3/19/13

And You Thought I'd Get Through A Month Without Mentioning Creed.


Olivier Creed, circa 1995

Or maybe you didn't . . . but it doesn't matter. I learned a long time ago not to worry about what people think of my ceaseless stream-of-consciousness approach to various subjects. You know, the people I meet who are genuinely interested in a wide variety of things are scatter-shot conversationalists, usually burdened with attenuated attention spans, but still are somehow quite lovable. Often, the most lovable. Frenetic energy is attractive to me in the same way that a smartphone battery is attractive to a poltergeist. But anyway, let's get on with this blog post.

I happened across an interesting article in the Independent about none other than Olivier Creed, "sixth generation master perfumier," and apparently the object of Mr. Robert Chalmers' affections - he has nary a bad thing to say about the man. The interview was a softball session of sometimes charming, sometimes gratingly naïve questions. Pressing Creed on the identity of the buyer of an über-expensive piece of ambergris that recently washed ashore is a great way to push things off, but then saying, "Can you imagine coming across Zeste Mandarine Pamplemousse when the only products you knew were things like Old Spice?" seems, to quote Luca Turin, a bit naff. I mean, really? Why don't you just ask to kiss the man's ass cheek and wrap it up right then?

And there's the part about Olivier Creed at work. What happens when inspiration strikes in the wee hours of the morning? Why, Creed jumps out of bed and sashays into his little en suite workshop, where he fiddles with precious oils derived from all-natural raw materials until his dream has been realized to perfection, that's what. We the readers are to infer from this that these "eureka moments" become things like Green Irish Tweed, Silver Mountain Water, Acqua Fiorentina. The man is not just a perfumer - he's an "artiste." Tinkering in little private workshops, mixing essential oils together, finding the right balance and fit for major international releases that will add to the company coffers for years to come - that's how Olivier rolls.

My feeling about the interview is fairly neutral. I don't for a minute believe that Olivier jumps out of bed to work on ideas as they come to him. I don't even believe that he has a little workshop at home. And I really don't believe that his super celebrity client list, the assholes who have £10,000 to drop on bespoke perfume, are a very impressive lot of any more than five or six people per year. They're either "nouveau riche" nobodies who made their first five million scamming the world on the commodities market, or lame-duck names like Cher, and Elton John, people who used to impress everyone, but are now simply riding on the coattails of David Geffen's taste in music. Perhaps it's a mixture of both. Either way, not that interesting.

What I DO believe is that Olivier Creed has a direct hand in the formulation of Creed fragrances. I've covered that already here. I enjoyed the article, yet when I reached the comments section, immediately felt the cold chill of acrimonious sentiments from one Luca Turin (inaccurately - nay, antagonistically - described in the piece as a "pharmacologist", whatever that is). His simple remark: "If Mr. Creed is a perfumer, I'm a pharmacologist." So there you have it, Creed is not a perfumer, unless of course Chalmers was accurate in calling Turin a pharmacologist, which we all know is untrue - Turin is a biophysicist (Chalmers did contradict himself and refer to Turin as a "physicist" later in his piece).

I think Luca Turin painted himself into a little bit of an opinionated corner in regards to Creed by making this comment. Shortly after the release of the first edition of The Guide, Turin had a brief conversation with a basenoter about credit for Green Irish Tweed being bestowed upon Pierre Bourdon instead of Creed. The attribution was made by Michael Edwards in his ginormous Fragrances of the World database. Basenoter Eric writes,
"Bourdon listed as creator of GIT in Michael Edwards' database? And no doubt about this "fact" could be, like, an error or something? I hope Oliver isn't reading this, because this is ridiculous. Makes me wonder about this Michael Edwards database also."
To which Luca Turin quickly said,
"If you knew Michael Edwards and how he works, you would know that a) he doesn't make attribution mistakes and b) he discussed this with Creed. OC is listed as co-creator, btw."
So Mr. Turin fired the grand shot, and now, five LOOOOOONNNG years later, hits himself in the foot. He knows Michael Edwards, possibly as a friend. And Michael Edwards does not make attribution mistakes when it comes to perfume, and the labeling of "noses" in his database. Turin evidently spoke with Edwards, who divulged to him that a conversation with Olivier Creed yielded two authors for Green Irish Tweed - Pierre Bourdon, and Olivier Creed. As Michael Edwards is infallible in this regard, his attribution of GIT to both Bourdon and Creed is ironclad. It is therefore to be taken as evidence that, as co-creator, Creed is in fact a perfumer.

Now, if Creed is not a perfumer, that would require an admission by Edwards of one of two mistakes: either Edwards was lied to by Creed, and should have pursued a third-party corroboration of Olivier's story (why not talk to Bourdon himself, and gauge his reaction to the news of Creed claiming to be in the Green Irish Trenches with him), or Olivier never admitted to having a hand in the chemistry of GIT, and the database erroneously lists him as a co-creator, when in fact everything about the groundbreaking perfume came from the imagination of Pierre Bourdon.

How much leeway can be given to a person cited as co-creator when dealing with something as enormous as a perfume database? If Olivier comes to Bourdon and says, "Make it like Drakkar Noir, only with sweet violets instead of bitter leather," is that enough to call him the perfume's creator? Some might argue, "Well, he conceptualized it, and Bourdon simply followed his instructions, so therefore he deserves equal credit!" If that's the case, then why even bother hiring Bourdon? If Olivier had the olfactory vision (pardon the oxy-moron) down to the last note, and simply needed a chemist to deal with the technical aspect of putting it all together, he could have hired a chemistry student and hovered over the guy's shoulder for a few weeks, sniffing and re-sniffing each composition before exclaiming, "YES!" and phoning the design department about a bunch of opaque purple bottles.

Clearly, Bourdon was necessary for achieving a level of quality and balance that outmatches that of most contemporary masculines. Why he specifically was needed, and to what extent, will remain unknown. And that's the crux of my amusement with Luca Turin's harsh attitude toward Creed. So much about Creed is simply unknown. Yes, I know, industry insiders talk among themselves about who their class clown is, and apparently people "know" things about Olivier, like *gasp!* - he doesn't really hop out of the sack when inspired, and rush into a little lab to cook things up! And *LOOK OUT!* - his fragrances aren't exclusive after all! (Walgreens, you ASS. HOLES.) Still, there's something else going on here between good 'ol Luca and Ollie. Bad blood? Some nasty exchange when Creed headquarters was phoned about sending samples for The Guide? It's a strange case, probably something only Turin can clear up, as he's not mum on his feelings about Creed, and bound to no commercial secrecy, unlike Olivier, whose list of perfumer contracts is likely a mile long. To Turin's comment, I simply replied:
"I find it humorous that people like Turin discredit Creed at every opportunity. This weird notion that he's a fraud knows no proof and seems uncalled for - sure, he's hired professionals to compose things, but who's to say for certain whether or not he himself has composed things - in the same breath that Turin slams fragrances like Love in White (which I understand - that's a rough one, to put it mildly), he suggests that someone who is actually a perfumer probably plagued us with LiW, (and LiB, VIW, OV, OS) - these are not met with approval in The Guide. Yet . . . Olivier Creed is not behind them. Why not just say that he's a bad perfumer instead of not one at all?"
You can hope that someone will answer me, and clear it up. Or not. Whatever works best.












2 comments:

  1. Although he seems to be over-reaching himself, I can empathise with Turin's irritation. But for all that, the Creed/Turin vendetta puts one in mind of the old saw about academic politics being unusually vicious because the stakes are so very low.

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    1. You speak of Sayre's "old saw" I take it. For Olivier the stakes are a touch higher than people realize. The Guide was a bestseller. There is a distinct absence of other guides on bookshelves. To slam the brand is a targeted manner of "guiding" people away from Creed's profit margin. If we're to disbelieve most of what Olivier said in the interview, we're also to disbelieve in his unfamiliarity with Mr. Turin.

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