Grant Osborne was born in London, and now lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and 4 month old son. He launched the Basenotes website in 2000, and it has since grown into the largest online database and interactive community for men who are interested in fragrance. Last year he launched a forum for women, and expanded the database to include women’s fragrances. I asked Grant to tell me how he got started in fragrance…
How and when did you first become interested in fragrance, and what were a few of your early favorites?
My first fragrance was a present on my 18th birthday: a bottle of Yves Saint Laurent Jazz. I liked it, but to me at the time, it was just a fragrance. My interest in fragrance really developed later. I used to work as a Photographic Advisor at a major chain of chemists in the UK called Boots. After a few years, I got bored of cameras and photos, and a vacancy arose in-store for a Men’s Fine Fragrance Advisor. I thought it would be fun to learn about something new and went for the interview and got the job.
You started Basenotes in 2000. What inspired you to create an online forum for men’s fragrances, and were there any other sites online at that time that focussed on fragrances for men?
The start of my fragrance job coincided with my introduction to the internet. I decided to look on the web for information about fragrances. I found little. Hardly any of the fragrance houses had their own websites and the only useful site I found was one called The Cologne Guy. Unfortunately, it hadn’t been updated in some time. I thought at the back of my mind it would be good to develop a website on men’s fragrances as it would help me learn the ropes of my job, plus it would fill a ‘gap’ on the web.
In November 1999, a long-term relationship ended and I ploughed my energies into creating Basenotes. Nine months later I had a site ready. It was nothing compared to what it is now, but it was a good start. The site consisted of a few articles, an A-Z listing of all the fragrances I has heard of, plus detailed reviews of about 20 fragrances. At the last minute before launching, I decided to add a forum. The forum ended up being the most popular part of the site.
How has Basenotes changed since then?
When the site launched, I think there were about 700 fragrances listed. We now have over 7,000. The main change in the site is that it has gone from being primarily a men’s fragrance website to one that also covers women’s scents. That decision makes my job three times busier, but I do not regret it.
You launched the women’s fragrance board in August of 2004. There were already women reading and posting at basenotes (I know because I was one of them), but there are undoubtedly quite a few more now, and I’m wondering what, if any, effect you think that has had on the forum boards?
When we launched the women’s board, I was conscious of the fact that I wanted to keep the men’s and women’s board separate – mainly so that you could easily find what posts you would be interested in. Many posts on the men’s board comment on fragrances designed for women that men wear, and vice versa.
Currently, the men’s board is five times busier than the women’s (due to the site’s heritage), so they have a different feel to each of them. I’m sure in a few years time, the women’s board will overtake the men’s.
The boards would be nowhere without my mini-army of moderators who keep the forum in line. The success of the forum is really due to Colin, Paul, Tigrushka, Ladylonestar and Marlen.
I see complaints from time to time on the men’s forum at basenotes that the men are slighted by the perfume companies, especially in terms of packaging and the number of fragrances that are made available in higher concentrations, such as parfum. Would you agree with that assessment?
I think the men’s side of things does tend to be neglected by the industry, but it’s easy for us fragrance aficionados to forget that this is an industry we are dealing with, no different from others like the frozen food or car industries, for example, who make decisions based on profits. The women’s market is much larger, so that is where efforts tend to be concentrated.
What do you think are the 5 most interesting fragrances for men that have been launched since you started basenotes?
M7 by Yves Saint Laurent & Cuiron by Helmut Lang: Two fragrances that were launched around the same time that seemed to be taking a welcome turn away from the glut of fresh scents we had been getting until that point.
S-Perfume by S-Perfume/Shaping Room: It smelled very weird, but kept me coming back for more. Shaping Room is one of the rare fragrance companies that, like Frederic Malle, actually shout about the perfumers that created the scent.
Anything by Comme des Garcons: One house that you know isn’t going to come out with something run-of-the-mill.
Yohji Homme by Yohji Yamamoto: created by the house of Jean Patou. Sadly, it looks like this will fall by the wayside. Since acquiring the Patou brand, Proctor & Gamble has quietly disposed of the Yohji Yamamoto scents.
You are in the process of launching several new sites. Can you tell us about those?
PerfumeReview.com is a perfume retailer comparison site. Visitors will be able to compare prices and products at a number of online perfume retailers in the UK and USA. I’m hoping this will be ready before the end of the year, but it’s a lot more complicated than I thought!
Facenotes.net is basically Basenotes, but with make-up. It is in the early stages at the moment but the forums are now up and running.