The current pandemic is believed to have crystallized this movement, with the underlying notion of a better, healthier, transparent world. Driven by ethical, wellness, good-for-the-planet values, perfume brands like Ormaie, Voyages Imaginaires, Florame, Weleda, 100Bon, Floratropia, and others gave consumers an answer.
Natural, naturalness, natural ingredients…
To Nathalie Feisthauer, the naturalness trend is “extremely significant, because it is related to a longing for genuine, good, healthy, natural products and experiences.” Jeanne-Marie Faugier evokes “unjustified beliefs according to which Nature is the healthiest as opposed to our modern world full of chemistry.” To Antoine Lie, the trend can be explained by “a return to less transformed things, a search for transparency in relation to marketing language which embellishes everything. Plus, synthetic products suffer from a negative image…” Irène Farmachidi thinks about beauty: “naturalness still makes people dream. Nature conceals so much beauty that men have not finished exploring!”
What is actually a 100% natural perfume?
There is no official definition, apart from a few ISO standards. In fact, to be 100% natural, perfumes should contain only natural raw materials and isolates, without any added element derived from chemistry. Antoine Lie goes even further: “a 100% natural perfume should be designed as a whole composed of natural materials that have not been subject to any chemical transformation and natural alcohol (wheat/beetroot), and be free from any additive, filter, or colourant.” The absence of chemical transformation in the material development process is key.
Is composing a 100% natural perfume tricky? Creative?
Some perfumers acknowledge the fact that although it is innovative and much exploratory, this exercise is a real costly, sometimes long challenge. To Jeanne-Marie Faugier, “composing a 100% natural or 100% synthetic perfume is the same as composing music with only one part of the piano keyboard… But for us perfumers, creating 100% natural fragrances remains an exciting challenge. It makes us feel like going even more upstream, at the source of the source…” Nathalie Feisthauer admits creation is complex, but interesting and stimulating. Irène Farmachidi brushes aside preconceived ideas: “you can be creative with a natural perfume. You need to, if you want to reinvent accords, because with both creativity and technicity, almost anything is possible in the world of Nature.”
Still, composing a natural perfume is a real brainteaser.
The perfumer’s palette is more or less reduced to 150-300 ingredients, depending on the lab size. These products fall under the scope of complex regulations, involve the use of allergens, and are costly (sourcing, production, extraction). Some of them are difficult to work with. In addition, the composition should hold its promises in terms of harmony, long wear, diffusion… and it should smell good! Precisely… What about long wear and diffusion, which are often disparaged? It is not a problem. Irène Farmachidi: “with experience and adapted sourcing, it is now possible to reach the same levels of creativity and power as ‘conventional’ perfumery.” Antoine Lie adds: “long wear is a matter of know-how, it requires work and time!”
What about tomorrow?
Jeanne-Marie Faugier is categorical: “100% natural perfumes for major brands with huge volumes is absolute sacrilege… It is as if you forgot that Nature has limited resources, that natural products fluctuate from one year to the next, depending on the hours of sunshine and the nature of soils, that you need to plant a lot to harvest only little, and that harvests are fragile – they require work, care, and attention.” Indeed, to Antoine Lie, this type of perfumery is more “intimate, something for your own self rather than about performance and seduction”. Irène Farmachidi, who works on many projects, says that “At Technicoflor, we have known how to deal with these perfumes for a long time. Today, the real challenge is no longer natural perfumes, but responsible natural perfumes.”
Only the future will tell whether natural perfumes will be the “new niche” or a “specialization” within the current perfume world. Let’s bank on industry players’ and perfumers’ inventiveness and know-how to show how unique and promising their job is.