Hall of Fame: Ann Gottlieb
Fragrance has afforded me and my family a life I never could have imagined. I don’t think there are many days when I’m not aware of how grateful I am for that. It has also created within me a confidence and a sense of myself that I never thought I could have. My mother told me that if I didn’t finish college I would never amount to anything and that tells you how much faith she had in me as a human being. The idea of mastering a profession is so heady and so satisfying. Fragrance itself, the product, has allowed me to be expressive using a vocabulary that not very many people have.
The language of fragrance is both innate and learned. I am convinced I have an innate ability to smell better than the average person. But using your nose is like working out any other muscle. The more you use it, the more proficient you become in using it. That’s not why I’ve been successful. I really think I’m a marketer with a good nose.
In fragrance, we used to be much more gut driven. There has been a shift from intuitive marketing to research generated marketing. As a result, the products are more commercial — they don’t engender the same sort of passion, but are less alienating to consumers as well. I’d like to see us go back to the days of what fragrance can do as a driver if it’s the right product. I’d like to see more research, but research done to learn more about your consumer, to become much more intimate with them so you know what he or she wants.
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The fragrance business in China is thrilling, because millions of people are showing an excitement and enthusiasm for the product. We’ve gone from the Chinese buying famous designer fragrances because they like the bottle to loving and using the category. I can’t even begin to think about what the upward potential of that is. That’s true not just with China, but a lot of countries around the world that are having an emergence of fragrance appreciation.
We have to figure out how to smell when you’re online. Now, the majority of fragrance purchases are restricted to people buying what they already know or have. We have to figure out how to introduce fragrance communication with noses rather than ears. Storytelling is great and important, but it doesn’t help you smell the scent you are evaluating. Last year online makeup sales increased by nearly 30 percent while specialty boutiques like Ulta and Sephora rose just 3 percent. For skin-care products, growth online outpaced physical ones by 700 percent, according to NPD. Just imagine what this could mean for fragrance.
Being inducted into the Fragrance Foundation Hall of Fame is a validation of a 50-year career that is continuing. It is a wonderful way station for me, an ability to look back and forward at a career that my peers have validated. I can also look up and tell my mother that she was wrong.
Lifetime Achievement, Perfumer: Olivier Cresp, Master Perfumer, Firmenich
Winning the Lifetime Achievement award is such an honor and, I have to say, a big surprise. This kind of award is really the top of the pyramid, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end for me. When you love what you do, you don’t count the years — I still have plenty of great ideas to create and hopefully make blockbusters for the worldwide market.
At Firmenich, we have maybe 1,500 ingredients — usually, I am working with about 400. With 400 ingredients I can write down millions of fragrances. I know them by heart. I am using the ingredients that I love to use in perfumery. Some of my favorites are patchouli leaves, a special cedar wood that is produced in the U.S. and brings a creaminess that I love. Among the spices, I love the black pepper. I used to love the pink pepper, but today, I am more in the direction of black pepper. I still love flowers because I grew up in Grasse — I still love rose, jasmine, especially in July and August when the weather is very warm. Conversely, I don’t like narcissus, for example, or jonquil or things that are too animalic. Tastes change, though, like with food. When I was young I thought tuberose was a bit too strong, too overpowering but I discovered in India some really great qualities and I love now to use them in my perfumery. Gardenia as well. I like to blend gardenia with orange flower and jasmine, that makes a really sunny impression with a lot of lightness in the perfume.
I am very proud of my son because he became a perfumer. My advice to him was to stay minimalist in his perfumery. Making things simple is quite complicated. In the beginning, he didn’t want to become a perfumer, but he changed his mind and started studying when he was about 20. Today, he specializes in body care — shampoo, shower gel and candles. We are very, very close. My wife sometimes gets upset, because as soon as we see each other we are most of the time talking about perfume and ingredients and so on. I explain to him what to use, but he also gives me good tips and advice on some ingredients that I forgot. Or I might use some ingredients because he describes them in a way that I didn’t see at the beginning. His ideas evolve my perfumery — I do exactly the same with him. It is talking with people who improves you.
The style of writing the perfume, the formula, in order to make them long-lasting, with sillage and so on, that we can learn. But the ideas, the passion, that we don’t learn. That is something that you have in your blood. Being a perfumer is a fascinating job. It’s difficult to express, because it is invisible and trying to make something figurative out of something invisible is quite difficult. Someone who is sculpting or taking a picture or painting is easier, because you can watch it and we all watch the same thing. When you spray a perfume, people are going to smell but are going to interpret the smell totally differently. It is a big challenge to sculpt the smell.
When I see a fragrance that I created all over the world, not just in one country, that is exciting. A fragrance’s success isn’t only the fragrance — it’s the name, the concept, the shape of the bottle. Being part of the chain of the success is quite exciting. I’m very proud if I’m crossing the street or passing someone on the sidewalk or in a restaurant and I’m thinking about something but suddenly I get a drift of a fragrance I created. My brain connects to it, and I say, “Wow, it is one of my fragrances!” I keep it to myself but I am smiling.
Game Changer: Frédéric Malle, Founder, Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle
Twenty years ago when I began Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, people thought I was completely mad to go against the trend, to go back to luxury perfume, to treat perfume as an art — let alone talk about perfumers, who were people who were not [part of the] conversation. Perfume would launch without a mention of its true author. Since then, quite a number of houses have decided to do the same sort of thing that we do, in their own way. We really changed the business.
When we launched, people were so doubtful that they called our business “niche,” which was a little patronizing. Today, the word niche means luxury. It shows that our business has gone a long way and the fact that I am given this award probably means that I helped to shift [the industry] in what I consider [to be] a better direction.
I’ve put myself in an easy spot working with the best perfumers in the industry, very creative people. I have been working in this business for 30 years selling perfume literally every day. I have a knowledge of this industry that is a constant source of inspiration. In life, working with perfumers, simply being in contact with the world allows me a to reinterpret, rethink and remodel existing ideas or get completely new ones.
What you find at retail is that people are still very much individual. People are looking for a perfume that is really an expression of themselves, and what we try to do is connect the expression of perfumers with the expression of individuals looking for a way to be more empowered or attractive.
Artificial intelligence is going to help brands sell perfume in a more [targeted] way. Nevertheless, I’m old fashioned. I still believe that human interaction and very good salespeople will be the best source of service. I can’t imagine perfumery or luxury in general without human contact — this is the essence of luxury.
I was brought up in this industry — third generation. It’s part of my family, and being recognized by my family means a lot to me. It’s quite touching and a nice accolade. I’ve never looked for that kind of honor in my life, but after all, it’s always nice to be recognized by your peers. In France, we are brought up to distance ourselves when we get these sorts of awards and things, but it’s quite silly not to admit that you are profoundly touched by this when it comes to you.
I am very proud — especially the fact that Leonard Lauder is handing me the award. That is very much an honor.
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Doan Ly, who styled the flowers in this portfolio, has always dreamed of floral design — even when she was running a nonprofit organization. “I’ve been obsessed with flowers ever since college,” she said. “Even if I couldn’t afford to buy furniture, I would have some flowers.” After leaving her job to help at a friend’s plant store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Ly launched her own studio, A.P. Bio. She now creates floral designs for weddings, brand campaigns and publications like Brides and Martha Stewart Living. Ly looks to the flowers’ diverse color palette as her inspiration, naming the color-changing coral charm flower as her favorite subject. “Floral design is a mix of painting, sculpture and time,” she said. “[Flowers] open, change, fade and die, so it’s this temporality of sculpting and it’s like painting with organic matter.”