Colognoisseur Esxence 2014 Final Wrap-Up Part 1- The People

It has been about 48 hours since I left the Triennale di Milano for the last time. Since then all of the scents and sounds of the weekend have been macerating in my memory. I am going to split my final wrap-up of the 2014 version of Esxence into two parts. For this first part I’m going to go through the people who make writing about perfume so much fun.

michael edwards

I have to start with my interview subject of Saturday morning, Michael Edwards. The opportunity to work so closely with Mr. Edwards was a very special honor for me. He is an invaluable resource to the perfume community and it was a lot of fun watching him have the SRO crowd in the theatre leaning forward to listen to every word.

bertrand duchaufourcecile zarokian

When it came to the perfume on display it seemed like there were two perfumers who were the unquestioned stars of Esxence 2014; Bertrand Duchaufour and Cecile Zarokian. Both of them were circulating among the many different perfume lines they produced new releases for. As it seemed I couldn’t walk two or three steps without running into one of them or one of their creations I realized there was something very similar about both of them. As independent “guns for hire” they both seem to excel at meshing their personal style with the brand aesthetic of whoever they are working for. While M. Duchaufour is, and has been, a known quantity I reiterate what I said earlier this year; 2014 is going to be a breakout year for Mme Zarokian. I suspect we will look back to this 2014 version of Esxence and realize it was The Bertrand and Cecile Show.

The very lovely Sarah Colton, the Paris Correspondent for Beauty Fashion, introduced me to perfumer Thomas Fontaine. M. Fontaine is the perfumer responsible for reformulating the classic Jean Patou perfumes and we had the opportunity to talk about what’s next. In response to what he was working on he told me it was a new version of Vacances. I am very hopeful that he is the right man for the job not only for what he has done for the first three Jean Patou re-releases but also for the work he has done recreating another old perfume house Le Galion. The Le Galion line was the most buzzed about new fragrance collection at Esxence as Roja Dove and Michael Edwards both called it out as one of the best things they tried. You can add me to that list, too.

I met Etienne de Swardt of Etat Libre D’Orange for the first time and I admired the passion which he still has for his perfume line. Many perfume lines have come and gone since 2006 but M. de Swardt keeps ELDO going strong with an engaging smile and a laugh. I wish more people exuded as much joy as he does.

naomi goodsir1

I renewed my acquaintance with Naomi Goodsir and Renaud Coutaudier of Naomi Goodsir Parfums. As we spoke about their latest release Or du Serail they told me they let their personal instincts help them decide when M. Duchaufour had finally delivered a finished mod. So far this method has produced three very individual olfactory statements and I know that they will keep allowing their line to develop based on these instincts.

I don’t speak French and perfumers Marc-Antoine Corticchiato of Parfums D’Empire and Anais Biguine of Jardins D’Ecrivains don’t speak English but my body language and large smile communicated my pleasure at their latest releases without any language barrier.

This barely scratches the surface of everyone who I spent time talking to. Some of these conversations planted some seeds which I hope will sprout into some future stories for Colognoisseur.

For Part 2 tomorrow I’ll let you know what I thought the top 10 new fragrances were that I tried at Esxence 2014.

Mark Behnke

My daily live wrap-ups can be found here for Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.

All photos courtesy of Esxence Facebook page by Michele Dell'utri

Esxence 2014 Day 4 Schedule and Live Viewer

I may be flying home but Esxence still has one more full day to go. If you need a wrap-up of Day 1 check out my story at this linkThe Day 2 Wrap-up can be found hereMy Day 3 wrap-up is here. Below is the live stream to watch today's panels. The schedule for Day 4 (All times EST) is:

5:30AM Tribute to Sandrine Videault with Michael Edwards, Saskia Havekes, Sabine Chabbert, Laurence Ferat and Silvio Levi

6:00AM Book Presentation- Parfums Rares- Sabine Chabbert and Laurence Ferat interviewed by Tessa Williams, Author, Cult Perfumes

9:00AM Contest -Award Ceremony-The Art of Scent

10:00AM Workshop by Mouillettes & Co Olf'Evolution with Maria Grazia Fornasier and Emanuela Rupi

 

Colognoisseur Esxence 2014 Day 3 Wrap-Up- Hope & Pain, Love & Roses, A Junky, A Magnet & A Jigsaw

Buongiorno Perfume Lovers! Day 3 is also my last day at Esxence 2014 but before I could go out and make my last visits I had a little interview to host. Michael Edwards the man behind the perfume reference standard Fragrances of the World was celebrating the publication of the 30th edition in 2014. For that occasion it was my great pleasure to ask the questions which allowed Mr. Edwards to delight the audience with his view of 30 years of the perfume business. What tickled me most is he finally shared many of the tales he has told me personally with a much wider audience. It was fun watching the audience lean in to hear his answers.

After the presentation it was back onto the exhibition floor to tie up some last loose ends as some of my favorite brands had new releases I hadn’t yet tried. First was visiting with Sebastian Fishenich of Humiecki & Graef. Humiecki & Graef are some of the most creative perfumes I own and the two new ones are worthy additions to the line. Abime is meant to evoke la condition humaine of pain. It is accomplished with an overdose of narcissus which is magnificent. Les Christophs absolutely achieve the olfactory equivalent of pain and it is fabulous. The converse emotion of hope is found in the other new release Nouveau-ne. Les Christophs take an incredibly deep honey note as the linchpin for the positive perfume.

Graine-de-Joie

I then moved onto my second Sebastian in a row as Sebastian Alvarez Murena of Eau D’Italie showed me the latest release, Graine de Joie. I think I’ve seen more perfume which does not have the typical light yellow, pale pink, or amber color at this year’s Esxence than ever before. Graine de Joie is a deep red color befitting a fragrance featuring pomegranate. Perfumer Daphne Bugey has made a fruity floral I will be happy to wear, as after the pomegranate; freesia and a lovely praline accord come together. It is another winner for Eau D’Italie.

I also finally got around to trying the fourth fragrance from jeweler Ann Gerard. Her Rose Cut is signed by Bertrand Duchaufour which should have been enough to get me over there but it took Lila Das Gupta of Basenotes who e-mailed me from the airport to finally put myself in front of Ms. Gerard. Rose Cut is meant to refer to a rose cut of diamond. The perfume sparkles with the brilliance of a precious jewel from the aldehydes on top to rose bolstered with peony in the heart. One of my two favorite roses in the entire exhibition.

micallef jigsaw

M. Micallef Puzzle Collection No.1 & No. 2

With time growing short I had to dash through my last three lines to visit. At M. Micallef I was shown the new Puzzle Collection No.1 and No. 2. It will be no puzzle to anyone that these are both amazing and I love the bottles with the jigsaw pieces on the face of them. Anais Biguine of Jardins D’Ecrivains showed me the latest, Junky based on Beat Generation poet William Burroughs. Mme Biguine uses hemp as a keynote and then just creates a Beat tone poem of fragrance. I thought Christine Nagel’s last fragrance before taking up her new duties at Hermes would be for Jo Malone, but I would be incorrect. Luc Gabriel of The Different Company convinced Mme Nagel to turn in her new fragrance for him, Nuit Magnetique, just two days before she started. Nuit Magnetique shows off every wonderful facet of Mme Nagel’s skill from a ginger and blueberry top note pair to a jasmine, rose, and prune heart note that is unreal in how good the prune makes it. If you had any doubts about Mme Nagel going to Hermes Nuit Magnetique should make them dissipate.

xerjoff bus stop

The Bus Stop in front of Esxence

I finished my night at the movie theatre for the showing of the documentary "The Nose" on Nasomatto perfumer Alessandro Gualtieri and his experiment in turning a conscious mistake into a perfume and calling it Blamage. Blindfolded he picked six ingredients off his wall and has spent over a year turning them into Blamage. After the film was over they asked us to sniff the handkerchief draped on the back of out chair. One of us had one that smelled different and that person would win the only bottle of Blamage that exists. A local Milano woman was the winner and she was beseiged by people who wanted to get a sniff. It was a fun way to end my Esxence experience for 2014.

For the third time now I am amazed at the level of creativity on display at Esxence. Founder Silvio Levi has once again demonstrated the best show in all of artistic perfumery in the world takes place in Milan every spring. My thanks to Valentina Cagnola and Caterina Gianoli for hosting me and making me feel so welcome. Also my thanks to all the other perfumers, creative directors, bloggers, and other perfume lovers who filled my days with wonderful words of encouragement on the success of Colgonoisseur. I am so very much looking forward to sharing all that I discovered this weekend over the coming weeks with my readers. For the last time from Milano, Ciao Perfumistas e Colognoisseurs!

Mark Behnke

Live from Milan! It’s Esxence 2015! Day 3 Schedule and Live Viewer

Esxence 2015 is back on the air for all four days of the exposition.

Below is the live viewer which will stream all of the panels. If you also keep watching you will even see me interviewing the people involved in this year's event.

 

Here is the schedule of events for Day 3:

11.00 a.m. local/ 6:00 am US ET

Book presentation

Dillo con un profumo (ed TEA). The Scent of Design

The Author Mariangela Rossi talks with Laura Maggi, Managing Editor at Elle Decor and with Giorgia Martone Art Director of Magna Pars Suites Milano, the first Hotel à Parfum

 

12.00 a.m. local/ 7:00 am US ET

Workshop by Mouillettes & Co

Invisible Messages

The language of fragrances is invisible but it always tells us a story

with Maria Grazia Fornasier and Emanuela Rupi

 

2.30 p.m. local/ 9:30 am US ET

Book Presentation

Le lacrime di Mirra – Miti e luoghi dei profumi nel mondo antico

by Prof. Giuseppe Squillace, University of Calabria

 

4.00p.m.local/11:00amUS ET

Conference Perfume Wardrobe

with Marta Siembab, Senselier

 

5.00 p.m. local/ Noon US ET

Book Presentation

La sua voce è profumo

The Author Giovanna Zucconi introduced by Maddalena Scagnelli (voice and violin) and Franco Guglielmetti (accordion)

Colognoisseur Esxence Day 2 Wrap-Up- How Green Can You Go?

Buongiorno Perfume Lovers! The start of Day 2 was the panel on creating a harmonious relationship between brand and retailer moderated by Sarah Colton of ThePerfumeMagazine.com and Beauty Fashion Magazine. This was really a continuation of the panel Ms. Colton hosted at last year’s Esxence. This year there was a strong consensus that clear communication between brand owners and retailers on their goals are the biggest key to a fruitful, and profitable, relationship. This was once again a fast moving thought-provoking panel and much of the credit must go to Ms. Colton for steering her panelists into the more notworthy aspects of this relationship.

After the fast moving ninety minute presentation it was time to go visit Marc-Antoine Corticchiato at Parfum D’Empire where I was introduced to the new Corsica Furiosa. This is the first new Parfum D’Empire since 2012’s Musc Tonkin. The tagline for this is “furiously green” and while I wouldn’t use furious as an adjective this is a kaleidoscopic green fragrance ever revealing new shades throughout the time it develops on skin.

architects club

Next was Carlos Huber who had two new Arquiste releases to debut. The first is called L’Etrog Acqua which is a variant on the original L’Etrog. Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux decided he wanted a more summer version of L’Etrog and so he ditched the dried fruit accord at the heart and replaced it with lavender, myrtle and more woods. The result is a much fresher and greener fragrance bursting with sunshine. The other new fragrance is called The Architects Club as Mr. Huber asked perfumer Yann Vasnier to create a fragrance capturing a Lost Generation 1930 club in Mayfair London. The early going is all textural effects before they get doused with all of the ingredients of a dry martini. There is a fantastic inflection as The Architects Club goes from Parlor to Party almost in the blink of an eye.

acqua sextus

Perfumer Cecile Zarokian seemingly has a fragrance around every corner at this year’s Esxence. One of her creations I was most excited to experience was also the fourth chapter in the olfactory love story between Julien Blanchard (Jul) and Madalina Stoica (Mad); or more colloquially know as Jul et Mad. When last we left them they were on a Palazzo in Venice. For the fourth chapter, Aqua Sextus they are in Aix-en-Provence where they will marry. Mme Zarokian has created a collaboration of green notes for the fields, watery notes for the 100 fountains, and a bouquet of florals for the bride. This is one of Mme Zarokian’s most assured constructions and it captures all of the lovely emotions of Jul et Mad.

le-galion-perfumes-1963-whip

If there is one thing I have learned in attending my third Esxence is when someone you respect suggests you check out a line, I go check out that line. Roja Dove said the best new line he tried was Le Galion and so it was on my schedule today. What pushed it closer to the top was running into perfumer Thomas Fontaine who helped compose many of the Le Galion line and told me these were right up my alley.  Brand owner Nicolas Chabot kindly showed me all eight of the fragrances and this collection is everything one could want in a Retro Nouveau line. By finding modern alternatives to original vintage recipes many of these Le Galion perfumes straddle the old and the new simultaneously.  I can’t wait to spend quality time with all eight of them but the spiced citrus of Whip and the incredible abstract rose of La Rose will be top of the list.

The ever lovely Sara Carner of Carner Barcelona gave me a sneak sniff of the upcoming El Born and it is a licorice and chocolate bundle of energy.

Tomorrow I will be finishing the rounds but before I do that I have the great pleasure of interviewing Michael Edwards on the occasion of the 30th Edition of Fragrances of the World. I think I need my beauty sleep.

Ciao Perfumistas e Colognoisseurs!

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur Esxence 2014 Day 1 Wrap-Up- The Happy Hours

Buongiorno Perfume Lovers! As I am now attending my third Esxence I have come to realize the days of my walking the expositions without seeing someone I know are long gone. That is not a bad thing as I traversed the brand new location the Triennale di Milano sharing kisses on both cheeks and wide smiles of recognition. For an exhibition devoted to artistic perfumery having it in a museum devoted to cutting edge design seems like a natural fit. The layout this year of one long winding road with the best artistic perfumery has to offer is a delightful change as I often felt as if I was on the road to discovery.

Naomi goodsir

Naomi Goodsir Parfums Display

My first stop was at Naomi Goodsir Parfums. Why? Because besides fabulous fragrances Ms. Goodsir makes the most amazing hats and her display had a condenser in it. This appeals to the perfumista, the hat wearer, and the chemist all at once. What really appealed to me was the new fragrance, Or de Serail. For this third fragrance in the line perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour has created a densely textural tobacco fragrance. This has all the complex design elements of one of Ms. Goodsir’s hats and the same unique aesthetic offered by the first two fragrances. This was the strip I kept smelling all day as it just kept evolving into something different every time I revisited it. Can’t wait to wear it when I get home.

I renewed my friendship with perfumer Mark Buxton and although there is nothing new to add to the Mark Buxton Perfumes line he did give me a sneak preview of something very special. For the new Wes Anderson movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel” he created a classic cologne for the character played by Ralph Fiennes, Monsieur H. Monsieur H never leaves his room without spraying on “L’Air de Panache”. This is a throwback to the old 50’s style of cologne but redolent of high quality naturals. This is the epitome of what cologne can be when great materials are used. L’Air de Panache was only produced in small quantity for the movie premiere and is not available for sale. Why am I telling you about this? Because just steps away another perfume house was going to scratch the perfume itch Mr. Buxton started.

When I walked up to Etienne de Swardt at the Etat Libre D’Orange Booth I saw this advertising tag line, “We’ve given you decadent, we’ve given you outrageous, and now we give you nice” for the simply named Cologne. As I longed for a return to the 50’s style of cologne here was that fragrance. This is simple cologne construction done extremely well. Which makes it better than just nice.

ombre indigo

I think the fragrance I knew was going to be here that I was most eager to try was the new one from Olfactive Studio, Ombre Indigo. The azure colored juice delivered a one-two punch of tuberose and leather surrounded by shadowy notes like saffron, papyrus, benzoin, and plum. They capture the shadows inherent in the photographic inspiration, by Gustavo Pellizzon, seen above. New perfumer Mylene Alran of Robertet has combined a host of the singular Robertet palette of natural raw materials to produce a feast of visual and olfactive delights. It is captivating in every way.

In between all this sniffing there were three panels to attend. Prof. Claus Noppeney spoke on the different ways Perfume & Art are intersecting. The thesis is the collaborations open up the concept of “Perfume As Art” to the general public.

Mustafa Sebbagh took us on an explanation of the images he chose for the nu_be advertising campaign. It was something he said though that really resonated with me. He was talking about how the essential odor of something holds the truth about it and when he meets someone he takes in their odor because, “Your smell doesn’t lie.” Something to ponder.

Happy Hour

Pouring the Rochas Femme Cocktail

The final panel was Edmond Roudnitska Happy Hour as Marika Vecchiattini, of Bergamotto e Benzoino, and Patricia de Nicolai shared M. Roudnitska’s classic fragrances Rochas Femme, Eau D’Hermes, and Diorella. Paired with each of these was a special cocktail to attempt to mimic the fragrance. The one which went with Femme was the most successful as by using wine it recreated the classic prunol base in drinkable form.

As I walked away from Happy Hour I realize the entire day spent at Esxence wasn’t just a single hour of enjoyment they were all Happy Hours.

I’ll be back tomorrow with reports on some other new perfumes I can’t wait to try from some of my favorite lines and Roja Dove has directed me to a brand new line which has impressed him.

Ciao Colognoissuers e Perfumistas!

Mark Behnke

Colognoisseur at Esxence 2014

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I am on my way to Milan to attend Esxence 2014 and Colognoisseur will be covering it from top to bottom. I will be posting a daily wrap-up of everything as I interact with many of the most prominent players in niche perfumery. Lots of new releases from old friends and the excitement of discovering something new make Esxence special.

You will find the streaming Esxence player here on Colognoisseur and it will be running daily from 5:30AM-1:30PM EST. You will see live coverage of the panels and in between interviews with the exhibitors and others.

I am particularly pleased to be interviewing Michael Edwards as we celebrate the 30th Edition of Fragances of the World.

Please check in daily from Thursday March 20-Sunday March 23 for my reports right here on Colognoisseur.

Here is the panel schedule (All time EST)

Thursday March 20. 2014

7:30AM Artistic Perfumery: on the Links between Art & Perfumery with Prof.Claus Noppeney, Bern University of theArts / Bern University of Applied Sciences

10:00AM Book Presentation IGiardini di Saffo by Prof. Giuseppe Squillace, Universita della Calabria

11:30AM Presentation Conversation about the Images with Mustafa Sabbagh interviewed by Ermano    Picco, LaGardeniaNellOcchiello.com

12:30PM Perfumed Cocktail Polysensorial journey inside the Perfumes of Edmond Roudnitska presented by Marika Vecchiattini,  BergamottoeBenzoino

Friday March 21, 2014

5:00AM Workshop- From Conflict Management to 'Pas de Deux': Towards a Harmonious Niche Fragrance Brand/Retail Interface- Chairman: Sarah Colton,ThePerfumeMagazine .com and Beauty Fashion Magazine.

7:30AM Workshop- Artistic Perfumery in Middle East (R)evolution Parfumee- Chairman: Alireza Khazal, LuxAssist  & Co

9:30AM Conference- The Chemistry in Perfume: Source of Creativity with Bernard Bourgeois, Osmotheque

11:30AM Lecture- Smells of Saudi Arabia with Nicola Pozzani, S Sense The Senses of Perfume

1:00PM Olfactory Tasting- Amarone: Smell and Taste the Great Red Italian Wine and its Perfumed Notes- Danilo Della Mura, Confraternita dell'Amarone and Stileltalia.tv

Saturday March 22, 2014

6:00AM Book Presentation- Michael Edwards – the Man behind Perfume Legends, Fragrances of the World and the Fragrance Wheel- Michael Edwards interviewed by Mark Behnke, Colognoisseur .com

7:30AM Workshop by Mouillettes & Co Olf'Evolution with Maria Grazia Fornasier and Emanuela Rupi

9:00AM Lecture- Scent Culture in East Asia with Chi Wai Tang, Fragrance Moment

10:30AM Presentation by Sultanate of Oman Tourism Office Fragrances and Myths of Arabia Felix:The Frankincense Route and the Roses Gardens with Wanda Benati, Nadia Bizzarro, Sara Cusma

12 Noon Presentation- Les Lignes de Parfumerie Alternatives Maisons de Luxe vs.Maisons de Niche- Carine Lanteri interviewed by Claudia Stagno, Export Magazine

Sunday March 23, 2014

5:30AM Tribute to Sandrine Videault with Michael Edwards, Saskia Havekes, Sabine Chabbert, Laurence Ferat and Silvio Levi

6:00AM Book Presentation- Parfums Rares- Sabine Chabbert and Laurence Ferat interviewed by Tessa Williams, Author, Cult Perfumes

9:00AM Contest -Award Ceremony-The Art of Scent

10:00AM Workshop by Mouillettes & Co Olf'Evolution with Maria Grazia Fornasier and Emanuela Rupi

Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Stop the Clock! I Have Seen a Great IDEA

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Just before Valentine’s Day a set of recommendations were presented to the European Union (EU) by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) to ban or restrict 23 fragrance raw materials. A few days after that I wrote an editorial about the lack of scientific rigor that was applied to that decision and asked for a real scientific clinical study with appropriate controls to be performed to truly determine the real potential of these materials to produce an allergic effect. About a week after that editorial I was pointed to a website called IDEA (International Dialogue for the Evaluation of Allergens) and once I spent some time reading what was there much of my concern for the future of raw materials has been alleviated.

IDEA was formed in May of 2013 and has had four separate workshops since then about how to classify, test, and unequivocally determine which materials are allergens. Their Annual Report (click here to read it) was released a week after the SCCS made their recommendation to the EU. While the SCCS recommendations caused a lot of people, I included, to exercise our best Chicken Little impressions. After spending the last couple days reading the IDEA Annual Report I am no longer worried.

IDEA has representation from every stakeholder in this; IFRA, SCCS, EU, the big perfume firms, the big perfume producers, and particularly important dermatologists and clinicians. They have been spending this first year doing workshops with participation from all involved and they are evolving an action plan which will once and for all determine in a scientific and statistically sound manner whether any specific material is an allergen. This is what any of us who have looked at this data from a scientific point of view have asked for and it is now happening.

Chicken-little

I also spoke with a few of my contacts within the industry and they all seem to think that if the EU takes any action at all in May, when the 90-Day comment period is up, it will be increased labelling. Something which alerts a consumer to the presence of a potential allergen without making it seem like the Surgeon General’s warning on a pack of cigarettes.

A month after I was busy running around yelling “The Sky is Falling!” it looks like the solutions are all in place to make sure that only the best scientific data will eventually determine which raw materials will be banned or restricted and that is the best outcome I could have asked for. Which leaves perfumery, like Mark Twain, to say, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Mark Behnke

The Eastern Paradox

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A number of perfume companies have looked to the Asian markets of Japan and China as the next growth opportunities for their brands. As a result you have seen the niche companies also follow that lead, trying to establish their own beachhead in those territories. I know my first impression of the difference between the way Japanese and Western tastes were different came from a 2005 column by Chandler Burr for the NY Times magazine. Where he described a culture where perfume was frequently given as a gift but never worn. This also went along with an anecdote from a sales associate where test strips were left out next to their bottles so that top notes would be gone because according to the article “apparently the Japanese dislike top notes”. The article also touched on other market forces in the Japanese market which were tied to luxury brands like Bvlgari where the jewelry image has a halo effect on the fragrance.

Beijing perfume counter

Beijing Perfume Counter (Photo:Alan Chin/NYT)

The Chinese market is much less understood but it does seem like the same considerations that are good for the Japanese market are also good for the Chinese market. The overall beauty sector in China has been growing consistently year-by-year. By Kilian and Serge Lutens, among others, have made series of fragrances meant to target these potential fragrance consumers. It seems the agreed upon design aesthetic is for something which is lighter in nature than typical releases from those lines. They also seem to be designed to not last as long as the other releases. What I don’t understand is why the great majority of these fragrances I have tried to date have been so disappointing.

I am also suspicious of the hypothesis that this aesthetic truly exists. At the Elements Showcase two years ago I was intorduced to a perfume line called Kaze which is created and sold in Japan. As I stepped up I expected to find a collection which matched my assumptions. I couldn't have been more worng and I kept saying over and over, "these sell well?" The only apparent eastern influence was the use of particular indigenous ingredients.

I am a big fan of perfumes with a lighter touch. Le Labo’s Tokyo exclusive Gaiac 10 seems to be the pinnacle of the kind of perfume which should be successful in Japan if the above assumptions are true. Comme des Garcons X Monocle Scent One: Hinoki is another example of this desired aesthetic. I know both of these fragrances are widely appreciated by the western fragrance community.

uslu_maquia-japan-cover

This is contrasted with the Asian Tales collection from By Kilian which feels like it was so calculated in design that somewhere along the assembly line it lost its joie de vivre. What has really brought this point home for me is the third of the Serge Lutens’ L’Eaus which has just been released. The newest one is called Laine de Verre and after sniffing it on a strip and a patch of skin I just can’t bring myself to wear it for a couple of days to properly review it. It is wan and anemic and yet has some irritating sharp aspects to it as well. I am completely flummoxed how two of my favorite perfumers in Calice Becker who did the By Kilians, and Serge Lutens’ Christopher Sheldrake can miss the target so completely.

I haven’t been able to get any current sales figures on these markets but the blog Kafkaesque recently published a very comprehensive worldwide economic review of the fragrance sector using the best available data to the public. In that article there is a very sobering statistic she reported from a Euromonitor study of the Chinese market, “No remarkable changes have been seen in consumers’ acceptance of fragrances – the Chinese account for 20% of the world’s population, but only contribute 1% to value sales of fragrances.” This seems to indicate that despite all of the targeting by adhering to a, perhaps, non-existent Asian aesthetic the perfume houses are making no headway.

That is the source of this Eastern Paradox, instead of trying to design a specific fragrance for the market; try and just design a good fragrance. I believe the free market principles will let the brands be guided by what sells in those markets. The idea that you can cobble together a fragrance for Japanese or Chinese markets which will make a culture of people who don’t wear perfume all of a sudden start wearing it seems like something out of a novel. As I sit here disappointed in yet another attempt to create this magical Eastern Elixir I just hope for a little less focus group thinking and more free artistic expression from these brands I like so much.

Mark Behnke

Editorial: 90 Days ‘Til The End of Perfume?

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I was wanting to wait a little bit longer before tackling this subject but recent events have forced me to comment a little sooner than I expected. Last Thursday February 13, 2014 the European Union (EU) has announced a three-month period of consultation on fragrance allergens. The regulations under review are recommendations by the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (SCCS) to ban three substances from being used in perfume; two of the molecules found in oak moss and tree moss, and a lily-of-the-valley chemical called Lyral. There are an additional 12 molecules and 8 naturals which would be severely restricted in concentration and require labelling on the perfume it was contained in. The reasoning behind the SCCS’ recommendation is these are allergens and removing them from fragrance is in the interest of public health. As a scientist who works on the pharmaceutical side of things I’ve watched this debate and have been amazed at many aspects of it.

open-skin-application-tests

A Skin Irritation test with 2 controls and and 4 concentrations of the test molecule

The data used to determine the allergen potential of these molecules is scientifically and statistically unsound. Many of the studies used to determine these molecules as skin irritants lacked the necessary statistical and scientific structure to come to the conclusions they have reached. The studies conducted on the three banned molecules that have been published were done with small groups of patients with no control. When I am developing a topical drug formulation I would have to have multiple groups of 30 patients treated with the drug in varying concentrations in one place on each patient as well as what we call a control patch of skin on the same patient. You usually use a negative control you expect to cause no effect, like water, and a positive control that you do expect to cause an irritation. These are used to calibrate the skin of the patient being tested. If the patient shows a reaction to the negative control, which remember is just water, any other result would have to be thrown out because the patient has responded to only water. This is called a placebo effect and it occurs in 15-20% of patients. For a molecule to have a statistically relevant response it would have to have a response rate 20% greater than the placebo effect. The studies these bans and restrictions have been based on were performed one time at one concentration on 25 patients with no controls, positive or negative! This is what makes me shake my head as this is not good scientific practice and the conclusions made are very preliminary and possibly incorrect.

An even bigger flaw is the idea that it’s really only 23 molecules, so what? If these single molecules are restricted and banned it will have a ripple effect throughout many more raw materials. A natural oil is not a single molecule it is a combination of as many as hundreds of individual molecules. Any one of which could be identified as one of the “bad 23” which would then make that natural oil unusable as well. In Denyse Beaulieu’s blog Grain de Musc, The Different Company CEO and Creative Director Luc Gabriel expands on this thought as he worries at the impact of these changes on the industry.

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All of this is complicated by the fact that there is no unified response. According to some sources LVMH and Chanel are extremely concerned. Other brands like Coty and L’Oreal seemingly stand on the sidelines. The Fragrance Foundation has stayed away from this debate with a ten-foot pole. Some of the raw material houses like Robertet have tried to get their lavender fields and products protected under French heritage law.

Until last Thursday this mix of concern and apathy was the norm now a 90-day clock has been turned on. Let me offer a solution to propose to the EU. Let LVMH, Chanel, and any other company that wants to participate, fund a full-blown study of these 23 substances under the highest scientific and statistical standards. Multiple controls, multiple concentrations, multiple patient groups spanning different ethnicities. In other words prove that these molecules are as “bad” as they are reported to be. This is a study that could easily be performed in 12-18 months to add a level of scientific rigor sadly lacking in the process so far.

If you also want to read more about this let me point you to this excellent post on the blog Kafkaesque where she has been diligently reporting on this issue for the past year.

The time to offer solutions is now and the time for discussion has been forced upon us by the EU. Together the industry and those of us who love perfume need to stand up and be heard or we will pay a price I think none of us wants to pay.

Mark Behnke