7 Things You May Not Know about Perfumery and Scent Design

2:27 PM

Avinash Mali, Perfumer Trainee, IFF
Andreas Fibig, our CEOand Chairman at IFF, has noted what a scarce resource perfumers are today. In fact, of the world’s 600 total perfumers, IFF employs about 10 percent of them. To put this into perspective, there are fewer perfumers in the world than there are astronauts.

Demystifying the Nose 

Being a nose, as perfumers are fondly called, is a complex job that has always had a higher barrier to entry. Historically, either you either came from a family of perfumers and followed that same path or studied chemistry and apprenticed within the fragrance industry for several years under seasoned professionals before coming into your own.

After 127 years of creating Fragrances, we recognize how the roles of perfumers, as well as others involved in the scent design process, have evolved, requiring multiple skill sets.

 Here we share some insider insights:

7 Things You May Not Know about Perfumery and Scent Design  

1. Perfumers are Consumer-Centric

Perfumers at IFF strive to deliver unique experiences to consumers. Creating a new signature fragrance requires a constant interaction with our consumer. This requires deep listening, empathy and the abilities to understand and deconstruct key scent attributes such as clean, fresh, caring, and others that may be important to their needs.

When Daniel Li, IFF Senior Perfumer, Consumer Fragrances, creates signature scents for consumers, he is passionate about how much he is energized and inspired by how consumers interact throughout the creative process. For him, this feedback is very important. He often finds himself amazed by the depth of emotions evoked by his creations, especially in the shampoo or detergent categories.

2. Innovation First
“Fragrance creation at IFF is fueled by cutting-edge, innovative research tools and a team of industry-leading experts who accelerate our discoveries. Pioneering new technologies allow us to anticipate the future needs of consumers around the world, and bring new and winning ideas to the marketplace sooner. We hold curiosity and the desire to explore to be key values, as they continually drive us to discover and develop ingredients that give our customers the best fragrances for everything from fine perfumes to beauty, detergent and household goods. Perfumers don’t create in a vacuum – they interact with new technologies and draw on consumer insights to deliver unique experiences in every category.”- Valery Claude, VP Creation and Applied Development, Consumer Fragrances, IFF

3. It’s Not Just About Chemistry
“At IFF, we consider our work to be the catalyst for discoveries that spark the senses and transform the everyday. Our perfumers and scent design managers create and explore and imagine experiences that enrich our life experience in both the fine and consumer fragrance categories. Think of all the products that you use, and how their scent influences and affects your user experience. Perfumers must have imagination, passion and creativity, along with inherent olfactive abilities (being able to distinguish and remember scents) and a foundation in the sciences.”- Barbara Gydé, Scent Design & Creation School Director, IFF

4. Grit and Tenacity Count
“There’s a range of career paths in the world of fragrance, including perfumers, scent design managers and technical perfumers – and in many aspects of the field, fine fragrance and under the umbrella of consumer fragrance, fabric care, hair care, home care and personal wash. In addition to the creative and technical skills, each path requires different degrees of problem solving, customer focus, business acumen, vision and intuition. Ours is a highly competitive arena, so dedication, focus, collaboration and resilience are critical to be successful. We always want to be listening to our customers to anticipate their needs, respond quickly and exceed their expectations.”- Eva Dias, VP, Global HR Business Partner, Fragrances, IFF

5. Beyond Grasse

Grasse, France, has been renowned as the world’s capital of perfumery since the Middle Ages. Today, consumer and market demand calls for perfumers that can cater to both global and local preferences.

For example, Brazil and Dubai are some of the top fragrance markets in the industry right now. At IFF, our people are bilingual and multilingual, global citizens. We look for talent who see the world through the multifaceted lens of an explorer.

Our perfumers come from diverse backgrounds and are based at our creative centers around the world: Shanghai, Singapore, Dubai, Brazil, Mexico, New York, the Netherlands and France.

Carlos Benaim, IFF Master Perfumer, for example, grew up in Morocco, but has lived and worked during his career at IFF in Paris, France; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and New York, USA.

Sophia Grojsman is a legendary perfumer at IFF who will be honored next month at the Fragrance Foundation 2016 Awards with a lifetime achievement award. She hails from Belarus, Russia and studied in Poland before making the United States and IFF her home.

While IFF perfumer, Chiaki Nomura, has lived in 6 countries in 4 continents. She is originally from Japan.  

6. Perfumers Create Fragrances for Many Products and Experiences Beyond Perfume

Our perfumers work on an array of projects from celebrity fragrances, to detergents, candles, hair products, air freshener, body wash, hand sanitizer, deodorants and many more. Innovation is at the heart of our strategy. At IFF, we work on over 38,000 products annually as well as develop and adapt new technologies.

Franc Schiet, Senior Perfumer, VP, Research Perfumery, in R&D at IFF, shared, “As a perfumer, my favorite part of the job is the freedom to create something new.”

Starwood Hotels asked Laurent Le Guernec, Senior Perfumer, to design an interior ambient scent that would bring nature inside and have guests feel the walls breathing. Le Guernec thrives on these kinds of out-of-the-box challenges that let him to apply his creativity and develop his art into sensorial experiences.  

7. We are all Marketers

Sales and marketing teams work closely with perfumers. We spoke with Lorenzo Cavallaro, Vice President Specialty Sales and Frederic Pignault, Vice-President Sales, Prestige Fragrances, at IFF both now based in New York who shared:

Lorenzo: “It will be important for tomorrow’s perfumers to have a deep understanding of the market and consumers within the industry, to relate to the needs and tastes - globally and across categories -- and provide deep intellectual rationale”.

Frederic: “Customer intimacy is key for perfumers to be successful. They must know the palette of ingredients, be fully immersed in the market, understand the brand and the brief, have great listening skills and be able to integrate comments and feedback – all while building trust to so that customers will be confident in their decisions. We work in a category that is driven by emotions, so we have to build strong and personal connections”.

We’re currently seeking tomorrow’s scent designers and perfumers. 

We encourage you to explore career opportunities on our site or apply for our new School of Scent Design & Creation (MSc) program.

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