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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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As an example, Fremont notes an extraction process Firmenich employed to produce a new type of vetiver oil that Fremont calls “the dream material” and forms the basis for the FiFi’s award-winning Tom Ford Grey Vetiver. “It’s the vetiver you have in your mind, that you never smelled before because [traditional] extraction doesn’t get it right.”

The typical method of vetiver extraction often yields an oil that tends to have a musty, potatolike smell.

“I personally was always obsessed with vetiver,” he continues. “It’s the roots that are extracted. When you smell it, you smell the earth. It’s like the smell of fire. It’s one of those primal things that are embedded in people’s minds.” For some time, Fremont had hoped to convince clients to make a high-quality vetiver fragrance, but consistently met resistance due to cost, which can rise 200–300% above typical price thresholds. “To have a fragrance smell of vetiver you have to use a certain amount of it,” says the perfumer. “The problem we have today is we all use these beautiful [natural] materials, but we use them in a homeopathic dosage because the money that is allowed to us to work on a project is just not enough. With this fragrance, working with Karyn Khoury, [senior vice president, corporate fragrance development worldwide for The Estée Lauder Companies], I had license to use this palette to the full potential. I believe it makes a huge difference.” And so, using his dream vetiver, a “very good” clary sage and a captive woody molecule, Fremont formulated Tom Ford Grey Vetiver. The result, he says, is a new, elegant vetiver fragrance, which met designer Tom Ford’s “perfect sense of taste.” “He wanted a vetiver that really smelled like vetiver,” says Fremont. “He wanted to create a vetiver for sleek elegance. This fragrance is about more than craftsmanship—it’s about quality. Tom Ford has a sense of precision and style, and he was able to translate that in the fragrance he wanted.”

Quality and the Consumer

“It’s very shocking for me today that, while we know that quality for every consumer product is important, it is not always considered in fragrance,” says Fremont. “You have the creativity on one side, but you also need good materials. The reality is [that] the cost of the oil in the fragrance is small compared to the cost of the advertising, the bottle, the packaging, etc. I’m sure if we were to push back some of this money into the juice itself, it would make a huge difference.”

In addition, Fremont believes that high-quality natural ingredients can build story, ethics and sustainability into a fragrance launch. “I think what consumers are missing is quality, but also an emotional link to what’s in the bottle. Most fragrance launches don’t engage the consumer emotionally. Now I think I see a trend of natural materials linked with the local community producing them. That’s going to take naturals to a place that is much more [impactful]. For the consumer, it’s important that, by buying this product, they are doing good for a part of the world. To touch people it has to be grounded and true. With authenticity we’re going back to quality.