Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How I Think About Creating A New Men's Fragrance

I did not grow up using cologne. My mother, as best I can remember, made little or no use of perfume. So I come to perfume late in life -- perfume for women and, oh yes, perfume for men which we call "cologne" to make the men feel more comfortable about using it.

My first male fragrances were, as I recall, Halston's Z-14 (given to me by the beauty who is now my wife), Xeryus Rouge (Givenchy), Grey Flannel (Geoffrey Beene), Giorgio Red (Giorgio), and a really old Ralph Lauren Polo which I still use from time to time. Oh, and a Guy Laroche Horizon. Of these, today, my preference would be the Grey Flannel and the Horizon. That should give you some idea of my taste, or lack of it.

In fact, I'm not overwhelmed by most men's fragrances. I like Sean John's Unforgivable. OK for Usher. Ocean Rain left me cold, which was a surprise to me as I loved Roudnitska's Femme. Maybe I just got a bad bottle.

When I work on a fragrance for women, my primary goal is to create ("produce"?) something my wife will enjoy wearing without being prompted and which I will enjoy when she wears it.

It would be logical to think that I might want to create a men's fragrance that she would enjoy when I wear it, but I just can't wrap my mind around that concept.

When I work on a men's fragrance -- which here I'll call perfume -- I think only of my own selfish desires. (Some women might say that this makes me a typical male.)

When I was first told by a knowledgeable critic that my Toxic smelled like burning rubber and my Blackberry like smoked ham, I worried that I had really gone off the deep end.

When I was first told that my men's fragrance, Toxic, smelled like burning rubber, I was willing to admit that it was a bit edgy. When I was first told that my men's fragrance, Blackberry, had a bit (only a bit) of the smell of smoked ham, I did some trails on that one ingredient (cedarwood) to see what Blackberry would be like with less cedarwood, or perhaps no cedarwood at all as it could be replaced by a less demonstrative substitute.

After two months of testing I put ALL of the cedarwood back into Blackberry because that was the way I liked it!

These two experiences (I personally enjoy both Toxic and Blackberry) convinced me that neither my taste nor my goals were mainstream -- but I was now discovering a unity in the work I was doing, a unity I wanted to pursue rather than abandon for I suspect I am not alone in my tastes.

The other day I noticed a cologne a man was wearing. I noticed it because (1) it was too strong (he had used far too much!) and (2) because it said all over it, "I am a safe, typical cologne for men and nobody will fault you for wearing me." I wanted to puke.

Toxic doesn't have that effect on me.

Blackberry doesn't have that effect on me.

So the next men's fragrance I create will probably be in for some sharp criticism too.