Monday, 9 November 2009

The Hidden Truth Behind The Weaselly Sales Blurb

I was flicking through the Fragrance brochure of a high street retailer at the weekend, and my attention was caught by this quote from the magazine's Beauty Editor: "If you're thinking of a celebrity perfume, remember they're created with the help of experienced 'noses', for an elegant scent."

Well, yes they are, and yet that statement leaves so much unsaid....notably the fact that perfumers creating celebrity perfumes are typically constrained in terms of the briefs they are given and the budgets they have to work with. So just because you have a great perfumer developing your product, if you tie their hands in terms of costings, you won't get to see that greatness fully deployed. As the saying goes, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Chandler Burr, the NY Times perfume critic, cuts to the chase: "They use cheap ingredients to be more affordable and make more money", and goes on to liken celebrity scents to throwaway fashion.

The position in which perfumers find themselves reminds me a bit of my partner, a bass player, who has toured Europe and even played The Albert Hall. But there are also times in every session musician's life when they inevitably find themselves down the pub playing Mustang Sally...

The perfumer Yann Vasnier, who has developed perfumes for Sarah Jessica Parker and Baby Phat (Baby What?), summed up the process of working for mainstream companies with diplomatic vagueness: "Working for bigger projects is really competitive, challenging, a lot of different factors must be taken into account." His answer is interesting, for it reveals another aspect to this question, namely that while the perfumer may not have the wherewithal to make a silk purse, if he makes a half-decent smelling one in polyester, that almost certainly constitutes a greater technical feat than if he had come up with the next Chanel No 5 with unlimited funds. In other words, the achievement is entirely relative. So next time I am passing a tester of a J Lo or Kylie scent that actually smells a cut above lolly water, I will remember that the ingredients in these celebuscents probably cost tuppence halfpenny, and treat them with a new respect...


Anonymous said...

Katie Price Stunning will never smell "elegant" regardless of whether a nose created it or a child was set loose with a chemistry kit. It will always smell like a cheap Miss Dior Cherie 'wannabe'. And 'wannabe' describes everyone who buys Katie Price's fragrances.
BTW love the blog, V
Nick x

lovethescents said...

I'm not completely anti-celeb scents, but I'm also not keen on most. I usually turn up my nose at the latest SeanJohn or Naomi Campbell or whoever. However, you've made some thought-provoking points here.....budget being a major one. So what have I decided? If I ever love a celeb scent (and I do like that Gloria V Body Mist), I'll appreciate the perfumer's mastery all the more for their ability to create something fabulous on a budget to match Pamela Anderson's knickers.

Thanks for this.

Vanessa said...

Hi guys - love the images of chemistry sets and Pamela Anderson's knickers! Actually, however vestigial the latter, they may have cost more than you think... For that cheese wire may be made of finest South Indian silk, even if her new Malibu scent duo isn't! : - )