From the New York Times perfume critic, a stylish, fascinating, unprecedented insider's view of the global perfume industry, told through two creators working on two very different scents.
No journalist has ever been allowed into the ultrasecretive, highly pressured process of originating a perfume. But Chandler Burr, the New York Times perfume critic, spent a year behind the scenes observing the creation of two major fragrances. Now, writing with wit and elegance, he juxtaposes the stories of the perfumes -- one created by a Frenchman in Paris for an exclusive luxury-goods house, the other made in New York by actress Sarah Jessica Parker and Coty, Inc., a giant international corporation.
We follow Coty's mating of star power to the marketing of perfume, watching Sex and the City's Parker heading a hugely expensive campaign to launch a scent into the overcrowded celebrity market. Will she match the success of Jennifer Lopez? Does she have the international fan base to drive worldwide sales?
In Paris at the elegant Hermès, we see Jean Claude Ellena, his company's new head perfumer, given a challenge: he must create a scent to resuscitate Hermès's perfume business and challenge le monstre of the industry, bestselling Chanel No. 5. Will his pilgrimage to a garden on the Nile supply the inspiration he needs?
The Perfect Scent is the story of two daring creators, two very different scents, and a billion-dollar industry that runs on the invisible magic of perfume.
New York Times perfume critic Burr (The Emperor of Scent) follows the creation of two new scents "Un Jardin sur le Nil by French luxury house Herm s, and Lovely, a celebrity fragrance by Sarah Jessica Parker "in a kind of travelogue through the international perfume industry, one of the most insular, glamorous, strange, paranoid, idiosyncratic, irrational, and lucrative of worlds. The former perfume was conceived by Herm s, informed by a trip to Egypt, then crafted by Jean-Claude Ellena, who represents a breed of ghosts known in the biz as perfumers. For the latter, Parker worked as artistic director of a corporate scent-making team. Burr illuminates perfumery's clash of cultures and values "French artistic purity versus American commercialism. Worldwide, this highly secretive industry's PR machine propagates several anachronistic myths. For example, it insists that perfume ingredients are naturally derived (the overwhelming majority are not, because of concerns about quality control, ecological impact and allergies, among others) and that the big names on the bottles are personally involved in creating scents (perfumers alone typically do this; Parker was a rare exception). Burr makes a strong case that this mythmaking works to the industry's detriment, and that inviting the public behind the scenes might help to reverse the industry's declining sales. Burr's is a thorough and often hilarious account of perfumery's colorful characters, the science and art of fragrance creation and the human experience of scent itself.