A trio of olfactory-driven entreprenuers is helping to bring back perfumery as an art form.
THIBAUD PERRIN Thibaud Perrin is all smiles. He believes that, with his year-old fragrance project, Smiley, he’s on to something different. “I looked at the [various fragrance] launches every year, but there wasn’t one thing that was very striking,” he says. “Smiley is innovative in perfumery because most brands are fashion, jewelry or celebrity.”
For Perrin, 26, growing up in Grasse, France, meant summer jobs in fragrance factories. Six years ago, he began working for his father’s company, Groupe Arthes, which creates, produces and distributes fragrances under the Smiley license. “Smiley is my own project,” points out Perrin, the managing director of Arthes.
He contends fragrance is a difficult business to get into, but feels fortunate to have had a family business as an entry point. “It’s costly to start something in the perfume business at present—it’s very difficult to enter the business on your own,” he says. “Everything is held by the majors, like Coty, L’Oréal and Procter & Gamble. I had the opportunity to start in an [existing] family business, which allowed me to do things my own way.”
The Smiley scent is billed as an olfactive antidepressant, given that it contains certain accords that promote happiness, especially extracts of cacao leaves. There are also notes of bergamot, orange, white musk and patchouli. The nine items in the collection come in pharmaceutical-style packaging with pipette applicators. On the white bottle is the ubiquitous yellow smiley face.
Perrin’s favorite raw material is one that comes from a substance found in the ocean. Ambergris is a waxy substance—believed to come from whales—that’s found floating in tropical waters. “It’s a very warm smell, something very unique,” says Perrin.
ETIENNE DE SWARDT Where concept and formulation meet in perfumery, one might find Etienne de Swardt, creator of Etat Libre d’Orange, a playful and provocative collection of fragrances. “I’m between the ingredients and what the ingredients can create in terms of concept,” de Swardt boasts in a thick French accent, “at the crossroads of name, concept and formulation.” For de Swardt’s Etat Libre d’Orange (Free State of Orange), concepts and formula go hand in hand in a way that’s intended to create emotion for the perfumers who make the fragrances.
“The key word is emotion,” says de Swardt.
Still, while his aim is to stoke emotion among the creators of his scents, the Etat Libre d’Orange concepts also could be seen as provocative in the eyes of the general public. The brand’s fragrance names are full of suggestive dichotomies. They include Putain des Palaces (Whore of the Palaces), Jasmin et Cigarette (Jasmine and Cigarette) and Secretions Magnifiques (Magnificent Secretions). Nonetheless, the aim of Etat Libre d’Orange, de Swardt says, is “not to be provocative in order to provoke,” but to be provocative “to create tools for the perfumer to inject a [concept] into a bottle.”
De Swardt credits his former employer, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton—where he spent 10 years—with instilling in him a passion for perfumery.
So which olfactory accord is at the top of his list these days? “Oak moss,” he says, “because I’m a forest lover.”
Considering his love for woodlands, it should come as no surprise de Swardt finds inspiration among the trees—specifically, in a forest by his country home near Blois, France. “It’s an oak forest 200 kilometers from Paris and the best place for me to pick up concepts, new things,” he says. “It’s full of oak moss, soil and rain—so many aromas.”
ROBIN COE-HUTSHING For Robin Coe-Hutshing, perfumery is a state of mind.
Coe-Hutshing, who is owner and creative director of Studio at Fred Segal in Santa Monica, Calif., considers the best place for inspiration “anyplace I can close my eyes and think. ”
Her latest creation, Memoire Liquide is a store-in-store concept that comprises 160 scents to be blended or worn alone. They emulate the perfumer’s organ—myriad ingredients used to compose a fragrance. Prices for a finished scent range from $30 to $75 for a three-pack. However large the Memoire Liquide organ at Studio at Fred Segal is, though, it pales in comparison to Coe-Hutshing’s own fragrance collection. “I have thousands of bottles in my home—in a downstairs area that nobody wants to go into. It’s hermetically sealed,” she says.
Coe-Hutshing, who works with the fragrance house Cosmo International to produce her scents, has had a passion for perfumery since birth. And some of her earliest childhood memories are of aromas. She spent her childhood in Boston until she was “whisked” away from the urban environment as a teen to a 40-acre ranch in Oregon. To entertain herself, Coe-Hutshing practiced enfleurage by “sticking flowers in glass in the sun and extracting oils. I made a stinking, moldy mess, but I was motivated,” she laughs. “Everyone has certain proclivities. Mine are visual and olfactory. “
These days, Coe-Hutshing says she has tremendous respect for the art of perfumery and refers to houses such as Guerlain and Chanel as fragrance artisans. Particularly moving to Coe-Hutshing at the moment is an orange blossom olfactory note that was developed for Memoire Liquide.
“There is a resurgence in interest in the art of perfumery,” she says. “People are so fascinated about understanding the composition of fragrance. The customer is really moved by the artistry of perfumery and less so, perhaps, by the celebrity name attached to it.”
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews
@prada is introducing a new project at its men’s fall 2018 show this Sunday: “Prada Invites.” The fashion house invited four celebrated creative minds – @ronanaerwanbouroullec, Konstantin Grcic, @herzogdemeuron and @rem.koolhaas – to each create a unique item with its iconic nylon material. The designs will be unveiled on the runway show, which will take place at the company’s warehouse in Viale Ortles 25. #wwdfashion #mfwm (📷: @martinocarrera)
@kering_official is spinning off its stake in puma in an effort to focus on its luxury brands, the brand operator announced yesterday. “We are proud to have supported the turnaround of Puma, which now has unrivaled capabilities to take full advantage of the specific dynamics of its global markets and is poised to achieve substantial growth,” said François-Henri Pinault, Kering’s chief executive officer and chairman. Artémis will become a “long-term strategic shareholder” of Puma with a 29 percent stake. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
The fashion world mourns for celebrated street style photographer, Nabile Quenum, who died at age 32 in Paris.
Quenum, creator of the fashion blog “J’ai Perdu Ma Veste,” was a fashion week fixture, and regularly shot for New York magazine’s The Cut, among other outlets, and brands such as Louis Vuitton, Moncler and Adidas. He was also actively involved in the #NoFreePhotos initiative, which kicked off in the fall. Read more about Quenum in @kbsmoke's story on WWD.com. #wwdnews
@verwanggang and @maisonladuree have teamed up on a dessert collab called Vera Wang Pour Ladurée. The collection, which launched this week, features a specialty macaroon, as well as a wedding cake inspired by one of the designer’s gowns. “I could not imagine a more delicate or sophisticated creation to grace any couple’s celebration,” said Wang. #wwdfashion