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Q&A: Chandler Burr and “The Perfect Scent”

Posted: January 7, 2008

On January 22, Henry Holt and Co. will release “The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York,” outspoken perfume critic and journalist Chandler Burr’s frank look at the art and business of fragrance. The course of the book tracks the creation of two scents for two distinctly different markets—Hermès’ Un Jardin sur le Nil by in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena; and Lovely, the scent co-created by IFF’s Dominique Ropion, Laurent LeGuernec and Clément Gavarry for Coty’s celebrity partner, Sarah Jessica Parker.

We recently spoke with Burr about his experiences and observations in covering the fragrance industry, including celebrity scents, forward-looking designers and more.

P&F: You appear to feel Lovely is an artistically successful celebrity scent. Are there any others that come to mind?

Burr: Absolutely. Jim Krivda and Steve deMercado’s first scent for Paris Hilton is a completely acceptable commercial floral, and Louise Turner’s juice for Lopez's Glow is actually even more than that: a truly interesting creation. I think that Caroline Sabas and others have done some very interesting stuff for Britney Spears. On the other hand, as far as I can tell, Carlos [Benaim] and Loc [Dong] just dumped ethyl maltol into the Mariah Carey [scent], and that was it, and Carlos Vinals and Jean-Claude Delville must have been given about $5/kilo to work with and the lowest-common-denominator creative direction on Shania by Stetson and Goddess.*

P&F: You’ve offered observations in “The Perfect Scent” about what you see as a dysfunctional business reality in fragrance. Do you think anything you’ve identified will change?