A Fragrance Manifesto is a summary of my dreams and to provide ideas how perfumery can be treated. Since they say you have to be positive and make suggestions: how we can inject much more inventiveness and creativity in the industry, to bring our industry and our creative activities to the level, business, and excitement of music, videos, movies, literature, etc… Again, we are very avant-garde in terms of natural plant extractions, agronomy, and chemistry to create new odors and natural smells. We are 100 to 400 years behind in world exploration. London Kew Gardens stores 30 million plants since Darwin’s days, we extract 300: we can do a few more! Of course if our money pays more trips for fashion models, and more fabric and techniques for fashion designers, it is not reinjected into perfume world exploration. We put scent in the air with candles and plug-ins like 30 years ago or like 30,000 years ago, we put our fragrances on skin like 50 years ago with a silly pump including a lot of waste or inefficiencies. What would you say if you were playing your music like 50 years ago? That is how it feels. Perfumers create by hand, with pipettes like 150 years ago. No mini robots, no Photoshopping, no microdosing. For me as an engineer and a chemist, that’s crazy. Last but not least, I want perfume shows like we have fashion shows.
How can the fragrance industry improve its approach to sustainability?
The fragrance industry is the most sustainable industry of all industries I know from chemistry, electronics, packaging of all kinds, cattle, fashion, pharmacy, transportation, etc… People associate us with fashion or diamonds: WRONG. You can visit the rose fields and lavender fields. First, we are a tiny industry. Secondly, it’s open air. You can check there is no child labor. You can go and talk freely to the farmers. You can watch all the harvest movies on the internet. It is how ingredients are sourced. We cannot do a movie for a rose field in Turkey and hide all the “other” fields because they are all there. Once you have visited two rose regions, you have seen them all because there are no others. We are a tiny industry with a lot of impact for the world, easy to check.
Regarding the chemistry of the perfume industry: out of the ten most energy-, water-, and forest-efficient companies in the world (of all industries combined), two are fragrance companies, and the third one is close behind. We exceed the water and energy requirements of any climate-change goal (like the Paris Treaty, for instance). We have solar energy like you will not believe. We use the by-products from other industries like paraffin, which is a rubbish that would otherwise clog planes. We use by-products from vitamin A production, we do a lot of upcycling of naturals that are not extracted for us, such as pine branches the forest industry is not using. They don’t really cut things for us, and if they do, we replant. We are a very high-value industry. One kilo of violet leaf absolute is 3,000 USD per kg. We are complicated to plant. If we cut corners, it doesn’t smell good. If we polluted the rivers, you would smell them, we can’t hide that. We do not use chlorine or mercury. If you start to plant patchouli in Africa like they plant soy in the Amazon, destroying that area, guess what? The patchouli is not happy and won’t grow well. So we plant vanilla in Africa but that won’t grow well in the USA plains. It is very hard for us to cheat nature in any way.
In summary, frankly, sustainability is not the issue of this industry at all. In fact, global warming would be gone if every industry would be where we are. The domains where the industry is extremely advanced, modern, human, and creative are sustainability, agronomic developments, and chemistry. This includes some brands, but you have to be extremely inquisitive. Don’t believe what people tell you, including myself. Check, but don’t stop when you hear, “Oh it is confidential, we do not disclose this type of information.” I think it is well-known now that when something is too secretive, it is not really healthy.
In terms of packaging, we could save a lot. The brands and the public put too much effort and money in bottles to such a point that it is ridiculous. There is also a lot of waste with boxes, wrapping, etc. A few bottles should be spectacular: totally fine. A good bottle should deserve a good fragrance. The consumer should learn not to be trapped by a bottle, so I like to teach quality. The best wines, usually, are not in the bottles with the most diamonds and other tacky inserts. Especially if to the detriment of the fragrance. Do you know that some charms on the bottles are more expensive for the brands than the juice they allow perfumers to put inside? It’s really unbelievable. People have to open their eyes and their nostrils. I would say loud and clear that we should concentrate and put energy and money in the fragrance first.
What innovations and changes do you see shaping the future of the industry?
We will see the entry of scent and olfaction into electronics, movies, hospitals, wellness, sports, planes, and art. The science is already en marche since 2004, and now running, so that is good.
We will see the entry of olfaction into history much more. Until about 100 years ago when schools became more democratic, less people could read than today, but they could always smell. Smell was providing a much bigger communication. How can you study history only with words and pictures, but no smell communication? Olfactory communication will also develop, since for marketing it is a dream medium. We will see the entry of olfaction everywhere where vision is used. Olfaction is as important to the brain as vision. We are catching up.
Perfumery will be getting more respect from brands and department stores (they cannot exploit us any longer), from the public (education will change the cards), and from A-list personalities signing perfume licenses (before signing the licenses, they will inform themselves better). Creativity, inventiveness, art, science, and fairness have always prevailed. Perfumery is next on the list.