'The Smell of Success' at The Fashion Business Summit 2017
Our UK Creative Director and Perfumer Angela Stavrevska took part in ‘The Smell of Success’, a panel discussion that formed part of The Fashion Business Summit 2017 this October, with London College of Fashion's school of business. Supported by CPL Aromas, the event also brought together speakers Lizzie Ostrom, the writer, broadcaster and event curator, otherwise known as Odette Toilette); Palvinder Mann from Estee Lauder; Hannah Roberts from Unilever; with the discussion chaired by Will Andrews from Coty Prestige Service Ltd.
Opening the discussion at the Vinyl Factory off Carnaby Street in London, Will Andrews opened by asking the audience “Who hasn’t brought one of these?” as he waved his mobile ‘phone. Only one member of the audience was without his mobile device. “’Phones are ubiquitous and technology marches on,” he said, “But smell is not catching up. Is that a problem?” He wondered if smell was less important to younger people than to those of his generation. The panel discussed whether smell has become our memory: does digital dyslexia, using technology that doesn’t allow for scent, mean scent and our sense of smell is less important?
Each panellist gave fascinating insights into their perceptions of the role of fragrance and of smell. Angela Stavrevska (pictured left) began the discussion by saying: “My whole life is mapped out by smell – and I mean smell not perfume. The smell of an old TV, gardens, the plastic Christmas tree we had when I was a child... these scents can take one back to the moment. But it is smells of all kinds that are important”. Lizzie Ostrom argued that young people do appreciate smell saying that companies need to interpret not just what but how we want to smell. “How can we capture those unique idiosyncrasies and package them for people?” she wondered. Hannah Roberts agreed that smell is the one sense that “has the ability to pick you up and transport you to a moment in time.” Palvinder Mann agreed describing the nostalgia and emotion on first leaving home induced by receiving a letter from his mother fragranced with her perfume.
The important question was, could smell be transmitted digitally? Will Andrews believes we are 'decades' away from digitising smells, but preserving smells is important in these days of ephemera and Snapchat.
Having commented on how technology might be crushing the sense of smell, the debate moved to how technology can capture and enhance smell. Angela Stavrevska suggested we could in future analyse smells around us with a device and store them in a library for recall at a later date. Wearable technology; scent as a placebo; sleep and mood-enhancing fragrances; greater sophistication in scenting ambient space with signature fragrances; scent that you ingest; creating unique wearable fragrances and more sophisticated bespoke scenting and layering... all were discussed as opportunities in the future that technology could assist. The panel agreed there was much to be learnt from the food and drinks sector in developing language to describe fragrance and that traditional means of marketing are largely obsolete.
Will Andrews said: “There is one thing technology can’t yet do. We can’t replicate the nose. It is so complex that even now we don’t truly understand how it works”. He concluded: “Maybe smell is the last bastion! The saviour of the human spirit against technology!” Questions from the audience included one about cultural differences with Angela Stavrevska describing how Oud, for example, was a note present in fabric conditioners in the Middle East but not outside the region. “Perfumes are culturally specific,” she said.