The format of the 2007 book 22 Perfumers: a creative process (also published in French as 22 Parfumeurs) is simple: interviews with 22 perfumers, presented in a coffee table format with lots of pictures. The book was the brainchild of Clara Molloy, who founded the niche perfume brand Memo the same year that the book came out.
As the subtitle suggests, the book focuses on the creative aspect of perfume development, but you'll learn other things about the perfumers in question as well — Michel Almairac loves to cook, Alberto Morillas has "organized his life around a garden". Each perfumer is presented with different questions, but overall, you'll get a glimpse into what it's like to work as a perfumer. You'll also learn about each perfumer's career choices and why they might move from one fragrance & flavor company to another, developing perfume as part a team vs. working alone, what it's like to mentor a younger perfumer (or be mentored by an older perfumer), creating for niche vs. mainstream brands, what it's like to be a house perfumer for a specific brand, and where perfumers find their inspirations. The five or six pages that cover each perfumer also includes a list of their creations, sometimes with commentary for individual perfumes, sometimes without. If you're an aspiring perfumer, you'll be interested in the questions about how "outsiders" (those who did not grow up in Grasse or have family connections to perfumery) broke into the industry.
Along the way, you'll pick up interesting tidbits about some of your favorite (or not favorite!) perfumes:
Calice Becker on Christian Dior J'Adore: "I pictured all the beautiful dresses that I had loved when I was a little girl".
Carlos Benaïm on Ralph Lauren Polo: "So I created something that was fairly surprising for me. I spent almost a year creating it, without truly realizing what I was doing or the impact that it would have."
Jacques Polge on Chanel Coco: "Coco was created after a visit to Mademoiselle Chanel's apartment...When I saw her baroque environment...it surprised me. I wasn't the image I had of Chanel, who I thought had a simpler style."
Maurice Roucel on KenzoAir: "With KenzoAir, man has accepted his feminine side and retained something of the little boy that he once was. For me, there is no such thing as a fragrance for men or a fragrance for women."
In addition to the perfumers mentioned above, the book includes interviews with Françoise Caron, Jacques Cavallier, François Demachy, Jean-Michel Duriez, Jean Claude Ellena, Jean Paul Guerlain, Francis Kurkdjian, Sophie Labbé, Mathilde Laurent, Aliénor Massenet, Annick Menardo, Christine Nagel, Olivier Polge and Dominique Ropion.
Do you need a copy? That perhaps depends on your level of interest in perfumers as opposed to perfumes. As I've said here before, the book that taught me the most about how the fragrance industry works, and how perfumers fit into the larger picture of fragrance development, was Michael Edwards' Perfume Legends: French Feminine Fragrances.1 22 Perfumers has a more narrow focus, but is nearly the only book of its kind available in English,2 and by presenting the perfumers in their own words, it provides a more human, every-day sort of look at the perfume industry. It is also true that Perfume Legends ends with the creation of Angel; 22 Perfumers gives a better idea of the time constraints (and marketing factors) that affect perfumers today. Highly recommended.
22 Perfumers / 22 Parfumeurs
ed. Clara Molloy, author Carine Soyer
140 pages; Editions Pirate
€69 at the Memo fragrance website; as of this writing, only the English version is available
1. Perfume Legends is now out of print, but if you are patient, eventually you may find a reasonably priced copy (by reasonably priced, I mean around $100: it is not a cheap book) on eBay. I'm pretty sure that's also how I got 22 Perfumers, but I've had it so long now that I can't remember.
2. Other books in English that deal with the topic of how perfumes really get made and what it's like to work in the fragrance industry include Chandler Burr's The Perfect Scent and Jean-Claude Ellena's Diary of a Nose.