samedi 15 mai 2010

Consultant claims responsibility for fruity tsunami, Axe body sprays



In an interview given to Osmoz, currently running a very interesting series on the professions of perfumery, Ann Gottlieb, who worked on Estée Lauder classics like the first Private Collection and Alliage as well as blockbusters like CK one, Calvin Klein Obsession, Carolina Herrera 212 and Marc Jacobs Daisy and Lola, declares:

“My favorite raw material is probably vanilla. I also adore fruity notes. I think that I had a lot to do with the trend when fruity notes became really important in the ‘90’s. One of the reasons that occurred is because of a company called Bath & Body Works… and I was fortunate enough to be the first “nose” for that line. For the first four years I was responsible for all of the fragrances that their stores, and that those of their sister company, Victoria’s Secret, launched. (…) The preponderance of fruits in those lines had a strong influence on fine fragrance. (…) BBW stores were everywhere (in the U.S.) and people kept on smelling fruits, like strawberry. Things that, up until then, women had found almost nauseating. These fruity notes then came into the public domain much more, and people started loving those notes.”

Ok, so now those of us who still find overpowering fruity notes nauseating know who to blame for the olfactory clobbering we get as soon as we step into the mall. Not to mention the gagging fumes wafting from any given group of male teenagers, since Ms. Gottlieb is also behind the Axe fragrance portfolio…

While one can only salute her string of hits, a considerable achievement by any standards, one can’t help but be a little sorry she unleashed them on the unsuspecting world. Ann Gottlieb’s style seems to epitomize the post-Estée Lauder American school of perfumery: clean, loud, adolescent and easy. No wonder the notes Ms. Gottlieb can’t stand are on the dirtier side of the spectrum: honey, blackcurrant, grapefruit and… peach, which she says reminds her of B.O. Oddly enough, one of the fragrances she says she likes to wear when she’s not testing the ones under development is Guerlain Chamade, the first to feature… blackcurrant bud.

Anyway, congratulations, Ms. Gottlieb. Excuse me for not feeling overly grateful though…


Amended on May 17: Unlike what the title of the Osmoz interview in French announced, Ms. Gottlieb is not a perfumer but a fragrance development consultant. I have modified the blog post title in consequence.


Illustration: Elton John by David Lachapelle

23 commentaires:

  1. Wait -- WHAT??? She loves fruit but she doesn't like black currant or peach??? I she for real??

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  2. Amy, if you read the interview (which I obviously couldn't quote in extenso) you'll see she finds the sulfuric note in both reminds her of B.O. To reconstitute a peach scent you can actually, as per JC Ellena, add a smidge of blackcurrant bud, which does have a pissy boxwood smell. Grapefruit does also have that sulphuric facet. And honey can definitely come off as piss. If Ms. Gottlieb catches that, it's not surprising she has an aversion to it.

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  3. ZING!

    Thanks for everything and nothing Ann.

    Marcus

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  4. Marcus, in the 80s I took Opium and Poison with the best of 'em, I've survived Angel and L'Eau d'Issey, but Axe and BBW... that's just about finished me.

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  5. Thank you for illustrations that allow us to laugh rather than cry about this! All the illustrations you choose are sheer genius, actually. ~~nozknoz

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  6. Nozknoz, I had a hard time finding a David Lachapelle that stayed on the "clean" side of neon fruities though!

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  7. As a child of the '90s, one of my first memories of fragrance is accompanying my mother to a fragrance counter and accidentally spraying a noxious watermelon fragrance on myself. It was horrible, and put me off fragrance for years. I was born into this, and I still haven't gotten used to the fruity candy trend!

    That being said, I have to agree on blackcurrant bud. The first time I tried the bud-iful L'Ombre Dans L'Eau, I thought - "How funny, I guess some folks honestly want to smell like pee." And have yet to shake that impression whenever I encounter the note.

    Strange to think of her making a fragrance as dry, stark, and classical as Alliage, given her later work...

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  8. Galamb borong, Alliage was, I'm sure, very much Estée Lauder's brainchild. From what I gather she was a lady who knew what she wanted of her fragrances. Furthermore, from what I understand, Ann Gottlieb did not actually formulate, and I've applied the term "perfumer" to reprise the title she is given by Osmoz.
    As for cassis bud, I really quite like it in several fragrances (including the recent Ninfeo Mio), but de gustibus...

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  9. I had always supposed that the fruitbasket style of perfumery came from the fruit-scented shampoos, other toiletries and makeup marketed to kids and adolescents in the '70s. I couldn't stand fake-fruit fragrances even then. As a child I preferred easy-going florals, which I still like, but my tastes have widened to include dramatic florals, chypres, green scents, orientals. . . but almost nothing from the fruit or bakery aisles.
    --Gretchen

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  10. Gretchen: well there you go, now you know who to blame. Fruity scents go back to the early 70s (remember Max Factor's Green Apple?) but at least, they were only offered to young girls and the market was still dominated by grown-up perfumery.

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  11. Funny, very tongue-in-cheek I think c/c!
    Goodness knows where the fondness for fruit comes in, maybe its genetically hard-wired with the need for Vitamin C.
    Personally, what I find strange is that I love Angel (although too old to wear it!) but hated all the other cassis fruity things to the point of my perfume mania actually nearly petering out. I even thought I got a bottle of Mitsouko a few years ago that 'had a lolly in it'...I blamed myself for getting old, but now I understand about reformulation!
    But now, amazingly, I'm coming around to 'fruit', and have even realised that many things I love, like Mitsouko, have a dose of it. Things like the Humeiki and Graf 'Triple Rouge' I am finding quite brilliant; I am expecting to like 'Pulp' when my sample arrives. One of my favorites last summer was the Hilde Solianai strawberry one! I think its so much about the way its handled, the statement being made by the artist and perfumer, rather than trying to appeal to a mass demographic.
    And so much is about education; I do believe that the companies do their customers a disservice by being all image hype and no information...but then we perfumistes are probably quite the minority?

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  12. Axe's attempt.... is kind of like Budweiser giving champagne a shot.

    A word to the wise: stay put where you ought to be, and you'll be just fine.

    Marcus

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  13. I'm almost speechless.

    I mean, I suppose *someone* has to like those fruity notes that used make people nauseous, but to take credit for the overall trend... It seems both too bold (surely the proliferation of cheap body sprays and development of the tweener market had as much to do with it) and, well, sort of like priding oneself on developing delicious transfat snacks. I wonder if she still loves smelling them on other people?

    I suppose it *does* make lots of people happy...

    Will go read the interview now. I find Osmoz's site pretty baffling, but I did stumble across a nice piece from you the other day.

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  14. OK--read it. It's a taste thing isn't it? (That line about the connection between nose and mouth--guess I put different things in my mouth than she does, too!) And yet, some of the things she says sound very Company, if you know what I mean.

    I kept wondering what kind of follow ups you would have asked, D.

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  15. Winn, I'm not a huge fan of berries on myself, but other fruit notes -- peach, passionfruit, mango, plum, and even the dreaded melon when done right as it is in Le Parfum de Thérèse -- are fine within a composition, though not, for me, as central themes.
    It is rather the dominance of those notes in the mainstream, as a trickle-up from functional perfumery, that I find facile and annoying.

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  16. Alyssa, I suppose it's the "right place at the right time" kind of thing, paired with sound commercial intuition and a bunch of market studies.
    I'm baffled that she would claim responsibility too, but it's excellent advertising for her skills at shaping the market and coming up with best-sellers, isn't it?

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  17. Again Alyssa: if you read her website, you'll see that it's really all about marketing and product.
    As for Osmoz, clearly the site is developing the magazine angle, along with consumer reviews and blog aggregator, possibly as an industry response to the anarchic development of online content about perfume.

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  18. Oh, good. Now let's have a pinata.

    Seriously, though, it's kind of a chicken and egg thing: did the trend catch on because there was a demand for candy scents, or did the consumers end up craving frooty syrups because it suddenly was all they could smell in Sephoras?

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  19. Six, if marketing was an exact science, I guess we'd know, but you're right: it's a matter of sussing out what people want just when they want it. I link it, very loosely and without any kind of theoretical backing, with the adulescent trend on the one hand, and with the sensory/information overload on the other hand, which leads people to connect with stuff that's familiar and easy to "read".
    Still, I choked a bit when I read that someone had claimed responsibility for the trend. Mind you, it's good business!

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  20. D, along those same lines....

    Given how we seem to communicate more and more in sound bites, is it fair to say we communicate in smell bites, too? Seems like many are of the opinion that there's not enough time to communicate a well thought-out, coherent formulation for the nose, either.

    Marcus

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  21. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I'm just speechless...

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  22. Rappleyea, pinching your nose I think would be a more effective reaction...

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