Maria Host-Ivessich and Geza Schoen Discuss Modernity in Fragrance

In Nowfashion's newly-minted column on scents, self-defined ''perfume-nerd'' and director Maria Host-Ivessich and German Master Perfumer Geza Schoen delve into the role of modernity, social media and balancing chemistry with natural flavours.

 

As a first question, what does "modern" mean to you in 2020?

For our society, it means to realise the fundamental need for change to transform our traditional systems into a more contemporary, ecologically aware and sustainable future. 

In perfume-related terms, I guess it is unchanged to previous setups where creativity is demanded: new and different yet comforting and pleasing.

 

Having been a precursor for many reasons, and still being very much directed towards "the next phase": do you prefer being inspired by the future for your creations or do you take inspiration from the past in your process of creating something modern?

 

Clearly both! In perfumery, it is tough to challenge the client too much with something completely new or different. The most straightforward approach would be to look at what's been successful in the past and twist it with other elements. I rarely think about what the future could hold for us and how that could be translated into a fragrance. We are entering here the wide world of arbitrariness. I still find it most challenging to combine

traditional elements with other and/or newer materials to achieve new chords. 

 

How do you think the internet and the new generations are influencing the perfume sector if they are at all… or how could they be influenced? 

Thank god, the internet doesn't really touch on how people will select a perfume. Most people still decide to buy a fragrance when they smell it on someone else. The internet clearly pushes marketing and advertising in an even more penetrating fashion, but I think that's it. Of course, social media and webpages allow you to have more information on fragrances you wouldn't have had access to 25 years ago. 

 

How do you see perfumes evolving? What does the future smell like?

Again, who knows. How can one tell? Due to this channelled approach, we have to anything which smells it is complicated to confront the client with new stuff. Who am I to predict that people will be wearing this in the future rather than something else? What I have noticed for several years now is the growth of powerful fragrance where strength and lasting power is the top issue rather than new, subtle and different chords.                                                                 
In your opinion, what is the secret for blending chemistry with romanticism? Or better: in a perfume, where does one finish and the other start? What represents modern sensuality, for you? 

It is not a contradiction for me – chemistry is just a term as is romanticism. The latter doesn't claim 'only natural'. As far as I am concerned, does it? So chemistry is just that one side in perfumery which says I didn't grow on a tree or a field, I was born out of a lab, yet I do smell too. It doesn't matter for me where an ingredient generates from. I look at this from a sheer olfactoric point of view. Or, I look at the technical profile of a raw material to create a particular note I am trying to portray. Modern sensuality happens when it doesn't remind you of your granny's fragrance or smells which will take you back to the past. We will soon come out with something which is precisely this, fresh, different yet very subtle sensual smells!


What fascinates you the most in the natural world and vice versa in the synthetic world? How do you balance them?

The complexity of natural products is incredible, equally the cleanliness and linearity of an aroma chemical. The balancing part is experience. You need to do thousands of trials to understand what compound (s) works with what other chemical plus the naturals on top of it ! This is all about achieving the best possible balance, so a fragrance lasts, can breathe and provides a sillage for others to smell it properly.

 

Do you think a universal perfume could exist? Do you think there could be a comprehensive combination for everyone, and in this case, would it be something that fascinates you?

 

I would prefer this not to happen really. Phasing of anything to please all undermines the beauty of cultural uniqueness. I mean probably half of all fragrances are available anyway anywhere in the world, even us, as a niche brand, we sell worldwide but to think that this would be exciting is not for me.

 

Lastly, what is a sentence that has inspired you recently? This could be from a book or from a wall or said by someone you love. 

 

My nearly 4-year-old daughter Anna requesting a milk 'with warm and cold'.

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