The world of high end perfume is surprisingly lucrative, considering that scent is often the most ignored of our senses. But one can't judge a scent solely by the brand and shape of the bottle. With the right amount of attention, perfume can be a key to a whole olfactory world.
Articles of Interest is a limited-run podcast series about fashion, housed inside the design and architecture podcast 99% Invisible. Launched in 2018 by Avery Trufelman, the show encourages people to rethink the way we look at what we wear and what it says about us.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
I wear a bunch of it myself. I am I've, never wore the same perfume. Today's and around this is Rachel Sime she's, a stuff writer for the New Europe,
and one of the most genuinely glamorous people I have ever met since you
with smells like some perfume or another. I love like to your point
and I use- and I said I love wearing number five in the highest concentration as the oil and I like to euros, and I love Sardinia and I loved to be like a cloud,
out of that around you. I just love it. I was the opposite of Rachel. I don't really get perfume
spirits amount at the airport, sometimes, but mostly I just found it all, smelled perfume.
I think I can smell area.
Paper. Everything to smells like chemicals needs a moment to dried out a one.
To figure out what I was missing. So I asked Rachel to take me: perfume shopping at Sephora, hence the annoying pop music. You huh
the background I, like, I love the sun, it so delicious, oh
unlike others, all she rose that's an hour and then there's a little ginger on the top whatever Rachel was experiencing. I wasn't getting it until it was like. I was trying to say,
my way through a wine tasting by being like oh yeah. This one has overtones of great to see
I guess I just smells chemical smells like say yeah. I thought perfume was a kind of snake oil that basically the only thing separating one person from another was the design of the bottle. In the name of the brand, I thought perfume was just away for big fashioned labels to make money which it absolutely is like shit
makes a ton of money from fragrance d or the places where, basically like people can always afford the thing that they can afford the perfume
like people's gateway, drug to get into the branding, and so
I was ready to make a story that would be like wake up. People, perfume is a ruse. You didn't fleeced friend name in the packaging. You know I really admire and I think a lot about
the artistry behind perfumes when their made. Even you know any any of these designer perfumes this
What Rachel knew that I had yet to find out perfume is a key to a whole other dimension that we ve all collectively deny.
I'd and forgotten,
articles of interest a show about what we, where she's into people, don't realize it's fantasy, which always this thing that you have to work hard to do so. No one dresses like a king and how you really love there are lots of things that we take for granted would once have been considered.
I'm sure is if someone forced you to surrender one of your five senses, you'd, probably handily, give up your sense of smell mean I would we talk about
I'll foods are mommy or spicy or how music can be soothing or energizing cacophonous, but with sent, we don't really.
We analyze it with a lot of new wants. The question is
black or white. Do you like the scent or not the smells good? This most bad, we just don't have a lot of tools to analyze, smells linguistically or scientifically
In fact, there is no way to assess the volume of assent. There are no instruments that can measure odor levels. We have instruments that can measure the chemicals that are in an odour plume, but that doesn't translate into at least not at the present time into what the Oder experiences
for any individual Hemel adult in is a senior scientist at the moon, Nell Chemicals senses Centre in Philadelphia. But when
Talk to her, she was not fully. She was talking to me from a conference room in Chicago here for a definition, ideal expert, witness work from time to time and the motorcade involving people complain to the round we are still in need.
Oh cases involving smells, they have to hire professional noses to make very subjective calls, and it's not like PAMELA Superhuman generally. People are pretty good at smelling much better than we think we are. We can now have things when there's one
two parts of the fragrant material in a billion parts of air which is really really tiny filled with where more sensitive,
Then we believe you know. Dogs may be sensitive to a range of compounds that humans have much more sensitivity to a much more diverse set of chemicals in the environment.
But we don't use, sent the way dogs and other animals to impart it's, because whereby people
our noses quite simply evolved to be farther away from the earth for now at forty, two thousand five hundred and twenty six speed above the ground, so we're smelling different things right. We're not smelling thing
as we were when we were developing around on all fours, yet still on occasion,
lift our noses to the air and take a sniff. It's just that more
in the not we pay attention to smells that present. A threat spoiled foods wrought death mould if there's a fire or a gas leak hearts, and so we learn that
now we want to stay away from those kind. The voters we ve come to associate, sent with something primal and unpleasant. If you ask hey, do I smell the collective assumption? Is that that's a bad thing? We want to avoid smells and smelling, and this mentality goes back to a number of philosophers in the west, from Plato to Aristotle, to count who derided our sense of smell as base and secondary or really like query. Historically, it has been the least respected of our senses, and so a lot of folks just try to ignore it, but I think is a species we have discounted, that we really can now a lot of chemicals at vanishingly trivial concentration. So we have the capacity.
Smell things in the parts per billions, but we lack the capacity to talk about them. So much of learning to smell comes from learning how to describe smells so
Is it a party
woman came an who was hugging, everybody and and she's not really good, and a number people told us that she smell good and, I said ok, I can tell you that she's wearing this particular brand in its from this many years ago, when the reason that she's most cozy and not just because it's got a lot of, I announce an admin and she's most like origin, which is the aged route of the Florentine iris,
our and it's got a sort of pottery feeling, so she smells like a hot and everyone's looking at me, and I was like I'm.
Smelling any more than you are. I just have the words to tell you what the brand as when it came out and what's in it Miranda Gordon, is the vice president of marketing. At mine, mine,
is a fragrance company, because the lion's share of the hundreds and hundreds of designer perfumes that come out each year are made
the same dozen or so companies. Man has made perfumes for banana republic and our money and a ton of sense for really widespread popular brands. You definitely no like
in them tat better damages for some brand, that's a dirty secret that they contract out their sense to other companies, but I don't think there's
the any shame in it, because sure most of us have the potential to get really good at smelling, but actually designing a perfume is something entirely different. It's like composing, a piece of music or choreographed dance. It is an art and the professionals make it look easy. Let's
darts. Simply some perfume ingredients can be very straightforward, like if you're trying to use
A citrus sent, that's pretty easy to get that sent is extracted from the appeal of the fruit
with cold. Pressing the same way we make olive oil, we can make great for dweller,
an oil or lime oil or mandarin oil,
But there are a lot of sense that you can't just get you can't just press the
ill of a or a strawberry or a pair or an apple like. If you pressed and apple peel, you wouldn't get apple oil, you would get apple.
Use, which is not very fragrant, and you wouldn't want to dab that on yourself,
Oh there are many many sense that performers have to build molecule by molecule in a laboratory. There are chemicals that have an apple odor to them. Gino per container is one of the perfumery at mine. If he wants to make an apple set, you will gather a bunch of smell
together with some perfumery call nuclear, combining and mixing those notes to get an authentic apple snow, and a group of notes makes,
A court in court is a group of ingredients that usually less than ten ingredients to try to emulate a specific thing and there's no one set apple accord. Every perfume
as their own way to make it think of it. Like GINO is painting a picture of an apple, it could be realistic and could be impressionistic could be cartoons
The apple could be slightly fermented. It could be a yellow apple or green apple. It could be in a tree, could be a pie list
how'd you GINO renders a fig, which is another.
One of those sense. You have to build note by note figures always fun for me, because I often work from some of my best coconuts.
Just cocoanut. So I'm not talking about a peanut clodagh with pineapple on just a creamy kind of cocoanut. If you dial it back and put more pulp
into it, a little more jus seen into it a little more green. With some extra words could you want? That's Demi Element
and then you ve turned a coconut into a thick and that's the part, that's technically impressive, but making a perfume is not just about rendering a good belief.
We'll fig its then using that fig and away that's interesting and new. So GINO could situate the fig an assent. That's
smokey in leathery, or something powdery and floral, or something lush and green, or include an ingredient that I would have.
Were considered. My favorite ingredient is such warm pepper, yeah such one pepper.
It's kind of secrecy. It has assiduously element, it has an era,
a key element in hasn't little spicy element. There is
a virtuosity in professional perfume. That's the difference between say,
an essential oil from health food store and a perfume. It's the difference between them.
Pleasure of a single rate peach and the pleasure of an exquisitely executed. Risotto, professional perfume is art,
straight and intuition, and a lotta hard science, because
I'm combinations, just don't work on a map,
low level. If you don't know what you're doing and you take the smell of black current and the snow, every word- and you put it's gettin a test tube
things are going interact. The molecular level and its can smell like the cat pissed on your we'd in
on laboratory in midtown. Manhattan perfumery intact,
actions were busily mixing drops from a selection of hundreds and hundreds of notes,
the smell of the laboratory, was incredible. It wasn't like that.
Perfume counter and a department store that smells like fifty top forty radio stations blasting at once minds laboratory smells like an orchestra of raw possibilities composed of both natural and
that ingredients and without drilling this whole story. Let me just say their arson controversies in their perfume. Ingredients are considered trade secrets, so they aren't listed on the bottle and this opacity,
You has caused some worry because there are ingredients, natural and synthetic alike.
That can trigger allergic reactions and
Animal studies have found fragrance chemicals that are probably carcinogens or have been linked to liver, kidney and lung damage.
Perfume industry says that all the ingredients they use are such low concentration that they aren't dangerous to human health.
But there have been calls to set more limits on materials. Performers can use ensured,
every now and then an ingredient gets pulled off the market
I look at it as if they're doing some kind of testing with ingredients end and there being a little restrictive. I think I think
some value to that. If, if it's gonna help humanity in some way,
ties my hands a little bit on trying to be creative, GINO
is operating within a set of constantly shifting constraints.
Instruments are being removed from minds orchestra up all the time by the different,
dilatory laws in every country? Yes,
by and ingredients availability, when a certain
and becomes trendy. It becomes harder to procure
take indian Sandlewood
delicious natural sent super popular,
dropping indian Sandlewood in pretty much everything on the market and
challenge of Indian Sounder. What is that the trees have to be at least thirty years old before you can harvest them? You can't just go plant more trees and have more oil tomorrow. You ve got away thirty years
so indian sound would have to be replaced with us.
I am sandlewood which doesn't smell the same or with synthetic sandal wood which doesn't small the same
so making a new perfume isn't just unbridled creativity
its limited by a lot of factors and at the end of the day the scent has to self mons. Brilliant performers probably aren't going to make something that smells like
again. Such one covers they manufacture pop music. There trying to make
something interesting within the parameters of mainstream taste, something you'd by
I ain't us a fora or something you buy in your grocery store
because man and the Dutch,
and so major fragrance companies, don't just make perfume. They work on every product that has asked
Home hung care, cleaning, laundry, personal care, Suzanne Mccormick is ahead of fragrance for method products they make soap and detergent embody wash and they work with two of the major fragrance houses. Because I kid you not, it is just the same small handful of companies that are crafting all the sense all around us and it's overlap means
but trends in high and perfume affect your dish. Soap. There is a trickle down. It's just like how high and fashion designers will create a look that eventually ends up at each em. If a fragrance company develops and accord that sells really well, that sent might eventually end up in your face cream or your laundry detergent
rose had been considered the elder fragrance note and then all the fine fragrant, many fine fragrance brands will bring it to life in a modern way and then, as you Turkle
to our body. Why should we have peony rosewater and a while back
we'll see salt and everything's we did Lyman sees. That was one of our fragrances that we didn't. I continued to do very well
and so these
Companies are everywhere making you your kitchen and your bathroom smell like citrus and lavender, and road
but this idea of our bodies smelling somewhat interchangeably with our fabrics. Oftener dishes is relatively recent. We used to have a wildly different concept
of what it meant to smell good. I guess
I can start with the perfumes that shocked me. The most and there were the perfumes of the twenties thirties and Fortys
Herman. Is the creative director of arrest per firm and the author of the book sent and subversion I like to describe what I did in his book was sniff my way through the twentieth century. What we think people should smell like is completely culture.
And its changed over time and the nineteen twenties thirties and fortys women were marketed, perfumes that were more funky women's
I like tobacco and leather, and you know, as Jack Airline said about his perfumes for
should smell like the underside of my mistress? There was this idea that perfume was supposed to smell funky perfumes. Had ingredients like Amber agree which is oxidize whale vomit and musk, which is dear sex, gland secretion. Now these kind of smaller mid synthetically, but in the early twentieth century people were the real stuff which sounds of putting, but actually these smells are fascinating. Barbara happened to have some real, Amber agree in her refrigerator
It's a very, very hard sank to describe some people say: there's tobacco, no there's, obviously a very valid eco quality too, but also slightly metallic
like hey, like slightly sweet, it's more of a feeling than it is now. For me,
it's just like being developed and warm
I loved this smell, like looking at a landscape through a pinhole
more of it than you know. When I wish I could see my head in a box for its very lock it for all those weird and gross descriptors Amber Greece smells incredible, most sense.
Especially naturally occurring ones are way more nuanced and strange and we'd like to believe there is a song
in essence, sweat, brooding,
Oh I sound like a psychopath, but there's a really fuzzy line between Delicious and off putting if you
pay attention to your nose and forget the fact that this may be well worth it
as essential and cozy
and a lot of you know subliminal unconscious
a fax. I can't put them all into words, but if you ve experienced them and if you open to them, you'll know exactly what I'm telling you up and it's interesting that people in the nineteen twenty there
and Fortys were more willing to wear these strong anabolic smells
It interesting that there are marketed women on one hand, it's kind of empowering and bold and sensuous
but also and these women weren't exactly dousing themselves to go to board meetings. These were sense for the bedroom.
And our idea of what femininity should smell like evolved in the nineteen fiftys when a lot of bright.
Powdery sense, came out very like Doris Day Pepe floor,
us, huge ass, white, floral screaming and then, like everything else and culture sent, was subverted by the time you get to the seventies when there is a natural wave of oak MOSS and virtually then the nineteen. Eighty four about big, bold fragrances, the kind that as Rachel sign puts it, could clear now
and then there was a very important pendulum swing in the nineteen nineties. A sea change that
mainstream sensibilities have still not recovered from the nineties was generally,
clean decade. This is one perfumes like see K, one came out from men and for women there was this wave of clean smells that we're late and fresh and inoffensive. They made you smell, like you,
just showered yeah, I mean there's some great clean perfumes like don't get me wrong. I love to read on them, but I just think that what perfume met in the past and where it means now is very different. Clean sense took off in a major way. Exceedingly popular. A lot of money in them
and when perfume just became kind of generally pleasant and non threatening more and more
Companies felt comfortable yoking, their prize brand name to it. Industrial perfume,
Sean World, which happens lake after the nineties, starting in the nineties, when perfumes just got like mass produced,
so. I propose celebrity sand bank. So, broadly speaking,
There are still stuck there in the fresh and cleaner, particularly the United States,
we're Puritans gap to just
now is to be essential or ought to be a rival dirty. That's why fresh and cleanest such a big deal on this country brand
Gordon Man again in France or sexually, if you're a little funky here, you're only you ve gotta be firstly showered and smell, like nothing and in fact,
if you do want to smell, like nothing at all. That also involves fragrance, because even when you're buying products labelled fragrance free, that is often not true, a product is labelled fragrance free
in all likelihood remained a customer of ours and we had to fragrance it in order to cover up the mouth odors of the functional things in your products. There's probably something in there. What we call a masking odor, an aura, masking aroma,
The ingredients in your face cream might have because most things on
jeez smell or funky
are we leave smell the ingredients in your face scream might have because most things on this earth have a smell. It's just that, and industry has developed around avoiding the weird once we want to smell, fresh and clean and nothing else, and so yet the mainstream perfume markets been stuck in the clean boom for some decades now, but there's been a quiet revolution in the last fifteen years
on the fringes of perfume and India. Scene has blossomed from areas not tomato leather. This is
and to be literally,
a combination of those two smiles at her San Francisco perfume Store Tiger Lily,
Tonia coal cell sense that are deeply deeply odd. The frigate
this inspired by the print makers studio and by India, conspired by God of the afterlife in Egypt and the smile she imagined would be inside the two. This is late, smells like when you're waiting for the very difficult to see how to so many issues and the storage of gas camp fires,
Thousands of independent performers have started popping up many of them taking artistic risks that a designer brand wouldn't dare attempt. There are hard core boutiques like Tiger Lily scattered around the world, and they almost act like oddball record shops for the undergo,
music nerds who want a sniff, the strange south, they literally smells like bats cave
It's like a strong Petra core with that, were you
the water on the dirt and stone in the cave, and then it also represents it's a fruit that day in the life of a fruit bat. So you also get the phone
fruitless, riding banana, and you get a letter that represents the bats
relatively new movement. There are a lot of power
members who makes sent on the side as a passion project. That's that
As for the performer who made the bat sent, she has a day job, she is also about behavioral scientist, land, rail network and firm
Yes, she teaches at the University of Washington, innovate. Behavioral science is anxious, she specializes in bats, and she does perfume unless I get well and winds or for it
as in Tonia I sniffed around Tiger lilies Cabinet of curiosities, a custom.
Rushed in breathlessly worries. There I think, has this customer
Looking for a mission sent that have been put on hiatus, because the Procureur also has a cyber security experts has a new jobs are promoted, and so he so busy commentary. Moreover, so she called it aims to have any love people,
really strong reactions to perfume, it's an emotional thing and its
not just for the customer tiger. Lily were all wired for it. You snip these molecules in they bind to receptor PAMELA dealt in from the Manila Chemical Senses Centre again it. That signal is passing through a portion of the brain crop Olympic system, which is responsible for emotional response, though it cried emotional response, it becomes
tightly associated with something that were smelling. When I went to my college reunion, I was struck that my old dorm hallways still smelled the same a waft of Bergen.
I always reminds me of an ex eucalyptus. Brings me back to childhood trips to visit my grandma San Francisco. We all have this superpower to you sent as a gateway.
Past, but in learning to smell and learning to talk about smell, we can experience of vivid present.
To stop and smell the roses shore, but also
Dobbin smell the garbage really
ouch in the hallway and the shampoos and the skin of a Mandarin sweat.
And the rain and the pleasure and the brick
to smell where you are right now
a lot of people are like. I don't like perfume. I have no interest in it.
The first time I met Rachel, Sime and lots of Fora in Union Square. I was one of those people
and for me I'm like well, I think it's an art form and I'm fascinated by endlessly- and I love what people make an even here. I just like love exploring olive recreations and that's why I buy something about it, because it's something somebody made a fine art
Second time I saw Rachel.
He gave me a little bottle of perfume.
She warned me as the kind of thing you couldn't get her to support. The bottle was plain
never heard of the brand at first sniff.
It was cosy. Cedar and leather. There was riding
back the motorcycle through the woods another
but it's not like gasoline. It was actually sickening nearly gave me a headache. I bet
and the sun for months.
But recently came back and smiled again and this time something malted came out of it,
a campaign it down
Just with my mood change
is with my skin. It changes.
My day with my surroundings and the weather, and the cook
Anthony of smells all around me that I buy enlarge used to ignore the part, the piece of paper
words yesterday, there's poetry,
painted on the way
articles of interest was written and performed by every truffle edited by crisper bay, with additional at its by Jo Rosenberg and Emmett Fitzgerald score
by Re Royal fact checked by Tom COL.
And with additional fat checking by Graham Asia Mix and tech production by Sharif. Youssef with additional mixing by Catherine Raimondo are opening,
in closing songs are biased, Sammy special thanks
episode to Master Perfumery Mandy after perfume critic, Chandler Bird perfume, bottle designer Chad, Levine, Dana Bruno at man and especially baby prevail at mine, insight, support and added
from the whole many name php included
Vivian, Lashawn, real Abby, Madan, Kirk, Kolstad, Delaney Hall and Katie, mingle and Roman Mars is the fresh and clean scent of this whole series.
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slash invisible talk to a therapist online and get help when you want in wherever you are under a fragrance is as artificially social contract is. Gender and society amen, Miranda, Gordon VP of marketing, it man. Nobody ever said the flowers were only for girls are actually did say the industry sad, but I dont know that the globe agrees. Good flowers are for girls, and woods are for boys. There is no way a given gender is supposed to smell, because we also
smell like our skin and sweat. The distinction between Cologne
perfume is just about the concentration of oil
That Cologne is anymore masculine than perfume. It's just the way its market
Men and women both used to wear a lot of perfume, usually to mask the fact that they didn't bathe.
Until one man decided that perfume was for women but chemicals,
that he also would dump bathe every day, which was taken at the time. The late eighteenth century is a rather ridiculous.
Unity and indeed some of them will be even dangerous for your health to wash that often that other even kelly- and he says there was this one historic gentlemen-
who decreed that men should smell as clean as possible. Taxi also thought men should dress ass, plain ass
but to be manly, was to look boring. He s happened to be
right person at the right time to be the centre of
some shift in fashion. Your next articles of interest are suits
Transcript generated on 2020-06-10.