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domingo, 10 de abril de 2016

From Perfumer's Workshop to Amouroud: Mainstream, Niche and the Discovery of Oud – Interview With Donald Bauchner

y: Miguel Matos

Last week during the Esxence exhibition in Milan I had the opportunity to visit brands which were good past acquaintances as well as other ones which I was discovering. In the Amouroud stand I sat down to chat with Donald Bauchner and his wonderful staff who had received me so nicely in past expos. Within the new brand Amouroud, I had already reviewed Safran Rare and I am in love with Dark Orchid, which I will review later. Now that Amouroud is finally distributed in a number of countries with good response from retailers and consumers, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on how a very experienced mainstream american brand like Perfumer's Workshop (responsible for a true fragrant legend: Tea Rose) chose to enter the niche market after so many years. I had a very interesting conversation with Donald Bauchner, owner of the company.

Miguel Matos: Everyone knows more or less about Perfumer's Workshop, with Tea Rose the star of the brand and launching new editions every year. How did you feel the urge to create a brand inside the Perfumer's Workshop that would be more niche-oriented?
Donald Bauchner: I will give you a very specific timeline. We left New York to go to London just before the mid-seventies. And I recall calling on Harrods the morning after there was a bomb explosion on Oxford Street right outside of the store. I remember it because the buyer was annoyed that I had booked an appointment on such a busy day, but when I showed her the Perfumer's Workshop menu she saw the words “essential oils”, her eyes lit up and she said “aha! This is what I am looking for." To make a long story short our first foreign Perfumer's Workshop corner was at Selfridges. We were given a very busy spot, right across from Estée Lauder, and it was tough to bring costumers over and so we had to work. This was at the same time the civil war broke out in Lebanon. So that summer, instead of so many people from the Middle East going to Beirut for holidays, they came to London. At that Harrods counter we would see so many Arab folks and we would hear them say “Oud” all the time. This was because all of the Perfumer's Workshop line was composed of 64 essential oils and in those days you were buying oud oil in the Gulf or you were buying the wood and getting the essence from it. So we heard this so much but we did not understand it, we did not know what the word meant. We started doing research and we started to learn about oud and its characteristics. And we became enamoured of the things having to do with depth, richness, sensuousness and those other magical pieces of performance you would always imagine in your night time perfumes. So, we started to speak to our Middle Eastern distributors and they would say “Donald, save your time. The West knows nothing about oud. It is local, it is old, it's done right and you can't do it right. Stop it.”.
After smelling the Middle Eastern perfume houses, I think most western brands, even niche, still know nothing about oud, but please continue.
We kept on it, and on it, and on it throughout the years in silence. About 13 years ago, when niche lines started to really show their faces, even though a couple of them had been around for a long time, the most beautiful new face was Kilian, because his stuff was magnificent and the shops he was in were the best trendsetting shops. By Kilian was gorgeous and very expensive but it had the mantle of authority of Bergdorf Goodman. About five years ago we started to see in niche lines the brand manufacturers starting to use oud as a word, whether or not it was real, a little real or whatever. Important brands were purveying the idea and that was expanding the consciousness of the public who shops in those stores for those lines into being interested in it. That's when we said to ourselves “The time is right." There's niche and there is oud understanding. In our view we always felt that oud per se as an ingredient story was far larger, implications wise, than musk was in the 1960's and those two things are similar in a way. We are talking of an ingredient story and performance in musk. We are talking of an ingredient attitude and more of a performance than a smell in oud. Now it's a smell, but in the beginning it was more about performance. Musk appealed to youngsters, it gave them something they could proudly claim the ability to judge. “Let me try your musks," kids would say to us at the Perfumer's Workshop counters. It's still around. The problem for musk was that it was always inexpensive and never became expensive. The opposite is important for oud. It is expensive, it is only in these lines and therefore only in these stores. So where a musk can go wider but not come up, oud can stay, then go wider and start to come down.
But aren't you afraid that the oud trend is just a passing thing?
If the people that call oud a fad are correct, which I don't believe they are, when the fad ends there will be oud all over the industry in all distributions and when many of them stop they will have left behind some new classics developed over these years.
And also the fact that oud can start to be treated as just another ingredient. So you have fragrances that are not oud-themed, but use the material as one of the ingredients, just like they have rose or jasmine or sandalwood.
Correct. It's what you wrote about in your review of Safran Rare. You spoke about wanting to work on an oriental theme but making something new of it. That's exactly the point. You absolutely hit the nail on the head. So that's the short story of how we've done this.
When, precisely did you start to develop Amouroud?
We started to work on our Amouroud fragrances at the beginning of 2012. And in fact a few of these first 10 scents, and many more that are not in these 10, were our first work that we have been working and perfecting like Midnight Rose and Miel Sauvage. At the fall of 2013 we launched our line and we have been working nonstop to get to where we are and we are still attempting to perfect.
Amouroud Stand in Esxence 2016
You are not in a rush. I first met you 2 years ago and you were already evaluating the latest mods and showing them to some selected people to see the opinion of specialists.
We've just done a modest change to our Dark Orchid. First of all, Dark Orchid is such a big fragrance that we pulled it back from 23% because some of the beauty was dissipated. So we pulled it back to 18% concentration and that's how we love it. And now we just raised it to 19%. You won't perceive it but it is even better.
I have to ask you about Dark Orchid. Everyone knows Tom Ford's Black Orchidand Dark Orchid is a very similar name. The perfume itself is similar to Tom Ford's Black Orchid. I am sure I am not the first person to tell you that... How do you react?
No you are not. It doesn't bother me. To me it's not the same. You can call them in the same school in a way. We have black orchid, black gardenia, some oud and a bunch of other stuff in our Dark Orchid. To me, Dark Orchid is far more complicated and far more rich in character. And for me character is key.
I can only tell you one thing: it's impossible for me to wear Black Orchid, it chokes me. With Dark Orchid I don't feel that way. It has air inside, as dense as it may be.
I know exactly what you mean. There is a roundness of bringing everything together seamlessly as one. So that nothing is rough or with pointed edges.
It's still an extreme fragrance with atomic sillage... And I consider it the star of this first line.
Absolutely. I know. That's what I love about it. Yesterday a perfumer smelled it, loved it and he asked if there was rum extract in it. There is not, but I smelled it freshly sprayed and I'm getting it. That's a magnificent smell to me. Maybe that's why to me it's intoxicating.
photo by Sandrina Raičević Petrović
Amouroud was first launched in the market a few months ago. What has your experience been like?
Dark Orchid is the bestseller in our first point of sale which was NK Stockholm and Safran Rare is already sold out, too. We still don't know our performance because we are still opening sales points in Moscow and Italy. We are still shipping, but shipping is not learning about our brand's perfirmance. Our Turkish distributor will also have our products very soon.
Selfie time: Miguel Matos and Donald Bauchner
What are the main differences between producing and distributing a niche brand like Amouroud, comparing with the mainstream segment of Perfumer's Workshop?
The answer to that question I learned when we first started doing fashion fragrances like Sonia RykielTorrenteLouis Féraud, etc. With higher price merchandise you can do much more beautiful fragrances and much more glorious packaging. You know you must attract me before I can try you and evaluate you. If you are fantastic but you don't attract me I will never know it. These plaques in the Amouroud packaging go on by hand and have to sometimes come off and go back on and then get hand polished. We could have just put a label here or just print it! But there are real plaques. So, it costs to do beautiful but you want to do as beautiful as you can. The answer to you is: it's a joy to be able to spend more because niche is more beautiful than prestige. Niche is more glorious and longer lasting fragrance than prestige.
photo by Sandrina Raičević Petrović
When you only had Perfumer's Workshop did you feel the need to do something in a different mindset?
No. Because all we were doing was Perfumer's Workshop. So we knew no difference. Now after we've done fashion fragrances we know the difference. The attention on niche is interesting because niche is the most active heart of perfumery today. Will it last? Who knows? But the fact is that it is creating a lot of beautiful things and people are buying.

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