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Exactly! :-)

10:15 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey! that molecule you have there... that is phenyl acetaldehyde, with its correct most stable configuration too!

hehehehhe... sorry.... got carried away. where were we again? ah yes, MKK and focus groups. now that is a match made in heaven. i personally vote for bal a versailles marketed as a men's fragrance. hehehehe

1:11 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I think there is or was Bal a Versailles for men or Versailles for Men or something like that. But I think a man can very easily wear the regular Bal.

8:32 AM EDT  

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