Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Need Your Help - What's Your Take On 'The Story'?


Permit me to pick your brains. I'm carrying out some research for an article that may appear on Basenotes, and I'd really appreciate your help.

My question is this: how important is 'the story' behind a perfume or a pefume house? Is your enjoyment of Chanel No 5 increased by the possibility that it may have been created by accident? Do you appreciate Andy Tauer's work more because you know it's all made by one self-taught individual weaving his magic in a house in Zurich? Are you intrigued by a firm like Grossmith because of the remarkable facts behind its recent revival? In other words, do these tales and near-myths matter to you? Do you think they affect the way you smell the perfumes to which they pertain?

Feel free to leave your thoughts as a comment, or email me at persolaise at gmail dot com if you prefer.

Thanks very much indeed,

Persolaise. 

49 comments:

  1. For me, I think the answer is both yes and no.
    I like the stories behind perfumes and they certainly make me interested in trying the perfumes but I realized that a good story doesn't mean I will also like the perfume. It does make them more visible and in that case, puts them higher on my list of things to try.

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  2. Very much so. Sometimes it can make or break a fragrance. Take Shalimar/Jicky and that happy accident and intrigue it conjures. Or maybe the romanticism that No 5 evokes even today.

    For me, I know when I heard about Dear John from BNTBTBB/Gorilla Perfume, it really astounded me. How could anyone be inspired by an absent father. The want for a perfumer to create a classic eau de cologne and what a man missing from his life would smell like - the dentists hands or even his breath. It's an incredible backstory and one that makes the fragrance even more powerful - to me at least. Then again, not knowing that story, or any, we're left to judge a fragrance solely on it's defining asset, it's odour. Ultimately we all do this, but the story helps give a fragrance lift.

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  3. I think a genuine story can add tremendously to a fragrance. But prose worthy of a "Prix Eaux Faux" actually repels me. So it's gotta be real. And in the case of L'Artisan's travel series, the part I liked was the web-gallery of JC Ellena's and B Duchaufour's paintings and field notes from various locations, they'r'e both talented artists, so that adds to the fragrances. I didn't like the corny prose the PR people came up with though. Keep it real, people!
    -Marla

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  5. Personally, I find the story behind perfume not AT ALL important. The only consideration I have is how it smells. Bottle, ad campaign, origin- I never pay any attention to any of that. Perhaps this makes me an unusual scent addict.

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  6. Yes, the 'story' matters to me. We all love to hear a good story! And it can add to the romance, or giove a scent a layer of emotional resonance it might not have, otherwise.
    But if I don't like the way the perfume smells, a good story won't make me want to shell out for it. It will, however, make me more likely to try it at all.

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  7. For me all that's behind the scent does not matters at all. If the scent says something to my nose and brain , the rest isn't interesting. The scent is the creation act, the story sometimes is pure marketing, the selling hook .
    Whatever the story is about when your senses say "don t like it" is difficult to believe that on a very rational basis somebody will really like a scent

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  8. Ines, thanks very much for writing. Do you find that there are certain types of stories which seem to grab you more than others?

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  9. Liam, thanks for the comment... and for reminding me of the Jicky / Shalimar story.

    I actually got a sample of Dear John a few days ago. I must try it soon! And yes, I agree, that's a very powerful story.

    If a good story adds 'lift', do you think a poor story can 'squash' what might otherwise be a commendable perfume?

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  10. Marla, thanks for the comment.

    Keeping it real is the trick, isn't it? But what's your personal distinction between real and fake?

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  11. Elmsyrup, how do you manage to stay away from all the marketing? It's pretty hard to avoid, isn't it?

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  12. Tania, thanks for writing. Are there are types of stories that seem to appeal to you more than others?

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  13. AlexP, thanks for writing. How do you decide which new perfumes you're going to try? Do you allow the marketing to sway you at all?

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  14. This is a tricky topic, Persolaise.

    Hopefully the desire on the maker's part is to tell a good story in the perfume itself (beginning, middle, end, with twists and turns and pleasant surprises on the way). Any perfume should stand on its own merits without bells and whistles and cheerleaders. (If anyone is going to buy it more than once, right?)

    However, as Ines noted, the perfumes in the market need some way to catch our eye, as it were, so it is understandable that stories and history and myth-making enter into the picture. People like stories but I'm not sure how much we can trust what we're told (sold!) in the stories.

    I'm not sure, for myself, how important the history (provenance) of the company is, for example: reformulations and take-overs have made reliance on a once-good pedigree risky these days.

    Purple prose and over-the-top imaginary notes certainly don't help. Factual accounts might raise the perfume's profile and increase awareness of it, but the single thing that helps most, for me, is simply the availability of samples. Can I buy a sample and try it myself without jumping through hoops?

    So the things that matter to me are:
    the notes listed for a perfume, simply as an indication of whether I might/not like the scent;

    a broad range of independent perfume bloggers' reviews, because the reviewers have had more experience of diverse scents than I'll ever have and will say what they think candidly;

    what my nose tells me, when I get to try a perfume.

    The rest, ultimately, is just noise.

    cheerio, and good luck with your article,

    Anna in Edinburgh

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  15. The story matters not a jot to me. What matters is the listed notes & the reviews of people I respect, when deciding whether or not to try a fragrance. If I like it, then no amount of negative comments will change my mind. For instance, I love Samsara, even though I've read some opinions stating that "it's not a Guerlain" or that it marked the "beginning of the end" for Guerlain. I take each fragrance on it's own merits & whether or not it works for me.

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  16. Hi Persolaise,

    I think a poor story... hmm, depends on how it's handled. I found the Alan Cumming fragrance hilarious and yes it was a piss-take on poor stories/more so marketing/ad drivel. So in a way it subverted that angle.

    I think a poor stories by nature would squash anything their attached too. But if enough interest is generated out of fascination in the poorness, then it can flip and become a (cult) hit too. Take the film "The Room" for example.

    However if the fragrance is commendable and the story is poor, well maybe the marketers should just let the juice do the talking.

    Personally, if I have to see the word "sex" attached to another fragrance, out of spite, I'd probably not bother trying it. Though that's more marketing talk again...

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  17. for me the story is like the hook in a song it adds to the overall quality of a song but the song has to have good lyrics and great music for it to stand the test of time.

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  18. I'm with Ines on that: a good story moves the perfume up in my "to try" list - but this is the only effect.

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  19. A good story isn't going to improve a mediocre perfume, but it is always nice to know a little 'back story' of a great perfume. I'm not talking about marketing hype--I mean a real tidbit or piece of trivia...

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  20. Anna, thanks very much indeed for leaving such a detailed comment. I understand what you're saying, but just sticking with 'stories' for a moment: do you find that some seem to grab you more effectively than others?

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  21. Teardrop, thanks for your comment. Do you find it quite easy to ignore/avoid all the marketing copy?

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  22. Liam, thanks. I wonder if there's a distinction to be made between marketing and a genuine tale that surrounds a perfumer or the creation of a particular scent?

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  23. Taffynfontana, tell me: what makes a good hook?

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  24. Undina, thanks for that. But are you able to elaborate on what makes a 'good' story?

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  25. Alice, thank you. Have you got a favourite piece of perfume-related trivia that you believe 'lifts' the perfume in question?

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  26. My question is this: how important is 'the story' behind a perfume or a pefume house? Not important to me.

    Is your enjoyment of Chanel No 5 increased by the possibility that it may have been created by accident? No. It's a neat fact but it does not make me like the perfume any more or any less. I'm all about the smell of the scent and if it works with my chemsitry.

    Do you appreciate Andy Tauer's work more because you know it's all made by one self-taught individual weaving his magic in a house in Zurich? No. I respect and appreciate all noses no matter if they work independently or for a larger house. I like 2 of Andy's perfumes because they smell good to me and on me. I like the work of nose Mathilde Laurent who creates for Cartier. She blew me away with her latest L'Heure Fougueuse. So to me, it doesn't matter if a nose works out of their home independently or in a lab for a firm. If the perfume resonates with me, that is what matters.

    Are you intrigued by a firm like Grossmith because of the remarkable facts behind its recent revival? In other words, do these tales and near-myths matter to you? No and No. Again, it's about the way the perfume smells on me and to me. However, I do find Grossmith's perfumes to smell really dated and/or old fashioned. The past is the past for a reason - in this case anyway.

    Do you think they affect the way you smell the perfumes to which they pertain? Good question. I say No.

    I've really enjoyed reading all the responses.

    ~Dawn

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  27. I probably do get alot of enjoyment out of supporting smaller houses, but the bottom line will always be whethor or not the fragrance is great. I do love a good story behind the perfume! Adds to the mystery.

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  28. The only thing that matters to me is what the juice smells like. Stories - be they true or a marketing gimmick - affect me not.

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  29. Dawn, thanks very much indeed for your detailed comment. I guess from what you're saying that Grossmith's scents would have smelt old-fashioned to you even if they'd been released by, say, Etat Libre d'Orange, right?

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  30. Lori, thanks for writing. What types of stories do you find particularly interesting?

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  31. Theminx, fair enough. Thanks very much for writing.

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  32. Hi Persolaise,

    Yes they would of still smelled old-fashioned even in an ELdO cloak. :) Would love to know though what ELdO would name each of those scents. lol....maybe I don't want to know.

    I love Jasmin et Cigarette from ELdO.

    Much success with your article. Looking forward to the finished product.

    ~Dawn

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  33. Yes I do find it easy to ignore the marketing copy. I don't often read magazines & therefore don't see the ads, & I "switch off" mentally when TV ads are on, so it usually goes over my head. For a fragrance to get my attention it's mainly because it's been recommended to me or been featured in one of my favourite blogs, or come up in a search for my favourite notes. Even then I will read every review I can find before seeking it out.

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  34. Persolaise,

    It's hard to qualify/quantify "goodness" of a story but I'll try to give an example.

    Until recently I tried 7 different perfumes from Frederic Malle's line, liked 2.5 and was done for a while with testing. But then I read The History of Le Parfum de Therese (http://www.cafleurebon.com/frederic-malle-le-parfum-de-therese-fragrance-love-story-and-the-plum-by-michel-roudnitska-draw/). I thought it was very moving and ... I'm expecting my sample vials of this perfume (as well as of Noir Epices) any day now.

    But in general it doesn't even have to be a story of a perfume or a perfumer. Sometimes it's a nice story related to a wearer - why he or she loves the specific scent, how it's connected to their lives, memories, emotions.

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  35. Persolaise, regarding the kind of story, I think I go for stories that resonate better with me - faraway places I'd like to visit, good-looking actors fronting (looking at Matthew ;)) - one thing that doesn't resonate with me at all, are female-related perfume stories. Quite the contrary, they don't make me wonder at all which now I come to think of it is a bit strange as those are perfumes marketed for women (and mostly women buy them).

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  36. Dawn, thanks again. I have no idea if an article will eventually materialise, but let's see what happens. And yes, I'd also love to know what ELDO would've called Grossmith's perfumes!

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  37. Teardrop, thanks for that. It's fascinating discovering all these different ways in which people decide whether they're going to try a new perfume.

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  38. Undina, thanks for the example. I'm intrigued to learn what you mean by "2.5" perfumes!

    Enjoy your Malle samples, when they arrive.

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  39. Ines, that's a very interesting point. So would you be more likely to try a feminine fragrance if its advertising campaign was led by Matthew?

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  40. After the first perfumes I bought for myself , all Guerlain ,I became interested in the history of the house. I bought Balenciaga but in those days without the internet it wasn't easy to find information. I had written to Guerlain who sent me lots of information ( around 1972). I want to try fragrances and sometimes find out about the creation. I don't neccesarily have to know about the creator and I don't think it really has much influence.

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  41. Angela, thanks for the wonderful info. What sorts of things did Guerlain tell you about the firm in 1972?

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  42. A great story will encourage me to try a scent, especially if it discusses its interesting ingredients or it's creators unique point of view. Nathan Branch's blog made me sample Andy Tauer's scents. It must work on my skin and I have to love it, to buy it.

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  43. Karen, thanks for writing. What would you consider to be a "great story"?

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  44. Persolaise, when I said I liked 2.5 perfumes out of seven from Frederic Malle's line I meant that I liked two of them enough to purchase full bottles of those and for the third one I'll finish my sample but will not be actively seeking more of it.

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  45. :D Simply put, yes I would.
    Or any other good-looking man.

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  46. Undina, thanks for that. I confess I did wonder how it was possible to like half a perfume...

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  47. Ines, I hope a few marketing types are reading these words. They could pull off an advertising mini-coup with your idea.

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  48. I've read articles on Fragrantica or was it Basenotes about Ayala Moriel. I think it was autobiographical, maybe a contest. I never heard of her before that, but I checked her out, bought samples and Palas Atena which I love. It also helps if the perfumer or house has an interactive Facebook page and current website to show relevance. As a result, I now occasionally chat with her and Mandy Aftel on Facebook. It all humanizes the perfumer and with the connection, you can see the perfumer as an artist. That's more interesting than just visualizing chemists in lab coats.

    I'm interested in the government banning certain ingredients such as oakmoss. I haven't heard any updates. How is the fragrance industry doing financially and what careers are available?

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  49. Karen, thanks very much for your comment. I know several perfumes enjoy the contact that Facebook gives them with the people who buy/use their work.

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