Friday, June 10, 2011
Perfume in the News: Interview with Christopher Sheldrake of Chanel
An interview in the Sydney Morning Herald today with Christopher Sheldrake had a lot of interesting information about Mr. Sheldrake and Chanel's latest flanker, Chanel No. 19 Poudre. But it also got me thinking about perfume trends, flankers and reformulations.
Chanel has updated several of its classic perfumes recently. In 2007, Chanel released No. 5 Eau Premiere, an update to the iconic No. 5. In 2009 it released Cristalle Eau Verte, an update to Cristalle. This year Chanel is releasing No. 19 Poudre, an update to No. 19.
Why do new versions of classic perfumes? Mr. Sheldrake mentions in the article that Chanel No. 5 was created 90 years ago, when our every day lives were generally more smelly and smoky. He says that perfumes that were appropriate back then may seem too "animal or dry or opaque, heavy" to consumers today.
New technology has given perfumers the ability to pull apart a complicated smelling natural ingredient and take from it just the aspects they desire, leaving behind the rest. It think this technology is pretty popular among perfumers these days. In the seminar I attended, Frederic Malle mentioned that a new technology allowed him and Dominique Ropion to extract just the "heart" of the patchouli note they wished to use for Portrait of a Lady. In No. 19 Poudre, it sounds like Sheldrake has used this technology to give better definition to the iris note.
Giving cleaner, clearer notes was only one of the things changed in the new No. 19 Poudre. Sheldrake has also given it some more "synthetic" musks. (I find it odd that he has to mention synthetic, but I suppose that there are still some people out there who don't know that almost all musk in today's perfumes is synthetic.) The musks are to create a comforting feeling that he thinks will be popular in these insecure times. I wonder if it will be anything like the musks in Balenciaga Paris, which I found very fluffy and soft to wear, like a grey angora sweater.
In general, Chanel seems to be saying that today's perfume buyers want cleaner, more defined notes, and comforting scents. There may be other reasons for creating the flankers, such as to entice a new, younger consumer, one who wants a quality perfume, but who doesn't want to smell exactly like her mother. Or to increase sales in the infamous "asian" market, where common wisdom says that they don't like heavy scents.
I however, love dense, animalic and dry perfumes. I'm happy that Chanel is creating flankers instead of just reformulating their classic perfumes.
Coming soon, I think I'll do some comparing of flankers to their beloved progenitors and see if I still prefer the originals. Chanel No. 5 vs Eau Premiere, Cristalle vs Cristalle Eau Verte and Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess vs Bronze Goddess Soleil. When No. 19 Poudre shows up in my local shop I'll give that a whirl too.