3 Fragrance Executives on the State of Perfumery

Are creative fragrances reaching the market? During an American Society of Perfumers panel moderated by Jim Krivda, three top fragrance professionals tackled the complicated relationships between creativity, innovation, market research and success.

“The timeline we are using in order to get to market faster sometimes becomes an impediment [to creativity],” said Yves Calderone (director of innovations at Beauty Avenues, Limited Brands). “I think it sometimes changes the way perfumers think about the project. Rather than think in terms of what they think I might like I’d like to get them focused on what they think the consumer might like. It’s important that perfumers … come to us with ideas that they feel passionately about.”

“Testing for hedonics and purchase intent is not necessarily going to give us the most creative submission in the end,” said Trudi Loren (vice president, corporate fragrance development worldwide, The Estée Lauder Companies’ Aramis and Designer Fragrances division). “And that’s why we’re looking to our perfumers and fragrance houses for innovative ways to test, because you can have the most different fragrance and still have the consumer like it and buy it.” Calderone concurred, noting that market research is key, but that it’s important to not simply “live and die by the scores.”

Loren noted that the niche business offers opportunities to stretch creativity with lower stakes. “We’re looking at different ways to address different clients with different fragrances that don’t necessarily have to make the $50 million mark [to be a success].” Ruth Sutcliffe (senior director international fragrance development, Coty) added: “there is a market for everybody. Niche fragrances are so amazing; perfumers can be extremely creative with very simple themes.”

In addition to niche scents, panelists described a changing fragrance landscape in which detergents, air fresheners, plug-ins and other household products’ scents are becoming much more sophisticated, altering consumer expectations. But Sutcliffe isn’t writing off mainstream fine fragrance just yet: “There are many fragrances being launched that are creative … JLo Glow—the first of its type in a long, long time; Missoni, with its use of the violet and chocolate notes together, is a very interesting and complex fragrance; [and] Sara Jessica Parker’s Lovely. Look at what Coco Mademoiselle has done to reinvigorate the chypre olfactory family. We’ll be seeing more and more launches of the fruity chypres, modernized classics.”

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