mercredi 8 avril 2009

A Joyless World

The storm that’s broken over the online perfume community after Luca Turin’s NZZ Folio column on the death of perfumery has left me somewhat discombobulated. I have neither the scientific, nor the technical expertise to weigh in on which fragrances are headed for the tumbrel – Octavian, who does, is doing a good job on spelling out the death list. I don’t have enough time to investigate on the makings of the current perfume-icide and its consequences for the future. And I don’t have enough money to stock up as much as I should – the LVMH ban on reselling their products on eBay in France has made it practically impossible for me to even access most foreign-sold fragrances on that market, so my collecting has drawn to a halt.

But it adds up, doesn’t it? We’re already feeling so powerless about the fact that the world is plunged in a recession not of our doing or that large swathes of the planet are going to become inhabitable within our lifetime… And now a small refuge of beauty is getting smaller still, thanks to bureaucrats bent on protecting us from ourselves, luxury groups who make their money on new launches and don’t care what becomes of their classics as long as they can avoid any risk of lawsuits, aromachemical industries who’d much rather patent molecules that go through the involved process of sourcing un-patentable (and unreliable) natural products for their blends.

So what’s that next to people losing their jobs, homes, pensions and health insurance? To the struggling populations who’ll take the first brunt of climate change? Not much, really, is it? Not much more than a rash, anyway.

But what’s a world without Joy?

I don’t even wear Joy. Nor Chanel N°5, for that matter. But they are both classics who have withstood the test of time and come to us in the closest possible form to their original formulas. I may not have been there when they were born, but I wasn’t there either for the première of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, the first presentation of Manet’s Olympia or the Ulysses book launch party, and that doesn’t prevent me from being deeply moved by them – that’s kind of the point of beauty: it transcends time and context, though a bit of culture helps, and it’s hard to see the Cnidian Aphrodite through the forest of soulless Victorian nude godesses…

When that little bit of beauty goes, which it will (ok, so everything must go some day – but why the hell should I smile when it happens?), a tiny bit of the beauty of the world goes with it. And N°5 or Joy are not going alone, because a great many of the materials that make up classic, or classically-styled fragrances, will face ever more stringent restrictions or outright bans. It’s already been happening left and right – but the fact that it is a fait accompli, that we’ll be seeing more and more of it, that even tweaked but still beautiful fragrances will be maimed beyond recognition, doesn’t make me wax philosophical and sigh c’est la vie. It makes me mad.

Sure, perfumers are saying they’ll go on working. Some have never worked with those materials because they’re too young, so they won’t miss them. All make their living from composing fragrances, so they’re not likely to say they’re taking up pottery instead, are they? But jasmine, people. The Flower. The greatest building block of perfumery, reduced to piddling drops. It’s like saying to painters: you can’t put red in your paintings anymore, because we’ve found out it makes people more aggressive. And, oh, by the way, we’re repainting everything in the museums in pink, so there you go, now there’s a good fellow.

Of course, there are, and there’ll still be great new fragrances – but to say the new restrictions will increase perfumers’ creativity is like saying that banning certain subjects, or certain words, would make for better books. Artists have always, historically, worked their way around bans and taboos – and art, historically, has progressed by breaking through them, not accepting them meekly. But perfume is an industry, isn’t it? So meek is the mot du jour.

A few indies may go rogue, and continue to work with larger-than-authorized amounts of restricted materials, thereby giving up the right to be imported in the EU and the USA, among other parts of the world, and solely distributing to individual customers through the internet – that is, if they can find materials that will no longer be profitable to produce. But though for many perfumery is a labor of love, these people do have to make a living. And past a certain production volume, they do have to go through plants who comply with regulations.

I would dearly love to see perfume houses offer unadulterated versions of their classics for sale, even at a higher price, with a restricted distribution circuit, issued with the proper label warnings, but I somehow doubt that’ll happen, though I’m fully prepared to lobby them for it.

In the meantime, I’ll go and tell my 97-year-old neighbor, who’s been wearing Chanel N°5 since she was a mere girl, that her days are numbered if she goes on dabbing the dreaded jasmine-laden extrait. I’m sure she’ll be tickled to switch to Pink Sugar.

To quote the immortal Monty Python: “Aw, you’re no fun anymore.”

Image: Pieter Breughel the Elder, The Tirumph of Death (detail)

43 commentaires:

  1. you said it all so well... I feel deep sadness over all of this and I can't help obsessing about what to stock up on; what to choose when there are so many?
    xxx/K (with ipod in bed - I know I'm out of it)

  2. LisaCarol, I know, I've been spending insomniac hours trying to make up that list... Trouble is, whatever it is, I've smelled the vintage... so much better still...

  3. lord knows I've never worn Joy or Chanel No 5 but the world will be a much greyer place without them.

    As I wrote to Gaia: THIS MUST BE STOPPED.

  4. Hello, Denyse. You've captured what I've been feeling for the last week or so: deep sadness about this state of affairs, and about what the likely effects will be on the classics. The oakmoss and citrus things were bad enough, but I think it was hearing about the restrictions to be placed on jasmine that sent me over the edge.

    I've been curious to see the scientific evidence on allergic sensitization to perfumery ingredients, but have not been able to find much in the way of published reports in the scientific literature based on population data. Near as I can tell, for example, large studies on allergen testing in European populations show a prevalence of oakmoss allergies of 1.6 to 2.0%. (Meanwhile, the prevalence of allergic sensitization to nickel in the general population is 15-20%, but I don't see anyone trying to outlaw cheap jewelry).

  5. Tom: thing is, I've never seen European regulations being relaxed (unlike US/UK finance regulations up to now).

  6. Jarvis: cheap jewellery is not predominantly produced by publicly traded groups!
    I did see something a while back in Perfumer & Flavorist: someone questioned the validity/representativity of the allergy tests used. I'll try to find the reference again.
    And, yes, it sucks.

  7. I hope you can find that reference from "Perfume and Flavorist." Because I am also wondering about the validity of this research and, more importantly, who funded it. Call me what you will but I can't help but wonder if all of these allergies and sensitizations are just a red herring; how convenient to have an altruistic-seeming reason for banning the expensive or natural ingredients that must be "sourced" and replacing them with easily patentable, cheap aromachemicals.

    The art supply industry is an interesting counterpoint. You can buy artists paints containing lead, cadnium, cobalt, etc. They come with warnings are are much more expensive than the also-available substitutes. I suppose that business has more regard for its customers than the perfume business which is, let's face it, cosmetics.

  8. I'm sick to my stomach over this, because... well, just because. It does feel like censorship, and it's sickening.

    The research I'd like to see is that detailing this tidal wave of horrific allergic reactions people are supposedly having. Is this really such a dread scourge that they have to ruin my life to prevent it? Can't people with perfume allergies just not wear perfume??????

    Going to douse myself with Poivre and have a good cry now...

  9. Olfacta, I don't think the reason is altruistic either -- lawsuits are what's feared, I would imagine.
    I did find the reference in P&F, it's just a report on a meeting, but I'll try post on it soon.

  10. StyleSpy, you don't think the market wants to deprive itself of allergic customers, do you? And since in some countries like the USA it seems allergies are a nationwide scourge (judging from the inscription files of US students compared with those from the rest of the world)...

  11. "how convenient to have an altruistic-seeming reason for banning the expensive or natural ingredients that must be "sourced" and replacing them with easily patentable, cheap aromachemicals."

    Olfacta...I think you've got it my dear!!

  12. Everybody can feel deep sadness but at least we should expose those responsible and their ulterior motives.
    The fragrance and flavor companies like IFF and Givaudan (members of IFRA) are the driving force behind these allergens restrictions. They intensify lobbying to salvage natural ingredients in perfumery, which they don't make profits on, so that they can sell their patented synthetic molecules and make big money.

  13. Trish: Not to defend the role of the big labs in promoting the new regulations, but...
    Lots of aromachemicals aren't cheap. Some are more expensive than what they're meant to replace. Which is good for the labs and bad for the brands, and in turn can lead to cheapening and altering the formula when the accountants have their say. So in the end, yes, we get flooded with cheap-smelling stuff that in no way resembles the original perfume. But still, synthetic doesn't always equal cheap.

  14. Garde Rose: I wish a journalist would conduct a proper investigation on this. I somehow doubt it'll happen, as investigative journalism is a dying breed...

  15. Hmmm....has anyone had success in suing the tobacco companies? We all know their product kills, but nobody's outlawing tobacco. Too much big money, lawyers and lobbyists.

    "Allergy" in the US is, IMHO (and I stress the "O" here) a symptom of our burgeoning inability to simply put up with each other, live and let live, whatever you would like to call it. I'm not sure why this has happened to the extent that it has. It's worst in the biggest cities, Los Angeles being the one I've had the most experience with, and I suspect overcrowding and our overbearing "individual rights" philosophies are involved.

    I remember being at the Los Angeles airport once, waiting for a plane to arrive in a nearly empty gate area, having applied a tiny bit of jasmine essential oil. An older lady came in and sat down across from me. She began to sneeze. Obviously, she was having an allergic reaction to something, which could well have been my scent. But did she get up and move? No; she sat there and gave me the evil eye until I moved. And I had been there first. I think this says it all; at any rate, I've never forgotten the stares she gave me.

    There are people like this everywhere. They're the ones the perfume companies fear.

  16. Olfacta: that's a perceptive viewpoint on the allergy boom... In France, I've never been given the evil eye because of a fragrance. Of course, the big companies are scared of the complainers of the world: they're the ones who make the most noise.

  17. D, are you aware of any of the other recent EU food/cosmetics rulings that would provide a larger context for these? I'm only aware of one, and that after the fact--the recent ruling last fall to relax rulings on the size and shape of vegetables and fruits ( but it seems like they've been working their way through a whole series of these rulings since the formation of the EU. Let's hope the reversal on food bodes well for possible reversals on these.

    The problem, of course, is that so many of the naturals are produced on a small scale and come from places besieged by war, poverty, and natural disasters. One or two seasons without a buyer can spell disaster for those folks and once they're gone... And what will the farmers/harvesters do to replace their income? In Afghanistan, which was once a center for perfumery ingredients, they are growing opium poppies. For me, that is the real heart-wrencher.

  18. I can't make any sense out of this any more than anyone else can -- because it doesn't make sense. We keep arguing that it's illogical, as if logic had something to do with the decision. Clearly something besides logic is behind this. If (am I understanding this correctly) IFF and Givaudan are the driving force, then clearly the motive is profit. But I do not understand why the great houses (Guerlain, Chanel, Caron) have not risen up in protest? They could afford it, yes? Where are they? It is their product that will be cheapened -- in quality, not in price.

  19. Ce commentaire a été supprimé par un administrateur du blog.

  20. Alyssa, you're dead right about the crop growers, and I feel a bit callous not to have mentioned it. The stakes are so much higher for them...

    As for EU rulings, I don't have any precise info -- it does make from mind-numbingly dull reading -- but I'll try to look stuff up. Hours and hours of fun ahead.

  21. March: well, considering that big luxury groups see their stock go up when a launch is announced (not sure how that'll play out now), the money men don't really feel a moral obligation towards their brand heritage. They launch, the thing sells well for a couple of years, then on to a million flankers and a new launch...
    That covers publicly listed companies, which Chanel and Hermès aren't.
    So I don't know. And short of real investigative journalism, I don't think we're likely to find out for sure.

  22. Many thanks Denyse

    I really enjoy reading your eloquent, well-crafted piece as usual. I don’t leave enough messages on your blog but rest be assured that I read nearly all of them when I have time.

    I share with you, along with many fragrance enthusiasts, a sense of inevitable sadness that the transience associated with the human experience is with us yet again—and with the way it’s going more changes will surely be ahead. But I have shed enough tears: I’m going to treasure whatever fragrances I have, to honor whatever wonderful olfactory experiences I am fortunate enough to experience, and to hope that someone out there is talented enough to recognize the creative solutions behind the regulations. After all, it is the bars and the spaces that make up a cage—it’s within our power to utilize what we have. We all have that power to decide how we view the world.

    To be honest I have yet taking a stance on this situation: if life has taught me anything I would like to understand the logics behind the stakeholders. Then again I can be very science oriented so I would continue spend the time doing so.

    But enough about that: here are some of my thoughts and feel free to me let me know what you think. Because you have raised so many wonderful points please excuse me for quoting you from time to time in order to get my points across more effectively. Again, I have no ulterior motive—all I want is to give my two cents and learn from you.

    1. “But jasmine, people. The Flower. The greatest building block of perfumery, reduced to piddling drops. It’s like saying to painters: you can’t put red in your paintings anymore, because we’ve found out it makes people more aggressive. And, oh, by the way, we’re repainting everything in the museums in pink, so there you go, now there’s a good fellow.”

    I have just read the summary of the IFRA regulation regarding Jasminum grandiflora and J. sambac, both of which, as you know, are restricted. Still, the IFRA summary is quite vague, its language arguably too rigid for me to get to the heart of the matter so I’ll have to consult Helg. But right off the bat I see several options which the industry can pursue: I will have to test out my theory with various industry members over the next few months but these are my gut reactions.

    a. If the sensitizer warning is due to the presence of a few notable chemicals (again, I need to read more on this subject) perhaps firms can splice out the problematic molecules (or figure out how to do that). If Laboratoire Monique Rémy can offer Jean-Claude Ellena photo-sensitizer-free petitgrain upon composing Bigarade Concentrée maybe that’s one way of getting around it. (LMR and Biolande have the capability to do so, as I have been saying for a while now.)

    b. If using adjusted natural jasmine fully isn’t an option then perhaps the industry can continue find the next best alternative, which right now would be using a blend of natural (within the recommended dilution) plus appropriate abstract compounds. It’s not perfect but I suppose it’s better than nothing for now.

    c. The bottom line is that the technology will have to adapt to the regulations so we can find a proper solution, for jasmine is too great to pass up.

    But to be honest similar regulations have happened throughout the human civilization, and variations on your colour example, as outrageous as it is, have happened in various cultures. Take yellow, for instance: in imperial China yellow was once reserved for the emperors only—in various dynasties possessing any clothing in yellow silk could be considered treason (God forbids if it is embroidered with dragon) and death shall be automatic. So naturally painters were not allow to draw ordinary citizens wearing yellow, for fear of depicting anyone being an emperor, which is just as bad. And let’s not forget the Romans with their Tyrian purple, another imperial dye with similar regulations. If we go beyond colour-related examples chocolate was even once reserved to the Aztec court members only, so the bottom line is that, while the rules are now considered to be ridiculous, human beings have, throughout time, formulated and reformulated their opinions on how the world should be governed. It is, after all, that exact act of reformation that creates the human experience. So to me this is life: it’s not going to be perfect and we can’t always get what we want—and before I give up the fight I need to understand the logics behind all this.

    2. “Of course, there are, and there’ll still be great new fragrances – but to say the new restrictions will increase perfumers’ creativity is like saying that banning certain subjects, or certain words, would make for better books. Artists have always, historically, worked their way around bans and taboos – and art, historically, has progressed by breaking through them, not accepting them meekly. But perfume is an industry, isn’t it? So meek is the mot du jour.”

    No, banning certain subjects, or certain words, would not make for better books. Then again it is creativity that drives the whole things around, and we need to create because nothing else will do—and that very act is stemmed from certain limitations, too. We create words, for instance, not primarily because we can, but because nothing in existence will make our experience more utterable. I suspect it is also why we write poems because genres such as fiction, prose or personal essays won’t exactly do upon expressing the intangibles. It’s not about whether the rules will create better sparks—to me it’s all about people’s desire to express ourselves in spite of the restrictions.

    The bottom line is that perfumery, like everything else, has its limitations even without the current regulations—I dream of working with natural lily of the valley, hyacinth, and lilac extracts, but then again I obviously cannot fully. On the other hand we have Diorissimo, Envy, and En Passant because the noses have found ways to go around the issue and meet the challenges.

    I totally agree that the restrictions won’t make perfumery a better expression, but arguably someone may wish to get around the regulations in order to continue creating. And, under the right circumstances, the creations may be genuinely good.

    As for the industry reaction I too am surprised by how monotonous the reaction has been, but I think I need to gather more evidence in order to make better sense out of it.

    3. “I would dearly love to see perfume houses offer unadulterated versions of their classics for sale, even at a higher price, with a restricted distribution circuit, issued with the proper label warnings, but I somehow doubt that’ll happen, though I’m fully prepared to lobby them for it.”

    I haven’t thought of that idea, which is quite good. I am fully prepared to lobby them for it, too!

    Anyhow, I hope you understand where I’m coming from—I have been an avid reader so I’m just doing what I can to understand your position and perhaps let you know what I think. I truly hope, in the spirit of open dialogue we can get to the bottom of this whole situation (and if I have not understood anything fully please enlighten me).

    Yours truly,


  23. Ce commentaire a été supprimé par un administrateur du blog.

  24. AlbertCAN: thank you for your long and thoughtful comment. It's hard to address all of it, the issues involved are so sweeping, so here are just a few thoughts:

    1.If I were to consult anyone on this it would be Octavian Coifan, who is an ISIPCA graduate as well as a perfume historian, and has studied the formulas of classic fragrances.

    I would be interested to know what people within the industry think, but I suspect many will respect the omerta that’s always been the rule in the perfume world – though tongues may untie off the record. Why would a perfume company disclose their tweaking if this means that more customers will turn away from the adulterated juice?

    The only reason we heard about Mitsouko was because Luca Turin raised up a stink, and the only reason why it wasn’t reformulated by a junior perfumer is because people like Sylvaine Delacourte insisted that a great perfumer, Edouard Fléchier, be allowed to work on it. There *is* a difference between a careful reformulation and a callous, botched one.

    But as for the rest – hush, hush. When you speak to SAs, you realize customers have been complaining about this or that fragrance not smelling the same, though they don’t necessarily think about reformulation. They just stop buying it, so it gets cheaper and cheaper and ends up in the drugstore. Who cares, with 800 launches a year?

    Re: Jasmine. There might indeed be a way to tease out the allergens from natural materials (as has already been done in certain cases), but I suspect this would be a more expensive solution, and not the one primarily chosen.

    The civilizations you refer to, that did impose restrictions on the use of color or the consumption of certain foods are not quite the ones I was thinking of when I spoke about art – they were highly rigid, hierarchical and/or administrative cultures. Perfumery may not have been born in the West, but perfumery as a form of art is a Western creation and thus, the Western concept of culture was what I referred to.

    2.Of course, thank God, perfumers will continue creating – but as one anonymous perfumer commented on the French version of this post, they are deeply dismayed and disheartened by the ever-increasing restrictions, though they may not come out and say so publicly – it *is* their livelihood, after all.

    3.I believe the idea was put forward by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, but I’d been thinking along similar lines… It’s not impossible, and I have mentioned the idea to “powers that be”…

    My position is not particularly complicated on this matter, though: I’m pissed off that no one powerful enough to make themselves heard put up a fight against Brussels, and that as a result, much of the heritage of the past century will be irretrievably lost, barring technological advances which will enable perfumers to recreate the richness and complexity of natural materials, or the effect of restricted synthetics.

    But I’m leery of conspiracy theories, because what would be needed is a piece of investigative journalism, and in that respect, I hope that you, I, or anyone concerned will have the patience and obstinacy to get real information about the ins and outs of this sad state of affairs.

  25. Wow, lovely speedy reply Denyse

    I appreciate my opportunity to let you know what I think, and thank you for your considerate reply. You’ve raised some wonderful points so allow me to elaborate further on some items:

    1. Octavian has kindly responded my comments on his blog under his good “Free Chanel No. 5” post: he has pointed out the complexity associated with the reformulation effort (which I surmise you probably have read at this point). Once again I’ve learnt so much from him so I’ll consider his comments very carefully in the near future.

    I just want to clarify and reaffirm that IMHO the bottom line is that the industry muct react to the regulations by figuring out a way to create better raw materials that comply with the regulations—and the regulators need to give the time to catch up. I know both are hard given what we’ve witnessed but someone gotta figure out a way to make it work eventually.

    As for the Guerlain creations I like the current formulation of Shalimar parfum very much so maybe eventually I’ll try the new Mitsouko parfum—can you let me know what you honestly think of it? I am asking because I got the EdT and couldn’t find a way to embrace it.

    2. As for the secrecy surrounding reformulation it is a very complicated issue: it’s going to open up a new can of worms if I give you a piece of my mind so I’m just going to acknowledge the fact that you have a very valid point.

    3. Tyrian purple I was referring to is a creation by the ancient Phoenicians in the city of Tyre. The dye consists of a fresh mucous secretion from the hypobranchial gland of a medium-sized predatory sea snail, the marine gastropod Murex brandaris, currently known as Haustellum brandaris—and the Romans controlled the use of the dye by regulating how the shell is harvested: the improper use of the colour would be met with death. The colour was prized by Romans, who used it to colour ceremonial robes—mosaics from the Byzatine Empire would depict emperors such as Justinian wearing such attire. So I have included Western example as well: again, what I've raised is more complicated than what you've talked about, but the underlying spirit to me cannot be ignored.

    And yes, I am not interested in conspiracy theory anymore—and I would image few will speak on record, but it’s a part of the process. The IFRA regulations, after all, will likely to stick around so I might as well learn.



  26. AlbertCAN: Octavian is a fount of knowledge! ;-) And I'm happy he lives near my house, so we can often meet up to smell various things and discuss the aesthetics of perfumers/perfumery...

    I haven't smelled Mitsouko in the extrait yet -- I was cowering at the thought... But I will.

    And I know about Tyrian purple -- the Romans, though a major force in forming the Western civilisation, didn't contribute enormously in the fields of arts (that's why I said "administrative" culture), and the Byzantines were, well, byzantine... But that's another conversation entirely!

    And you're right, the IFRA regulations aren't likely to go away, so let's hope the industry does come up with replacements.

  27. Denyse, de-lurking to add some thoughts from the legal perspective (I'm not a specialist in cosmetics product issues, but instead have a background in engineering product liability). The key issue is, in the EU, the Product Liability Directive makes a manufacturer or producer of a product and in some cases the importer into the EU liable if the product has a defect in it which causes damage - such as personal injury. To succeed in suing the manufacturer, the consumer need not show that the manufacturer etc was negligent in any way. there are some defences that the manufacturer can use, but if we have a situation where a perfume contains items banned by IFRA guidelines or more than the allowed levels, then the manufacturer is going to have a liability exposure.

    And you cannot get round this by contract or agreement with the customer to take the risk.

    As a lifelong Mitsouko lover (also Joy, Chanel 5, Opium - everything else on the death list)I'm devastated at the thought that my HG will no longer exist. I've worn it for nearly 20 years and never had a reaction - and I have the palest,most sensitive English skin ever!

    I've been racking my brains to think of a way round the regulations. One possible way (which is off the top of my head and I have not researched at all) is to go down the route Estee Lauder did when she formulated the original Youth Dew bath oil. I may be entirely wrong, and would welcome any thoughts from any of the professional perfumers and chemists, but are there not different regulations applicable to products that are intended to be rinsed from the skin - such as bath oil - which may permit a higher concentration of the "offending" item? If this is the case then perhaps Joy/Mitsouko bath oil is a solution (which we will all wear as perfume). I'd be interested in anyone's thoughts on this.

    I was planning to write to Chanel, Guerlain and Patou to gauge the official reaction. I'm rather confused with Dr Turin's latest article concerning Mitsouko as I had thought that it had been re-formulated to be IFRA-compliant. I have tested the new extrait - it is acceptable, better than nothing and certainly better than the EDT but does not last - I have the 80's PDT which has about ten times the lasting power.

  28. Wow, Denyse! You never cease to amaze me: even though I have a major report due tonight I am still reading your posts.

    I'm especially surprised by your comment that the Romans didn't contribute enormously in the fields of arts. Firstly reaction: ouch! But since I can write a whole essay talking about it (which I won't do) I can see where you are coming from. Then again, the Romans did give us guidling architectural princples, the foundation of Western typography (Trajanus, anyone?) and help preserving some major Greek art works, many of which would surely be destoryed in the hands of other conquerors. Sure, it's not as exciting as the Renaissance (which I intend to systematically survey in a few weeks) but I wouldn't discount it altogether. (And we wouldn't have "Memoir d'Hadrien" by Marguerite Yourcenar if the Roman emperor's life wasn't so colourful--and I'm sure you know the connection between the novel and the recently reformulated fragrance.)


  29. Anonymous, thank you so much for shedding some light on the legal aspects of the matter.
    I'm quite incompetent regarding the different standards to be met by different products, but I've been reading Octavian Coifan's comments on the different grades of materials, all struck by the same restrictions regardless of the fact that it is sometimes the artefacts created by the synthesizing process, rather than the material itself, that is an allergen (his stated example is coumarin).

    So I don't know if this type of take-no-prisoners, sweeping policy applies to the distinction between fine fragrance and other perfumed products such as cosmetics, shampoos, body oils, etc.

    Anyway, thanks for de-lurking, and please comment again!

  30. AlbertCAN: well, I'm not an art historian, but I must repeat that in the field of fine arts, I can think of a lot more creative periods in history. But then, that may be just me re-reading Kenneth Clark.

  31. D,
    Thank you for clarifying that synthetic does not always = cheap. I have to agree with March though. This does reek of $$ being the force behind all this.


  32. AlbertCAN,

    It's very hard for me to read your novel-like post. China - yellow -emperors - Ok fine, you're an extremely cultured person but what do you know of how the world is functioning?
    Why do we have IFRA regulations on allergens that only cause stupid skin rashes to less than 1% of the people when cigarettes are still legal and hundreds of EU studies are predicting a cataclysmic wave of cancers due to cell phone towers and wifi transmistters?
    There are hidden reasons other than the people's welfare, don't you think?

  33. Trish, could be dollars, but also in the sense that the perfume/cosmetics industry is trying to pre-empt costly lawsuits and bad press by self-enforcing stricter standards than ever. IFRA doesn't have force of law: its member voluntarily comply with regulations. Don't forget that odorant compounds are also used in cosmetics, a much larger market than fine perfumery: the most precious baby got thrown out with the bathwater.

  34. Garde Rose: yup, Chinese and Roman emperors, that was a little off-track... But from what I've gathered, AlbertCAN does have some professional experience related to the perfume business (see his reply to the relevant post on Now Smell This).

    As for the cosmetics/perfume industry, they're taking care of themselves: IFRA is a self-regulatory European body and has nothing to do with cigarettes and cell phone towers, which I'm sure we all agree are a greater threat than rashes -- but not to IFRA members, except insofar as they are human beings too.

  35. Good point about the cosmetic industry D....keeping us on track here. But how much pure/natural ylang ylang and jasmine are the major cosmetic companies really using anyway?

    What I really want to know is who funded the study that found jasmine to be such a severe allergen? Was it one study, two? Was it peer reviewed? If you could steer me to those sources I would be very appreciative.


  36. ... and preempting lawsuits are done all the time with warning labels.

    I know it's being hotly debated in the comments over on perfume shrine, but I don't see why they wouldn't work in this situation.

    Take the prevalence of peanut allergies in the US. (Which are FAR more deadly that any jasmine rash will ever be). Every box of cookies you pick up these says something like, "May have been processed on equipment that has come in contact with peanuts"

    Why not have something similar on a perfume bottle that contains a potential allergen and leave it at that? If they can do it for nut/food allergies, and hair coloring, and hot coffee cups, lawyers can figure out how to word it on a perfume box for god's sake!

    These restrictions are not merely to protect companies from lawsuits. There's more going on here than that.

  37. Trish, there are already labels: everything that's on the list of materials is a potential allergen (if you study your boxes you'll see the same materials cropping up constantly). The other materials aren't noted. What there isn't, is a specific allergy warning.

    As for sources, they're easy enough to find snooping around the Net (at least the abstracts), but if you have any kind of background that would be useful in this field please write to me at graindemusc at gmail dot com and I'll send you a few links tomorrow. I'm sure there are also plenty on Anya McCoy's blog, which you can track down through PoL.

  38. D,
    I think there should be a specific allergy warning. The lawyers know how to frame that. No one is going to die from jasmine exposure, but people do die from consuming peanuts.

    So the idea that this is to avoid law suits rings false to me.

    I'll be emailing you for those links!


  39. Ce commentaire a été supprimé par un administrateur du blog.

  40. Carmencanada, yours is one of the most insightful pieces on this subject that I have seen. I wish I had the expertise to decide how bad this really will be, but like most of us I am more of a fan than an expert. I think it has gone this far because people can't really believe it could happen, and now that we are at the brink, it is finally sinking in.

  41. To any of you who've been wondering why there are so many suppressed comments on this subject: I'm not censoring!!!

    But I'm being deluged by Chinese spam, which one of my readers has told me is, on top of being annoying, of a pornographic nature.

    I may at some point need to activate the comments filter, for which I apologize in advance-- it's a little frustrating not to see your comment appear immediately...

  42. Flora, thank you. It's a very complex subject to tackle, and horribly frustrating because even with the competence to question the science that support these decisions, the decision process and the hidden agenda, if any, that motivates them... It's a done deal.

    One thing I can tell you, is that perfumers are in tears too -- one wrote an anonymous comment on the French version of the post (but has been verified as "legit" through some cross-checking).

    All the evidence points to one thing: if you can't live without it, stock up.