Sunday, September 02, 2007

Interview with Michael Storer

I'm very glad that I got to know Michael Storer almost two years ago. We never met in person yet, but we talk a lot by email. Michael is also a very active member of my group 'Perfume making'. Always willing to share his knowledge of perfume making with the members of the group, he likes to help other perfumers to grow as well, something that is admirable. Michael is a very kind man, who is very modest about his own success. He launched six fragrances, three men's fragrances; Monk, Djin and Il Giardino and three fragrances for women; Stephanie, Yvette and Genviève. I did an interview with Michael Storer before, we talked about his men's fragrances and he told us how his passion for the creation of fragrances started. In that time he already started to talk about his idea to create fragrances for women as well. Now that he finally launched his three women's fragrances it's time the world should hear about these wonderful fragrances. In this interview we talk about his three 'sister' fragrances for women:

Can you share with us what the inspiration was behind all three perfumes?

Well, the whole idea for three sisters started out with one fragrance I wanted to do. Genviève, named after my mother. I wanted to design a perfume... not a cologne... that was very "upper class" and quintessentially soft and feminine and that had a floral base with just a bit of fruitiness for modernity. I wanted something that was refined and tasteful, not gaudy or loud. Something that reeked of good breeding and understated old money. I guess I wanted to do this because I had been working so long on masculine or actually unisex scents, my Monk, Il Giardino and Djin. Rose as a theme was a natural for this and I wanted to use some aldehydic notes to give it a Chanel No. 5 sort of luxury feel. I wanted the wearer or anyone who smelled it to think of diamonds and platinum. Anyway, I was browsing the Internet and hit upon some vintage Vogue magazine covers. I found the January, 1950 issue and thought... 'Oh, there's my girl in this classic gown and there's my ideal image for this perfume.' It featured a classy young woman in a chiffon opera gown. Strapless but in impeccable taste. The only thing that could date the picture is the long black gloves she wears. But I maintain that even now this look can be very with-it. Her look and her gown are totally timeless and refined femininity to my thinking. I even came up with an ad idea for the picture. It would feature my crystal perfume bottle and read: Timeless. Like you.

Well, after really quite a bit of real goal-oriented experimenting over several months, which of course is the joy of doing perfumery, I hit upon just the right thing and I knew I had what I wanted as soon as I whiffed it. It was just suddenly done. Just like that. It's an odd feeling when you finish an art project in whatever medium. Once it's done, it becomes this construction, this 'thing' that exists but that feels like it's no longer yours. You simply gave birth to something that exists on its own now. That's how it's been with all the fragrances I no longer have floating around in limbo in bottles still left with ideas to try this or that on. These as yet unborn ones are still yours. The finishing cuts the umbilical cord so to speak.

Soon after, I found a source for these beautiful heavy crystal bottles that were just perfect for the image I wanted for Genviève. Suddenly it became clear that I had enjoyed designing Genviève so thoroughly and the bottles were so nice, I wanted to give her 'sisters'. Three is a nice number, so I thought, 'Good. I get to design two more very womanly and equally classic perfumes.'

Next came Stephanie, my full-out gardenia perfume. I had been doing some experiments with single flower perfumes and I felt I had made quite a bit of headway on a gardenia. It just seemed a natural to me to have a heavier floral scent as many women's personalities are attracted to that rather than a lighter scent. I worked for a couple of months on that one. I smelled all the gardenia fragrances I could find and even asked women on the beauty and perfume boards to send me samples of ones I couldn't locate. These ladies really came through for me! In the end, there was something about each of them that just didn't capture the real flower for me. I have two gardenia plants growing in my back garden and was lucky that they were prolifically in bloom at the time. I said to myself, 'I can do better than any of these.' Well, tell me I have a big ego, but in the end I think that I surpassed all of them and a lot of users think so, too.

I had an epiphany of sorts making Stephanie. I got to the point where I thought it was finished so I set the little brown bottle aside for a few days to do its own magic. When I revisited it and put a dash on my arm, I thought that something was disappointing about it... Although it was quite good, it seemed to lack a certain crisp green pungency at the top. It just didn't have a certain sparkle I wanted. I had a sudden flash of what to try adding. It was a certain almost radishy-green chrysanthemum note.. very potent. I put just a drop of that into the mix and like a miracle the whole fragrance sprang to life. It's just funny to me that it was so after-the-fact. Almost serendipity. At that point, Stephanie flew the coop just as Genviève had and belonged no longer to me.

Yvette came to me with a lot of effort. I first tried a carnation fragrance, which I still really like, but after submitting it for our "group swap," Jenny, I came to the conclusion that it just wasn't exciting enough. People in our group liked it ok, but there were no big raves. So I thought, 'Why bottle this?' Next I experimented with another single flower note I'd been working on, a violet. I developed a very nice violet perfume, but I don't know... somehow I grew tired of smelling it and thought I'd rather create a fantasy perfume as the third sister.. something a bit more risky, not a solo flower and perhaps a bit gourmand. Something that wasn't so easy to categorize.

The final product was born out of curiosity about a few basic notes, one of them being genet, also called broom absolute. I built an accord around this and slowly Yvette began to take form. The somewhat buttery and bakery notes came later and the tarragon was a sudden bold stoke that just happened to work right. It's the fragrance that I fretted the most over. With a pure fantasy fragrance one has no real flower or any other kind of map to follow. Creating this kind of scent is the most exciting of all, but you really feel alone doing it because you're completely in uncharted waters with nothing to tell you if you're hot or if you're cold. It's all about trusting yourself. That's exhilarating but scary for anyone. I admit I had a lot of trepidation sending a sample vial to you, Jenny. I honestly had no idea what kind of reaction you'd have and I regard your nose very highly. My jaw practically dropped open when you told me it was your personal favorite 'sister' because I knew that the other two were very good.

I like all three of your fragrances, but Yvette is my personal favorite, I like fragrances that are complex, and Yvette is a very nice complex fragrance. I have to say that Stephanie comes close behind Yvette, it depends on what mood I'm in. If you would compare your three sister fragrances with music, which music would you compare to which fragrance?

Ummm.... That takes some thought. I'd say Genviève might be the ensemble of silver flutes that play Tsjaikovski ballet Danse des Merlitons in the Nutcracker Suite. That's silvery, light, classic and very feminine. Yeah, that could be a match.
Ummm... Stephanie.... Oh, this is hard! I get a very cool and sexy tenor saxophone. Yeah, and trombones, trumpets... It's the blues. That's what fits for me. What would Yvette be musically?? I think again jazz. But not so bluesy. More upbeat. Or in a totally different and romantic direction... "Stardust Memories" by Hogie Carmichael even though it's pretty old now, it's still one of the most beautiful melodies ever written. I think I'm telling you more about myself here than about my perfumes. [laughs].

Ohh I love the music of Tsjaikovski, when I was a little girl I always danced to it in my tutu. Can we expect a new women's fragrance soon? Are you working on one and will there be a fourth sister?

Will there be a fourth sister? I don't have anything planned. I want to work on a dark perfume next. Something for men and women. But I'd like it to be a perfume. Woody, musky.... I'm working on a few ideas, but I don't know yet how to package it. Should it be packaged like the three sisters? I don't know at all yet.

So a unisex fragrance? I think you need bottles that are 'unisex' as well then.

Yes, that is exactly the problem. Bottles. I will perhaps unify all of my bottles in the future, using just one bottle for everything I make. It would solve a myriad of problems. I'm not sure about that yet. But it may be coming.

Are you ever planning to start your own boutique?

Well, I guess one should never say 'never', but I can't see myself doing that in the near future. I'm currently more interested in wholesaling to boutiques, etc. I don't know how I'd like standing in a shop all day waiting for someone to walk in. I'm much more comfortable at my perfumery bench surrounded by raw materials.

I guess you right, but I think it's a nice experience for you and the buyers of your fragrances to be able to talk to each other. Is there a material you have only started exploring in your work recently?

Yes, I'm intrigued completely by Karanal. You know it Jenny, but I don't know if you've worked with it or not. It's fascinating, but at the same time I find it challenging to dose correctly.

Yes, I know how it smells, it smells a bit like amber, but have not worked with it yet, I think it's a difficult material to work with. What is the most unusual perfume you have ever created?

Oh my god! I've made a lot.. I mean a lot... of stink bombs. Way too many of them to count. They were certainly the most unusual. I've made things that ended up smelling like gasoline, farts, dirty feet, you name it. All in the name of discovery... [laughs] ... You should ask my partner. He'll tell you!

I know what you mean, I have the same discoveries.LOL What profession would you have gone into had you taken an alternate route in life?

Well, I was an actor in television for many years and I traveled the world as a photo model. I started with perfumery when I was in high school, but laid it aside for many years. For a long time I was a visual artist and I did some music composing. I can't imagine having taken a different path. It seems I was cut out for just what I'm doing. I'm fascinated with astronomy and also paleoanthropology, but I really can't image what kind of life I'd have had without art. I know I was destined to be an artist.

I would love to see a photo of you at work as a model, do you have a photo that I can add to this interview?

Here is one:

What do you think women are wanting from fragrance in today’s world?

I don't think much changes in this respect. They want romance above all. They want some perfumes to make them feel like they're being taken seriously and they want others to make them feel playful and sexually attractive. They want novelty. Women and of course men, too, tire of the same fragrances. It's just like shoes, actually. Styles will just go back and forth like a pendulum. And we'll be lucky when science brings us new aroma materials to work with and sad when others are made off limits to perfumers.

What do you hope women will take from your three 'sister' fragrances?

I frequently get e-mails from women well as men... who have bought my fragrances. One woman recently wrote that Stephanie is the is most beautiful scent she has ever smelled and that it almost brings tears to her eyes when she wears it because it's such a beautiful work of art. Wow! Now that's potent and really touches me deeply. To think that I can make someone that happy... even just one stranger... It truly is sublime.

A final question, uhm... are you ever planning to create a perfume called Jenny? Just kidding. Thank you so much for this interview, I enjoyed it very much.

The main problem with that would be getting people who speak English to say the name Jenny correctly. Everyone would pronounce it Genny and not Yenny... Then it would sound like a nick name for Genviève.
Jenny, I don't think it will be long at all before your name is all tied up with your own fragrances! I enjoyed this interview too, it was fun, thank you so much!

Michael Storer's three 'sisters' and his men's fragrances and samples are available at the website of MICHAEL STORER Fine Fragrances: well as at Lucky Scent online and at their trendy Scent Bar in Los Angeles:


Shelley said...

Jenny, insightful questions and dialogue, you are good at interviewing! This was like having a small window into Mike's creative process - interesting and instructive to fellow perfumers. Mike's vulnerable charm moves me to try his perfumes to find out if this quality is also present in his art.

Jenny said...

Dear Shelley,

Thank you for the compliment, Mike is a very easy going man, it was a lot of fun interviewing him. Mike has a sampling program for his three 'sister' fragrances at his website, a nice way to try them out first. You will be amazed by the charm of his fragrances.

FrankieCee said...

Hi Jenny, well after reading this interview, I feel like I've gotten to know Mike much more personally. Of course I consider him a friend and mentor, yet I also realize something new about him now. I no longer think of him as a "perfumer".... because when I think "perfumer", I get visions of some person sitting at some mass produced, antiseptically sterile work station, working off some fabricated "brief" submitted by some famous actor or fashion designer.

I realize now the full scope of the true 'arteest' which resides in the deepest recesses of Mike's psyche. When he sits down to 'compose' a fragrance, it is like a symphony, only done in scents. Much like the artist, who analyzes the semblance of each brush stroke, then so lovingly labors-on in the quest to create something the world will regard as both beautiful and unique, only Mike does it with fragrance as his palette. I honestly believe that I've come to understand 'the person', the true source of his inspiration a bit more, and through that process I've grown to know him even better. Great interview Jenny, you've definitely touched on the 'rare', a peek into someone's heart and soul. Thank you, Frank

Jenny said...

Hi Frank,

I'm glad you like the interview and that you got the chance to got to know Mike even better than before. It's nice to know a bit more about the inspiration behind the fragrances.

Shelley said...

Hi Jenny, Good idea! I just purchased Mike's "3 sisters" samples - he has a great website - took me about 3 clicks to complete my order. I like that!

Mike is very generous in sharing his extensive knowledge on your Perfumemaking group. This will be my first opportunity to experience his fragrances.

Jenny said...

Hi Shelley,

Good for you, let me know what you think of them. I'm curious wich one of them will be your favorite.

Happy smelling!

chayaruchama said...

Lieve Meisje-
I've enjoyed the whole review/ interview process.
Now I need to sample...

[Please forgive my lack of response- I'm in a hard splint, and NOT supposed to be writing /typing !]

Liefs !

Jenny said...

Lieve Chaya,

Oh my poor Chaya, I hope your hand, wrist(?) will heal soon. Please don't type if you are not supposed to. I missed you. And yes please sample the three 'sisters', they are wonderful.

Take care and a big hug!