Finally, women are getting the recognition they deserve in the perfume industry.
Think of the most iconic fragrances and it’s easy to name the brand, but you probably don’t know the name of the perfumer behind it. But why? For many years perfumers were hidden away in their scent dens, never to be unveiled to the world, particularly women - who were either refused employment or remained faceless behind the scenes while their male counterparts took the glory.
One of the reasons for the female to male imbalance is that fragrance houses were often passed down through male members of the family. This was was the case with Guerlain and still is with Creed and Chanel — which is ironic considering the first recorded chemist was a woman named Tapputi-Belatekallim, who developed methods for scent extraction in 1200 BCE Mesopotamia.
Patricia de Nicolaï, for example, the great-granddaughter of Pierre Guerlain, was never allowed to work in the family business, yet she’s gone on to earn a knight of the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits) in 2008 and won the International Prize for Young Perfumers for her Parfums de Nicolaï fragrance Number One in 1988.
However, the tide is changing and there are reportedly more women than men joining the famous French perfumery school, International School of Perfume, Cosmetic and Flavour (ISIPCA).
Perfumer Emmanuelle Moeglin, founder of Experimental Perfume Club, who leads workshops teaching people how to make fragrance, graduated from ISIPCA ten years ago before developing fragrances for L’Oreal and Spanish fashion and fragrance house Puig.
Speaking to Stylist.co.uk, Moeglin said, “The fragrance industry has a lot of women who work in the shadow of fragrance development so it is true that perfume has been a profession led by men for many years, but that’s no longer the case.
“This could be explained by the fact that perfumery was originally a craft transmitted from dad to son, and some perfumers started their career in the manufacturing of fragrance, which can traditionally be considered as ‘masculine work’.”
Having worked with female perfumers since she started her career 12 years ago, Emmanuelle has lots of women she admirers.
“There are perfumers with who I worked directly with while I was in Paris, such as Emilie Coppermann (Sonia Rykiel, Sonia Rykiel, 1997), Nathalie Feisthauer (Versace Blonde, 1995) and Alexandra Carlin (Amouage Honour, 2011),” she adds.
“There are lots of amazing female perfumers out there who don’t need to prove their talent anymore.
“There are also people like Lyn Harris in London, who I admire for being a female founder of two inspiring brands - Miller Harris and Perfumer H.”
Current market predictions suggest consumers are moving toward niche fragrance brands, but regardless of that, there are some big brand fragrances that are truly iconic and that will no doubt stand the test of time.
Here are some of the ones you never knew were actually made by women…
Nagel is currently the first female head perfumer for Hermès but started her career as a research chemist and market analyst. Her list of creations is extensive, including the award-winning Narciso Rodriguez for Her (made with Francis Kurkdjian in 2004) and Giorgio Armani Si (2013). In 2006 she made Dolce & Gabbana The One for Women and still to this day is one of the top-selling scents for the brand.
President of the prestigious International Society of Perfume Creators, Becker trained at the largest perfumery school in Grasse, the Roure (now the Givaudan Perfumery School). Her tutelage under the renowned perfumer Franchise Caron inspired her to create some stunning fragrances, including Estée Lauder Beyond Paradise (2003) and Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl (1996), but there’s possibly none more identifiable than award-winning J’Adore by Christian Dior, which launched in 2009 and is still one of the world’s most loved and best-selling scents.
In 2016, Sophia Grojsman was awarded the Perfumer of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award by The Fragrance Foundation, and rightly so. One of the most prolific perfumers of our time, creating iconic scents for the last 30 years, her nose is behind the likes of award-winning Estée Lauder White Linen (1978), Calvin Klein Eternity (1988), and Paris by Yves Saint Laurent (1983). But of all her fragrances, Lancôme Trésor from 1990 is iconic from the bottle to the floral-oriental liquid, and is one of the most popular scents in the world.
Renowned for popularising the use of fig in the mid 1990s, the French perfumer created the first known fig fragrance Premier Figuier for L’Artisan Parfumeur, in 1994. She went on to create scents for the likes of Frederic Malle, Penhaligon’s and Hermès, but she went on to work with Diptyque and created one of their most iconic perfumes. Philosykos EDP launched in 1996 and is always ranking in the top two best-selling perfumes for the French house.
The British perfumer, who created the fragrance powerhouse that is Jo Malone London and then went on to create Jo Loves, did not follow a traditional route into the world of perfume. She started off as a florist and facialist, and she founded the company after a nutmeg and ginger bath oil she made for her beauty clients turned out to be a surprising hit. A genius with citrus notes, she created the brand’s signature fragrance, Lime Basil and Mandarin in 1999.
Having started her career as a trainee at Chanel in 1988, Andrier then went on to attend perfumery school at Roure. She has produced a number of scents for brands including Gucci, Bvlgari, but most notably Prada. La Femme Prada (2003), award-winning Prada Infusion d’Iris (2007), Fleur D’Oranger (2009) and the runaway success Prada Candy (2011), were all made by her.
Originally studying organic chemistry, Mernado completed her course at ISIPCA and began working under Michel Almairac (creator of Gucci Rush and Le Labo’s Ambrette 9) at Créations Aromatiques before joining the biggest global flavour and fragrance business, Firmenich in 1991. Her list of accomplishments range from Lancôme Hypnôse (with Thierry Wasser in 2005) to Bvlgari Black and Boss Bottled by Hugo Boss, both launched in 1998. However, her most iconic solo creation, also released in 1998, is Dior Hypnotic Poison.
Named Perfumer of the Year 2018 by Cosmetique Mag, Matton worked for International Flavours and Fragrances (IFF) before joining flavour and fragrance house MANE in 2007, where she created memorable fragrances for brands including Viktor & Rolf and Emporio Armani. Her repertoire also includes the award-winning YSL Baby Doll from 1999.
Something of a legend in perfume, Catapano worked in an era when women were kept in the labs and largely unknown to the general public. She created the first fragrance by Estée Lauder, Youth Dew in 1953. This seminal perfume has sold more than 250 million bottles and continues to be listed as one of the best women’s fragrances of all time.
After studying at IPSICA and the Givaudan Perfumery School in Geneva, Labbe joined IFF in 1992 as a junior perfumer. She went on to create perfumes such as Hugo Boss’ Boss Woman in 2000, Givenchy Very Irresistible (with Dominique Ropion and Carlos Benaim in 2003), Calvin Klein Beauty (2010), Givenchy Organza (1996) Emporio Armani Lei (1998) and Estée Lauder Pure White Linen (2006). But in 2011 she created Salvatore Ferragamo Signorina, which remains the brand’s number one best-selling fragrance.
Celebrating 50 years in the industry, Gottlieb learned the art of fragrance under the personal tutelage of Estée Lauder. She founded Ann Gottlieb Associates in 1983 and has worked with everyone from Marc Jacobs to create award-winning Dot and Decadence (with Annie Buzantian) to Carolina Herrera 212 Men (1999). Her work for Calvin Klein has produced some of the brand’s most memorable scents from CK One Shock (for Him and Her in 2011 and 2012) and the award-winning Contradiction in 1998.
Grasse-born Lorson attended the Roure school before working for IFF in 1987. She has been at fragrant giants Firmenich since 2000, and has gone on to create some outstanding fragrances, which include Flora by Gucci (2009) and was one of the quartet behind YSL Black Opium in 2014 (alongside Marie Salamagne, Olivier Cresp and Honorine Blanc). Her 1997 solo creation Burberry Weekend for Women remains one of Burberry’s best-selling fragrances.
After studying at ISIPCA, like most of her peers, Bertier joined IFF as a trainee in 1994 before being promoted to Senior Perfumer in 2007. Among her achievements has been the world-renowned fragrance she made with Olivier Pole and Carlos Benaïm, which was none other than Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb in 2005. However, her solo creation of Lacoste Touch of Pink in 2004, is one of the most well-known and best-selling women’s fragrances for the brand.
One of the industry’s most talented perfumers, Master Perfumer Flipo has worked with IFF since 2004. Her list of achievements includes Burberry Brit Rhythm (2013), Paco Rabanne Lady Million (with Dominique Ropion and Beatrice Piquet in 2010) and this year’s Givenchy L’Interdit (with Dominique Ropion and Fanny Bal). French-born Flipo has done extensive work for French brand L’Artisan Parfumeur and helped kickstart the trend for independent perfume houses way back in 1976. She created their best-selling floral scent La Chasse aux Papillons in 1999.
Images: courtesy of brands