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The New Wave for Creative Fragrancing

By: Nancy C. Hayden
Posted: June 5, 2009, from the June 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.

After a formula base is developed for a new product, a complementary fragrance must be chosen. This is no easy task. The fragrance must enhance the newly developed formula and reinforce its functionality—the scent should provide a connection and clue as to the function. Similarly, it is not a simple task to create a profile description for the launch of a new designer fragrance. For both fragrance objectives, one must have knowledge of the innumerable fragrance suppliers and their strengths and weaknesses.

In the past, it was up to brand owners to choose whom they would work with in the fragrance process, and suppliers were competing against one another to achieve their best creative efforts. Today, it is almost the reverse—and it’s somewhat of a dilemma for brand owners. In many cases, it is the suppliers who make the decisions of whom they will work with, based on the quantity of fragrance oils projected to be purchased for a given product. The amount of research and development time that will be required of their perfumers and chemists to win the project is another primary consideration.

Once the parameters are set for the product profile and brief by the brand owner, the question becomes to whom to submit the brief. If the project is the creation of a designer cologne, the brand owner should consider the creative perfumery staff of the fragrance supplier. What perfumes has it recently launched? What types of formulas and specialties make up its expertise? Most perfume houses would love to have a major designer launch because it brings status to the fragrance supplier, and it is often the first step in creating a fragrance family tree—with flankers as the offshoots. Take, for example, Chanel No5 and its myriad of offshoots, or Shalimar, a fragrance Guerlain introduced in 1925 and became the starting point of J&J baby powder.

At one time, some fashion houses enjoyed the luxury of their own in-house master perfumer. Take, for example, French fashion houses: Chanel’s Jacques Pulge, Jean Paul Guerlain at Guerlain and Guy Robert at Madame Rochas. Today, a designer, lacking a perfumer, and looking for originality and creativity, may be best served by choosing a larger house to work with due to its myriad of perfumers expert in specific types of scents. In addition, by and large, formulas are now computerized. When a type is requested, the perfumer will work to customize scents in the library to the client’s profile. The fragrance house’s specialty product is what often differentiates a finished creation, and these products, although chemically the same as product available elsewhere, vary slightly due to sourcing, whether its naturally grown or chemically derived, and, thusly, provide a specific character. Many suppliers, too, prefer the formulas to contain a certain percentage of their specialties because it’s a positive addition to profit margin.

All of these factors can influence how a finished goods house chooses to work with different supply houses, even within a fragrance line. For Estée Lauder’s C-Thru teen fragrance line project, IFF handled creation of Ruby, Givaudan Purple Diamond and Firmenich Black Opal. Trudi Loren, vice president, corporate fragrance development worldwide for The Estée Lauder Companies, noted that the three fragrances gave the company room to embrace several personalities to which a broad consumer base could relate.