PANTIN, France — Christine Nagel, a Swiss native, started her career in a research lab at the fragrance and flavor company Firmenich after earning a degree in organic chemistry. She first saw a “nose” at work there, through the windows of her laboratory. She was immediately enthralled by the sight and knew “this was the career for me.” Nagels application for training was rejected because at the time, a career in perfumery was almost exclusively reserved for French men, preferably those who were from Grasse, the traditional capital of the scent industry. Instead of being hired to create scents, she was given the opportunity to work identifying them. For more than 8 years, she did this using nothing but her nose.
Nagel later looked to Italy, undeterred, now highly skilled, and willing to take a chance to find opportunity, where she won 60% of the contracts available in the market. Nagel relocated to Paris to work for well-known brands like Cartier, Dior, and Thierry Mugler as demand for her expertise grew.
In 2016, Jean-Claude Ellena, the first resident perfumer of the house, was succeeded by Nagel as the in-house nose for Hermès. She relocated to an atelier in Pantin, in the northern suburbs of Paris, with her longtime assistant, whose annual sales peaked at more than €5 million. 9 billion in 2018.
I was employed by the Swiss flavor and fragrance company Firmenich as a research assistant. A month after I arrived, I observed a man applying perfume to a woman’s hands from the windows of the lab I was working in. Even after the perfumer had left, she continued to smell her hand and smile, and that is when I knew this was the job for me.
I asked Alberto Morillas, a renowned perfumer, if I could enroll in Firmenich’s perfumer school. The school’s response was a categorical no, for several reasons, the first of which was that I am a woman because, historically, perfumery was a man’s profession. This is ironic because, in France, almost exclusively women are currently pursuing careers in the industry. The second justification was that I’m not from Grasse, historically the center of the fragrance industry in southern France, which I found to be extremely unfair.
The company instead suggested a different position, one that required more technical skills, such as the ability to smell perfumes and recognize particular scents in order to retrieve the formula used. In the past, I would only be able to find the formula with my nose, but today we have a lot of assistance from machines that track scent. Because of my background, I never back down from a challenge, and there are only two or three other perfumers in the world who can say the same. I am extremely proud of this.
You must have extensive prior experience to work as an in-house perfumer. After working at Firmenich, I decided to take a chance and visit some clients in Italy. There, I received a lot of project wins, which made me feel like a true perfumer. I went to Paris, the capital of perfumery, after receiving numerous requests to work for people there, which allowed me to increase my network of partners.
There are fewer of us than astronauts in the world, where there are only 500 or so perfumers, so there is always some sort of competition. I actually believe there are just six perfumers working in-house. Every time you work on a project, you and the creative director delve into a unique narrative. It is similar to when you were a child and your mother read you a book. If it’s a story about monsters, you become a monster. You become a character in the story if it is one from a fairy tale. Each story is utterly fantastic. I’m very receptive to this; it’s part of my history. It has shaped me and my story.
This job requires work and discipline. It’s crucial to possess two qualities in order to be a good perfumer. One is the technical ability; the second is the creativity. You can be a good perfumer without creativity, but you will never truly succeed. You cannot create emotion without it. Your perfume will likely be poor if you lack technical skill and are only creative. You must have balance.
When I first started working at Hermès, [CEO] Axel Dumas told me, “Christine, keep having audacity because there is no creativity without audacity.” ” This sentence is still incredible to me. Being incorrect is acceptable, and I would rather be incorrect after being audacious than not be audacious and be correct. Axels confidence in me helped me a lot. Although I don’t have the ideal formula for creating a good perfume, I do have experience, which acts as a sort of fairy godmother to watch over me as I work.
An important union between the artist and the craftsmanship exists at Hermès. Because Hermès trusts me with their creation, I’m one of the few perfumers in the world today who is actually able to perform the real duties of a perfumer. I get to work with amazing ingredients and there are no time constraints when I make a perfume.
In order to choose the perfume, Pierre Alexis Dumas, the artistic director of Hermès, and Agnès de Villers, the president of Hermès Parfums, along with occasionally working with deputy creative director for women’s Bali Barret and [men’s artistic director] Véronique Nichanian, have never conducted a market test. I present Pierre Alexis and Agnès with a new perfume when I experience an emotional response to it. I have the incredible luxury of working without regard to time constraints.
It took 18 months to create Nagel’s newest fragrance, Un Jardin sur la Lagune, which was released in March. We had decided we wanted an English garden, but I was unable to locate the ideal one. Then I saw the story of Mr. Eden, a former resident of England who had a garden in Venice that was appropriately named the Garden of Eden Today, the garden remains private and nobody [is allowed] in. I repeatedly personally wrote because I just knew it was the right garden, and I eventually was admitted. Three times in one year, I went to the garden to smell it, and each time, of course, I saw things from a different angle and experienced different things. I made the decision to balance everything in the garden, including the magnolia, the salty air, and the tree roots, into my perfume.
I’m the nose for Hermès, I’m not the eyes. I am not the ears. However, Pierre Alexis and I have a creative meeting once a month where we talk about the bottle, the name, or the advertising. These are not my decisions to make, but they do ask my opinion, which is very unusual. For instance, I gave Pierre Alexis the perfume Galop dHermès when it was first created. We talked about the bottle, which was inspired by a stirrup and dates back to Hermès’ first store outside of France in New York in 1929.
At Hermès, it’s detail obsession. Since I have the time, I can invest this kind of value in my perfumes, which have the same quality as their exteriors. Therefore, I receive an additional six months if I need them. I don’t really feel pressure from others because I have time and all the resources I need to succeed, so the only pressure I experience is from within. My job is not a job; it is a passion. It is never possible to turn off my nose. When you sleep, you close your eyes. You rest. But my nose is open all the time.
Young talent who aspires to work in the perfume industry should start making niche scents so that people can recognize their talent and genuine creativity. The French Society of Perfumers recently invited me to evaluate 45 samples from aspiring perfumers. Only five of these samples made it into the final because, even though the scents may not be perfectly balanced or the formula may not be perfect, they showed creativity. The other 40 were overly commercial, possibly due to young people’s fears.
Careers in the Fragrance Industry: EVALUATOR
6 careers in the perfume industry
It is advantageous to take into account the variety of careers you can pursue if you are interested in working in the perfume industry. Please click on the links below to view the most recent Indeed salaries:
In the perfume industry, beauty consultants may concentrate on advising scents that fit social expectations and individual tastes. They might also inform cosmetics businesses about the most popular scents already on the market and those that clients would like to see.
Primary responsibilities: Retail sales associates are customer service experts who generate sales for the company they work for. Communication with customers, making product and service recommendations, and learning about company products are typically among their duties. Retail sales representatives can serve as cashiers or work on the sales floor, interacting with customers while they shop.
These experts are employed by many department stores to sell a particular kind of product. Retail sales associates may specialize in the sale of perfumes. Retail sales representatives in these positions might provide free samples to clients to entice a perfume purchase or counsel clients looking to purchase fragrances for themselves or others.
A sales and marketing manager’s main responsibilities include supervising these divisions within an organization and planning, reviewing, and putting into practice advertising strategies in line with business objectives. They may be responsible for reading financial reports, managing sales teams, studying market information, and assessing the success of marketing and sales initiatives. Managers of sales and marketing may also hire and train professionals in sales and marketing.
Sales and marketing managers who work in the perfume industry may investigate the most successful advertising strategies, take into account the demand for new products, and market the products that their company currently has to offer. These experts might require a thorough understanding of consumer demand for perfume, along with knowledge of preferred packaging, well-liked fragrances, and the best retail locations to sell the product.
Account executives’ main responsibilities are to work with retailers and distributors rather than just individual customers. Their duties include finding new clients, reaching sales targets, solving client problems, and serving as a point of contact between retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers. These professionals network with other professionals and business representatives to promote business partnerships on a professional level.
Perfume account executives focus on the sale of perfume products. These experts might carry out research to find out where consumers prefer to purchase perfume. Account managers can use this data to find retail customers, which could boost sales of a particular perfume. In order to create a perfume that a company can sell exclusively to boost brand recognition and sales, they may also serve as a mediator between manufacturers and retailers.
Primary duties: A fragrance chemist designs fragrances for various uses. These experts typically focus on a single sector, like cosmetics, candles, food, or cleaning products. Inspecting raw materials, creating fresh scents, analyzing a substance’s chemical makeup, documenting their production process, and checking a substance’s flashpoint, refractive index, and gravity are just a few of their duties. They might also conduct studies to assess the effectiveness and quality of a perfume.
Chemists in the perfume industry stay current on laws governing the beauty industry. In order to create perfumes with unique qualities, such as an allergy-sensitive perfume or a blend of particular scents, they may also conduct specific research and set goals.
Digital designers’ main responsibilities are to produce graphics and visual effects. These experts can also work in the film industry, but they frequently work in marketing and advertising departments. The duties of digital designers also include managing clients, evaluating digital assets, creating plans for upcoming designs, and designing print, web, and animation materials. These experts frequently collaborate closely with clients to comprehend their potential design preferences. Digital marketers frequently adhere to production deadlines while making changes to designs that they or other experts create.
Digital marketers in the fragrance sector may concentrate on creating advertisements for the perfumes that their employer sells. This can include website and television advertisements. In some instances, digital designers may also produce advertising materials for a perfume, such as its label or packaging instructions.
What is the perfume industry?
The market for perfume products and the production of them are both part of the perfume industry. Many different types of professionals work in this field, including those with backgrounds in business management, science, manufacturing, and the arts. Professionals mix aromatic compounds to create perfumes, then package the finished product. A business or individual may carry out market research to ascertain the demand for particular scents prior to producing a perfume. Professionals are able to create a variety of perfumes, including lotions and sprays.
Perfume industry skills
Consider honing the following abilities if you want to work in the perfume industry:
How do I get a job in perfumery?
After receiving your degree, the work doesn’t end; you’ll need to work for various fragrance houses, studying the subtle art of blending and mixing scents with the help of qualified perfumers. You’ll begin by evaluating perfumes; eventually, you’ll gain enough expertise to become a perfumer.
What degree do you need to be a perfumer?
The best training for this career is a bachelor’s degree in cosmetic science. It gives you the necessary scientific knowledge and skills for your future career as a perfumer, preparing you to work in the research and development laboratories of the cosmetic and toiletry industry.
How much money does a perfumer make?
Salary Ranges for Perfumers The median annual salary for perfumers in the US is $44,660, with salaries ranging from $27,260 to $182,091. The top 80% of perfumers earn $182,091, with the middle 60% earning between $44,660 and $75,230.