mardi 24 février 2009

A mysterious matter... of taste

Suppose you were the artistic director of a very prominent perfume house, and there was only really one classic perfume from that house that you loved…

Would you make every launch a modern variation of that fragrance?

Suppose you decided, say, to launch a leather fragrance, but that you, personally, didn’t like leather fragrances.

Would you have a leather fragrance composed that you could wear, one that was suited to your particular tastes?

Yesterday, I was directed to a blog written by a major player of the industry. It’s been up for just over a year, it’s not frequently updated, and it only links to one perfume blog, where the brand’s launches are systematically praised – it’s all a matter of taste, of course… (Correction added after a reader's comments: the praise is *not* systematic. Sincere apologies to the author in question for the generalization.)

The blog in question includes a very hurriedly written history of perfumery, replete with mistakes (Dior’s New Look in the Roaring Twenties? Mary Quant and André Courrèges in the 70s?), a few addresses, a couple of articles on raw materials, some advice on choosing one’s fragrance (based on the idea that a woman must find hers and hang on to it – the author only has two favorites) and above all, most interestingly, a couple of posts on the genesis of two of the house’s fragrances.

These posts reflect the fact that the author has imposed her own, personal taste, which explains a lot about the current style of the brand. Very little is said about the house’s heritage: though it is showcased in the historical posts, it seems of little relevance in the selection of new fragrances.

Clearly, this sporadically updated blog represents a half-hearted attempt at penetrating the perfume blogosphere, but judging by the total absence of comments, it doesn’t seem to have reached many readers.

The blogger writes in her own name. See if you can find it…

Image: Pierre Molinier

13 commentaires:

  1. En lisant ce matin le blog d'Octavian j'étais déjà assez intrigué... mais bon il avait choisi de ne pas révéler l'identité de cette personne et ce choix est tout à fait respectable...
    En vous lisant ce soir j'ai tout de suite pensé à un nom et mes fins limiers numériques font que du 1er coup je pense avoir trouvé.
    Il se trouve que cette maison est celle que je chéris de tout mon coeur depuis de nombreuses années. La voir sous la direction d'une personne aussi puissante et aussi peu compétente me laisse pantois et en même temps fait naître chez moi un sentiment de rage.
    Je ne suis pas intervenu sur un post récent consacré à une nouveauté car le "kirsch fantaisie" me rend malade...
    Comment peut-on, sans rire, se présenter comme le garant de la continuité quand on a légitimé, voire initié des lancements aussi absurdes. Il est pour le moins "savoureux" de mettre en regard la ligne de conduite fixée par les propriétaires historiques : en gros : "ne faites que ce que vous savez faire et faites le bien" et d'autre part la réalité actuelle de la maison qui peut-être voudrait s'inventer un passé couture, avec une annexe patisserie pour élargir le champs de perception de la marque ?
    On ne peut qu'imputer au goût - ou à son absence - cette terrible confusion qui consisterait à considérer que quelques notes constituent un style-maison. Cette négation même de l'esthétique de la forme est affligeante... Décidément, nos ne mangeons pas les mêmes rillettes !

  2. The first name that pops up in my head is Mrs. Delacourte, but unfortunately I don't know any French to verify my suspicion...

  3. Elysium, the truth is only one Babelfish away...

  4. There are several ways to work with the past. You work with it, against it or you start from scratch and invent a new universe. But each strategy has its own rules and those models exist within the fashion world.

    When Lagerfeld took Chanel in 1983 he did everything to shake the foundations of the brand breaking all rules with irony and no respect to Coco. Chanel was a spirit, an idea and a blueprint that received all fashions and new ideas. With every collection he invented new things that looked so Chanel when in fact they were not. "C'est l'idée que les gens se font de Chanel". An old lady and her style, once symbol of bourgeoisie, became idol of very young fashion addicts.

    When Nicolas Ghesquiere took Balenciaga, a house with such a strong past in terms of visual shapes but less characteristic details (like Chanel) he did the opposite. The only relation of 2009 Balenciaga with the master is an idea called "architecture of clothes". It was that reinvention, the futuristic fashion that looks to the future and not to the past that is the success key of Balenciaga.

    When you deal with a house that has a strong heritage you can respect the past and incorporate the spirit into the present as Polge did for Chanel or you can rely on the taste of a new creator. Brilliant creato. But in this case it works only if that person has the power to reinvent the perfumery. Only one man did it in our times because of his high taste and culture - Serge Lutens.
    The great lessons to learn from fashion is to refuse "formulas" and literal translation of the past into the present (unless you are Lagerfeld and can play with them). In fragrance this means that a brand should no be prisoner of its past through repetition.
    The case of Guerlain has a simple solution and it was already used by LVMH. When John Galliano did his first Dior show, there were no other fashion shows to look. In 1997 the house changed from one season to another. For at least 4 seasons all the eyes in fashion looked at Dior.
    It was not done for the perfumes, yet.
    "If things are like this now, it doesn’t mean they should be like this" - to quote the movie Australia. :)

  5. Octavian, I've got nothing to add. I agree on every point -- though of course they could be developed endlessly. I'm curious to see if Balenciaga, as a fragrance house, will go the Ghesquières way...

  6. Sorry that I don't know the history well enough, but was Mrs. Delacourte hired pre or post LVMH? Just curious to know.

  7. S.Delacourte a été embauchée bien avant LVMH. C'est une vraie amoureuse des parfums Guerlain qui a gravit les échelons par passion et curiosité. Sa position influente, elle la doit à cette passion pour Guerlain, où elle défend tant bien que mal certaines valeurs dans un contexte où la rentabilité économique est maitre mot.

  8. Elysium, your question was answered by the anonymous commenter above. I shall translate his/her answer for the benefit of non-francophone readers:
    "S. Delacourte was hired long before LVMH. She is a true lover of Guerlain perfumes who has climbed the rungs through passion and curiosity. She owes her influential position to this passion for Guerlain, where she defends as best she can certain values in a context in which economic profitability is the operative word."

  9. Anonyme: vous êtes manifestement très bien renseigné(e) et je vous crois volontiers, d'autant qu'on peut supposer que c'est peut-être justement votre connaissance du sujet qui explique votre anonymat...
    Je me fonde uniquement sur les propos du blog que je commente et sur ce que je constate de l'extérieur, en tant que consommatrice... Ce qui est forcément partiel, partial et, partant, réducteur.

  10. I believe I found her, D., thanks to a recent announcement on another blog.

    But surely she's not writing the stuff herself, no? I would be very, very surprised if someone in PR is not doing it for her. Or a freelancer. (I have friends who do this sort of thing at very cut rates--produce prose for the boss on demand. Not a bad job, really. Good training for would-be novelists and screen-play writers.) The industry seems to have such an low opinion of the expertise of blogs and their readers, and such a lack of understanding of how the community works (God forbid they should actually sit down and read the stuff) it wouldn't surprise me a bit if they were doing this thing on the fly. That would explain the sloppy mistakes and might, in a perverse way, redeem things a little bit.

    What do you think?

  11. Alyssa,that sounds likely. Well, at least the blog is signed. God knows writing is a badly paying gig...

  12. Carmencanada, thank you for translating for me. Btw, even though it is first time for me to comment here I have been following your blog for a while, nice work!

  13. Elysium, thanks! Hope to read your comments more often!