General topics and insights about perfumes and scents in the 21st century society

Why Made to Measure is pure luxury?

There is no argument that the industrial revolution and the advances in medicine at the end of the 19th century have been life-changers which have shaped our modern societies and improved our life expectancy. But they are also the major culprits of the rather depressing lack of taste and double-sword standards we witness in the 21st century global economy, where everything is available, accessible and democratic making us feel that we have simply become clones of ourselves.

Made to measure.jpg

With more bureaucracy and cumbersome regulations, we find it difficult to know where and how products are manufactured, whom by. There is a kind of opacity which destroys the value of each product not only on a monetary aspect but also at an emotional level.

When the global economy became the paradigm in the late 1980’s, I was always among those who were convinced that the future of the global economy would transform into a return to localism. We might ‘“Think global’ but what we see today is a growing interest in the ‘’Act local.”

In the somewhat standardised and rather sterile pattern of our lives, Made to measure is the exception. With the popularity of Web stores such as Etsy, many individuals have chosen not to pursue money but to express their creativity. It has never been easier to have your own unique piece of anything made. Made to measure has become the way to ‘act local’ in the worldwide economy. Thanks to the Internet and fast communications, you can be in any country in the world but dream of your unique jewel, your unique car or your unique dress made by a tailor near or faraway from you. You can commission your unique perfume –reflecting the essence of your personal moment-to remember what you like. Made to measure is like the blueprint of our personality to remind us that we are not clones or only a number but that each of us is truly UNIQUE.

We all long to express the unique part of our personality and this transforms the idea of Made to measure into something magical, starting with a meeting of two individuals who are going to have a special relationship: the creative person becoming the maker for the client who has a dream.

The true luxury today is about reviving the tradition of ‘Made to measure’ in the same way the dressmaker used to take your measurements and fit the dress of your dreams, the shoemaker used to shape shoes to your exact size or the perfumer would create your own Madeleine de Proust. It is about rediscovering what a tomato really tastes like, a rose smells like, a dress or suit that fits feels like, the touch of pure satin or silk. Made to measure appeals to all the 5 senses. The pure luxury  of Made to measure is not about money. It is truly about caring for humanity.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely my opinions and do not necessarily represent the opinions of businesses or institutions I am affiliated. 

Categories: BEAUTY & PERSONAL CARE, LIFESTYLE, SOCIETY | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Can niche perfumers turnover $$ millions?

This is the million dollars question. Let’s be frank! Although we niche perfumers are usually rather humble, most of us secretly or openly have a dream: achieving recognition as a perfume brand. More often than not, in our consumer-driven society, recognition goes along sales and therefore $$.

Perfumers can be made aware by friends, family or clients that  their perfumes are better and more unique than many designer perfume brands out there but one key element prevents them from ever attaining recognition: the money.

An article recently published in Premium Beauty News about aspirations of the fame brand, Atelier Cologne highlighted some painful truth: yes you can make $$ millions in the niche fragrance industry but at a cost! Personal asset selling or personal investment will usually be the first port of call of every aspiring perfumer. Having no asset will not prevent you from getting where you want to be: it will just take longer and be more frustrating.

Analyse the figures mentioned in that article more closely and you soon realise that in order to start making real money from your perfumery business and for your business to outgrow your ambitions, you need:

  1. at least ”300 stores in 26 countries” – (that’s a lot of travelling!)
  2. to sell your house or apartment to seriously start-up the business (ensuring you don’t become homeless…)
  3. Angel investors to back you up when your business grows (time to start counting on your Guardian angels!)
  4. to sell 500,000 bottles @$54 average worldwide over a period of 7 years (approx. 70,000 bottles a year) – This comes with the appropriate production structure…
  5. Let’s not forget the most important element: a good and unique concept (we must praise the founders of Atelier Cologne for making Cologne sexy!)

Atelier CologneHamm!! All this seems very costly. And it is, as according to this article, the founders of Atelier Cologne have had to sell their apartments to start-up the business (we can assume that if these were in Paris or New York, their start-up money was probably in the $2 millions plus ballpark figure) before fundraising and bringing Angel investors on board to obtain roughly 7.5 millions euros in order to sustain the growth and meet their target of doubling their turnover in 2015 before reaching the dream figure of $100 millions and take the full share of a mere 4-5% market share of niche fragrances… This implies that all the other niche perfumers i.e. those who do not have $10 millions of investment are left with crumbs (however, the crumbs might be good enough for most of us!)

What of Angel investors? When reading this article, it is obvious that they are more ‘investors’ than ‘Angels’! A company profitable in its first year and growing… It’s a no-brainer! This article does not mention the percentage of the shares offered against this goodwill but if it is anything like Dragon’s Den, probably 50-60% of the company is owned by the Angels… In any case, well done to Atelier Cologne because these investors will usually only invest if they trust someone and if they know they can have a return on their investment pretty quickly. Unless your Angel happens to share your passion, that is.

”Atelier Cologne are showing that it is possible to challenge the perfume establishment and be successful.”

This leads me to another observation: can artists be good business people? After all, niche perfumers have chosen the path of independence because they have a creative mind that is likely to feel trapped in a conventional perfume house (except if you are the star perfumer of that perfume house like Jean Claude Ellena at Hermes).

What obviously appear to have driven Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel, the founders of Atelier Cologne is their ambition, combined with their belief and passion and the dream that one day they will reach the stars. I suspect that one or both of them had learned one thing or two about business and financials to take their idea forward (an MBA maybe? Or a good business mentor?). Their business plan seems very sound and focused and they appear to have the stuff of  entrepreneurship.

Meanwhile, many niche perfumers work first for the Passion of their Art, without any thought about practical considerations. Like many artists, their name might come up after they have left this Earth because someday, someone will treasure their artwork. They could also be at the right place, the right time or knowing the right people and experience recognition during their lifetime.

So to make $$ from perfumery is possible but in such a competitive industry, the recipe for success should not be the dream of becoming rich and famous as a perfumer but rather be the pleasure of being independent and offering alternative choices to the end consumers, therefore experiencing complete personal satisfaction. Atelier Cologne are showing that it is possible to challenge the perfume establishment and be successful.

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Isabelle Gellé, First Perfumer to be labelled New Luxury

Sitting next to the likes of Forbes magazine and La Jolla Fashion Film Festival, Les Parfums d’Isabelle has been honoured as the first perfume brand to be awarded the New Luxury Code award.

”I follow the New Luxury Code because the future of our planet belongs to ethical individuals who embrace the Beauty of Nature instead of destroying it.”



Read the full interview on LinkedIn>>>

#IsabelleGellé, #NewLuxury, #NewEconomy, #PerfumeryArtSchool, #Perfume, #BecomeAPerfumer

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Nose for hire!


Creative perfumers are called ‘noses‘ in the industry jargon. What differentiates one nose from another one, is their extended knowledge of the perfume raw materials (natural or synthetic), their unlimited access to as many as these ingredients as possible (thus the financial backup) and their creative ability to put them together to compose a perfume. A nose rarely uses more than 200 to 400 out of the thousands of ingredients available. Many perfumers such as Francis Kurkdjian work as independent perfumers AND as a nose on behalf of a major fragrance house. Most however work in the background of a fragrance house or for themselves as smaller independent perfumers and although not so famous, have as good a nose that can be hired.

So if you are a client (private or corporate) looking to develop a perfume, what would be the factors to hire one nose rather than another one?

Apart from the geographical location which might determine your choice, your first task is to decide which type of perfume you would like and prepare your brief to help you find the right nose for your scented goal. If you are looking at an all natural perfume, turning to one of the major house could be costly and disappointing. I met many highly trained chemist perfumers who find it hard to make a perfume with 100% natural ingredients. It is unfortunate that because they don’t know otherwise, clients most often turn to major fragrance houses for their briefs. This is OK if you do not have any restriction with your budget (major fragrance houses and manufacturers can costs 100 of thousands $!) but if budget limit is a problem, turning to a non-famous/celebrity perfumer can often produce wonders! A less known nose will work for you and only for you whereas the fame perfumer tends to work on several briefs at a time. In both scenarios, if you want an exceptional perfume, you will need to give time to the artist to perfect their work. It can take up to 2 years for your perfume to be ready to hit the store shelves.


As mentioned before, a perfumer tends to work with a certain number of ingredients and one thing you will often notice, is that a particular perfumer uses or always comes back to a set of similar core ingredients that s/he prefers. This is how a perfumer develops what is called their ‘signature‘. Whereas one might be more inclined to create light floral types of perfumes, another one will be more versed in strong Oriental or spicy perfumes. This does not mean to say that s/he is not able to create something different but identifying the signature of a perfumer does help your selection process. 

I have been making bespoke perfumes for private clients for many years. Many of them came to me because they had tested my own collection and liked it. My signature is classic and vintage with perfumes such as Chypre and Fougère but there is always an exotic, tropical or Oriental trait to them; some are fresh and spicy scents that make you travel the world from the comfort of your home. My floral scents have more frangipani, jasmine, Asian lily and ylang ylang than rose or mimosa. The exotic twist is definitely present even when I create something as classic as a Cologne. So if you hire me as a nose, and you want an English garden, you will more likely be offered an afternoon tea in the Bahamas!

I worked and lived in Pacific and Indian Ocean islands as well as African countries and my nose has been trained in these exotic and tropical odours. A perfumer who has spent most of his/her life in the mountains or in a city might have a totally different scent memory and knowledge of smells. Since the first thing a nose does is to ‘visualise‘ the scent before even starting the composition, the olfactory memory of both you the client and the creator will play an important role in the end result.

The personal story of the perfumer is thus another factor that you want to consider.

When one reads accounts from the most famous perfumers such as Guerlain, Ellena or defunct Master Perfumers such as Roudnistka or Carles, there is one common thread to all of them: – at some point in their lives, they took upon themselves to travel round the world (sometimes for several years) to discover the raw materials live and in search for new ingredients but mainly to train their noses to odours that were unknown to them. The valuable learnings from these faraway trips made them create some of the most timeless perfumes still available today!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of businesses or institutions affiliated with the author. 

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Why perfumes should be synonymous with Luxury?

 …’Coeur d’Île’ expresses all that the Seychelles islands encompass…

Coeur d’Ile makes you travel to the Indian Ocean islands

As I am about to launch ‘Coeur d’Île‘, the Signature perfume of  the Station Perfumery Seychelles , I wanted to reflect on the reasons why Perfumes seem to have lost their Luxury feel in the last decades.

While preparing Coeur d’Ile, my mind was travelling back to when I was 15 and the Parfum FIDJI and its eternal slogan ‘The woman is an island – Fidji is its perfume‘ was given to me as a gift. My family had then just moved back to Europe after years in the exotic island of New Caledonia;  it was cold and the adjustment to the new life was proving difficult. Fidji became my sunny companion and spraying it in the cold winter mornings was helping me keep warm and happy inside. Its discreet waft of spice and floral notes combined with a powdery and sensual base was making it My Island as a young girl to take refuge to. But above all, its smell was elegant and feminine and this is what makes it such a timeless fragrance.

Perfume should be about Discretion and not imposed on everyone around you. It should only be smelled by those immediately in your vicinity. Unfortunately, modern perfumes with their strong hyper sweet and fruity notes that stick to your clothes like a leech for days – and actually also stick to the cilia in your nostrils, making it impossible to smell anything else for a few days – cannot pretend to be discreet nor intimate.

”Luxury”, from Latin Lux meaning ‘Light’ and later Luxuria meaning ‘deviation’

Luxury is thus an ”indulgence in something refined and sumptuous that provides pleasure, satisfaction, or ease”. Not the modern days scents that are created with cheap ingredients which in my view do not provide any pleasure, satisfaction and even less ease. This is of course, apart from some niche houses, of course, that are making the efforts to maintain a tradition of  Artistry in their creations.

A Perfume should be a piece of accessory that we treat ourselves with at times. For everyday use, a Cologne or Eau Fraiche should suffice. If consumers start discovering what is behind the creation of a true perfume, the lengthy process the Master perfumer goes through to obtain something that’s right,  they might then want to go about their purchase with a more informed knowledge and appreciation. They might also want to figure out which perfume suits them most and better and create the closest intimacy rather than the largest trail!

Coming back to Fidji, it used to be the Luxury for young girls but in modern days, it is more of a woman’s perfume because of its floral powdery and slightly spicy tone.  When we can get hold of one original one that is! It is normal that tastes change with times but shall we say that in the 1960’s to 80’s, teenagers’ choices were not so much driven by the celebrity trend but rather than the memories of their mother’s perfumes or bags’ satin lining impregnated with those vintage scents. Shall we also not forget the fact that the advent of the use of 100% synthetics as seen in the last 2 decades has actually become a major concern for scent allergies and near-anosmia which is the reason given by regulators to suffocate Perfume Heritage and even ban the use of perfumes.

I feel so nostalgic when I see that people can’t smell with appreciation any longer and that we live in a society with no sense of scent which to me equals to no Soul.

I can only hope that the definition of Luxury returns not to something around possessions and lots of money but rather to indulgence and pampering and then maybe true, Classic perfumes will also make their way back to bring ‘light’ to our lives.

‘Coeur d’Île’ is the signature perfume by Isabelle Gellé at the Station Perfumery in the Seychelles. This simple exotic scent from the Spicy Floral family will transport you to the tropical world where the clove of Zanzibar meets the Bourbon vanilla and the patchouli of the Indian Ocean islands, with at its heart a bouquet of white flowers, symbols of these lush islands, including ylang ylang and jasmine. The top notes are composed of a cocktail of Seychelles island citrus: grapefruit, petitgrain bigarade and lime, all complementing the sweetness of vanilla and the spicy clove.  It is 100% natural and has a lasting power on the skin of up to 6 hours.

It will soon be available for sale online. Please visit for more details.

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Presenting the Perfumery Art School UK…

I always love new challenges, particularly when they pertain to the Future of Perfumery. All those who follow my work also know that I keep on advocating education in Aromas & Scents and as a qualified teacher, it was thus natural to create a School rather than just organising workshops introducing the Art of Perfumery…

The Perfumery Art Schools Logo Original BG avatar icon

So I embarked on a journey that has lasted 18 months to create the first ‘virtual’ Perfumery Art School in the United Kingdom. We launched the first course called ‘Certificate in Perfumery Art’ a few days ago!  And we already have student from all the corners of the world.

This course teaches the A to Z of the Art of Perfumery according to the methods used by the Master Blenders from the House of Grasse. It is a Level 3 programme in the UK standards (Certificate level). The Perfume Foundation, a consumer organisation based in Brussels whose mission is to protect the Heritage and the Art of Perfumery and that is constantly challenging the EU and IFRA regulations –  is the Certification body for the course.

To teach the Art of Perfumery online, there is a need for a methodological approach, that gets away from a standard PDF or lecture format. I created a methodology called ‘S C E N T (c)’  for ‘SMELL’, ‘CREATE’, ‘EXPLORE’, ‘NURTURE’ and ‘TRANSLATE’.

The concept of this methodology is that it introduces the learner immediately to SMELLING and CREATING while the more standard modules related to History, Health & Safety and Hygiene in the Perfume environment and Project Management & Marketing are completing the in-depth learning without boring the learner. The key is to help the students to unleash the artist within while using a structured approach based on knowing all the facets of an ingredient whether its odour, aromatic compound and matching capacities.

Learning Authoring and Learning Management Content tools was not easy… These tools, in my view, represent the Future for the teaching of any subject to higher education learners who are, for most of them professionals who do not have the possibility to take a long break from their work and go back to school. Authoring requires that one gets deeper into the knowledge of programming even though these tools are usually adapted to course developers who do not know html.  But to the learner, it is a user-friendly experience online – with a lot of interactivity which makes it easier to remember but also less lonely…

The Perfumery Art Schools Logo Writing the course and finding a manufacturer to put the student perfumer kit together, were the biggest challenges of all. I finally found an independent French perfumer who thanks to his long standing contacts in Grasse has done a great job in preparing a unique perfumer kit. The Perfumery Art School is offering a complete kit that includes 38 natural aromatic compounds, the perfume bases (alcohol, oils), various waxes and butters and the complete glassware and accessories… This means you do not need to go out and buy anything and can just start learning the Art of Perfumery.

The course is hosted on SCORM Cloud, a SCORM compliant system (Sharable Content Object Reference Model), a standard for Web-based eLearning. As a student, you receive a private invitation to join the course and all you need is to play the course. You can stay or return on each page as long and as often as you want.

Upon completion of the course (expected within 18 months), the student receives the Certification as soon as their perfume project has been assessed by the School Committee.  With this exceptional and unique course, the student can either start their own independent perfume business or join a perfume house that requires a deep knowledge of naturals and the Art of Perfumery. The School has already concluded a few partnerships with some perfume & cosmetics houses and manufacturers in various countries to accept internships, for those students who would like to make a career out of their study.

Station SeychellesPartnerships have also been agreed to deliver practical workshops and courses in the UK and France (these are not part of the online courses and are optional). The ‘onsite’ campus for the school has been established in the heart of the island of Mahe, in the Seychelles. Students who join the practical and short courses that will be organised there will have a unique opportunity to discover the Abundance of the tropical Nature of the Seychelles, smelling for real the exotic flowers and plants such as ylang ylang or patchouli or the spices such as cinnamon, clove and vanilla that grow locally – or simply smelling and discovering genuine marine and ozonic scents!

My mission is to educate as many people as possible about creating beautiful scents in the most traditional way while applying the Ancient methods to modern tools. Students at the Perfumery Art School come from all over the world…

For more information, please visit

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The end of our perfumer’s world?


If the Mayan calendar planned the end of the world on 21 December, there is one end of the world which is definitely going to happen unless a movement starts to protect its heritage: the world of the Art of perfumery. At a time when the consumer is demanding natural cosmetics and perfumes, the madness of the EU and IFRA has marked yet another step towards the end of naturals.

Reuters article reports on a worrying news that a new measure will be debated in the anti-democratic institution of the EU in Brussels at the beginning of 2013. The report highlights the extent of the madness of those people from another planet who go as far as advocating the use of ‘safe’ synthetics (?) and the potential ban of 100 more natural ingredients as well as an entire ban of moss and oak moss as a response to 1% of the entire EU population (a mere 3.5 million people) who seems to suffer all types of allergies to all types of things.

Despite attempts to get answers in order to explain how come a supposedly ‘self-regulatory’ association such as IFRA seems to have become the voice of the aroma chemical industry and whether the aim is to ban perfumes all together, I am left frustrated by the absence of fighting mood from some of the big names mentioned in the article.

So the EU is about to ask us perfumers, and in particular, natural perfumers to forego their passion in the name of the pretence of safety. The worst is that a murky underdog association called the Bureau of European Consumers (which is only a sideline and lobby association not belonging to the EU but receiving finance from them) is claiming victory because they say, there is a “thorough and evidence-based study”! The question is ‘who mandated the study and where is the evidence’ that synthetics are safer than naturals. Besides, would they ask a painter to only use a palette composed of a couple of colours because too many colours might harm your sight? Or a pianist to play with only a couple of key notes because the noise might harm your hearing?

Beware perfume lovers!. Do not visit the European Parliament or the IFRA because I have a strong feeling it stinks there! Meanwhile, as an artisan perfumer defending the Art of perfumery, I have decided to take a stand… Here is what I have to say to the IFRA: I will carry on making perfumes using naturals, for the pleasure of the senses and in order to protect the ancestry heritage that you are busy assassinating for some blurry reason!

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Online perfume micro-business: struggling to make ends meet…

It is not easy to be an artisan entrepreneur! It always strikes me to realise that most governments in the world do not consider micro-businesses in their reforms for entrepreneurship. Although on 1st January 2005, a new definition for ‘micro-small and medium-sized enterprises’ has been incorporated in the EU legislation , advocating the Member States to use it as a reference and make the measures taken to support such enterprises more ”consistent and effective”, I still fail to see how this acknowledgement fulfils my needs as a business-minded woman with plenty of ideas for creativity and expansion and running a micro-business

” A microenterprise is an enterprise which employs fewer than 10 persons with an annual turnover and/or annual balance sheet total not exceeding EUR 2 million”

This is according to the EU definition. In my quest for support through such government bodies as Business Link and other similar useless schemes, I was received with indifference and at the most, despise. In order to bring my perfumes on the UK market or export them, I need to join a scheme at a cost of £1000 and in exchange, I would be able to accompany delegations in countries of interest against meeting 50% of the costs!!

As an artisan perfumer whose mission statement is to help people ‘rediscover the essence of Nature and travel through scents’, £1000 will be spent on costly and precious essential oils (some of them worth the price of gold!). What I need from these so-called ‘development and business support agencies’ is financial support. In all my discussions with the various advisors, this aspect seems to be a taboo topic. You see, when you run your business however small it is, people you talk to think you are successful and making plenty of money so the money aspect is not something to discuss. The advisors are here to advise: and they do so by advising me – well – to spend more money in packaging, lab testing, marketing. No wonder why only the major corporates can impose their products in the economy!

 Lets take a look at such costs in the UK (these are minimum costs quoted to me so far):

– Rebranding and redesigning: £3000
– Blending and bottling of the natural perfume in factory (2000 bottles) ex-raw materials costs: £2250
– Packaging (recyclable): £5000 for 2000 units
– Marketing: to place perfumes on the shelf for 3 months  in departments stores such as Boots: £15 000 (publicity to be carried out by the business)
– Laboratory testing to comply with EU regulations: £500-£1000 per product
– Hiring a public relation agency to promote your products in magazines such as Marie-Claire: £1500 per month i.e £18 000 for a year

So in total and at the minimum, I need to raise about £45000 if I want my natural perfumes to be more visible and in my crusade to bring a 100% natural perfume product on the shelves. Like many hundreds perfumery micro-business owners, I have not been able to pay myself a salary for my hard work in the last 5 years; every penny is reinvested in freshly extracted raw ingredients, needed to keep the ethics and business integrity alive.  I must say that I am loosing heart at being an entrepreneur in view of the lack of support out there… If to the financiers’ mind, I am a small potato, what about the VAT I pay on each order of raw materials I buy and what about the dozens of suppliers for whom my regular small orders allow them to carry on with their businesses…. There is no small profit, is there?

”In the 1960s up to the 1980s, starting without capital was a real possibility”

I am questioning the essence of ‘entrepreneurship’ and whether rather than a global economy, we are not going to be left with the 1% catering for the 99%, just like what’s happening with the banks mergers at the moment. Besides, whereas in the 1960s up to the 1980s, starting without capital was a real possibility when new products were not popping up every day and anything new or not trendy could make its way on the shelves, since the end of the 20th century, many brands have been acquired by the likes of L’Oreal, Estee Lauder to name but a few with the founders’ original philosophy being truncated and compromised in order to cut costs on quality and increase profit margin.

So far, I have been able to carry on thanks to the Internet. My business revenues are mostly generated from online sales which means I have cut a lot of costs such as physical and marketing ones… But running a perfumery with a computer screen as a shop window can turn out to be restrictive. And it does not remove the issue of storage place and production which involves an injection of capital…

So I am left with the decision of whether I want to carry on trying to make ends meet with my passion, how I can expand by setting up a more ‘small business’ structure or if I should go back to perfume-making as a hobby only…

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of businesses or institutions affiliated with the author. 


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