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  1. #1

    Default Article: IFRA Promotes Creativity – An Interview With Lisa Hipgrave, Director Of IFRA UK – PART 2

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    I am a Jasmine Award winning fragrance critic, amateur perfumer, Basenotes contributor and regular columnist for Esprit Magazine. My perfume guide, Le Snob: Perfume, is published by Hardie Grant. Click on its title for more info.

    For giveaways, reviews of new perfume releases and thoughts on all sorts of scent-related matters, please visit Persolaise.com or find me on Twitter or Facebook.

    Many thanks.

  2. #2

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    Thanks for asking so insistently, even if it evidently created some discomfort. To me the "we have to protect the consumer" mantra sounds like no more than a convenient front, as is evident from Ms. Hipgrave's inability to provide reasonable answers to your reasonable questions about IFRAs unreasonable policies.

  3. #3

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    Yes, thanks for pushing that question. It's the aspect of the whole subject which I find most annoying. I think she couldn't answer it properly because there is no convincing reason behind it, except 'Nanny knows best'! ;-)

  4. #4
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    I echo the comments above.
    I still don't buy it re. labelling food is different from perfumery . Ms Hipgrave was unable to elaborate further . Consumers are able to think for themselves and do not need protection in the way Ms Hipgrave talks about it- I found it a rather patronising response.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Article: IFRA Promotes Creativity – An Interview With Lisa Hipgrave, Director Of IFRA UK – PART

    I am not convinced either.
    Arguing that IFRA rules promotes creativity is ridiculous. An artist can create their own challenges, they can limit their own palette if they choose to do so. I don't think soviet russian artists would agree that the suffering censure and limitation was good because they made them such good artists.

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    I now do understand IFRA's position on regulatory issues. However, Mrs. Hipgrave's answers to labelling aspects shows IFRA's weak position when it comes to support allerts on the usage of some (controversial) materials, besides the fact that she clearly admits that labelling went out of their control.

    I am confident things will change for the better due to generalized criticisms: if the plan to recruit new members proves succesful, small and mid-sized members could be responsible for positive changes, plus the fact that IFRA's allerts having a negative impact on quality means more opportunities for manufacturers located overseas. As soon as traditional companies get affected, they will raise their complains.

  7. #7

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    1. What do you think about the proposition that certain fragrances, formulated prior to a certain cut-off date and meeting certain (yet-to-be-determined) criteria would be granted 'legacy status' and allowed to be manufactured and sold using their original formulas? (I can immediately see that this isn't cut-and-dry because of issues such as nitro musks but I do think the idea has serious merit and could be considered).
    2. Do you think that some manufacturers blame IFRA recommendations for why they've had to reformulate - when, in fact, they have been doing it all along to cut costs?
    3. What would you say to claims that the IFRA recommendations encourage the trend towards declining natural material production and, thus, increased prices of whatever crops remain (which, in turn, feeds into the scenario above). Isn't this bad for the growers and bad for the industry? Should there not be some attempt at conservation and protection of these traditional practices?
    4. Do you think IFRA helps to calm down the phenomenon of chemophobia and perfume-phobia (where perfume has become akin to secondary smoke or worse in some areas of the world and people are banned from wearing it at work or in public places). If so, how does IFRA help? Or do you think it actually legitimises perfume-phobia?
    5. Do you think using the precautionary principle is the most effective way in which to determine fragrance material risk? If so, why?

  8. #8

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    "I think that you have to protect people. You have to protect the lowest common denominator."

    From what exactly? A rash? Come on! Cigarettes can kill you, yet the tobacco industry is only required to place a label on every box. Peanuts and shellfish can kill you if you're allergic to them, yet people eat peanuts and shellfish every day. Educating the consumer by proper labeling and having information available to the public versus restricting and banning is a more logical answer. I'm not a smoker but occasionally I do enjoy a good cigar, and though I know the risks involved with smoking any kind of tobacco, I still choose to do so once in a while. If I know bergamot is phototoxic, then I'll spray it on my clothes if I'm going to be out and about on a sunny day. If I ever become sensitized to oakmoss, then I'll stop using anything with a label that says "contains oakmoss". It's common sense. I'm not oppose to the IFRA testing different materials (natural or synthetic) because I do want to know what each ingredient can or can't do to you, but all of these restrictions and banning is preposterous.

  9. #9

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    Dear Persolaise! You was great in your insistent efforts to reveal the truth about parfum future. Stay in power to be so straightforward person! And, good luck in creativity!!

  10. #10

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    With respect to everyone else, and acknowledging that I don't endorse banning things for being allergens (as opposed to toxins), the argument that we shouldn't ban, e.g., oakmoss because cigarettes are so much worse but are still allowed is not a very good one. I think we all understand that cigarettes, if invented today, would likely not be legal.

  11. #11

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    I find the "we're not legislators" satement to be spurious. If somebody sued a company for prodcing a perfume which gave them a rash and it turned out it didn't adhere to the "industry guidelines" i.e. IFRA recommendations then the case would be settled immediately. This effectively means IFRA guidelines are law because nobody would risk that lawsuit.

  12. #12

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    Something seems lacking here from the IFRA perspective. The answers seem evasive and unsatisfying. As the_good_life stated, Ms. Hipgrave seemed uncomfortable and not centered on the facts, as if she was promoting some corporate idealogy that she herself doesn't completely understand or, perhaps, believe.

  13. #13

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    Question: why has the ingredient quality dropped so dramatically in recent years to the extent that most new perfumes just do not smell good to anyone with experience?

  14. #14
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    Wow, am I literally the only person in all of Basenotes who thinks that the IFRA has a valid point? To use Persolaise's example of allergen warnings for vetivert, who in the world knows they're allergic to vetivert??? If Gucci loaded their next perfume with vetivert and slapped a warning label on it, someone would get sick, people would get rashes, ridiculous scare stories would be all over the news, and the anti-perfume nuts would win.

    As an extreme example, look at nitro musks. They were the secret ingredient in many old perfumes. Then, we figured out that they were an environmental problem, the perfume equivalent of styrofoam that wouldn't break down over time and that they could get caught inside peoples' immune systems and infect underground water supplies. For good reason, they were banned. But to this day, every time their use comes up, someone says "my grandmother wore Chanel No 5 all her life and she turned out just fine", but that's not really a valid argument. You could make the same case in favor of asbestos insulation. When it all comes down to it, it's just not fair to endanger people and an industry that creates products that we love just so that the very few of us who truly care about fragrance as an art form can continue to go down to the mall and smell something like it was 80 years ago.

  15. #15

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    Oh, excellent, excellent work. This section drew blood.
    Her weak defense of prohibition instead of labeling is about the best you can do for it but she makes the odd claim that "[labeling] is what we’re doing from an allergy point of view." after noting that labeling is an EU regulation, not IFRA. And then she implies that they must do this to protect customers from "reprotoxic (may damage the reproductive process) or mutagenic (may cause genetic mutation) or carcinogenic" ingredients? That's no longer a labeling issue; everyone is (presumably) equally effected by gene warping perfumes. Yes, please do get rid of them. But the ingredients we care about are the traditional naturals which have been regulated on the basis of allergens, not toxicity, and are the chief focus of the IFRA. No points there, ma'am.

    She's not familiar with the by-laws (can't blame her): votes are still divvied up on the basis of money given to the IFRA. (page 7) $200k-2 million per year and you get 3 votes, $2 million+ gets you 4. So while the membership maybe "a 50:50 ratio of big companies to small companies." those large companies still control 21 of 30 votes.

    Did you ever ask about how the old IFRA HQ was right in the Givaudan (their main donor) HQ?

  16. #16

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    Thanks very much indeed for all the comments and questions so far.

    The_good_life, I should say that the atmosphere during the entire interview was amicable, even if that doesn't necessarily come through in the transcript.

    Saripatates, you raise an interesting point about artists imposing restrictions on themselves. I wonder if self-imposed restrictions are ever as effective as externally-imposed ones. I'm just thinking aloud here; I'm certainly not defending IFRA's response!

    Pollux, yes, if more companies join, they may be able to change the situation, but then they'd also have to abide by the Code as soon as they become members... so it's probably difficult for them to decide whether to join!

    Nukapai, thanks for your questions. I'd certainly like to see them answered.

    EugeniaLOL, you raise an excellent point, but we mustn't forget that perfume was 'invented' several centuries ago too. Okay, what we call 'modern' perfume isn't even two centuries old yet, but even so, it's hardly a product that just appeared on the market a couple of decades ago.

    Hirch_duckfinder, you're absolutely right. And I'm sure that's why many companies join IFRA: because they know that, in law suits etc, its Code carries a lot of weight.

    Rogalal, I'm sure other Basenotes members share your view. And yes, it cannot be denied that in the past, perfumers used several substances which the scientific establishment now agrees are harmful to people and to the environment, even though, as you put it, thousands of individuals applied these substances to their skin and "turned out just fine." I think this is the most difficult part of this whole situation: finding the balance between restricting materials which are genuinely harmful and permitting the use of materials which may cause some sort of mild 'harm' (and I use the word loosely) to a very small minority.

  17. #17

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    Zizanioides, no, sorry, I didn't ask about the location of the old IFRA HQ. Perhaps you'd like to ask that question 'officially' right here?

    Thanks for your other observations. Perhaps you'd like to re-phrase those in the form of a question as well?

  18. #18

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    Persolaise, it's true that perfume is ancient, but that's also beside the point. The point is that other things being allowed has no real bearing on whether perfume ingredients should be allowed. Perfume ingredients should be allowed or banned on their own merits or dangers.

    In an ideal world, we'd reconsider allowing or banning all substances logically according to perfectly up-to-date science, but since that cannot happen, "fairness" isn't a valid consideration.

    I agree with rogalal that most people have no idea whether they're allergic to particular perfume ingredients and that therefore warning labels might not be sufficient. I'd want to see some numbers, though, to help me understand the real dangers. How many people are likely to have serious allergies to these things? How severe are the reactions we're worried about?

    And there's been a distinction lost, I think, between "potential allergens" and "known sensitizers". But I really have no idea how serious that problem is either. IFRA would be well-advised to publicize clear data about these things.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Article: IFRA Promotes Creativity – An Interview With Lisa Hipgrave, Director Of IFRA UK – PART

    double post, oops
    My Wardrobe
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  20. #20

    Default Re: Article: IFRA Promotes Creativity – An Interview With Lisa Hipgrave, Director Of IFRA UK – PART

    Personally I am not against extensive testing or regulatory measures to protect the public. If there is clear evidence of hazards, as in the case of nitromusks. But we are talking here about cases in which natural oils have been regulated, which have been used for thousands of years without evidence of risk, we are talking about bans based on false evidence / shoddy science (oakmoss) and we're talking about a sense of proportion. Since everything is an allergen for someone (including water), shall we
    abolish life? From what I know, in most cases there is simply no hard evidence to suggest that natural oils as used in perfumery pose a proven risk either in severity or numbers, with a few exceptions such as photosensitivity and bergamot - and that could be easily addressed. What is quite clear is that the large members of IFRA have a vested interest in destroying small suppliers of naturals, so they cna step in with synthetics and high-tech engineered "safe" naturals to complete their already 99% domination of the flavors & fragrances market. That may sound like a typical conspiracy theory, but to me it seems a logical conclusion and I warmly welcome any evidence to the contrary. Ms. Hipgrave certainly did not seem able to provide it.

    Quote Originally Posted by rogalal View Post
    Wow, am I literally the only person in all of Basenotes who thinks that the IFRA has a valid point? To use Persolaise's example of allergen warnings for vetivert, who in the world knows they're allergic to vetivert??? If Gucci loaded their next perfume with vetivert and slapped a warning label on it, someone would get sick, people would get rashes, ridiculous scare stories would be all over the news, and the anti-perfume nuts would win.

    As an extreme example, look at nitro musks. They were the secret ingredient in many old perfumes. Then, we figured out that they were an environmental problem, the perfume equivalent of styrofoam that wouldn't break down over time and that they could get caught inside peoples' immune systems and infect underground water supplies. For good reason, they were banned. But to this day, every time their use comes up, someone says "my grandmother wore Chanel No 5 all her life and she turned out just fine", but that's not really a valid argument. You could make the same case in favor of asbestos insulation. When it all comes down to it, it's just not fair to endanger people and an industry that creates products that we love just so that the very few of us who truly care about fragrance as an art form can continue to go down to the mall and smell something like it was 80 years ago.
    My Wardrobe
    II est de forts parfums pour qui toute matiθre/Est poreuse. On dirait qu'ils pιnθtrent le verre.

  21. #21

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    Great interview, Persolaise (speaking as a former investigative reporter for an American newspaper!) - too bad the questions were never properly answered, but that was not your fault. Clearly IFRA approached the interview as a publicity exercise and never intended to answer them fully. This is a prime example of the "nanny state" mentality of today. Nothing is without risk! And dodging the issue of labeling by saying some people can't read doesn't answer it at all - cigarette and nut labels could have the same problem, but they're still useful. I do think it's valid to compare scent with other products - for example, hair dyes, which contain chemicals that are extremely dangerous for some people but harmless to most. Along with perfume, hair dye is a "luxury" we don't absolutely have to have, but many people are happy to take their chances and use it. A label would be absolutely the way to go, and because IFRA won't do it, I agree with The Good Life above and conclude it's most likely because of the big business aspect. Cheap chemicals drive down costs, so eliminate the "naturals" and huge profits are easier to make.

  22. #22
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    God only knows how many innocent victims there were in the nasty old, unregulated past, who were mutated beyond all recognition by the perfumes they unsuspectingly wore.

    To me, the whole regulatory apparatus resembles a hammer; and when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail. This regulatory juggernaut is not limited to fragrances. It is invading every aspect of our lives.

    Take for instance the airlines. Because one person "alledgedly" carried on-board an airplane some liquid substance said to be an explosive, now no one can carry a simple bottle of water aboard. I say, give me the right to waive my "safety". Label airplane flights as "super-safe", no liquids, no fingernail files...for those who want that kind of precaution. And offer anything-goes flights for those of us who choose to throw caution to the winds.

    But really, my friends, this is not about safety. Give me a break Ms. Whoever you are-IFRA mistress! None of this is really about safety. It is about CONTROL. All governments and agencies and regulatory "bodies", etc. etc. want to excercise CONTROL, enlarging and empowering their own fiefdoms.

    Frankly, I think all substances should be free of any regulations. Put the responsibililty for safety upon the quite adequate, grown-up shoulders of adults, as it once was. There has been no groundswell of public demand for regulating fragrances! COME ON! This has not been a from-the-ground-up movement by the masses to get the IFRA to ban oak moss.

    I agree with the new dude at Dior. It is RIDICULOUS.

  23. #23

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    Once again, thanks for all the comments. Please keep them coming, and please remember to ask as many questions as you can think. I'll forward them to IFRA next week.

    EugeniaLOL, I think you raise a very good point about numbers. I think there are several conflicting viewpoints on what proportion of the population suffers from allergies... and then of course there's the issue of the seriousness of the allergies.

    Redrose, thanks very much for your kind words. I can't believe that money doesn't enter into the equation somewhere.

    Saintpaulia, thanks very much for your thoughts. I just thought I ought to mention that Monsieur Demachy has been at Dior for quite some time.

  24. #24

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    If this is anything to go by then I think it's all over bar the shouting. This seeming need for 'compliance' in order to be 'protected' from lawsuits from the poor uneducated public - the LCD - makes a very persuasive argument for any company trying to remain in business these days beyond the purely artisanal level.

    I see the following options open to me - I can only speak for myself:

    1. Stock up on anything I currently like, be it vintage or contemporary, because it will disappear eventually for sure, and keep an eye out for fragrances that maintain (what I personally perceive to be) quality within the guidelines. Clearly there are some great perfumers doing work that has a sense of harmony from top to bottom. Those that are starting fresh rather than trying to salvage earlier works with reformulations are the ones to watch.

    2. Look to the 'semi-bespoke' or 'heritage edition' releases that will come, with much fanfare, as embracing pre-IFRA levels of ingredients. These will come at a price and the marketing will doubtless be excruciatingly painful - I can see it now 'Dare to be different, live dangerously etc.' When this kicks in there will be plenty of bandwagon jumpers - buyer beware

    If individuals with some degree of stature such as Wasser, Demachy, Polge and others at that level can fight the good fight then artistry and tradition may survive but in this day and age do 'the public' really care? It's pretty obvious the industry decision makers don't.

    I saw IFRA compared to RIA, the recording industry body, somewhere here and just as the major record labels have played a large part in destroying the music industry by attempting to protect their own interests (rather than those of (a) the artistes and composers and (b) the consumers) I sense the same thing is very much at play here - let's form a cartel and then they'll all have to buy what we tell 'em is good for them. The obvious equal and opposite reaction to this mentality is the indie approach and I think we'll see this happening - if I had to sign a disclaimer when I purchse a chypre acknowledging it contains more bergamot or oakmoss than IFRA recomends etc. then so be it.

    Thanks again to both for the interview - no questions here.
    Last edited by mr. reasonable; 30th May 2011 at 06:14 AM.

  25. #25

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    "if I had to sign a disclaimer when I purchse a chypre acknowledging it contains more bergamot or oakmoss than IFRA recomends etc. then so be it."

    Interesting idea!

  26. #26

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    Go for it, Nuka! Shoot me a 'Held Harmless' pdf by email and I'll get my signed hard copy back to you by post
    Last edited by mr. reasonable; 31st May 2011 at 08:24 AM.

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    Thank you Mr. Reasonable. Some good points, esp. your last para. I don't subscribe to the suggestion that we "stock up" on soon-to-be banned substances though. This is simply giving in to the powers-that-be. There's been enough of that already! It is distressing to me, and many of my (now elder) generation, how apparently brain-washed younger citizens are. They have been conditioned since kindergarten by the government's schools, into accepting whatever that government says IS! As if this government had a sterling track record in protecting its citizens. Bah! That dog ain't gonna hunt. All government does is regulate, control, restrict and tax.

    I urge my fellow citizens to turn things on their head, look outside the box for gosh sakes! Pretend just for a moment that you do not need some "official", "bureaucrat" or "sociologist" to tell you how to live your life. Stand up and take some responsibility back from these people and into your own hands. Because regulation of any kind is a slippery slope. Once you are on it, Lord knows where it will end! Today banning perfume ingredients, becomes tomorrow banning perfumes.

  28. #28

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    Just in case anyone's interested, Wired have just published an excellent article on the subject of IFRA. Please click here to read it.

  29. #29

    Default Re: Article: IFRA Promotes Creativity – An Interview With Lisa Hipgrave, Director Of IFRA UK – PART

    Thanks, that's one of the best pieces of mainstream journalism on perfume I've read in a long time. No clichιs and low-intensity google-fact-checking here, but rather really informed and balanced. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that the author hoardes vintage Chamade and Eau de Fier .
    My Wardrobe
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  30. #30

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    I'd like to add my thanks for such a good interview and argue the case of 'balance'. If among the myriad of essentials and single molecule synthetic ingredients of perfume we find a virulent carcinogen, then OK we need to address this, but life itself is carcinogenic. A base level of carcinogens surround us in pollution, the X-rays we get, the granite we rest against on moors, the food we eat, the plastics we use and the radiation from all those devices we love etc. The farm opposite me probably pumps out more dioxins and pest-control vapours than I care to think about, and a drive through a city on a still summer day is positively lethal. I feel there's a need to differentiate between what puts us over the edge in exposure to serious base level threats and the exposure to allergens that affect a few of us. At the end of the day this is perfume we're taking about, with a long history; especially naturals, not a petrochemical fuel refinery. Of course we need to help those who suffer from allergies with their choices, but we also need to be able to celebrate our unique desire to wrap nature's fragrance around us. Perspective and balance; ban if we need to, label when we need to.

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