Nous vendons des parfums dont le plus vieux a plus de 150 ans. Si un jour, Bruxelles ne veut plus d'essence de rose, comment pourrais-je faire ? Il y a de la rose dans presque tous nos parfums... C'est un patrimoine à défendre.
— Perfumer Thierry Wasser of Guerlain, wondering what will happen to the iconic Guerlain fragrances if and when IFRA outlaws rose. Quoted in Les créateurs de parfums ont la Commission européenne dans le nez in Le Monde. The article also quotes perfumer François Demachy, and representatives from Jean Paul Gaultier and Paco Rabanne, among others.
Apologies that I am quoting the original French, but do go run the article through an online translator and you'll get the gist, and here's hoping this is just the beginning of a stampede. Many thanks to Tania for the link!
Update: Denyse has translated much of the article over at Grain de Musc.
So what’s next IFRA? Try banning alcohol because it attacks your skin. Why not just go ahead and say, “We are an organization of fragrances, but unfortunately, we hate perfumes.”
It will be interesting to see what happens next. They have backed down on some things, on others — oakmoss & citrus — it’s hard for me to believe that they’ll turn back the clock.
Aren’t they tightening up the regulations on bergamot now? That’s what I was reading on Cropwatch. The new limits are supposed to go into their upcoming 44th Amendment. The new standards would seriously affect male fragrances where bergamot is very common. Here is a list of fragrances that Cropwatch seems to indicate will be affected by the bergamot standard: Chanel 19, Anais-Anais, Rive Gauche, Obsession, Cool Water, Ck One, Eau Sauvage.
I don’t know. I know there was some noise about vanillin but they backed off in the end.
Agreed, Craig Su. I hope Guerlain’s response will help other perfumers and fragrance manufacturers out there to raise a big stink over this whole situation. Preferably a big, unbannable stink that even IFRA can’t quiet. I’m not a perfumer, but as an artist I would be furious if my style and creations were being butchered/castrated to make them less offensive/more palatable to consumers.
I’m very sensitive or allergic to many brands of mascara. I don’t demand that all cosmetics companies reformulate their mascaras so I can wear them without a problem. I find brands I can wear and I stick with them. The same goes for perfume. If someone has a bad reaction to one, and let’s face it–as perfume lovers who come into contact with dozens or even hundreds a year, who hasn’t had one or two which were an affront to the sinuses–it isn’t like there isn’t a gazillion other options out there to try. Even some perfumes created by those who “can’t wear perfume.” Okay. That may be a bad example, but there are lots of frags formulated to be mild and non-offensive. It’s only fair and balanced that the really skanky, heavy, chypre/musk/megacitrus beauties should have their place in the perfume world as well.
I do sort of wonder if this is the large scale effect of a society becoming more selfish and litigious as a result of such behaviour. Ultimately it’s nothing but a form of censorship, however much you want to hide behind health and safety – take anything on the planet that you wear/consume/enjoy and there will be someone who is physically allergic or sensitive to a component or just plain hates it. I think the individual is less and less willing to take responsibility for themselves and the idea of consideration of others (not spraying on half a bottle at a time, politely understanding that some people may have an allergic sensitivity and so a certain perfume is best not worn at work) is (ridiculously) seen as a breach of their rights. Unfortunately politics and bureaucracy seem to support this which is just speeding this censorship along.
IFRA has been way too proactive. I do hope others will speak up.
I just have to chime in that this was the sanest response. It’s as simple as: if you’re allergic to something, don’t use it. People hang around the prefume dept. in stores and then when asked to try a new fragrance, turn up their noses and say they’re allergic. S/A’s would love to ask them what the heck they are doing loitering/passing through. As Luca Turin once said in his blog, at a fictional funeral, the comment was, “It’s so sad; she wore L’Heure Bleue.” No one has ever died from a wearing perfume.
It is ridiculous – I have to do a sensitivity test each time I color my hair for heaven’s sake. Has any of these IFRA nazi’s ever read the warnings on a box of haircolor? If you show any of these signs, blah blah blah, then *discontinue use*!!! I don’t see haircolor or any of the other toxic or semi toxic cosmetic products being banned. How about banning depilatory creams and botox? How would all these ridiculous politicians feel if their wives and mistresses were au naturelle? Even aspartame is dangerous for some people – and we are encouraged to eat that crap in all our food and beverages, even for children! I am also not going out and eating my cadmium red acrylic paints either – and gee, don’t 99% of all toxic or carcinogenic art products have nice “potentially harmful” labels on them – use at your own risk. ….. None of these things are banned outright. Aren’t we supposed to be relying on personal choice whether or not something is going to harm or kill us? Why keep picking on poor old fragrances?! I hope that these houses have some influence on these IFRA restrictions, but now that the door is open, it will be hard to close it. Blackmarket fragrance here we come! Banning rose! Oh la vache! Half of my collection would be obsolete! My heart is broken. IFRA has lost it’s mind…
Outlaws rose? How ridiculous.
Just to be clear, they have not outlawed rose.
I am totally confused about the IFRA!
Doesn’t it create VOLUNTARY, as opposed to mandatory, guidelines? I thought I was reading something recently where the EU Commissioner expressed the same thing — that their recommendations do not meet the legal requirements to be enforceable regulations, and so why is anyone even paying attention to them?
Here it is, from a CropWatch newsletter:
“As an aside, we should mention at this juncture that IFRA membership organisations have to pledge to observe the IFRA Standards, even though (as a puzzled EU Commissioner pointed out to Cropwatch at Brussels in 2007), adherence to IFRA Standards is not a legal requirement. Safety expert Martin Watt has pointed out (private communication 2009), the scientific robustness of trade standards, such as those drawn up by IFRA, are frequently insufficient to translate into European regulatory law, and Insiders in the fragrance industry will be wondering what took the analysts concerned so long to find a transgressor (we believe we can name twenty or so such transgressors off the top of our heads). ”
Somewhere else in Cropwatch, I also read that the science behind many of the standards that IFRA came up with in the ’70s (was there an IFRA in the ’70s??) has been completely disproved, and so they do not have a high credibility.
So why is anyone actually listening to them?
I ask this quite angrily, as one of the perfumes I most love, my first foray into niche perfumery from around ’99 or ’00, was La Chasse Au Papillons. I still have my original bottle and it still smells divine. But the 2 subsequent bottles I have bought smell like NOTHING to my nose — it literally feels as if my nose is being anesthetized. I know there is a scent there, but can’t smell it. Well, I found LCAP on a basenotes list of perfumes that have been reformulated due to IFRA (I suspect they replaced natural fragrance with an engineered molecule I cannot smell). I am now desperate to find bottle of early LCAP (if anyone knows where, please share! It would have been pre-’05 I suspect, before the L’Artisan Parfumeur bottle and cap redesign).
Moreover, (this is where I get even more confused) isn’t IFRA composed of industry-insiders, like those at Guerlain? Aren’t they doing this to themselves?
IFRA is a member organization, and is funded by the big fragrance & flavor companies. Yes, the rules are voluntary, but I am not 100% sure that it ends up that way…the EU has adopted some (perhaps not all? I don’t know) of the IRFA rules as official regulations.
It is important to remember that not all fragrances that get redone are due to IFRA. Companies frequently reformulate fragrances for other reasons. That list at basenotes is just a list of fragrances that consumers think have changed….there is no reason to assume that they’re all due to IFRA.
Robin, you’re right, the EU’s regulations are not identical to IFRA’s. IFRA’s spokesman says that many of the EU regulations are based on outdated research and that some of the EU regulated materials are in fact harmless, while other, still legally authorized materials are, according to the research IFRA works with, harmful in some way (allergies are not the only issue: some are thought to be involved in types of cancer, or harmful to the reproductive system or the environment).
But as TallulahRose says, Cropwatch has pointed out that the research IFRA bases itself on may not be entirely convincing. The lack of transparency means that no one can challenge it.
How about an IFRA-101 to understand how the IFRA regulations feed into EU regulations, how we have gotten into this predicament, and how we can get out.
I like the idea of approaching classic French perfumes as conserving a rich “patrimoine”. And more importantly, it is an idea that would resonate well in France.
Isn’t the answer on how to stop IFRA simply to pressure member organizations to withdraw from IFRA, while pointing out the lack of scientific rigor with which these standards have been developed? (Cropwatch has a slew of examples on the flaws in their testing approaches)
I think it’s more complicated than that, but I do think that perfumers and perfume houses finally taking a stand might make a big difference in how IFRA operates.
La Chasse has been changed? I’d like to see that Basenotes list. Passage d’Enfer has seemed a little “off” to me for awhile now, and I remember before that happened, there was a period where many places were out of stock. Perhaps something was tweaked there, as well. Outlawing rose? Oh, please, no.
Wyrmiax, I am not sure on what this list is based; I too would love to have more information about it.
Here it is:
See my answer above…it’s just a list of the fragrances that Basenotes members think have been reformulated or think might be reformulated (in some cases it’s clear it’s not based on a smell test). Those changes might or might not have anything to do with IFRA regulations. Often ingredients are changed because they’ve become too expensive or scarce to use.
Hi Robin. Here’s the translation. Feel free to include it in the main post if that’s useful:
The title: “It’s a heart-break”
“We sell perfumes, some of which are over 150 years old. If, some day, Brussels doesn’t want essence of rose any more, how would I do? There is rose in almost all our perfumes. It’s a heritage to defend.”
I just saw this article. It’s the first time, I believe, the French perfume industry ever speaks up in a newspaper of reference (Le Monde is the equivalent of the NYT). Will it begin to take action, at long last? If people from the all-powerful luxury behemoth LVMH (such as T. Wasser and F. Demachy) are starting to grumble, it may be because they’ve had clearance to do so.
D, thanks — I think I’ll just add a link to your article since you’ve translated much of it.
Thank *you*, Robin!
I think there is potential in arguing that the traditional perfumes are part of France’s (and Belgium’s and Germany’s) “patrimoine”, cultural patrimony. What if original formulations of classic fragrances were available for sale clearly marked as “patrimoine” fragrances? The chemically sensitive (those who still wear perfume) would know immediately to stay away from these. As I understand it, the excuses (sorry, “reasons”) the IFRA uses to ban ingredients are usually related to some component chemical’s effect on or through the skin. You can’t have a skin reaction to something someone else is wearing, so such a warning to the purchaser is sufficient.
Bergère, I think that’s being considered and discussed.
Sorry, didn’t mean to imply that it was an original suggestion….just that it sounded like a good one! I didn’t know that the perfumers had been given the option of putting on warning labels, and had opted not to. It certainly suggests that their reasons for changing formulas are more complex.
My understanding from the beginning was that perfume houses could choose to use warning labels instead of reformulating, and that none have done so. Can’t remember where I read that though, so don’t know if it’s true.
That would make a heck of a lot more sense.
D – About your last comment, isn’t it ashame that the perfumers can speak out only because their companies gave them clearance? I wonder how long they’ve had to keep silence about this whole issue, especially the passion with which Mr Wasser expressed his sentiments regarding rose essences.
Thanks so much for your inputs!
Normally I’d be outraged, but the news coming from Haiti has put things in perspective for me today.
Let me preface by saying that I know next to nothing on this subject beyond what I read in great blogs like this. Here’s my question… How do we know which reformulations are due to the IFRA meddling and which are a decision of the perfume producers?
It sounds like a lot of perfumes have changed over the years due to changes that are made due to availability of ingredients, cost, or creative perogative. There was an interview I read recently where Serge Lutens (maybe linked here, sorry can’t remember) basically said that reformulations have been a reality of perfume since the beginning of time. Is it really all about the evil IFRA?
You don’t know…except that fragrances that relied on heavy concentrations of citrus or oakmoss or other IFRA-restricted materials are likely due to IFRA. In other cases, it’s often a decision by the perfume house. Serge Lutens is exactly right, but the importance of IFRA is that they’ve essentially made it impossible for some extremely important fragrances to be produced — classic chypres, for instance, essentially can’t exist under IFRA.
Glad Thierry Wasser is speaking out now…but why not do so before they reformulated Mitsouko? Or is oakmoss just a lost cause…?
He wasn’t there yet.
Well then I’m glad he is now!
He says what he is allowed to say. Which is actually a better sign. This isn’t Mr. Wasser defending the classics (though he is perfectly sincere about it), it is the owner of Guerlain and Dior, LVMH, making itself heard.
It’s all a little too “inside baseball” for me but I’m glad that it’s a good sign.
Just saying both men work for a very big company, and anything they say on such a sensitive topic has probably been cleared upstairs, which is why I think there’s a strategy behind it.
On a very dark news day, this is welcome news indeed! Thank you D.
I have a feeling that the proposals for the next IFRA amendment are the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Yup, and why should companies in the “industry” mind that natural materials are being banned one by one? After all, you can’t patent melissa oil, or mandarin oil, or oakmoss. What’s left for perfume artists to use, if they can’t use natural materials? Proprietary, if not patented, materials that can only be obtained from large chemical suppliers.
I definitely hope that perfumers will start to protest more. Maybe we, the perfumistas of the world, should protest. There are certainly a lot more of us than of artisan perfumers. Anyone know of any good addresses to start a letter campaign?
The industry could choose to use captives instead of naturals if they wanted to…I don’t see how it helps anybody, including the individual F&F companies, to force them to do so. So I do not buy the theory that some have suggested, that this is all to help the F&F companies make more $.
And sorry, I don’t. Cropwatch is the only organization that I know of that has made a concerted effort to fight IFRA regulations.
Robin, I agree, and what I hear off-the-record bears this out: it’s to no one’s advantage in the industry, especially since the labs actually do the reformulations on their time (they’re not paid more to do it), and the formula has to be at the same price. And lots of those natural ingredients are actually cheaper than the IFRA-compliant stuff. Besides, natural materials aren’t the only ones being regulated: lots of synthetics are too.
Ah. Will have to amend my current conspiracy theory, then. Not evil corporations, just the usual paranoid incompetence.
Well, we can still get a lot of mileage out of the incompetence theory!
Meanwhile, I’ll just indulge in my recently aquired oakmoss absolue which smells divine. Just for the fun of it, I mix a nice amount with my unscented body lotion. The pleasure is not simply olfactory, but also the secret satifactory feeling of using something restricted and forbidden. This is a s close as I, as a full time working, tax-paying, well behaived middle-class and middle-aged mum, get to illegal drugs. Exciting!
Nothing but a Surgeon General’s Warning on cigarettes, and perfume gets slapped with all the bans? This has always mystified me. While complaining about reformulation during a shopping trip to a certain perfume store, I suggested maybe they should just slap warnings on perfume, too. The SA looked at me like I was crazy. But why not? “IFRA Warning: This product contains known allergens citrus and oakmoss. Those with such allergies may want to avoid this product, and will be missing out on knowing the love of a good chypre. Your loss.”
Nice warning, LOL!
Great warning! I have the fairest, most sensitive skin on the planet and vintage oakmoss laden Mitsouko has never bothered me! Now perfumes with carnation (and it’s probably really the clove as carnations don’t give up any essence) are a different story!
Clove and cinnamon give me a rash. But then, I just avoid them, or spritz whatever it is somewhere where the rash bothers me less.
I know I’m a broken record about this, but why can’t we ban things that smell *bad*? People who smell like cigarette smoke? People with BO? People with BO who smoke? That guy who always gets on the treadmill next to me at the gym who smells like BO, cigarettes, AND mothballs? Can we ban *HIM*??
GAH!!! He needs to wear one of those bio-hazard warning signs! How awful!! The spices and lemon aren’t usually allergens; they’re just caustic on skin. Thyme will do the same.
I’d like to be optimistic and think this might mean that the tide is turning and someone powerful (I’m guessing that the individual perfumers don’t much real influence over this) is getting fed up with the whole thing and is ready to put up a fight.
However, I guess this will have more relevance -in the short term at least- to new the launches and things that are yet to be reformulated? After all, if, say, Dior just spend cash on changing the likes of Diorissimo then would they really simply revert back to the old formula even if they were suddenly allowed to do so?
Interestingly, I recently received my Czech & Speake samples. C&S made it sound like they were from a freshly manufactured batch and there’s citrus and two species of moss listed among the ingredients. Does this mean that C&S are not a member of IFRA and choosing to use these materials? There are no health warnings, just the old “keep away from fire and children” blurb.
Most of the work of changing Diorissimo is in coming up with a new formula that works. If they were suddenly allowed to use the old formula, there’s no new work there….all they have to do is use the old formula the next time they produce new fragrance. Whether that isn’t such a PR nightmare is another issue.
Citrus and oakmoss are not forbidden, you just can’t use them past a certain concentration.
Yup, but developing that new formula already cost them money, right? So would they write that expense off and simply go back to the old stuff? Who knows, perhaps if the new formulation is not selling but I’m not raising my hopes for the things that have already been changed. Not for the immediate future, anyway.
Thanks for clarifying the point bout citrus and oakmoss restriction.
Abyss, perfume brands don’t spend a penny on reformulation: it’s up to the labs who manufacture the perfume (and who employ the perfumers who composed it) to come up with a compliant formula and as I’ve written above, the new formula must not be costlier than the old one. The labs lose out, because they have to put their teams on reformulations rather than coming up with new stuff.
In the case of Guerlain and Dior, they have an in-house perfumer on their payroll, so again, it’s not an extra expense for brands: reformulations are part of his job. So that wouldn’t be the argument against going back to a previous formula. But we’re still very far from that. The first step of the industry, if any, will probably be to avoid further damage.
Ah, thanks for clearing that up! I suppose that’s also why the companies didn’t make much of a fuss about the issue earlier?
Btw, I really enjoyed reading your posts on the subject. Both here and on your own blog.
Oh, Robin, how *could* you? How could you suggest people go and use an online translator?!!! LOL!
LOL — but you would have been even more unhappy if I’d posted my own translation, trust me!
Oh, don’t worry, B… they’re nowhere near good enough to put you out of a job. I remembered enough high school French to get the gist w/o the online tool, but was still glad to see Carmencanada’s translation for the finer points.
It’s about time.
Better late than never.
The powers that be usually like to put lots of regulation on industries that aren’t really doing anything in order to appear productive… They banned the bikini wax in New Jersey and are thinking about slapping a tax on tanning salons or plastic surgery. It’s just how they operate. I don’t think the perfume industry has a lobby they can use to get things their way.
On another note, I’m allergic to many of the synthetic chemicals they use in musks and aldehydes. I just look harder for ones that don’t give me rashes or headaches. SL Clair de Musc is actually fine. But forget about Chanel No. 5…sigh. Niche perfume seem to be my happy little home away from the commercialized corn syrup sweet celeb scents that dominate my age group. I don’t want it to disappear just yet, because of “self-regulation”
I think in this case the powers that be want to regulate themselves in the hopes that outside agencies won’t feel the need to get involved. But they’ve gone rather to far, IMHO.
Usually self-regulation goes 1 of 2 ways. Either it doesn’t do enough and then outside forces step in due to the lack of regulation (e.g. Airlines, Fishing, Logging) or do too much and then industry insiders start complaining for fairer regulation from outside. Hopefully, people like the FDA will stay away from perfume. Otherwise, it might just vanish as a form of art all together. Yes, they have gone to far. But at least they know something about perfume. Outsiders to an industry tend to butcher things even worse than the industry can do to itself.
More people in perfume need to start complaining in order for things to get better.
there was a time where the some colour of a brand of lipstick could be bought for YEARS…the way i see it we have 2 options
1) be extremely happy for the rather embaressing amounts of magnificent frags we all have(phew)and e-bay to still try and get those we don’t.
2) lobby or counterattack..anybody have any ideas on how to do that?
Sorry, no idea.
About time the parfumeurs spoke out ! Thank goodness- I really hope this will be the start to something of a revolt against the IFRA and their stupid close minded /small minded ” self regulation ‘ ideas. It won’t work IFRA !
I hope so too, although I’ll still be surprised if we hear from perfumers at the big F&F companies.
It’s too bad that IFRA isn’t some US government agency. That way, the French could just have a lot of fun demonstrations about how the puritan Americans are trying to destroy the “patrimoine français” and ignore it, as when California decided to ban the selling of foie gras.
LOL — yes!
Oh, yes! Yes! I’ve had this thought many times. Why can’t the folks who think it’s reasonable to sue California for using the term “champagne” to sell their bubbly wine get it together to protect the legacy of French perfume?
Off topic, but the full page ads in the New Yorker telling me that champagne grown in CA is not champagne crack me up. I don’t understand why they think anyone other than a producer of real French champagne should care. Although presumably some people do.
Oh exactly, me too! And there’s something about it that just seems so….French…in a movie stereotype kind of way. I just picture small, impeccably dressed men drawing themselves up to their full height and saying, in terrible fake French accents, “but zis iz not zee Champagne! Zis iz a fraud! Eet ees une catastrophe!” Meanwhile, puzzled Californians take another sip of the mimosas and dive into their pools…
Exactly! I can’t imagine that the money for the ad is well spent.
What about the Imitation designer fragrances that’s so popular in many countries, like the Midlle East!!? andI heard in Russia too, who can control this industry. What I know, who buy such thing are the people who can afford original so they’ll go for te copies!!!
we don’t what kind of materials or ingrediens in these perfumes!!
Well, that’s true, but you don’t know what materials are in the “real” scents either.