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Quality: Key to Connecting with Fragrance Consumers

By: Jeb Gleason-Allured
Posted: November 5, 2010, from the November 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.
Harry Fremont

Fremont discusses his successes with the fragrances ck one and Tom Ford Grey Vetiver at the 2010 FiFi Awards presentation.

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In the case of ck one, Fremont says, the citrus note was particularly challenging. “People were afraid of citrus in the United States because they associated it with dish washing liquids and things like that.” Moreover, a citrus that was too sweet or candylike would have been similarly off-putting for American consumers. “The trick was to make the citrus refined,” says Fremont. “I think there is a flow in the fragrance that is very important. It is part of why the fragrance was successful and is still successful today.

The scent was among the fragrances that led to a broader acceptance of citrus in the United States. Fremont explains that this fresh citrus, combined with a green tea effect, led to ck one’s signature freshness with an underlying sensuality. “It has this dual [effect],” he says. “It’s fresh, but it’s long-lasting; it has a floral heart. It’s also very fluid. It is a fragrance that has character, but is easy to wear, that leaves a long-lasting sensuality on skin, but is still a bit fresh and moist. I’m not surprised that it worked very well for men and women.

“I don’t think ck one is an extreme fragrance. It was more about the quality of the materials that contributed to a groundbreaking construction and freshness, warmth and fluidity—that’s what made the difference. I think it’s also a combination of what’s important for people: to have the feeling that a fragrance is long-lasting—not in a very invasive way, but in a very comfortable way. ck one gives you this feeling when you wear it, and you get addicted to this effect.”

The scent was among the Firmenich New York group’s first best-selling signature fragrances—along with Polo Sport and Estée Lauder Pleasures—which helped reinforce its presence in the U.S., the importance of its creativity and palette of captive materials. “I still have wonderful memories of it,” says Fremont. “It was such an emotion when we won this fragrance. We had goose bumps. You have some fragrances where, when the development starts, you can feel that it will be big but we never before had something like that. Fragrance is always a reflection of our time. ck one didn’t age so much in a way because it has character, and it’s easy to wear. It’s fresh, it’s fluid, it’s musky-sensual; those are still key qualities today.”

Today’s Palette: Dream Materials

While never discounting the importance of the perfumer’s creativity, Fremont says, “Very often when you have a new [hit] fragrance on the market, it’s because you have a new groundbreaking material in it. One example is Light Blue for women,” he explains. “Olivier Cresp, master perfumer at Firmenich in Paris, was very creative with this fragrance, but he also used materials that had never been used in that quantity, like a woody note from Firmenich. “Today we have a fantastic palette of materials—natural products and molecules,” Fremont continues. “For me that’s one of the beautiful things. When I started in this business I thought, ‘Oh, I missed everything; everything is done already.’ I believe today we have the best palette of materials a perfumer ever had. Consider that we have natural products that are extracted in a way that is much gentler and respects much more the quality of the products, and the huge palette of molecules that are incredible in all categories of materials—fruity, musk, floral, woods. And we have materials through headspace technology. That’s a huge advantage over perfumers who were working 10 or 20 years ago. What we have today is groundbreaking compared to what we had before—even if we lose some material for safety reasons, we still have the best palette today.”