A Developing Olfactive Manifesto
Perceive scent as a medium, not as a commodity. The hammer extends the arm, and the wheel extends the leg — a fragrance is an extension of ourselves, our ideas, and our histories. It provides us with a new mode of communication, expression, and interpersonal connection. Use it as such, and there is so much to gain from the medium.
A fragrance is not to be worn, but lived. A perfume should not be used as an accessory to the body, but as an accessory to the mind, and crimes committed by the heart. They are not to be worn by you, but should be worn through you.
See less, smell some, feel more. Don’t see a perfume as it is, see it as you are. Whatever story a fragrance company tries to tell you about a fragrance, trust that it is incomplete without its main protagonist – You.
A SENSE OF ASPIRATION
A perfume must have an aspiration that extends beyond just smelling as a fragrance on a person or an aromatic redolence in a space. Look for its intention, and not only will you connect more deeply with it, it will expand your mind and body in so many ways beyond its limited olfactive form.
Less branding the better, no branding the best. Let people follow you for the meaning and experience of the brand and fragrances, not only for the images. If you remove the perfume cap, the name or logo from the bottle, it should still be identifiable. Aim for a work of art, literally something that could live in a museum or gallery, and gives the user more than just a name on a label, but adds to the depth that they are trying to create in their life.
Follow the basic science. Do everything in the opposite of what is expected and you will attract an outcome of true differentiation. If the bottle requires a name, make it nameless. If it requires a box, make it boxless. If the trending smells are oud, make it floral. If they are synthetic, make it natural. It is such a simple concept and creative process, but it holds all the weight of gold and magic in the world.
Be the most unanticipated. Because the most anticipated is boring. Surprise is an element of intrigue. A thoughtfully produced product does not require a huge marketing roll out. It speaks for itself.
Be emotional. Creativity can not exist without emotions, much less a perfume. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Your mission is to be creative – the currency of creativity is feelings. The vulnerable becomes the valuable.
The process is always the product. The product is merely a record or memory of the journey. Live the process, store or shelve the product.
Really… just be yourself. If you are truly honest, you will reveal yourself. Avoid the impulse of trying to be an individual, some industry character or different, this will come naturally through honesty. Don’t pretend. Don’t be fake. No matter what. Like recognizes like. The real ones can smell it!
Leave accounting, for the accountants. You are not accountable to anything, but the creative process. You do not owe anyone an explanation or an answer… if there was ever an answer in the first place.
Always sacrifice the lesser for the greater goals. It’s tough, often those around you will be unhappy or disappointed. Your focus on the bigger picture may make them feel less worthy or involved. Take solace in knowing that whatever the greater vision you choose to fully invest yourself in will ultimately benefit everyone, including the small thinkers.
SALES & DISTRIBUTION
Sell your products, don’t sell your soul. Perfumeries that aim to create true cultural value, and human connection, should not be sold in apothecaries or department stores. A more meaningful showcase is in museums, galleries or select shops that seek to create a deeper level of cultural engagement, and foster creativity. With the financial needs of a small brand this could be challenging – I know this first hand, however I aim for complete independence from traditional retail and distribution channels. Foster a direct relationship with your audience. Department stores and boutiques come and go, loyal fans stand by meaningful brands that resonate with them for a lifetime.
Avoid the romance and long lists of ingredients. A fragrance “romance copy” can be romantic, this is a powerful sentiment. A seductive ingredient list could look attractive and in some cases luxurious, but it means nothing if the end user has no concept or olfactive memory of these isolated ingredients. And, does one really need to go to another imaginary villa in Florence to achieve a particular feeling from a fragrance? Try to list the emotional ingredients instead. The tactile and everyday experiences that a person could easily form a vision around. We are all guilty of this, but there is something beautiful in simple directness in describing a fragrance. For example, “Smoke blowing through an apple on the concrete.” Let the user continue the narrative from there, write their own romance and live their own fantasy. Don’t tell them what the final story should be or mean, but suggest possibilities of how it could potentially feel or in which ways it could unfold. Perhaps you will see the apple as something left from a war torn city, and someone else the joy of baking an apple pie in an urban city.
It’s cold, but stay outside. The things that come from the outside or stay outside of the perfume industry, ultimately influence the industry, like any other industry. Inside the perfume community is small, but outside is everything else. Position yourself outside and you will have a broader and less limited view.
Leave the stages for pop stars. Sometimes no communication is all the communication you need. If you go missing from the scene or are inactive on social media – don’t fret. Good ideas come from space and disconnection, just like hot water takes time to bubble. You can percolate and observe from the shadows, and then appear when they least expect it. Just remember that no one expects anything from you. In fact, often they are not even looking (this is the creator’s ego, or fear), but when you appear, what they expect is something true to yourself, your work, and your vision.
Be rough, but gentle on yourself. Be okay with things not being completely resolved. The magic is in the evolution of an idea or design. Creativity is a process, and brands are experiments consistently molded by this. The meaning will reveal itself over time. Remember a diamond never looks like a diamond when you first discover it, but over time and process, it reveals its value.
You are winning everyday when you return to your craft. You’re winning when you are doing something that you love, although sometimes it may be challenging. A mentor shared this quote with me, “Awards are like hemorrhoids, every asshole gets them at some point.” Don’t let an award or some perceived respected figure’s validation of your work be the only justification that you are doing something special, or making some kind of contribution or winning. Everyday, you wake up and get to your table, there is an award sitting there for you. If you can avoid awards completely, please do so. Save your money for the submission fee and put it into your creativity. Unlike others, your creation will never judge you, but does demand your attention and diligent investment.