In the perfume industry there is a lot of emphasis on things being natural and people tend to be sceptical of fragrances that aren’t literal in their representation of nature. There’s a thirst for realism and more often than not, people want ‘real’ flowers in their juice, rather than ‘synthetic’ ones. Natural doesn’t always mean better though and it’s a known fact that the use of synthetic ingredients or isolated materials has allowed the industry to move forward in leaps and bounds (it’s also a fact that synthetics are generally more stable and long-lasting than many naturals). Without a mixture of the two, perfumes often feel flat and two-dimensional. Chemophobia may be the moral high ground (or complete, utter craziness, if you ask me), but it’s the embracing of new materials and technologies that allows for true innovation and artistry in the world of fragrance.
One of the most fascinating examples of innovation in perfume is Headspace technology. Developed in the 1980s, Headspace acts as a fragrant camera that captures and decodes the molecules in the air surrounding a particular material or object, providing a perfumer with raw data they can use to piece together a familiar smell using other notes and ingredients. Without Headspace, our perfumes would be devoid of such wonderful things as lily-of-the-valley, caviar and nail polish. It’s an important tool that allows perfumes to truly represent the world around us, and in some instances, an imagined world that is greater than our own.