SEARCHING FOR SIMPLICITY

Byline: PETE BORN

NEW YORK — For Michael Sweeney, unraveling the intricacy of fragrance formulation now lies in the simplicity of the product.
“People today are looking for things that are pretty uncomplicated,” said the vice president of creative and commercial resources in IFF’s worldwide fragrance division, the traditional industry leader.
As examples of simplicity, he cited Kenzo’s Parfum D’Eté and Cabotine de Grès from Cabochard.
“What fragrances need to be is clear and comfortable,” Sweeney said. “There is a tendency to use ingredients that get the job done.”
He noted that the new trick lies in eliminating “superfluous” material and using those that “go down into the fragrance.”
“We’re trying to avoid confusion and want to send a single message, not a lot of confusing messages,” Sweeney continued. “In the old days, construction of a fragrance was done by putting a base upon a base upon a base. It was a bit confusing and it was done so that others couldn’t copy a perfumers style.
Sweeney said that Living Flowers technology — IFF’s refinement of head space analysis — helps eliminate the clutter. “We are eliminating the number of building blocks and making things that add to the creation of the fragrance,” he said.
Fragrances also have grown more intimate in their intensity. Both in Europe and the U.S., customers are demanding scents that “are less obtrusive, that are evident more toward the comfort zone — around the body.”
As an example, he cited Elizabeth Arden’s True Love, a fresh floral scent that exudes “a beautiful aura, but is not screaming at you.”
Diffusion remains an important characteristic, Sweeney said, but it has been toned down. Its necessity is pinned to the fact that wearers still equate potency with value. “You still have to get signature and value,” he said.
While the mainstay of the women’s market remains clear florals, tastes in the men’s category are also running to the “clean and fresh.”
“We are looking for new ways to do freshness,” Sweeney said. “The men’s market is getting more experimental. We are looking at new fresh notes that we wouldn’t have looked at three years ago.” He added that IFF is working with flowers and vegetables that it didn’t previously consider.
Although he feels that the ozone note has been “too overused,” Sweeney said, “we’re still exploring the freshness of the sea.”
Meanwhile, business is improving. Sweeney said the number of new project profiles has been increasing this year after the U.S. market suffered a slowdown at the end of last year. He noted, “It began to pick up in January and this month.”

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