Friday, May 1, 2015

Perfume creation: it starts with a story

    How do you start a new perfume? With pen and paper! Yes, pen and paper. But what about smells? Shouldn't you be smelling? Perhaps, but ...

    Your inspiration for a perfume might very well come from a scent, from something you've smelled or from a smell you've imagined while smelling something else. But before you can begin to create a fragrance from that inspiration you need a story, a story in words. Thus the pen and paper, your true starting point.

    What does it mean to have a story upon which to build a perfume? The world's most famous fragrance (Chanel No. 5) has gone through a number of stories which perhaps help account for its longevity. The first story was the perfumer's own description of his inspiration -- the extreme fresh scent of the rivers and lakes in Russia's polar region, a land above the arctic circle, which he experienced during his wartime service then sought to replicate in a perfume upon his discharge from the military.

    But then the story became Chanel and how she named the fragrance "No.5" which indeed was the perfumer's designation on the bottle. But "No.5" now became a good luck symbol tied to Chanel fashion launch dates. Then, in the 1950's, the story became Marilyn Monroe who went to bed with nothing on but "No.5" (although a biographer reports that at home during the day she was naked most of the time and, in addition to "No.5," she favored Jean Patou's "Joy.")

    More recently the story has simply been the fame of the fragrance -- everyone has heard of it and knows it is the world's most famous luxury item. What more is there to say?

    So throughout the "No.5" story, from its creation to its present incarnation, it has always been accompanied by a story, even though the story has evolved to remain relevant.

    So what will your story be? Inspiration from a smell that inspires you? From a place you visited? From a romance you once had or would like to have had? What is in your head as you start to think about your next perfume? If nothing is in your head, if your plan is just to do some random mixing, you aren't ready to start a new perfume.

    There's more to the importance of "story" than just compounding your new perfume. While working your materials to tell a story in scent you should be inspired to repeat that story in words. These words lead to a name for your fragrance and to a marketing theme. These words can help you develop graphic images to promote your perfume. These images don't have to be complex, they simply need to be appropriate. And having a visual image for your perfume can help you with your formulation. Likewise, if you think musically, think of what music might tell or enhance your story. And if you think in color, what color?

    The most important step in getting your new perfume started is developing its story. Then everything else begins to fall into place.