The Perfect Scent by Chandler Burr- A Book Review
This week, I indulged myself in Chandler Burr’s The Perfect Scent- A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York. It is a book that Mr. Burr, scent critic for T: The New York Times Magazine, wrote about his experience following the making and launch of two very different perfumes in one year: Hermes’ Un Jardin sur la Nil and Sarah Jessica Parker’s first fragrance, Lovely. The book is a fascinating read; a comparison of two very different launches- one for one of the most exclusive luxury brands in the world and the other for a Hollywood celebrity. It also gives the reader an inside look into the $31 billion international perfume industry.
The story follows Burr as he travels to Paris to meet Jean-Claude Ellena, the man Hermes has picked to create their latest scent, Un Jardin sur la Nil (a garden on the Nile). Ellena is one of the worlds best in the industry and Hermes had strategically picked him to boost their otherwise lackluster sales in perfume. Burr, Ellena and the entire project team from Hermes travel from Paris to the exotic depths of Egypt where the sights and smells of the city provide inspiration for the house’s latest creation.
Back in Manhattan, Mr. Burr follows Sarah Jessica Parker and the team at Coty, who have teamed up to make her (now) bestselling fragrance, Lovely. SJP is, according to Burr, not your typical celebrity when it comes to launching a fragrance line. She was in it from the beginning surprising all with her interest, dedication and input. A particularly funny chapter found Sarah Jessica at the Coty offices pulling an egg out of her purse to show them inspiration for her bottle design.
The book shows the interesting dichotomy of the French and American markets with regards to perfume. The French, although highly interested in the numbers aspect of the business, still treat the making of perfume as an art. For the most part, the creators of these scents approach their jobs with the important gravity of artistic creation- it must be profound and it must smell amazing.
The American market, however, is (not surprisingly) mainly about the numbers. While this in no way implicates that American perfumes are less artistic than the French it is fascinating to see where the priorities lie.
The Perfect Scent is a very entertaining and informative read. Mr. Burr jumps from his narratives involving the exotic travels, parties and tense meetings he attends while documenting the launch of the two scents, to going into the fascinating figures of the perfume industry, to other funny anecdotes that he has gathered along the way. It is a highly enjoyable read and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested to know how much work goes into that little bottle of perfume sitting so prettily on your vanity.
Book image courtesy of: www.leffingwell.com