22 Perfumers by Clara Molloy & Carine Soyer [BOOK REVIEW]

📷 "22 perfumers, a creative process" is a collection of 22 interviews with a selection of perfumers. The book is an inexhaustive primer of renowned and upcoming talents in the contemporary perfume world.

The format of the 2007 book 22 Perfumers: A Creative Process (also published in French as 22 Parfumeurs) is simple: interviews with 22 perfumers, presented in a coffee table format with lots of pictures. The book was the brainchild of Clara Molloy, who founded the niche perfume brand MEMO PARIS the same year that the book came out.

As the subtitle suggests, the book focuses on the creative aspect of perfume development, but you'll learn other things about the perfumers in question as well — Michel Almairac loves to cook, Alberto Morillas has "organized his life around a garden". Each perfumer is presented with different questions, but overall, you'll get a glimpse into what it's like to work as a perfumer. You'll also learn about each perfumer's career choices and why they might move from one fragrance and flavor company to another, developing perfume as part of a team instead of working alone, what it's like to mentor a younger perfumer (or be mentored by an older perfumer), creating for niche vs. mainstream brands, what it's like to be a house perfumer for a specific brand, and where perfumers find their inspirations.

"Each of these interviews whetted our curiosity in terms creative spark that underlies the invention of each fragrance. The perfume world is enwrapped in mystery. Smell remains the sense most directly linked to our unconscious an archaic drives..." - Clara Molloy

The five or six pages that cover each perfumer also includes a list of their creations, sometimes with commentary for individual perfumes, sometimes without. If you're an aspiring perfumer, you'll be interested in the questions about how "outsiders" (those who did not grow up in Grasse or have family connections to perfumery) broke into the industry.

Along the way, you'll pick up interesting tidbits about some of your favourite (or not so favourite!) perfumes:

  • Calice Becker on Christian Dior J'Adore: "I pictured all the beautiful dresses that I had loved when I was a little girl".
  • Carlos Benaïm on Ralph Lauren Polo: "So I created something that was fairly surprising for me. I spent almost a year creating it, without truly realizing what I was doing or the impact that it would have."
  • Olivier Cresp on Thierry Mugler Angel: "Angel is like an anti-fragrance. Everything in Angel contrasts. There is no overall consistency."
  • Sophia Grojsman on Lancôme Trésor: "I created the initial formula for myself, based on my idea of the perfect fragrance."
  • Jacques Polge on Chanel Coco: "Coco was created after a visit to Mademoiselle Chanel's apartment.... When I saw her baroque environment... it surprised me. I wasn't the image I had of Chanel, who I thought had a simpler style."
  • Maurice Roucel on KenzoAir: "With KenzoAir, man has accepted his feminine side and retained something of the little boy that he once was. For me, there is no such thing as a fragrance for men or a fragrance for women."

In addition to the perfumers mentioned above, the book includes interviews with Françoise Caron, Jacques Cavallier, François Demachy, Jean-Michel Duriez, Jean-Claude Ellena, Jean Paul Guerlain, Francis Kurkdjian, Sophie Labbé, Mathilde Laurent, Aliénor Massenet, Annick Menardo, Christine Nagel, Olivier Polge and Dominique Ropion.

📷 Carine Soyer, a writer, and Clara Molloy met each perfumer in face-to-face interviews. Alexandre Isard, a photographer, then took their photos in the setting of their choice.

Do you need a copy? That perhaps depends on your level of interest in perfumers as opposed to perfumes. As I've said here before, the book that taught me the most about how the fragrance industry works, and how perfumers fit into the larger picture of fragrance development, was Michael Edwards' Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances. 22 Perfumers has a more narrow focus, but is nearly the only book of its kind available in English, and by presenting the perfumers in their own words, it provides a more human, every-day sort of look at the perfume industry. It is also true that Perfume Legends ends with the creation of Angel; 22 Perfumers gives a better idea of the time constraints (and marketing factors) that affect perfumers today. Highly recommended.

 

Source: Now Smell This

 

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