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Thread: Am I Faking it?

  1. #1
    Basenotes Member
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    May 2011

    Default Am I Faking it?

    Dear Basenoters- I could do with some advice. Plus as a first timer poster I’m going for the record on the longest diatribe.

    Part of me feels a little like a student who’s attempting to get someone else to do their homework, but hopefully, if you read on, you’ll see that I’ve at least tried to put a structure in place to what follows.

    Basically, as a (very amateur) fragrance lover, I’ve volunteered to give a 2 hour lecture on the fragrance industry to a large group of MA students at a London University where I am a part time course director.

    As a fashion journalist myself, I want to examine the perfume industry – not just from the sense of genre (chypres leathers etc) but from a historical and commercial perspective, something my training on magazines taught me to do instinctively when considering fashion - from Celine to Primark and everything in between.

    My overwhelming sense from reading Basenotes, Luca Turin, Chandler Burr etc. is that whereas fashion is something that can easily be critiqued because of its context and associations, fragrance is altogether another matter, particularly when divorced from its associated marketing machines. I also believe that the fragrance ‘layman’ has a vastly less sophisticated understanding of fragrance than fashion simply because it is somewhat of an intangible. I am constantly spraying my bemused students with odd frags I have picked up on eBay and often there is very little reaction beyond the obvious – whereas were I to discuss an equivalent fashion brand they would have much more in the way of a defined opinion.

    The following lecture attempts to readdress this in a fairly superficial way admittedly, but, hopefully will get them thinking about the significance of fragrance, and may even get some to ditch Coco Mademoiselle or Acqua di Gio for something more idiosyncratic.

    This is my starting point, and below is a list a checklist of the areas I intend to cover (fairly swiftly) – AND, what I’m after from you guys, are any glaring omissions or gaps in the mix. I’m delivering this on Nov 19th – so I’ve got my work cut out for me – any input would be massively appreciated. As you read it , you’ll see that I’ve used bullet points which say something like- ‘discuss what a leather based fragrance is’ - obviously, this is for me to do, and not a request aimed at you – I’m more concerned by missing the fragrance equivalent of Dior’s New Look of 1947 – just through a gap in my knowledge.

    Here Goes

    Introduction: fragrance as a $15 billon industry, how we appreciate fragrance, fragrance as an emotional signifier etc.


    Hungary Water – first alcohol based perfume

    Then Eau de Cologne – what constitutes an Eau de Cologne, talking a little about 7411, Kolnisch Wasser, Eau de Guerlain Imperiale, etc. Plus a bit on its standing in the industry today – for instance, in the UK it’s very much perceived as an old ladies’ perfume (my grandmother wore 7411) whereas in Spain you can buy a 2L bottle of Puig at the corner shop for a couple of Euros

    Fougere Royale – Houbigant – and the development of the Fougere concept

    Then I want to talk a little about Grossmith- particularly Hasu-no-Hana and Phul Nana – which to my mind are typically late nineteenth century fragrances, that also keyed into British society’s interest in Orientalism, and how Simon Brooke reinvented the company – with particular emphasis on selling to the Arab market.

    Jicky – an analysis of Jicky, why it is so important in the history of fragrance and leading on from that, more on Guerlain as a brand.

    Chypre by Coty – and the development of Chypre – talking about what constitutes a Chypre and what contemporary fragrances employ this note most successfully.

    Mitsouko – following on from the above

    Knize 10 and leather based fragrances – what they are etc.

    Chanel and Chanel NO5 – plenty to say on that one.

    Then talk a little about what exactly aldehydes are and how they work within a perfume structure.

    This I hope will neatly lead on to talking a little about synthetics and naturals and the relative values of each –

    For instance: Natural Musk, leading on to Musk Ambrette and the problems with photosensitivity this can promote – through to modern musk substitutes like Ambroxan

    Then possibly some other explanations of synthetics – Persicol, Linalool, Geraniol, Citral – and some potentially some more offbeat ones. (this I could do with a little help on)

    And some naturals-

    Animalics – Musk, Civet, Castoreum -
    Ambergris – and the mythology that surrounds it (Floating Gold by Christopher Kemp is a brilliant and engaging analysis)
    And some naturals - Oak Moss, Rose Absolute, Jasmin Sambac, Orris

    And some discussion of the cost and methods of extraction

    Which should neatly lead me on to Grasse, and a name count of the big fragrance development houses – Firmenreich, IFF, Givaudan etc.

    Vintage and reformulated fragrances – how some of the classics have been destroyed by EU directives.

    Then back to the timeline:

    Shalimar by Guerlain and a definition of the Oriental genre

    Joy by Patou

    Caron pour un Homme – first masculine marketed at men. And some discussion of Caron as a house.

    Old Spice – and a bit on mass-market fragrances

    Miss Dior- and a discussion of Dior frags – to include Eau Sauvage

    Youth Dew by Estee Lauder, talking about the bath oil phenomenon, the Lauder mantra of gift with purchase and how this fragrance remains for many people in their forties and above, one of the most evocative fragrances of all time – plus it solidified the company’s reputation

    Guerlain Vetiver – and a discussion of what a vetiver fragrance is

    Gray Flannel- violet fragrances and a precursor to JPG’s Le Male

    Charlie by Revlon – more for the mass market impact than the frag, plus it was the first fragrance to use an African American model (Naomi Sims) in its advertising

    Giorgio Beverly Hills and Poison – Eighties Power House fragrances

    Elizabeth Taylor – White Diamonds – the first big celebrity scent

    Cool Water – and the birth of the Aquatic scent.

    L’Eau D’Issey – and the birth of the ozonic fragrance

    CK One and Nineties Unisex fragrances

    Angel by Mugler – and the birth of the Gourmand genre

    M7 – and Oudh fragrances.

    Comme des Garcons fragrances – Sissel Tolaas etc

    Then I want to talk about some facts and figures

    How much the juice in a bottle actually costs, and how much it costs to launch a fragrance internationally

    What a flanker is

    Celebrity Fragrances with particular emphasis placed on Coty – Lovely (Chandler Burr) and all the buzz surrounding Fame by Lady Gaga. Celebrity fragrances that bombed – Jenifer Aniston

    NPD and its growing influence on how trends within the fragrance industry are defined by sales statistics

    Best sellers in different locations – the US, UK and other markets.

    Given the banality of many of the commercial offerings on the market – the rise of the Niche fragrances house – Etat Libre D’Orange, Serge Lutens ( ad infinitum)

    Possibly show ariscotm’s YouTube review of Secretions Magnifiques as it is SO funny.

    A bit about Frederic Malle/Luca Turin and how anonymous noses are becoming minor celebrities

    And a bit about the direction the industry is taking (this bit I’m not sure about as I don’t work within it) but I would wonder whether there will be a trend for lighter fragrances due to the emphasis luxury goods are placing on the Asian/Chinese market etc – this is certainly something that is happening in fashion. A move away from ultra sweet women’s fragrances to something more sophisticated, the end of Oudh? etc

    End of Lecture.

    One more thing – I’ve squeezed some budget from the university (only about £100) to buy some key frags to explain some of the genres, plus I already own a cupboard full and am happy to squirt these over the students. I’m bidding like crazy on eBay already – but was wondering if anyone has some good recommendations for a (Very Cheap) archetypal Fougere, (close to the Houbigant) a Chypre, an Oriental, etc…
    I already have a huge bottle of 7411 I can spritz, plus some Knize 10 and frags like Charlie, Angel, Giorgio, etc are easy to come by cheaply on line.

    If you’ve read this far – thank you – and even if you want to berate me – feel free. Just think - your input may have a direct impact on the fragrance decisions of nearly 400 impressionable minds…..
    Thanks once again

    Possibly tone deaf..
    Currently wearing: Eau de Cologne by Chanel

  2. #2

    Default Re: Am I Faking it?

    Penhaligons English Fern probably close to a true early Fougere but quite synthetic now.
    Azzaro Pour Homme a very good example of the Aromatic Fougere
    Aromatics Elixir EDT or Parfum - relatively inexpensive Chypre, altho Mitsouko or Vol de Nuit would be better.
    Shalimar is really the reference Oriental . . .

    Just type these categories in Search and see what comes up or try to access Michael Edwards Fragrance Wheel for good examples and see if you can locate / afford them.

  3. #3
    Dependent rubegon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    War of the Roses

    Default Re: Am I Faking it?

    I would use Brut as an example of a fougere. It's a cheapo, but it's a very representative of the fougere style for under $10.

    Maybe Tabu as a cheap oriental? Its a lot cheaper than Shalimar, if nowhere in the same league.

    It will be hard to find a good chypre on your budget - if you're lucky you may be able to pick up a vintage bottle of Chypre de Coty, and nothing is more representative than that.

    By the way, it's 4711, not 7411, no?

    Good luck - this is a daunting task, and I think you'll be losing a lot of sleep in the next few weeks!
    - - - - - - - - - - - - -

  4. #4

    Default Re: Am I Faking it?

    it seems a lot ground to cover in two hours. Be careful you don't get bogged down in details too. A stream of perfume names and ingredients will be daunting to people if nothing is familiar. Sounds like it will be an interesting lecture

  5. #5
    Dependent DuNezDeBuzier's Avatar
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    Nov 2009

    Default Re: Am I Faking it?

    You mention vintage v. reformulation, EU directives... but, unless I missed it, no reference to IFRA and its restrictions. In my opinion, a discussion as to 'what are we seeing' and 'what's next?' cannot understate the impact of these restrictions on the broader industry and the reasons why this is so (i.e. insurance, tort lawsuit lottery risk, etc.).
    Wanna Shop? --> Buzier's Sales

    MY TOP SHELF: Azzaro pH, Bel Ami, Blackbird, Blend 30, Cuba, Davidoff '84, Derby, Edition, Equipage, Jules, Knize Ten, Kouros, Leather Oud, Puredistance M, Santal Noble, Tribute Attar, Yatagan

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Washington, DC

    Default Re: Am I Faking it?


    Great topic! So many things to say and you cannot possibly cover them all in such a short time.

    A few pet things of mine:
    1) you will probably note how passionate we are on Basenotes about IFRA restrictions. But do not blame EU, for once it is not the main offender. My opinion is more the following. Perfume production is dominated by a small number of aromachemical companies (Givaudan and co.), which are actually the ones who develop the mainstream perfumes themselves (except for a handful of brands like Guerlain and Chanel, who do so in-house), and which produce the aroma molecules. They decided to "self" regulate by setting ridiculously high standards for one specific condition (skin sensitivization), with the result that they ended up severely restricting natural substances (which they do not produce), or cheap aromachemicals that are not patented anymore. Note that IFRA is not an EU agency, it is an internal lab of the aromachemical companies industry organization (here in the US we would call it lobbying organization). Coincidence? Your MBA students will be very familiar with the terms "cartel", "collusion", and "enforcing collusion".

    2) an important point regarding the commercial aspect and the comparison with clothing etc. is that most designer brands use accessories as a cash cow. Brands like Prada, Dior, Gucci use clothes for the image, but much of their profits come from accessories (handbags or perfumes). While very few people can afford their clothes, the perfume is marketed to a much broader audience. I agree that a layman could have a better understanding of clothing relative to perfumes, but it is also true that probably no regular person would wear the clothes seen in haute couture fashion shows - indeed, I bet that if you showed up in a suit straight out of the latest collections, you'd probably be laughed at. Until you say the brand name, that is.

    3) just to give them their due, I think that the first niche houses were Diptyque and Artisan Parfumeur.

    4) good suggestions already about perfume choices. Chypre is the most difficult. First, because the chypre structure is buried in the perfume, the first impression is not of oakmoss per se, but whatever the main accompanying note is. One needs to smell many to get the main idea. Second, oakmoss (and bergamot) having been restricted, there's none extant. Coty Chypre would be the one that displays the structure in its original state, but it is $$$$$ online and so unfeasible. Mitsouko comes close, but it is also $$$. I've seen some Paloma Picasso at discounters here - it's a chypre, but not in its most clear state. For orientals, vintage Emeraude can be found for little; if you were in the USA, you could also grab for little some of the deliciously feminine Stetson original (that most macho of things, with a cowboy on the bottle), but I think it's sold only this side of the ocean. Oh, and re: Fougere Royale, remind them that the current reedition is nothing like the original - were it not because half of the original fougere ingredients have been ifra restricted.

    5) again to give them their due, perfumes go back thousands of years, and Arabs have been dabbing themselves for millennia while the west was stinking. The difference is just in the medium (oil or smoke versus alcohol). The west then took the lead at the end of the XIX when it started mixing natural ingredients with synthetics (the real innovation of Fougere royale and Jicky), which allowed for the cost to go down significantly. Perfume diffusion then went hand in hand with advances in chemistry (ie as soon as a molecule was synthesized, it entered perfumery: see violets, for instance.).


  7. #7
    Basenotes Member
    Join Date
    May 2011

    Default Re: Am I Faking it?

    Dear all

    I've now finished my lecture - which went really well - although it was a lot to pack in to two hours. And I just wanted to write and thank everyone who gave me some invaluable pointers.
    What was fascinating was the reaction to some of the fragrances sprayed. Secretions Magnifiques wasn't as reviled as I would have expected, given that I played a couple of the funniest YouTube reviews prior to applying the sample to numerous wrists. Kouros however, (one of my personal favourites) was generally loathed by everyone. Surprise favourites were Grey Flannel from both sexes, and Bal a Versailles - although everyone agreed that the Michael Jackson connection is not the best way of advertising it these days. Also Giorgio Beverley Hills proved popular - which might hint that powerhouse fragrances are on the up again ( this lecture was delivered twice - each to 200 students- so there was a lot of comment made) . Musc Ravageur was also very popular, especially when I pointed out that its nickname is the 'panty dropper' ( gleaned from numerous youtube reviews). Brad Pitt's Chanel No 5 advert was universally derided, but all the girls cooed at vintage Cool Water adverts, which I tried to pretend were me in my modelling days (if only..) - needless to say they didn't believe it. Cacio, thanks for clarifying the IFRA angle - which provoked some good debate, especially in the light of the dreadful (but useful) cartoons they have on their site which explain how the components/ingredients of fragrances are created. I also found Givaudan's website very useful, there are some great reports you can download which talk in quite specific detail about how different nationalities respond to fragrance - and frankly I was surprised that they were in the public domain.

    So, all in all, it went well - I now have to go and scrub some Paco Rabanne 1 Million off my wrist as claims that it s the number 2 bestseller here in the UK in the run up to Christmas (James Bond 007 is currently topping the charts) and as I hadn't tried it before, I thought I'd have a spritz - smells like mandarin jelly to me...

    Thanks once again

    Possibly tone deaf..
    Currently wearing: Eau de Cologne by Chanel

  8. #8

    Default Re: Am I Faking it?

    I wish I could have attended your lecture, it sounds like it was a treat for your students. I am happy to hear that it went so well. I hope some of the students will develop a deeper interest in fragrance after this.

  9. #9
    Diamondflame's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009

    Default Re: Am I Faking it?

    Thanks for the update; we really appreciate it. And it sure sounded like it was a lot of fun! Great job btw mixing up new social media like youTube and throwing in 'interesting' samples for the audience to try. Was this just a one off or part of a series of lectures on the fragrance industry?
    Currently wearing: Panama 1924 by Boellis

  10. #10

    Default Re: Am I Faking it?

    Wow, Tucker. This sounds fantastic!! What a lovely lecture to deliver. I am sure that your students enjoyed it, particularly as it was interactive. I bet you enjoyed it too.

    I just saw this thread today. Can I throw in my tuppenceworth in the event that you deliver the lecture again? Cologne as an "old ladies perfume"? Hmmmm? Eau de Cologne is hugely important, historically, and to the development of the fragrance industry. It is great that you remember your grandmothers 4711, but there is so much more to it than that, and in fact there is a huge historical and cultural association with Cologne and gentlemens toilette, and you know it prevails to this day. In fact, for your fashion students it might be interesting to describe that continuum from its heyday, through a less favoured period, (in the UK anyway), to the thriving business of male grooming and barbers today. It is fashionable! From Murdock to your local Turkish barber, from Penhaligons to Dr Harris and Co, and so, so much more.......

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