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Fremont discusses his successes with the fragrances ck one and Tom Ford Grey Vetiver at the 2010 FiFi Awards presentation.
“I strongly believe, and I am sure all the perfumers present today will agree, that by using our beautiful palette of ingredients to its full potential, we can create quality fragrances that have character and signature, are diffusive and easy for the consumer to wear,” said Firmenich master perfumer Harry Fremont earlier this year as he accepted the 2010 FiFi Award for Perfume Extraordinaire of the Year on behalf of himself, his colleagues and his company for their work on Tom Ford Grey Vetiver (Tom Ford Beauty/Estée Lauder Co.). The award recognizes excellence in fragrance creation and the olfactory vision of the perfumer, focusing on craftsmanship, signature, creativity and quality. Fremont closed his acceptance by saying, “This standard of quality creates more passion, emotion and attraction for the fragrance itself, key elements for repeat purchase and perennial success.” In a recent interview, Fremont highlighted these key points in discussing the creation of Tom Ford Grey Vetiver and 2010 FiFi Fragrance Hall of Fame winner ck one (Calvin Klein Cosmetics/Coty Prestige). Time and again, the perfumer returned to his keys for successful scents: quality of materials, wearability, character and signature.
In 1993, Firmenich’s burgeoning New York perfumery studio received a brief from Calvin Klein for a genderless fragrance. “Calvin Klein was onto something hot at that moment,” says Fremont. “We thought it could be really groundbreaking—it was incredible.” The perfumer remembers the brief being particularly detailed. “Calvin Klein had done a lot of research and focus groups with Generation X: its habits, what it was wearing, what it wanted and how it was communicating.” From this research emerged the idea of a “shared fragrance.” Firmenich perfumer Alberto Morillas’ fragrance was the original candidate during the development process, which featured developer Ann Gottlieb. “It was really the idea of finding something that would be masculine enough to be worn by a man, but also something that could be worn by a woman,” Fremont remembers.
In all, the development process took about eight months and was marked by the then-novel concept of perfumer teams. Building on the candidate formulated by Morillas, Fremont joined the team to revise the final fragrance and provide a fresh set of eyes. “We tried to do that early in the game because we felt that it’s very important to have the right idea, but it’s also very important to finish the idea,” says Fremont who continues to regularly partner with other Firmenich perfumers.
“Sometimes, when a project is complicated, it’s not possible to finish [a fragrance by oneself],” he continues. “Sometimes you get to a point where you have tunnel vision and you don’t see what can be done. You lose your perspective a little bit. There’s a lot of pressure. Every day, as perfumers, we have an idea and then we are fixing the problems of the idea to make it right.” Meanwhile, client feedback drives further revisions. This is an easy process, Fremont explains, when the feedback is specific—say, an undesirable green note. In those cases, the perfumer can look at the formula and cut the green note. In other cases, the feedback is more abstract and difficult to address. “That’s when you need to ask another perfumer to [add a new perspective],” says Fremont.