A spot about Flower Gems of India, a sustainable farming initiative from Bvlgari + Firmenich in Tamil Nadu.
A short spot from Firmenich Naturals on sourcing vanilla from Madagascar.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t expect much from Sensorium. The promotional materials announced that the exhibit was “presented by” Sephora with “magic by” flavor and fragrance company Firmenich. That info, and the tagline “lucid dreams from the sensory world” suggested a barrage of the usual perfume PR nonsense. When I arrived at the small storefront in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, I nearly balked at paying the $15 entrance fee, but what I saw inside was a fascinating range of efforts to inspire and educate potential consumers and an excellent snapshot of the mainstream perfume industry’s challenges and internal divisions.1
The exhibit was divided into six small galleries. The first was a long narrow hallway. One wall featured a well-researched timeline of perfume history highlights. On the other wall was an interesting mix of tradition and technology. Raw materials like vetiver and pink pepper were on hand to see and smell, but there was also a video about the use of molecular compounds (“How do we use molecules to make a fragrance?” asks a husky-voiced female narrator. “It’s like a dance.”) and vitrines featuring fake and real diamond necklaces (“Can you tell the difference?”) and fake and real sugar (“Which do you prefer?”) intended to help viewers ponder the nature of synthetics. The two definitions of “perfumer” on display didn’t shy away from science: 1) “A modern-day wizard who conjures emotions with molecules,” 2) “A hybrid bio-chemist and fine artist trained in the esoteric knowledge of crafting a perfume.”
In the second gallery I donned headphones in a dark, padded room (they call it a “sensory deprivation booth”) and listened to anosmics talk about how losing their sense of smell has diminished their lives…