11 ottobre 2009

IFRA and its influence on today's fragrances 3/3

This post originates here
I have no technical skills to get specific on how opoponax, oak moss, both types of jasmine, bergamot and other banned or restricted natural materials can really irritate the skin of some individuals. People with allergies or specific predispositions don't spray perfume on the skin but on clothes. And people who don't know if they'reallergic or not, when see a rash, generally wash up, and the next time they'll spray on fabric. One of the things I'm interested in, is the impoverishment of the artistic and cultural heritage consisting in the vintage fragrances, which are getting reformulated every 5 years.
For now, oakmoss, jasmine, opoponax etc can still be used, in small amounts until 2013.

In this window of time companies have to reformulate them to conform to new standard (from the perspective of having to reformulate them again within five years and at huge cost, if I were Chanel I'd remove right now the most controversial raw materials from N.5. But I'm not Chanel, and therefore certainly this is not going to happen ... ;-))

In a more general long-term economic strategy, huge multinational companies have in their payroll not only IFRA (they are in the donors' list), but are gaining ownership over many small and medium-sized companies producing natural raw materials for perfumery. LMR (Laboratoires Monique Remy) has become the property of IFF just like Charabot has become of Robertet, let's add Chanel's acquiring Biolandes ... In short, it seems as if for small producers of raw materials there can be no more space. You can't be independent, you must be absorbed by the system, otherwise you will quit.

This system will have two direct effects:
1 when IFRA prohibits or limits the use of a raw material, it will disappear from the market. If IFF will not earn enough, say, from ylang ylang or jasmine manufactured by LMR, it probably will go out from the catalogue . Of course it also works in reverse: when the perfume industry will decide that the cost of a certain material is too high, it will be able to whisper a word in IFRA's ear to have its use limited. It could even be contemporary chronicle, not futurology.
2 If small businesses stop producing jasmine or ylang ylang, even the small independent perfumers we like so much, sooner or later will not be able to find adequate supply, and then they'll stop using it in their artistic fragrances. Buying small quantities of raw materials, is not an easy task even now.

Okay, this could lead to a creative overflow: if you are allowed to use jasmine only in homeopathic quantities, you'll try to replace its effects with an accord, a base, a mix of synthetic to get the closest possible, and this might allow the creative genius of composers to express and find the right recognition. If your name is J.C. Ellena and you can compose your way, you'll find a challenge in recreating jasmin without a drop of jasmin, but for all non-Ellenas, I am not sure that limiting the palette will give birth to more originality and innovation (if Gauguin could only use green and red colours, I doubt we all would love his paintings so much). If the limitation in ingredients will lead to original and exciting scents, I'll keep missing the jasmin, but in the long run I might even get used to all this creativity put together without natural vibrations (and perhaps this will be the only way not to drop perfumery in oblivion).
But it's also true that IFRA has been issuing recommendations for years and what's happened so far? Thousands of horrible scents were launched on the market; and also in the selective perfumery, along with lots of real gems there are many just passable scents. I don't know if "less materials = more creativity" to date is more my hope or a real trend, but the fact that some artistic perfumery brands are just now reformulating their fragrances, doesn't seem very promising to me.
In my worst nightmares, indipendent composers will be increasingly alone and desperate for someone to sell them small quantities of raw materials that no one will grow anymore because they're out of the great economic system, while the commercial composers will be mere scent-makers of soulless perfumes without vibration.

But above all, I feel sorry for those developing countries whose economy is based partly on Perfumery investments. Multinationals have abused their land for decades, thousands of hectares deforested to plant more valuable crops, often impoverishing the soil. They destroyed entire forests of sandalwood, built processing facilities and created monumental structures. When they will decide that the jasmine is no longer relevant to them, it won't be the 40 Grasse farmers, the ones who will suffer. It will be the thousands of Egyptian families living on the cultivation and processing of the Egyptian jasmine, who will remain without support "with one hand in front and the other one backside" as we say here. I'm talking about Indonesian woods, oakmoss grown and worked in the former Yugoslavia, or all the wonderful raw materials originating in South American countries (Brazil in the lead).

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