To quench our thirst for leading edge insights and technologies in scent, we have the privilege to attend some great inspiring congresses. This time I attended The Perfumative in Zürich, hosted by the Züricher Hochschule der Künste (November 8-10, 2018).

Is perfume art, design or artifact?

Interesting but academic was the starting question of the organizers (Zuricher Hochschule and University Berlin): is perfume art, design or an artifact of popular culture? Refreshingly down-to-earth was perfumer Andy Tauer’s answer: ‘perfume is a product, which I create, produce and sell.’ We agree: sit back and enjoy :-)!

How do architecture and design inspire the creation of perfumes?
A great opening speech was given by the convincing and honest Antonio Gardoni. He started questioning the trivial discussion whether he should be regarded as an architect or as a perfumer, both his disciplines, and excellent fields of expertise. He creates, makes and realizes projects, may it be buildings, interiors, spaces or perfumes.

I loved his answer on some over-the-top questions with “Ignorance is a great virtue”.

Antonio Gardoni Bogue Profumo Zurich“As an architect and perfumer, I find myself unintentionally thinking about space as something we experience rather than just a matter of measurements.
Perfumes must be instable, variable, ever-changing, fragile, and volatile journeys, which appear and disappear, leaving a space in-between their components during their life span and development.”

Discover Antonio’s perfumes here.

Perfumes are a great sign of the times

Dr. Anne Kramer, passionate to raise perfumery more to the attention of the academic world, presented an inspiring analysis of perfumes as sign of the times. I particularly like the idea to link trends in perfumes to the sign of the times, as perfume can be seen as expression of cultural, societal and technological ideas.

A nice discussion followed whether the popularity of gourmand can be seen in the light of:
• A non-calories alternative for the weight conscious generation (no carbs, no sugar, no fat, but sticky sweet perfumes)
• Driven by the success of perfumes as Angel with maltol.
• A comforting sweetness in a world of turmoil (bringing back the sweet memories of safe childhood times)
• Hand in hand as contra movement to the clean scents (as in laundry, softeners and skin scents)

Anne Kramer: Was sagt es über eine Gesellschaft aus, wenn Erwachsene seit den 1990er Jahren bevorzugt entweder sauber und rein wie Weichspüler oder süß und üppig nach Kuchen oder Schokolade duften möchten? Wie bewusst wählen wir ein Parfum oder wählt es umgekehrt uns?”

You have to listen what the perfume whispers to you

With great respect, the audience listened to perfumer Satori Osawa from Tokyo (in impeccable carefully prepared English).
Satori Osawa Anne Kramer Berlin Zurich
She gave a thorough explanation and insight in the Japanese culture and preferences in perfume and scent.
“We can observe the difference in how fragrances and perfumes are perceived in Japan in contrast to Europe. Japanese tend to prefer scents that are light, fleeting, I would say, a fragrance that breathes. ”

I was moved by her mentioning her experience first visiting Annindriya Perfume Lounge in Amsterdam:
Quote Satori
For more details on her talk, you can also read Satori Osawa’s blog. Discover the Japanese style in perfumery in her perfumes here

To be or not to be... perfumer

As the congress was organized by the departments of arts and design, many students attended. Also, the movement of ‘open source’ information on perfume creation and the rise of many self-taught perfume makers was discussed. When do you call somebody a perfumer, when do you call yourself a perfumer? The term perfumer is not protected, nor do you need to have a formal or classical education in perfume making. You may also argue that one is a perfumer, as soon as you make perfumes (independent of its quality or refinement). We do however regard someone to be a perfumer when both skills and creativity are combined (both traditionally trained or autodidact).

Sharing knowledge is a good thing, but we do feel that there is a thin line between ‘democratization and vulgarization’. “The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.” - J.F. Kennedy.
At the same time, Philip Kraft, a leading fragrance chemist in the industry stated: “Don’t be afraid of being an amateur. Just jump in and join the conversation.” This is also good advice. 

And... "It is not a purpose to become a perfumer, but a matter of what you would like to achieve after becoming a perfumer." - Satori Osawa.

A flacon is so much more than only packaging

Tabac Blond inner Le Muguet Coty
What a special treat to be allowed inside the archives of the Design Museum of Zürich. We were accompanied by Sabine Flaschberger, curator of the art collection. Thank you Sabine, for the opportunity to see vintage flacons of Tabac Blond by Caron and Le Muguet of Coty.

The value of vocabulary of scents and perfume reviews

I had to miss the presentation of the lovely and talented Victoria Frolova (Bois de Jasmin) on the last day (duty called, had to be at the company). Fortunately, all presentations are being filmed and published soon, so we will publish the links as soon as they are available. One can find all presentations here.
Victoria Frolova concluded in her highlights of The Perfumative: “Let’s talk about scents. The more we talk about them, the more we develop our capacity to describe them and the more relevance they have for us in our daily life. Paying attention to scents enhances our sensory perceptions in general, so why miss an opportunity to make our world more colorful and exciting?”
We could not agree more!