I happened upon this article about the inspiration behind Hermes perfumes via Asian Window. This year has been declared by Hermes to be the Year of India, with " silk scarves ... vivid with raw pinks and fleshy mangoes, elephants harnessed to carriages and tigers rampant." Parfumeur Jean Claude Ellena travelled through Kerala, India in search of olfactory inspiration for his new 'Jardin apres la mousson' ('Garden after the monsoons") set to be released this summer.
(As with all overwrought prose dedicated to the exotification of India and the monsoons, this article has its hilarious bloopers, which will undoubtedly pass unnoticed by the majority of the target audience. A sampling below:
"all rooms are cobbled out of 200 year old teak cottages (tharavadu)" -Tharavadu means family, not cottage
" Women wear their saris differently here than they do up in the north, draping them like togas" - Sarongs are a more appropriate comparisons.
"And when the first monsoon blows in from the Arabian sea....the modest women of Kerala rush out into the rain..."and the saris cling very close to the body" " -Sounds like a Bollywood rain song, not reality
But I digress ,as usual.)
Ellena travels about the world, inhaling scents and attempting to recreate their most pleasing elements not with the original source, but a palette of chemicals such as geraniol, indole, castoreum and a whole host of other derivatives from floral, animal and other sources. It's a fascinating field that revels in the blending and mixing to generate a whole forest of sensation in a single sniff.
While Monsieur Ellena cooks up his olfactory masterpieces and Hermes markets them at astronomical prices to the cognoscenti, another company has taken a different kind of potshot at the Asian mass market.
You might think twice before telling a friend, and you would bite your lip rather than mention it to your boss, but one soap company has no qualms about telling 3 billion Asians that they need to use a deodorant.
Unilever is preparing to confront the issue head-on with a marketing and advertising push directed at a new Asian generation.
Russell Taylor, global vice-president for Axe, the Unilever-made deodorant marketed as Lynx in Britain, said that no one had yet found a way of making Asians self-conscious about body odour. “Asia is a market we have never really cracked. They don’t think they smell, but people everywhere smell,” he said.
He said that the region was a billion-pound opportunity – “the last empty space on the map”. He estimated that only 7 per cent of Asians used a deodorant, with consumption in India virtually nil, and his team is dreaming up advertisements that will induce shame about sweat stains and odour across the region.
All this, despite the fact that body odor is not really a pressing problem in these countries, where frequent baths (even twice daily in the hot season) are the norm. But that won't deter the marketers from creating an illusion of need to sell their product. The question is whether their audience will be receptive or oblivious to these blandishments. That's still up in the air, just like the "Jardin apres la mousson", I guess.