Thursday 4 May 2017

The Age Of Transparency

"Transparency" is a word that you often hear mentioned when it comes to the perfume industry. For many years perfume houses would release fragrances under their own name, or assign them to an in-house "nose", when they had actually been created by an outside company. This wasn't done maliciously; it was just the way the industry worked. Customers were not particularly interested in who had made the juice in the bottle, just that it came with their favourite company's logo on the glass. Of course there had always been fans that wanted to know every detail but it’s only recently that "transparency" has become the industry's key word.

When Ernest Beaux created the legendary No.5 he had been employed by Gabrielle Chanel to make a perfume. It sounds simplistic but the fact is that she could easily have chosen someone else to create her first fragrance, and the history of Chanel might have been very different. Ernest Beaux's name was not something that the company used in early marketing materials and so when Bourjois wanted to create a low cost mainstream fragrance they “borrowed” him. Bourjois was, after all, owned by Wertheimer who also owned Parfums Chanel. The perfume that Ernest Beaux created in 1929 was Soir de Paris and, during its forty-year life, people never knew that this drugstore fragrance came from the same hands as the classic Chanel No.5.

Many of today’s perfume brands now outsource the actual creation of their perfumes to one of the major fragrance providers. These companies employ some of the world's greatest perfumers and the brands can pick whom they would like to create their fragrance, either on their own or as part of a team. A perfume house will have a Creative Director, Guerlain used to have Sylvaine Delacourte, who will provide a design brief but the budget can dramatically vary from brand to brand. So, the same perfumer could have their name attributed to a fragrance that costs £95 and £15, just as Ernest Beaux did with Chanel and Bourjois.

Most customers recognise names like Dior, Jo Malone, L'Occitaine, Estée Lauder and YSL, but they are not so familiar with Robertet, IFF, Firmenich, Givaudan or Symrise. These are the companies that really provide you with your favourite scents. The idea of transparency has been embraced by many of the large perfume brands and this can be seen with the nominees in the 2017 Fragrance Foundation Awards. In the Perfume Extraordinaire category Etat Libre d'Orange and Van Cleef & Arpels recognise Givaudan as their creators whilst Penhaligons acknowledge Firmenich.

Some companies still chose to claim their creations as their own, but in the age of the internet this is proving harder to do. So, the next time that you're looking through the racks of fragrances remember that the same perfumer may have created more than one of them, but for different companies, and their skill is still apparent whether the fragrance is £30 or £300.

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