Minimalism became a "brand symbol" for Jean Claude Ellena, a personal philosophy that today is almost in every corner where a conversation about perfumes and art is held.
But, despite all the aesthetic values and concepts there is also another side the people forget to mention. The practical reason.
Minimalism (short formulas, no bases) bloomed in mid 70's in the same time with the growth of fragrance brands and with the changes in the fragrance industry (creation of big groups, small suppliers disappeared, triumph of synthetics).
A short formula, with less than 30 ingredients and no bases means other the aesthetic principle something very pragmatic:
- easy to mix (short time, minor probability to have errors)
- you don't have to prepare the in house bases first and then mix the rest
- easy storage for raw materials (if you use 200 rm like Ellena you can run easily a small company and store 200 and not 3000 rm)
- easy quality control for each raw material (less time spent to check the ingredients)
- if you don't have bases you don't depend to a certain supplier and so you are not affected if this base is discontinued or has a different quality
- you can control both the price and the quality of your formula … a small house like Hermes can buy basic raw materials (i.e. citronellol) today from Firmenich, tomorrow from Givaudan, next day from China according to quality but also to market fluctuations;
Something happened in the 70's that is not often mentioned. Small companies started to merge and form the big groups of today it was a period (back to 80s) when you never knew who will buy whom tomorrow. Every company had its own catalog of raw materials / bases. If you were a small fragrance house and had a perfume with bases from here and there … discontinued in this long process … you had all the chances to misproduce your perfume. You have 20% of your perfume a base that you don't know what's inside … it's obvious you want it simpler!
I liked Ellena's talk but there are moments when he starts to speak marketing and I don't like that. He said … I used to use vetiver Haiti + vetiverol + acetate vetyverile but I was never satisfied. Now I have a special distillation of vetiver, tailored made for me. I agree that there is a difference in quality but I also know that one of biggest trends in luxury 2008 is called Custom made/Bespoke/Tailoring and you can see this in all French magazines and even in Esquire January. And that's a card that Chanel and Hermes play in their fashion as a brandcore. :)
Ellena's fragrances are goood and I adore them. But never forget that with aesthetic values come always a very practical reason and a marketing claim to justify price/position/prestige. Voilà!
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Fragrance is the 8th Art - Octavian Coifan - Le Parfum est le 8ème Art