• An interview with Michael Edwards at Esxence

      Editor's note: This interview was held in March by Mia Clarke, founder of Estellana, who has kindly shared it with us here.



      In March I had the pleasure in meeting with Michael Edwards at this years Esxence in Milano to discuss the wonderful world of perfume and the 28th Edition of his perfume guide Fragrances of the World. Michael is known as an expert in the business with a background in the industry since the 1960s. He spends his time between his homes in Sydney, Paris and New York in order to meet with perfumers regularly to discuss new fragrances to be launched. He can then work on their classifications for the next edition of what is known in the industry as the Perfume Bible.

      From his work and research into perfume classifications, Michael designed what is called The Fragrance Wheel, which explains the relationships between the different fragrance families. Although the fragrance wheel was part of the first editions of the guide, Michael has evolved it and added classifications over the years. For example, the Water classification was added in the 1990s and Fruity more recently.

      On the wheel, each fragrance family leads to the next family. So if you would like to try something new and love Soft Florals, you can delve into itís neighbouring fragrances of Floral or Floral Oriental because Soft Florals have added aldehydes and powdery iris or a vanilla dry down compared to Floral, and Soft Florals become Floral Oriental when scents of orange flowers and sweet spices are added.

      Fresh, Crisp, Classical and Rich are four Fragrance Groups on the wheel which explains the depth of the perfume. Fresh being the brightest and Rich being the deepest. If you smell perfumes from each of the fragrance groups which belong in the same fragrance family, you will notice how your nose steps down the fragrance scale, like musical notes.


      • Fresh - The most effervescent fragrances in the family
      • Crisp - Lively interpretations with a crisp accent
      • Classical - Balanced notes characteristic of the family
      • Rich - The richer, deeper fragrances



      Michael believes in being entirely subjective and is not paid any kind allowance to promote any brands.


      The way Michael spoke, his dress style, his personality is very stylish and elegantly professional. With his English accent he pronounces the French names of perfumes effortlessly. I couldnít keep up writing them down correctly! He is a man who loves what he does. He sprays a different perfume every night before he goes to sleep so he can smell and analyse it in the morning. His passion for perfume is so admired by everyone in the industry and by the retailers using his guide that he is very humbled by it all. I was so in awe with every word he said that I just wanted to listen and at times I forgot that I had to take notes! Even though his career to date has happened by accident, his passion, research and work in the field has won him many awards. He has improved the industry and our understanding of perfume massively.

      On our way to the cafe, I wanted to say something interesting about perfume, something intellectual to a man who is famous in the industry and so very well respected. So I said ďItís my first time in Milan and I walked out of the hotel this morning and Milan smelt wonderful!Ē He then asked what was it I could smell? I racked my brain to say something clever, when he said ďwas it pizza?Ē We both laughed hysterically which was very welcoming as I was a little nervous meeting with him.


      Mia:
      Michael, thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me and congratulations on the 28th edition of Fragrances of the World!


      Michael:
      (laughs) That makes me sound so old! Thank you.


      Mia:
      Your Guide was first published in 1984, did you ever imagine back then that it would be a massive success worldwide as it is today?


      Michael:
      No not at all, it was by accident. Charlie 1973 was the changing point where it became by spoke to a new generation where woman bought perfume themselves rather than it being a gift. Perfume to me makes sense. I wanted a guide to help retailers and make their life easier when recommending a fragrance and to make fragrance selection an exciting journey. My guide started in 1983 with about 350 female fragrances. Gradually it grew to cover mens and niche perfumes. The 2012 edition now covers about 8,600 with 1,000 new scents.


      Mia:
      You have written many books. What are you working on now?


      Michael:
      Many! I am working on an American Perfume Legends book. I am also in the process of making an iPad version of the guide for retailers to use easily and also my books to be available electronically.


      Mia:
      If you are not doing any kind of research, how do you decide which perfume to wear for pleasure?


      Michael:
      I love wearing perfumes that invigorates and intrigues my memories. I am a big fan of citrus notes.


      Mia:
      What is your favourite celebrity perfume?


      Michael:
      Elizabeth Taylorís White Diamonds. Iím a fan of celebrity fragrances as they are part of the MTV revolution. Celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker and P Diddy mean a lot more to Americanís than Yves Saint Laurent [possibly because they are highly marketed in the media and they add an individual touch, they make their lifestyle a real possibility].

      Mia:
      Hundreds of perfumes are launched every year. Are you good at predicting the future success of a perfume?


      Michael:
      As soon as I smelt Angel by Thierry Mugler and Flower by Kenzo I thought they were a yes! They just strike you.



      Mia:
      What are your thoughts on perfume advertisements?


      Michael:
      Silly. Iím getting older (approaching 70), and Iím a man so I care little for perfume adverts. There is very little differentiation. There must be a buzz. it only works if there is a big idea. The scent must create a reaction. The visual symbolism of the bottle, such as Christian Diorís J'adore where the model looks like the perfume bottle and is dressed in gold works very well.




      What also helps is the name of the perfume to make an intimate promise, such as Ralph Laurenís Romance.

      The concept and the visual expression of the advert is very important.


      Mia:
      I know, there is only so much of a girl running carefree through a field then hugging a larger version of the perfume bottle you can take!


      If you werenít a perfume expert, nor a biochemist, what would you be?


      Michael:
      An Interior designer.


      Mia:
      Looking back now, what advice would you give yourself when you started in perfume?


      Michael:
      Get fired and go out on your own because you are forced to work hard on your passion for yourself instead of working hard for someone else.


      Mia:
      What are your goals this year and what inspires you?


      Michael:
      To survive. I enjoy and love what I do. My goal is that I wish the brands and retailers would use my work more. I play the customer at times and I approach staff looking for a gift for my wife. Iím not difficult at all. I just walk in, tell the sales person that my wife loves a certain perfume but I donít want to buy her that same one, and I ask if they have anything similar? When they struggle a little I ask them if they have a guide and they say no. Then they just offer the latest perfume that has been launched.


      Mia:
      Michael, thank you for taking the time to meet with me and allowing Estellana to use your Fragrance Wheel to explain our perfumes classifications.


      You can purchase the 28th edition of Fragrances of the World by through Michaelís website, www.fragrancesoftheworld.com where you can also subscribe to his database of 12,000 fragrances.




      About the Author

      Mia Clarke is the founder of Estellana.com, an online luxury perfume store which launched last year in September during London Fashion Week.
      About the author Mia Morrison
      Author AvatarMia Clarke is the founder of Estellana.com, an online luxury perfume store which launched in 2011 September during London Fashion Week.

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