Fragrance is an unspoken message that plays hide and seek with the senses and entices from invisible wings
By RUKMA SALUJA
Smell is one of the five senses with which we have been blessed. For animals it is a key to both hunting and being the hunter. We humans have moved far beyond what nature intended when it endowed us with an olfactory sense. If Indian television is to be believed, Shantanu the king of the Bharats was enticed by the alluring scent exuded by Satyavati. So crazed with attraction was he that he become half the man he was until he married her, forever changing the bloodline and the future of Bharatvarash. Egyptians used it abundantly, even for their ceremonies including burial. For the Persians it was a statement of status. Once the Greeks and Romans took to it, it was a matter of time before it became easily accessible to the masses.
The French became master perfumers and began to produce it commercially in 1190 in Paris. Myth or fact – they doused themselves with scent to camouflage the unwashed stench of the human body. The beautiful Versailles, it is said, stank of bodily odours under perfumed alchemy. Asian countries had iterations of ittars, the West, master packagers and marketers, upped the game with global reach; e-commerce, travel and Duty Free democratised perfumes and now anyone can own a couture brand as it has become accessible and so very normal. The story is that we in India, too, finally have a quality perfume brand in House of Fouzdar that can compete with the best in the world.
For Delhi-based Dimple Fouzdar perfume was a part of the daily grooming ritual in the home. There was always perfume on her mother’s dresser. She couldn’t have imagined, however, that when she grew into adulthood she would become a perfumer. She discovered perfumery in Grasse one year during her numerous travels around the world. “It was an eye-opener, a Eureka moment.” she said. “I had finally figured out what I really wanted to do.” Largely self-taught after only a quick online course in the subject, she spent time in Grasse learning about the nuances of smell, and plunged into it with heart and soul on her return.
Fortuitously, she met a ‘nose’ at the time, who had interesting ideas. The universe conspired and together they began to experiment with ingredients and blends. Immensely talented and absorbed in the world of scents, he became a natural partner. Covid, a disaster for the world, gave them time to experiment. Typically, friends and family became the guinea pigs. “I would pick ingredients and ask people to wear the scent, check for longevity, etc,” said Fouzdar. With some hundred-odd ideas and blends in the bank, they were ready to go commercial and entered the market with nine perfumes.
Maison de Fouzdar sees no imbalance in the gender of buyers. While she and other perfumers insist that smell knows no gender, that it is purely a marketing gimmick, further conversation reveals that women do in fact get attracted to fruity smells more than men. But this is hard to categorise because when different ingredients are blended together, one cannot tell what part of that blend will attract a person.
Fouzdar can’t be bothered with such distinctions, she concentrates instead on breaking stereotypes, on bringing the so-called heavier fragrances to daywear, to bringing effervescence to a skanky oud, to making sandalwood a summer favourite, to altogether removing such labelling and therefore the barriers to using the fragrance you want, when you want, regardless of season or time of day.
For luxury to remain luxury, an element of exclusivity is an essential. Having made the decision to make only extrait de perfume, this automatically puts Maison de Fouzdar in a special place. The brand does not offer EDT, EDF or cologne. That means using only the best essential oils and in greater quantity than is the industry norm. “We balance it so that alcohol gives whiffs but the oil will make the smell go on and on,” she revealed. All ingredients are sourced globally, to get the best from the region. So, it could be vanilla from Madagascar or roses from Turkey and Bulgaria.
Unlike the well known international brands, whose production runs into millions of units, Maison de Fouzdar does small batches of about 200 units at a time. This ensures quality, and keeps the brand niche. This is also why it is possible to have a perfume customised for personal use, weddings, and as gifts. And also ensures that you wear perfume that best complements your skin.
The size of the perfume market in 2020 was USD 33.69 billion – Grand View Research
The perfume market in India is set to grow by US$ 363 million during 2021-2027, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.2% during the forecast period, according to data and analytics company StrategyHelix.
“Perfume puts the finishing touch to elegance – a detail that subtly underscores the look, an invisible extra that completes a man and a woman’s personality. Without it there is something missing.” – Gianni Versace
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