There are many stories behind perfumes and how they’re made. Who they are made by has remained a matter of myth and marketing until fairly recently. The stories themselves have often been embellished at best, or completely made up at worst. The perfumista movement and the general public’s increasing interest in finding out what goes on behind the scenes is getting even the mainstream industry to respond, albeit in somewhat edited form.
The industry is still very secretive and slow to adapt to the new world of inquisitive, information-hungry consumers. Perfume manufacturers have traditionally viewed each other as competitors and still do, to a large extent. So how much you actually show can make even the bravest executive a little paranoid. There are some things you show because they can make good modern marketing stories and there are some things you’d rather not talk about because you fear the consumers will misunderstand the information or your competitors will be making notes. It’s also part of the service for a traditional perfume manufacturer to keep their client relationships in strictest confidence. It allows the creation of definitive brands (rather than tracing all the juice in the world to a handful of companies). I think this makes business sense in many cases, but on the other hand, some brands have cashed in on the fame of the perfumers who have become well known and well loved. This makes many perfumers “brands” in their own right, which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the situation.
Still, I think this video produced by IFRA North America is great, not just because it manages to capture some of the love and geekery from the perfumers themselves towards their craft, but because it allows a little peek behind the scenes for us all. Clearly this can only cover a small aspect of the traditional mainstream industry and doesn’t explore what is happening in the world of indie perfumery. I believe that regardless of employer, there are certain things common to all perfumers.