My path as a professional “smeller”

My name is Emmanuelle. I am French, from a small town in the north east of France and I have been a fragrance professional for over a decade. I founded the Experimental Perfume Club in 2015 because I wanted to offer people the opportunity to understand the world of fragrance and become part of a community of creators within a micro-perfumery concept.

People who meet me for the first time often wonder how and why I became a fragrance expert. It is indeed pretty strange and unusual! While I don’t remember when the idea occurred to me exactly, I know I have been obsessed with fragrances ever since my teenage years. I started collecting miniatures of perfumes and adverts I found in magazines. I remember that when waiting in the waiting lounge of my GP, I would sneakily tear off all the perfume adverts I found in the magazines to take them home. I still have two folders full of adverts from the 90s. Some of my favourites are:

I was especially proud of one wall of my bedroom, taken up by a bus stop-size poster of Champs Elysees by Guerlain portraying French actress Sophie Marceau.

One day, I discovered that I could in fact make a career out of this passion when hearing about ISIPCA (International School of Perfume, Cosmetic and Flavour). The school, based in Versailles near Paris, was founded in 1970 by perfumer Jean-Jacques Guerlain and has become a leading international school that trains professionals of the fragrance industry. To be able to pass the entry test, I needed a chemistry degree. I spent every single summer of my degree doing internships as a perfumer assistant in fragrance house Givaudan and as an assistant at the fragrance department of L’Oréal in Paris.

Integrating ISIPCA was my life’s dream. I had worked since the age of 14 to get there. There, I learnt to recognise and describe hundreds of perfumery raw materials, learnt about fragrance formulation, spent days in the fragrance lab making perfume accords such as rose, jasmine and tuberose and reconstituting famous fragrance schemas such as chypre, woody and floral. I also learnt about the history of fragrances, the technical and regulatory aspects of fragrance development and marketing.

 

My work from fragrance evaluator to beauty trend forecaster

I knew that perfumer wasn’t the only job I could do and from the very start, I decided to become fragrance evaluator (also called fragrance development manager), an olfactory project manager, serving as the link between the brand and the perfumers. Evaluators give creative guidance to perfumers and brands and coordinate every aspects of the fragrance development including technical and marketing.

I worked with both brands and fragrance houses and helped to develop fragrances for alcoholic perfumery mainly, but also fragrances for home and personal care products like air fresheners and cosmetics. I even have experience of laundry care fragrance evaluation! The company I worked for at the time had between 20 to 30 washing machines on all day long - and part of my job was to evaluate the olfactory result of a product we were developing on clean towels.

I am fortunate to have worked with some of the greatest perfumers in the world while working at L’Oréal including brands such as Armani and Lancôme, Puig (which owns brands like Paco Rabanne and Nina Ricci) and perfumer house Symrise. I was mainly based in Paris but I have also worked in New York and Barcelona.

Three years ago, I decided to move to London, where fragrance development is a much rarer job than in Paris. It was a good time for me to evolve into another corner of perfumery and I became an international fragrance trend consultant. Over the last three years, I have travelled the world, writing about perfume trends and speaking to clients and at various conferences and tradeshows about different topics of the beauty and fragrance industry.

Speaking at a table ronde at the World Perfumery Congress in 2014 about how to innovate in fragrance

Speaking at a table ronde at the World Perfumery Congress in 2014 about how to innovate in fragrance

Why I founded Experimental Perfume Club

The reason why I started EPC is simple. I love perfumes and I want to share this passion with people.

Our sense of smell is one of the most powerful senses we have and is very special because it connects to a different part of the brain than the other senses of sight or hearing, which explains why this is the sense that triggers memories. While this sense is still very present and used by animals, we, humans, have forgotten how to use it in a world saturated by images and sounds. We don’t teach odours as we teach colours or letters to children and we are slowly losing our ability to describe and recognise scents. However, we all know how to smell and we all do it pretty well (at least most of the time, better than what we think!). You don’t have to have extraordinary olfactive capability to learn, smell and describe a fragrance. But your capability to do so will increase incredibly when training and developing your interest around smells.

 

Deconstruct and reconstruct the world of perfumery

I came up with the idea of EPC because I believe training is essential to understanding and de-mystifying the world of fragrance. Fragrance has a near universal usage in Western countries, yet only a very small proportion of people really understand what a fragrance is and what they like or dislike. Most of the time, they follow what their friends, shop assistants or TV adverts is telling them, but do they actually know what is in the fragrance they wear every day and what they are drawn to and why?

Experimental Perfume Club is here to help people deconstruct the world of fragrance and understand about their olfactory taste in order for them to make their own fragrance from a selection of perfumery raw materials. The fragrance they name themselves carries their own personal description and participants walk away with their own formula and signature bottle of perfume.

When joining EPC, you are there to experiment with scents and fragrances, I am here to offer you technical and creative guidance.

Find out more about the next workshop and how you can delve into the fascinating world of fragrance here.