One of the people on my forum asked the question of where the really really really high end perfumers who do 100% Natural perfumes are. That was a good question. You don’t see them advertised in airplane duty free magazines, or on the Champs Elysee or in the Dubai stores or in New York…so where are they or do they exist? Well… I think they don’t exist other than as independent makers. Why?
What you find as a really really high end fragrance has undoubtedly come out of one of 7 labs. The “Seven Sisters” put together virtually all of the high end fragrances and sell them to the designers or “perfumers”. All of the celebrity perfumes come from those companies. Chandler Burr’s book The Perfect Scent gives you a great picture of how these perfumes are made, he shows you a celebrity fragrance and one from a house of couture Hermes.
The lab fragrances many times rely on “nature identical” ingredients. For instance, one of the vanilla components is coumarin. You can “squeeze” it out of the plant (which is time consuming and yields inconsistent results) or you can make it in the lab and it will be cheaper and more predictable and it will smell the same and it will be a lot less trouble to make and It will have exactly the same chemical structure as the “real” coumarin. You would not be able to smell the difference between the two under any circumstances. Oh, and to add wonder to the mix, the lab coumarin would be more pure!
Large perfume houses are set up to sell. They are not set up to conform to one principle (unless that is to make money). So if something is a lot of trouble and expensive and won’t fetch as much money as what they usually do, but it is more natural…they won’t make it.
Combine that with the fact that people, when presented with two items, will always choose the one which is less expensive and comparable. I am sure that you can think of a time which you bought a higher priced item because it was “better” or better for the environment or natural but that is the exception rather than the rule, and the high end perfumers have to make the money to pay their vast armies of employees and their trips to the Nile to sniff lotus buds at dawn in June whilst being fed dainties on private barges.
Finally, there is the question of the end product. We all have to admit that there are parts of a fragrance that we are just not prepared to forgo. Whether it is musk, lily of the valley, “that pink scent”, the smell of fog at dawn or whatever, we just don’t like perfume as much unless it contains those elements. So if you take out the nifty modern artificial elements, what you are left with is flat, fuzzy, and unattractive. Once I went to a perfumer in a wonderful American city who advertises that they make perfume from recipes written up in the 1840’s, about the time when perfume was still 100% natural. Maybe it was bliss in 1849 but it was like something from a very old lady’s wardrobe to me, and I am a perfumer who can appreciate what most people are trying to achieve. The reason was that they were using old fashioned ingredients and I knew it.
And in the same vein, if you smell most of the high end 100% natural fragrance parts by themselves, they are not all that pleasant. It is an odd twist of nature that distillation by steam has this tendency to make things smell like they have been dried, and a lot of things are steam distilled. They often smell dried out rather than fresh. Then there are things which smell divine in nature but cannot be made into essential oils (lily of the valley, peony, osmanthus for instance). If they can become essential oil, they may smell dreadful, too. I have smelled essential oil of carnation which was really phfffft and butter which was awful (I shudder to think about it) and osmanthus (smelled like hay but not attractive). That is just the nature of the item.
So, if you are looking for the ultra high end 100% natural perfumer, I don’t think you are going to find what you expect. Perhaps Mandy Aftel comes about as close as you are going to get. If you do find someone who can do a good job with natural ingredients, they will be very very very expensive, I am sure of that.