Fragrance-making is an art that takes years to master. The coming together of two fragrances can either be magical or a disaster, but over time scent makers have studied and evolved the process. To give you an insight into all that happens behind the scenes for fragrance makers we caught up with Philippine Courtiere, Senior Perfumer at Symrise during her visit to India.
This true Parisian, who’s a lawyer by education, had one day the calling to become a creator of perfumes, and was guided by renowned perfumers like Francis Kurkdjian, Michel Almairac and Jacques Cavallier. An avid traveller, her travels to Paris, Geneva and then New York’s energy and very direct fragrances always deeply influenced her signature. Today, she divides her time between Dubai and Paris and is passionate about the perfumery of the Middle East. To satiate her curiosity about other cultures, she creates fragrances for prestigious French and Italian such as Goutal, Chloé and Roberto Cavalli.
Tell us about your journey as an expert in creating fragrances.
I started my job as a perfumer in a rather unexpected manner. I didn’t pursue any formal training in perfumery or even complete coursework in chemistry. I studied law at Nanterre, but in my second year, I realized that this was not my vocation. In 2006, I had the opportunity to do an internship at Givaudan, first in the legal department, and then in marketing. It was summer; there weren’t many people in office. I, therefore, offered my arms to perfumers so that they could smell their creations on their skin. Thanks especially to Aurélien Guichard, I discovered the back door to an industry that I knew without knowing, as my parents worked for Givenchy Parfums and Parfums Escada. When I was young, I had trials of fragrances at home that I would smell all the time, and I would often meet perfumers without ever saying to myself that one day I would make it my occupation.
Throw light on the process of creating luxury fragrances at Symrise.
It usually starts with a meeting. I get very inspired by people, either a perfume brand owner or some team members. We brainstorm about how we visualize the target audience of our new creation, and market.
Then after receiving a brief, I start working on some formula ideas. ( I pick each raw material in a certain quantity in order to obtain the olfactive emotion I am looking for.) Then this formula goes to our laboratory where my assistant is physically mixing the ingredients of the formula together in the right proportion. Once the oil is done, we dilute it into alcohol to evaluate it, first internally, and once we are satisfied, with our clients. Until the fragrance is done and the client is 100% happy, I will rework it, and optimize it as needed.
What are the trends and changes occurring in the global fragrance industry?
Sustainable fragrances are more and more in demand. The consumers know more about how the fragrances are created. So they need to know what are the components and that it is not harming the planet, the communities and our health to use them.
We also experience new ways to create sustainable fragrances with the support of AI. We have this perfumer assistant Philyra at Symrise that helps us to convert our fragrances into more sustainable ones keeping the same olfactive profile.
How do you decide on the fragrances for a perfume?
It is a combination of intuition, creativity and marketing insight. Every market /country has specific tests. We have the support of the evaluator and marketing department to guide us.
What made you decide to foray into the Indian market tell us about a few things you will be introducing.
My first business trip to India was in 2014, to show fragrances for deodorant spray brands. I realized that the biggest player (Fogg F) in the market was keeping the deodorant format but without gas anymore. It was moving toward fine fragrances but in an affordable way. I got seduced by the idea of bringing a small luxury fragrance to a huge mass of the population. India has a stronger perfume and scent history and heritage, that needs to be amplified. The population is involved with scents in their everyday life and knows what they like and dislike. Today we are witnessing and taking part in the fine fragrances revolution of India.
What is the toughest part of making fragrances?
When a brand wants to launch a new perfume, they brief many fragrances houses and many perfumers are involved. In the end, only one perfume ends in the bottle.
What has been your Indian inspiration?
I have many, the people, the nature, the architecture and overall the food! For example, I have created mango chutney notes.