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IFF's Christophe Laudamiel Talks Scents

Posted: March 18, 2008

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The scents are described as “air sculpture” —to your thinking, how does this differ from a perfume? How was your creative process different?

First of all, because the way it is displace. You spray on skin and the fragrance is by itself for the next several hours. So you have to build it [for that purpose], whereas in the air, you have a machine that [delivers] fragrance in the air all the time. So [however the machine’s timing is set], you have fragrance released in the air. So it’s not about having a fragrance by itself, so the balance, for instance, of the top notes and then the long lasting notes are very different. In fact, you really don’t talk about the long lasting notes. They are there for what they smell like, not because they have to support the fragrance for several hours. If I use patchouli, for instance, it’s because it smells like patchouli not because it’s going to allow my fragrance to diffuse for six hours on skin.

So it’s very different kind of dosage. Through the machine, the fragrances diffuse very differently. Sometimes one facet of the fragrance pops out, and you go ‘oh my God, what is this doing here.’ When it’s a fragrance in the air, for me people who don’t realize it’s as complex... It is a piece art, or piece of design. And it is as complex as a piece of photography. [Visual art is] not just there because it makes the world look pretty. People like the fragrance because it smells nice, and it’s much better than other years because the rooms aren’t so stuffy, but I say ‘yeah, but you have to look a bit further. It’s not just something to smells nice, it is something designed so that you understand something.’ But people have to be trained. Just by the nose, they cannot build a world. They are not used to that. Like when they look at picture, they go much further than looking at the picture. They build a whole atmosphere from the picture, but they are not used to doing that with a fragrance. That’s why I chose the analogy of an air sculpture.

What are the challenges of creating scents that don’t live in a bottle or on individuals? People form deep attachments to their favorite fragrances, can you create the same kind of connections between a fragranced place and a person? Can a fragrance create or facilitate a connection between a person and a place?

Oh yes. And people ask us all the time... They say ‘Oh my God. Can you recreate that for me.’ Like for Chef Heston Blumenthal [The Fat Duck in London].

He wanted me to recreate the scent of his grandfather’s red leather sofa, with his grandfather smoking a pipe and it was Christmas time. So people are very strong memories of atmospheres. The scent of someone – someone they loved, or the perfume of their grandmother or the scent of a place.

People are very much into an atmosphere or a place. And they feel very strongly about that, and they would give a lot to re-experience these experiences. It’s a scent and it’s linked to memory.