Creative Fragrance Director
Fragrance evaluators and, within Givaudan, Creative Fragrance Directors (CFDs – the highest level of evaluator) are ‘the glue that holds everything together’, according to Yvonne, who manages CFDs at Givaudan. From the early days of perfumery in the 17th Century through to the 1970s, most perfumers worked alone: choosing the raw materials, creating and finetuning the fragrances, noting the formulations, organising their fragrance library.
With ever-increasing variety, consumer demand and rapid change of trends in the fragrance industry, the professional role of ‘evaluation’ was introduced in the late 1970s, supporting perfumers in their creative processes. Yet, 40 years on, it is still an underrated and little-known area of the business. As part of Givaudan’s 250 Odyssey, we examine the vital role of Creative Fragrance Director.
Working together: the golden triangle of evaluation, perfumery and sales
“The ‘golden triangle’ of evaluation, perfumery and sales is the foundation of our business,” asserts Yvonne. “Most people know about sales and perfumery, but evaluation is a bit different. Evaluators are an unusual breed of people. They’re extremely skilled in smelling but at the same time they have to understand the market and the consumer. They’re the ones who, when we get the fragrance brief, run that project with the perfumers, the laboratories, the marketing, sales, amongst many other people.”
Evaluation at Givaudan follows a seven-step career ladder, starting with Junior Evaluator and ending at the top with Creative Fragrance Director and Creative Fragrance Team Director. Even though evaluators often specialise in a specific category e.g. home care products, personal care or fine fragrances, some choose to build their careers by moving from one category to another. While most junior evaluators have a background in chemistry or engineering, not all do. Diversity is important, according to Andy, Givaudan’s Global Head of Development for consumer products.
Watch the career ladder of a Creative Fragrance Director
Andy continues: “These days a lot of recruits have been through ISIPCA, the fragrance school in Versailles after doing a first degree in science,” he says, “but we try to ensure that they aren’t always from exactly the same background.”
“We have people from all walks of life who became extremely successful as evaluators, one of them for example, was a modern language graduate who love perfume,” says Yvonne. “It’s important that we keep that diversity. If we only took people from a particular background we’d lose that richness.”
One of the most important parts of an evaluator’s role is to liaise with the perfumers to interpret complex briefs. “It’s really something special, when real trust develops between an evaluator and a perfumer. As a team, these guys can create amazing things.” says Yvonne.
Andy sees the role of evaluation as being like music producers, with perfumers the musicians: “A music producer doesn’t need to know how to play all the musical instruments, but he or she does need to understand how to put them together to meet the audience in the most effective way.”
Watch the interview with Naïla, Creative Fragrance Director
What does the future hold for evaluators?
A good evaluator must also understand the evolution of the market. As Andy puts it: “Knowing what has been successful now and in the past to help develop the success of tomorrow.” He believes that the future lies more and more in the understanding of human behaviour (neuroscience) – understanding how we interact with the brain through fragrance – linked to the understanding of changing market dynamics. Yvonne also points to the potential of artificial intelligence, imagining a library search engine able to recommend fragrances for simple briefs, freeing up the evaluators and perfumers to focus on big creative projects.
Diplomacy, market and consumer expertise, project management skills, creativity and scientific know-how, and an eye to the future of fragrance: as Yvonne says: “Our evaluators and CFDs really are amazing people. Why don’t you join them?”
“I hope that I will do this job for a long time. I love to work in Evaluation Department. Meet new personalities, participate in the creation of fragrances. It’s a wonderful job, and I feel very lucky to be an evaluator. It’s a fabulous moment when you can discover in the street or in a shop a fragrance you have worked on. My aspirations are to continue to develop new beautiful fragrances which can become one day a new pillar of the perfumery.”