Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Creative Process of Firmenich Perfumer Nathalie Lorson

The particulars related to creative process in perfumery continue to infuse media produced by flavor and fragrance houses. These vignettes are purposefully choreographed to instill a sense of authenticity in the viewer, and respect for the art of perfumery. An edgy Gallic soulfulness infuses Firmenich's video portrait of perfumer Nathalie Lorson. The video was posted on Vimeo last week* and appears to be the first of future video portraits from the private Swiss firm.

The story begins with Lorson lighting a strip of Papier de Armenie. A thoughtful monologue ensues:

Everything is rounded, gentle. Everything is done with delicacy. There's no vulgarity–ever. Because it must be things I like, all things considered, whatever the brand you are working for, you put something of yourself into it. 

When I have an idea, I don't let it go. I work, work, work until I succeed. I never give up. My inspiration comes from life, traveling, a color, a shape, a's all linked. I do the job of someone searching for gold nuggets, a gold digger! I think I'm...persistent, passionate, but on the other hand I can be quite tough. I can be very harsh. 

It's not easy for me to place my trust in someone, but when I do, I'm very loyal. In fact, I'm not hard. I'm actually quite sensitive, but I don't show it necessarily. It's a form of protection...a shell. It's so reductive to call someone a "nose." I'm not a "nose," I'm a brain. 

It's hard not to be struck by Lorson's displeasure at being called "a nose." A perfumer's creation speaks to the sense of smell, but the perfumer integrates several sensory modalities to actualize their creation. (This type of sensory interplay is well articulated by sommelier Jaime Smith who happens to be a synesthete.)

Would one call a visual expert "an eye?" Too Cyclopean. It's a matter of language and "a nose", even when referred to as le nez in French, doesn't do a good job of defining what it means to be a perfumer. Such are the limits of language and culture. Good thing there's video...

Brands were getting comfortable with the idea of sharing the spotlight with fragrance creators when "Exposing the Perfumer" was published (Perfumer and Flavorist, May 2007). This has allowed flavor and fragrance companies, who formulate perfumes for international brands, the opportunity to highlight the m├ętier of perfumers. It will be interesting to see how this evolves in the coming years.