Greater good

Olfactive Vision by Firmenich: a tool to create the next decade’s perfumery

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This article was published in partnership with Firmenich.

What will the fragrances of tomorrow be made of? Sustainable beets, feminine fougères or safely toxic fragrances? Firmenich’s perfumers and creative team give us a glimpse into the future.

Every year Firmenich gives its perfumers carte blanche, flagging the company’s new olfactory direction – but this year is special. The creative team set about imagining concepts and fragrances for a post-pandemic world. “We studied weak signals in society and selected the facts that may have an impact on perfumery as well as the major perfume players,” explains Amandine Vepierre, Firmenich Marketing Director. This creative exercise is part of the Swiss composition house’s RE│GENERATION programme. To mark its 125th anniversary, the company has set up a platform incorporating consumer insights, new technologies and its work on sustainable ingredients. “Olfactive Vision adopts a different approach to the Olfactive Design event, where perfumers are given carte blanche without any constraints. For Olfactive Vision, the perfumers predict how the market and the iconic families will evolve,” says David Suffit Reedman, Senior Director of Fine Fragrance Development Europe at Firmenich. “When we started thinking about the project, we were in the middle of a pandemic and we knew it would have a big impact on the use of perfume and role it plays,” Amandine Vepierre recalls. “Olfactory trends are like artistic movements, they echo the socio-cultural environment of the time. The last decade has seen a profusion of creations, and we asked ourselves what the major trends of the 2020s would be.
The teams mapped out four olfactory territories drawing on their reflections on society and a collection of perfumes designed by a group of fine fragrance designers. The personalities and styles of each perfumer are reflected in these surprising and futuristic creations. 
Close-up on the first theme, Greater Good, followed by a summary of the next three.

Greater Good
The Covid-19 crisis has accentuated the questions we ask ourselves about our place in the world as human beings, our consumption habits, our values, what we really aspire to in the future. After a period of radical minimalism and individualism, we are now moving towards collective harmony. The quest for well-being is becoming the most important aspect of people’s lives. Home is synonymous with comfort, we value simple pleasures and JOMO1Joy of Missing Out, or the pleasure of putting social and digital life on hold is the new cool. We feel a need for collective balance and solidarity, fuelled by respect for ourselves, others and the planet. 
Safeguarding the Earth and the environment is essential, involving getting closer to nature, protecting it, recycling, upcycling, repairing and making, minimising waste. The same questions are being asked in perfumery as in the fashion world, where the #whomademyclothes movement is taking off. An increasing number of consumers are asking where their perfumes come from, who made them, under what conditions and at what price.
How can we protect nature in perfumery? How can we be inspired by it and try to get as close as possible to the sensation of a natural note without creating unnecessary waste? Today’s responsible consumers expect a high degree of transparency so they can feel engaged; they are looking for meaning within a positive and pleasant sensory experience. The new challenge for perfume is to reconcile commitment and hedonism, responsibility and pleasure. Thanks to enveloping materials, rounded shapes, revitalising freshness, and soft and fluffy textures, consumers are escaping from the anxiety-inducing situation and using their perfume as a cocoon.

Firmenich has come up with two olfactory approaches:
Regenerative Nature
This approach offers new ways of looking at freshness, by bringing us closer to nature. Green, aromatic notes and citrus facets as well as old-fashioned flowers such as the carnation, marigold, gentian and camomile. Hybridity is also an interesting concept: combining aromatic and fruity notes, exploring balsamic tones to bring depth and texture to flowers and citrus.
Safe Intoxication
How can we indulge ourselves and others while avoiding excess? The new epicureanism is rooted in elements that are both addictive and healthy. We are now moving beyond the overdose of sweet and edible notes to get closer to home: local is the new “exotic”. Consumers want to rediscover the past and their heritage through traditional cereals and vegetables.
Sweetness can be provided by ingredients other than vanilla and praline: sweet musks such as Strawbinone or Sorbettolide, milky notes from flowers, smoky or roasted aspects like in maple water, and the flowers that are coming to the fore in the quest to convey an alternative form of addiction.
Over the last few years, Firmenich perfumers have drawn inspiration from grains and cereals with pyrazine tones while plant milks have brought a creamier, milkier comfort to fragrances. They are now exploring cereal and seed flours borrowing from plant milks, including hazelnut flour, chestnut flour and tigernut flour. Addiction is getting powdery! And then there is the exploration of new sensations produced by alternative methods such as fermentation or pyrogenation.

Eight creations illustrate this theme, including:

  • The Other Way by Alexandra Monet explores a creamy spiciness inspired by Ayurvedic milky coffee, with a warm, smooth blend of plant milk, turmeric, ginger and wood that creates an inner glow;
  • We Love Green by Ane Ayo is a great escape into the countryside, the vegetal galbanum taking on multiple facets thanks to an aromatic basil infusion and tones of star anise;
  • Call of Nature by Marie Salamagne, when rose meets beetroot, is an experimental floral chypre with an unexpected sweetness and a contrasting texture, juicy and earthy.

Shift the Rules
A new feminism is emerging, crossing all generations, centred in a spirit of collaboration, openness and increased autonomy for women. Men are increasingly involved in this new model of social transformation. Gender equality is influencing the way people decide to express themselves, especially through their fragrance. Perfumery is no longer content with a blurring of genders, or a lack of gender, but is witnessing the emergence of a completely new model: the gender reboot. Consumers are increasingly using fragrances that they value for their aesthetic, regardless of gender. Whether hyper-feminine, hyper-masculine or out of the ordinary, the olfactory character takes precedence. Femininity is asserting itself more than ever, far from the old stereotypes, while masculinity is becoming more fluid, simpler, more pared back and open to exploring new territories.

Notable creations include: 

  • Super Flowers by Ilias Ermenidis celebrates the wild beauty of narcissus, so green and yet so bold, at the crossroads of the plant and animal worlds;
  • More is more  by Nathalie Lorson shifts the lines of flowering seasons with this smoky, opulent and spicy rose producing a sillage of Santoud and Paneirawood;
  • Fluffy Bloom by Philippine Courtière is a crystalline blend of pure lavender and transparent peony, a floral motif wrapped in a cloud of musks to produce a fluid sensation;
  • In Over the top by Daphne Bugey, the unbridled sensuality of spicy gardenia is underscored by the addictive woodiness of sandalwood and Ambrox.

Playful Reconnection
A tribute to the natural world that calls for artistic experimentation and freedom with a hint of eccentricity. Timid perfectionism is replaced by something spontaneous and fun. A revitalising approach that creates bold images. Playful Reconnection leads us into new imaginary spaces that act as a balm to soothe anxiety while encouraging optimistic creativity. Nature here is amplified, embellished, colourful, almost psychedelic, paving the way for the imagination to give free rein to all its fantasies, with both spontaneity and pleasure. An intense desire for colour intermingles with a real need for nature.

Stand-out creations:

  • Psychedelium by Alexandra Monet is a geranium with a playful feel that blurs the boundaries between fruit and leaf. Its fruity note mirrors the juiciness of lychee while its aromatic freshness is enhanced by the vivacity of lemon;
  • Tomato Rainbow by Amandine Clerc Marie draws on every element of the pink tomato: tangy, juicy and sweet like sun-ripened flesh; crisp and fresh like its crushed green leaves;
  • Carotene by Marie Salamagne is a vibrant fragrance combining the powdery woodiness of carrot, dazzling freshness of freshly squeezed orange and velvety smoothness of apricot.

Post Crisis Luxury
The global crisis will remain etched in our memories. An event of this magnitude reshuffles the deck and calls into question our positions, our values and our priorities. A willingness to examine the past while moving forwards is what is needed, far from the excesses and extreme urgency of our daily lives. We aspire to find something more real, palpable, concrete, to reassure ourselves and escape the often overwhelming digital world. A strong desire to reconnect with the tangible is emerging. Reconnecting to time and space, to simplicity and comfort, is becoming the new luxury.

Stand-out creations:

  • State of Mind by Dora Baghriche conjures the simplicity of unripe orange blossom infused in a leathery eau;
  • Here and Elsewhere by Sophie Labbé offers a comforting exoticism based on the powdery roundness of sesame;
  • Slowness by Olivier Cresp produces an enveloping cleanliness that combines musks with warm woods, punctuated by a light smattering of green cardamom.

With their omnipresent flowers, even for men, crunchy garden vegetables and naturalness steeped in optimism, the fragrances of the future will be vibrant and ultra-healthy, helping us forget 2020. These resolutely creative approaches will not fail to inspire perfume brands in search of a new lease of life. Reworked, given different facets, sometimes sweetened, these notes will unquestionably provide the foundations for the great successes of 2023.

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