By  on December 22, 2000

LOS ANGELES -- Perfume designer Sarah Horowitz is not one to shirk an esoteric assignment, even if it means transforming a client's plastic baggie full of Alaskan tundra into a one-of-a-kind fragrance.

"I stuck my nose in that baggie for weeks and then I sent my client three fragrances," Horowitz said. "One she said smelled just like the tundra and the other she said drove men wild. Guess which one she ordered?"

Happily, Horowitz's latest assignment is more mainstream: expand the wholesale business for her Perfect Perfumes line of fragrances through new fragrances, better packaging and new distribution. Horowitz's three-year-old company, Creative Scentualization, houses three small businesses: the Perfect Perfumes wholesale business, a consulting business and a custom business which is based on Fragrance Journeys -- one-on-one interviews where Horowitz uses a client's memories and experiences to develop a custom fragrance for them. Industry sources estimate that Horowitz's business could do more than $500,000 in 2001.

Horowitz's Fragrance Journeys net her the offbeat assignments, as well as a lot of real-world data on what scents people love. Those insights helped to develop the two new scents she has added to the Perfect Perfume line: Perfect Chypre, a unisex blend of oakmoss, Italian bergamot and sandalwood; and Perfect Nectar, a juicy blend of tangerine, papaya, mango and ylang-ylang.

These fragrances extend her Perfect Perfumes line, which already includes Perfect Gardenia, Perfect Vanilla, Perfect Tuberose and Perfect Veil, a fragrance designed to smell like clean skin.

Horowitz has also developed new packaging -- rustic brown boxes with black-and-gold elastic ties. These replace organza pouches that Horowitz actually sewed by hand. The perfume oil that comes with each Fragrance Journey will still come in a pouch. The bottles are clear glass globes etched with the company's logo and capped with shiny gold lids. Retail prices range from $22 for bath gel to $140 for an ounce of perfume.

Nordstrom has signed on to carry the line as well as specialty boutiques Bigelow's in New York, Bleu in Los Angeles, E6 Apothecary in Boston, and Bellisima in Arizona. Both Fred Segal doors -- Ron Robinson's Apothia and Essentials -- have carried the line for two years. Horowitz also has Internet distribution through Glamroom.com and she has her own site, which is accessible through two addresses, Creativescent.com or Fragrancejourney.com.Her new business strategy is partly informed by new knowledge. Horowitz, who is mostly self-taught, just finished an apprenticeship at Mane USA, a flavors and fragrance house based in New York.

"I love the art form, but I'm completely turned on by the science," she said. "Now I understand how and where raw materials come from."

And one might suspect, no matter how big the business grows, Horowitz won't lose her passion for the intimacy of the Fragrance Journey, which concludes with Horowitz smelling the skin on a person's wrist. It's what keeps her fingers on the pulse of what people want -- quite literally.

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