By Haq, Amber
Newsweek International , Vol. 151, No. 21
Byline: Amber Haq
Luxury perfumers create singular scents--for a price.
Famed French perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain once said, "To imagine a scent is to imagine the woman who wears it." He probably didn't mean it quite as literally as today's perfumers are taking it. With the top end of the fragrance market booming, it's no surprise that luxury brands--titans like Guerlain, Cartier and Jean Patou, as well as smaller specialized houses--are investing in the rapid-growth niche sector of bespoke perfumery. And Paris, with its concentration of the fragrance world's most highly trained noses, remains its capital.
The process of creating one's own personal fragrance is not unlike building a house or designing a couture ball gown. Clients at Cartier, which launched its bespoke scent creation in 2005, meet with in-house nose and industry leader Mathilde Laurent for a preliminary three-hour "conversation," in which she gently asks questions designed to reveal their intimate tastes and subliminal desires. Laurent, who works on about eight perfumes a year, interprets the information to imagine fragrance ideas, which she then presents to the client. The process can take up to 10 meetings, resulting in the creation of a final perfume over several months. Ingredients such as jasmine from Grasse can cost up to $55,000 a kilo, but Laurent has complete freedom to use the resources she wants. "The sky is the limit," says Mary-Ethel Simeonides of Cartier. "When our clients acquire a lavish piece of jewelry or a watch, they want to distinguish themselves and wear a unique scent. It's about subtly reflecting the nuances of their personality."
Similarly, Sylvaine Delacourte at Guerlain invites clients to meet her in the company's 1914 Champs-Elysees boutique. …