SOMMELIER DU PARFUM Blog
SOMMELIER DU PARFUM Blog

The perfume professionals

Does the universe of fragrance fill you with dreams? Focus on career that are directly or indirectly related to olfactory creation.

Modified on
May 18th 2022

By
Samuel Fillon

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Apart from a few brand ( Guerlain, Chanel, Hermes, Dior and Cartier), the vast majority of olfactory creations are developed in the so-called composition houses.

In 1938, Jean Carles, the famed perfumer behind the first Miss Dior perfume, decided to open a perfume school Chez Roure, initially a raw materials manufacturer. The young people trained Chez Roure were destined to join the Haute-Couture houses which were also producing perfume. It is explained by the fact that the Haute-Couture houses were customers of the manufacturer Roure. A few years later, Roure chose to hire the newly and fully trained perfumers to propose a composition service for fashion brand which did not have perfume laboratory.

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Nowadays, a handful of large composition companies share the global market of fragrances and flavors in the cosmetics and food-processing industries. The leading figures of this market, Givaudan (ex-Roure, located in Switzerland), Firmenich (also in Switzerland) and IFF (in the USA), gather the greatest nose and perfume professionals in the whole world. But, how is a perfume or a fragrance designed ?

Marketing brief : the kingmaker of the creation process

Let’s take a random Haute couture brand seeking to develop a new perfume. The creative process begins with the marketing team meeting, to create a marketing brief, a document outlining the feature of the new perfume. According to the brand, the marketing brief can go from very short “Young woman, 25-35 yo, loves shopping at Printemps, holiday in Normandy, drives a smart” to a several pages document. In many ways, the marketing brief is akin to a specification even though the project outline are not yet well defined and the content and the assessment methods are not fanciful. According to its budget, a brand then send to one or more composition houses which will be call for bids to provide a well-suited formula.

The composition house : a guide for perfumers and evaluators

As in architecture, when a brand send a brief to a composition house, you have to be better than the others to win the project. For greater launches, the composition house could even put several team in internally competition amongst each other to provide a wider array to the brand.

A usual team is composed of one perfumer – also called a nose – and of one assessor whose job is much like a project manager.

The assessor, the team’s core.

Often from the same educational background and studies as the perfumer, the assessor acts as a bridge between the marketing team and its marketing brief and the perfumer with whom he or she will technically speaks. Very aware of the latest olfactory trends but also of legislative evolutions, he will be able to advise the perfumer in his creative research and will make sure that the final product is as close as possible with the brand’s requirements.

The nose, halfway between art and crafts

There are only 500 of them in the whole world. These fragrance composer have been highly trained in composition houses or specialized schools as the ISIPCA or the ESP. Mostly trained to identify and to use thousands of raw materials, perfumers not only create body fragrances (or “Fine perfumery”) but also perfume dedicated to others industries for washing powder and detergent (also known as “Functional perfumery”) although they fairly often choose one of these two study fields.

Educational and professional training

To find your way to the perfume industry and to become perfumer, the most common schooling are a chemistry or biochemistry bachelor followed by a specialized training in a perfumery school. The most known are :

  • L’ISIPCA in Vers ailles

  • L’Ecole Supérieure du Parfum in Paris

  • Each composition house owns its own school and applies its very own requirement for selection. One thing is unchanging, however: the number of people enrolled each year is very small (less than ten).

Other training courses are also available, rather designed for professionnal who wants to broaden their knowledge in perfume composition or in new aspects of the industry. Among these are  Cinquième Sens which offers training and perfume group actives between Paris (XVe) and Grasse

To work in the marketing department of a brand, the most common training is in a business or a perfumery school mainly specialized in marketing. Some business schools also offer study field specialized in the cosmetics industry. The easiest way to find out is still to ask the people in charge of recruitment at the school.