Post by Ainslie Walker
Ainslie Walker’s personal interview with Michael Edwards
[50% off Michael Edwards book offer and Meet the Legend himself in Sydney next week!]
How were you drawn into the World of Fragrance? How then were you able to make your passion a career?
I was working for FMCG in their toiletries marketing department in the mid 1960’s which led to me being very intrigued by the power that fragrance has to change consumers perceptions of a products performance. Intrigued as I was, I knew nothing about perfume until 1975, when I attended a Firmenech workshop. I absorbed their ‘Bouquet de la Perfumerie’ a guide (out of print since 1978) that grouped fragrances, by their accord, into 11 olfactory families. From there my work developed quite by accident. I became intrigued about how hard it was for people to find a fragrance in store that was right for them. How could we use the power of the fragrance families to help? I set up as a retail consultant training and merchandising. But there was no guide asides from H&R’s book. In 1984 I released my first Fragrances of The World Guide of 300 fragrances. Older released Fragrances that had sat on the shelf began to sell in an environment where sales staff normally sold what they liked, or what was new. I wanted the industry to speak the same language through my books. I added 3 new categories to the wheel; Fresh with the release of Eau Sauvage, as it was not just citrus of EDC that came before it, Green was added with the release of Estee Lauder’s Alliage – it was so green, it was no longer floral, when Calone was introduced as an ingredient in perfumes, I created the Water section of the wheel.
Please tell me about 2-3 of the most inspirational/interesting people you’ve met/worked with.
Yves De Chiris is the fifth generation of the fabled Chiris dynasty that began with his great-great-grandfather, Antoine Chiris, in 1768. It was Yves grandfather, George, who gave François Coty his start in perfumery. It was a Chiris company, too, that employed Ernest Beaux, the creator. Yves himself, in his role as Senior vice president of Quest International, now part of Givaudan, masterminded the creation of such gems as Angel and Féminité du Bois. His knowledge and expertise fascinate me.
Guy Robert more than anyone, has influenced my work. The creator of such gems as Madame Rochas (1960), Calèche (1961), Doblis, Amouage Gold and Dioressence, and many of the early Gucci scents. Guy is considered by his peers as one of the great 20th century perfumers. I first met him in the late 1980s. Without his help, insight and introductions, PERFUME LEGENDS would probably not have been possible. For more than sixteen years until his death last year, he acted as my FRAGRANCES OF THE WORLD technical consultant. His comments and advice proved invaluable. He became my mentor, adviser and friend. I miss him terribly.
Edmond Roudnitska the master of 20th century perfumery. When I first wrote asking if he would speak to me about his creation of Femme (1944), Diorissimo (1956), Eau Sauvage (1966) and Diorella (1972), I held out little hope that he would agree to meet me. I not only wanted to talk to him about the legends he had created, but also because he was then the only living perfumer who had known such perfumers as Ernest Beaux (Chanel No.5 1921) and Henri Alméras (Joy 1930). In the event, he agreed to receive me and, on our first meeting, gave me more than two hours of his time. The piece of advice I remember to this day? “Simplify, simplify, simplify,” he one said. It’s become my motto too.
Jean Claude Ellena I find him fascinating! Now Hermès’ in-house perfumer, Jean Claude has inherited Edmond Roudnitska’s mantel. In a work of bland flankers, his creations remind us how sublime perfume can be.
Luca Turin because no one writes more eloquently about perfume. His original book, Parfums. Le guide is for me a ‘bible’. I adore him.
What trends in fragrance can we look forwards to seeing over the next 2 years? Men’s/women’s/niche etc?
We live in rapidly changing times, in that old perfumeries are closing due to IFRA restrictions, on the other hand we have the golden age of new molecular perfumes on the horizon. The explosion of niche will lead to increased creativity – there will be many interesting developments, for example we have already seen Tom Ford and Editions de parfum come from this.
What are you working on at the moment?
• I am reediting and updating Perfume Legends, for release in 2016 – I have added Fracas – Robert Piguet, Feminite Du Bois – Serge Lutens, Flower-Kenzo, Coco Mademoiselle – Chanel and Jean Paul Gaultier
• Fragrances of the world 2015 is due for release soon, with 1400 new fragrances added
• I am interviewing the great American perfumers for my new book American Legends – I have completed 95% of the interviews, but no release date as of yet.
• I am also working on the Nuance Fragrance Wheel installations in a number of airports across Europe
• I shall be presenting a Saudi Arabian education programme to the press in Jeddah on September 8, dedicated to enriching the olfactory experience with a deeper understanding of international fragrances
What is your connection to Australia?
Well my wife is from Australia, thus I have an emotional connection to Australia. It is the country that let me experiment and learn to make it understandable for people to talk about, and sell perfumes. I trained 30 000 staff in Australia. It was Australian retailers who gave me the chance to create the books and train their staff.
Where do you spend the rest of your year, and what are the highlights?
• In October I go to Cannes for the Duty Free & Travel Retail Premium Event: TFWA World Exhibition –a 4 day show of all new brands- I am there from 8 am to 11 pm seeing a different brand every 30 minutes
• Fragranze in Florence in September
• Esxence in Milan
• NYC I go 2 times a year – I visit all the brands like Bond No 9, Ralph Lauren, Estee Lauder and Victoria’s Secret. I also go to all the perfumers, evaluating, such as Robertet, Drom and Firmenich
Can you suggest fragrances EVERYONE should ensure they experience and why they are of importance?
• Jicky – Guerlain 1889 was the first to turn perfume into an art, not just an imitation of nature
• L’Heure Bleue – Guerlain 1912 was a miracle
• Eau Sauvage – Dior – transformed 200 years of Eau De Colognes into something fresher and longer lasting
• Feminite De Bois – Serge Lutens– brilliant and original
• Terre d’Hermes – Hermes
• Portrait of a Lady– Frederic Malle Editions de parfums was a miracle, and one of the most expensive juices on the market being high concentration of 50% perfume.
Are you documenting everything and writing your autobiography to release at some point? – I for one would love to read it. Michael was quick to reply and gently say “I have been asked before, and I have always been reluctant to speak of myself, avoiding personal things, including my own opinions. What good is that – for me to tell my favorite or most disliked perfumes? This serves no purpose. I am independent, and thus able to work with all the brands. “The perfumes are the stars, I am not the star – there is enough pomposity in the world today without me joining in”
Michael Edwards 50% Off Book Deal
If you didn’t win, the legendary Fragrances of the World 2014 guide, Michael is offering a generous discount for APJ readers!! If you go to Fragrances Of the World<<JUMP at the checkout Redeem Code: APJ2014 Normally $195, but until the end of October, only $97.50
Michael Edwards In Sydney
On September 4th Sydney Perfume Lovers will meet with Michael Edwards in Potts Point to hear an in-depth interview with Michael, led by Catherine and Clayton Ilolahia from What Men Should Smell Like. – there are still a few spaces left!
Ainslie Walker x