One evening last fall, the Perfumed Plume brought industry insiders together for a fragrance-themed Q&A event with a special guest-of-honor — Michael Edwards. (Edwards is shown above.)
We recently followed up with Edwards on a phone call to ask more about his thoughts on packaging — specifically, fragrance bottles. Here are his comments -- and more from the event.
Edwards collaborated with bottle designer Pierre Dinand, of Ateliers Dinand, on the book, “Perfume Legends: A Selection of 30 Drawings,” which is about some of Dinand’s most iconic bottle designs — and it won a 2018 Perfumed Plume Award.
The Bottle Is the Scent’s ‘Little House’
We often hear fragrance experts — especially perfumers — say they like minimal bottle designs, which allow the juice to be the star. But Edwards doesn’t agree.
“Pierre Dinand calls the perfume bottle the scent’s ‘little house.’ The packaging doesn’t take away from the scent,” Edwards says, continuing to explain, “It brings the perfume to life.”
At the event, moderator Bibi Prival, fragrance evaluator at Mane, asked Edwards several questions about his next books, including the highly anticipated “American Legends,” which is expected to publish within the next two years. Edwards is known for his “Fragrances of the World” books — the largest guide to perfume classification. The next edition of the essential reference book is expected later this year, followed by a new edition of “Perfume Legends, French Feminine Fragrances” in May 2019.
What fragrance -- and packaging -- has made a lasting impression on Edwards?
“The first real fragrance I ever wore was Brut, and I bought it in 1965. I think it was $6 and that was so expensive back then,” he tells Prival at the event. Then he mentions a memorable Sak’s Fifth Avenue ad from Playboy magazine in 1969. “It was the first time that magazine had ever featured a story that suggested a men’s fragrance for a gift,” he says. “Opposite the story, the Sak’s ad featured a Brut gift set — three crystal bottles, with pure sterling silver labels, in an alligator case for $1,000. It was incredible,” he says.
Collaborating with Pierre Dinand
Pierre Dinand’s and Michael Edwards’ book, “Perfume Legends: A Selection of 30 Drawings” was published last year to coincide with the exhibit, “Parfum de Légende — an Exhibition of the Creations Designed by Pierre Dinand” at the opening of the Le Grand Musée du Parfum in Paris, France. The book also marked the Pierre Dinand Retrospective exhibition held last year at Liberty London’s iconic Regent Street store.
Edwards says the decision to collaborate with Dinand on the book was an easy one, since he shares a studio in Paris with the legendary bottle designer. The book contains illustrations drawn by Dinand, along with photographs and hand-written notes. (The book's cover, and two pages, are shown in the slider above.) Together, Edwards and Dinand chose 30 fragrances to include. The book illustrates part of the bottle design process, while revealing a few insights into some of Dinand’s design decisions and inspirations.
Edwards says, “Pierre Dinand transformed perfume bottles into brand symbols. he demonstrated how to communicate the scent, the name and the image in a bottle. in so doing, he defined the profession of bottle designers.”
Dinand has been designing fragrance bottles for 60 years, and is responsible for more than 1,000 fragrance bottles, including some of the most iconic — YSL Opium, Giorgio Armani’s Armani, Calvin Klein Obsession, and Estee Lauder Pleasures. The Le Grand Musée du Parfum states, “Pierre Dinand’s talents as a creator and the unparalleled influence of his work make him an emblematic figure in perfumery…today at 86 years-old, he continues to create the bottles that are true symbols of a brand.”
Since 1984, Edwards continually updates his iconic guidebook, “Fragrances of the World” — and it grows in size with each new edition. “When I did my first guidebook. there were only 29 fragrances new fragrances that year. Last year, we tracked 2,400,” Edwards says.
“Fragrances of the World” is a trusted reference book for nearly everyone involved in any aspect of the fragrance industry. However, due to the “avalanche” of new fragrances every year, Edwards now has a digital database. The online reference tool features more than 27,000 fragrances and is updated daily, accessed by subscription.
Last year, Edwards says he considered whether or not the over-sized, hard-cover book still has a place in a digital world. When he asked users if the book was still relevant, “an overwhelming majority said yes,” he says. “And we thought about making it a smaller, dictionary-size — but nearly everyone liked its coffee-table size,” he adds.
Edwards also says he asked users what fragrances they would like to see included in the book’s next edition. “We included everything in the past,” he says. “Now, everyone says they want a guide to upscale, prestige and selective fragrances — but also niche and artisan fragrances,” he explains.
The next edition of “Fragrances of the World” is expected publish by the end of this year, and it will include approximately 12,000 fragrances. It is called, “Fragrances of the World: Artisan & Selective Houses.”
Edwards is also finishing the next updated version of the book, “Perfume Legends: French Fragrances.” It will be published May 2019. Nine new fragrances will be added to the existing 40 in the book’s original edition.
American Legends is Long Overdue
At the Perfumed Plume Q&A event, Edwards explained why he wanted to honor American fragrances in his third upcoming book — and said it is long overdue. “In the early 80s, people came to New York to see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building — and then they’d go to Bloomingdale’s to see Giorgio…that was the fragrance that changed the world of marketing.”
Edwards added that it is a dream come true to have the opportunity to work on “American Legends,” and said, “No one else has written about American perfumes.”
How will Edwards choose which fragrances to call an “American Legend”?
“A Legend happens when a perfumer comes up with a note or an accord that is so interesting that others use it,” he explained at the event. Edwards called Norell, which launched in 1968, “the first great American designer fragrance.” He also mentioned a few examples of modern classics — Tom Ford’s Black Orchid by perfumer David Apel and Tom Ford Private Blend Neroli Portofino by perfumer Rodrigo Flores Roux.
Edwards further clarified how he knows when a fragrance is worthy of being called a ‘Legend,’ saying, “It has to be a trailblazer. It also has to have influenced other fragrances.” Typically, explosive sales will follow. “At the end of day, it is the consumer who will create the next Legend,” Edwards said, as he reminded the audience that the consumer ultimately decides whether a fragrance is considered a success, or not. He continued, “So this is how a Legend evolves. We tend to know it when we see it.”
What Will Consumers Want Next?
When asked about marketing fragrances to millennials, Edwards admitted that he’s not sure he fully understands their fragrance preferences — but has a feeling that the idea of personalizing products is here to stay. “The idea of having a fragrance wardrobe is fading — I’m sensing the young want their own fragrance, and they are willing to mix it themselves,” he said. “Jo Malone really started this idea commercially, of mixing and matching different fragrances — and I have a feeling this will explode,” he added.
Edwards also revealed the name of one of his favorite new fragrances -- and perhaps it might be worthy of being called a ‘Legend’ one day. “I’m in love with Galop d' Hermes. It is lovely — the ‘suede’ of Hermes wrapped up with rose. It has inspired a lot of perfumers,” he said. Christine Nagel is the perfumer that created Gallup.
Off To Sydney, Cannes & Paris
As a fragrance expert & author, Edwards travels extensively to meet with brands and stay up-to-date on every upcoming launch. He is often in New York City for brief periods, but mainly splits his time between Paris and his wife’s hometown of Sydney, Australia.
When we spoke to Edwards last week, he had just returned from Estee Lauder’s offices after a trek downtown to Bond No. 9. “It’s research,” he says, talking about how his calendar is continually booked with brand meetings whenever he’s not traveling around the globe for trade shows. “It would be wonderful if I could rely on every brand to keep me updated on all their new fragrance launches, and I’m sure they mean to — but that doesn’t always work,” he says.
Next week, Edwards will fly to Sydney, and then back to Paris in September. He’ll attend Fragranze, the niche show in Florence and the Cannes TaxFree in October. He says jokingly, “It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it.”
Stay tuned when we catch up with Edwards next time he’s on the East Coast.
Photos: Michael Edwards, on right; Fragrances of the World by Michael Edwards, on left — the new edition will be published soon. Second photo in the slider above: The cover of the book, “Perfume Legends - A Selection of 30 Drawings,” and pages from the book showing Pierre Dinand’s illustrations for bottle designs.
Slideshow: Guests Gather at the Perfumed Plume Awards’ Celebration
Online Exclusive: Perfumed Plume Presents Awards for Fragrance Journalism
Slideshow: Celebrating the 2018 Perfumed Plume Finalists - Party Scenes
Online Exclusive: Announcing the Finalists in the 2018 Perfumed Plume Awards