This New Book Unpacks the World of Fragrance
Scent has become a gargantuan global business, valued to the tune of $31.4 billion as of 2018, and predicted to grow further in the coming years. A new book called The Essence—Discovering the World of Scent, Perfume & Fragrance (Gestalten) offers a fascinating look at the industry, covering the history, origins, and methods used to produce fragrances over the years, as well as the figures who are bringing the perfume-making craft into the 21st century. There are also plenty of punchy, entertaining sidebars, including a timeline of significant launches, from Issey Miyake’s definitive 1990s aquatic scent, to artist Lucy McRae’s 2011 “Swallowable Perfume,” which comes in the form of a pill that, once ingested, emits scent through the user’s own skin and sweat.
Lifestyle advertising bolsters the enduring mystique and culture surrounding scent, of course, and the book contains a particularly enjoyable anecdote about certain Hollywood celebs who notoriously refuse to use deodorant. “There’s this bizarre dichotomy with luxury fragrance brands that want to capture the bad-boy persona of certain actors,” says editor Trey Taylor in reference to Johnny Depp, an avowed anti-deodorant dude who has nonetheless served as the face of several cologne campaigns. “What lends to that bad-boy persona is the idea that they don’t wash, in order to give the impression that they’re careless and risk-taking, which is ironic because they’re trying to hawk fragrances they definitely don’t wear.”