Columns Perfume Awards Discussion

Perfume Awards Discussion

05/17/17 11:15:52 (14 comments)

by: Elena Knezhevich


Am I against any awards or curated projects in the perfume industry? Certainly not. The curation process, as a big idea behind any award, helps to put a spotlight on originality and quality in perfume creation. Miguel mentioned my negative standpoint towards awards, and here I would like to clarify my point of view. For context, you can read Miguel Matos' article on Awards, and see a short description of 2 perfume awards below:
 


Fragrance Foundation Awards (FiFi) counts 44 years of existence since 1973, when it was established to serve the industry. Here I'd like to quote myself from an article about the history of FiFi Awards: "the FiFi Awards were founded to serve the industry, i.e. to honor the achievements of perfumers, perfume houses, manufacturers, promoters, sellers, etc. Their achievements in professional circles might not be the same as what consumers understand under this definition. For the industry, the success of a fragrance, along with its beauty, can also be counted in numbers of bottles sold." There are now many national FiFi Awards: FiFi UK, FiFi France, FiFi Russia, FiFi Arabia, etc., with their own funds and sponsors.

Art & Olfaction Awards counts 2 years, and was founded in 2015 by fragrance entrepreneur Saskia Wilson-Brown, who invited judges and found sponsors (the main sponsor is fragrance producer Mane). These awards invite independent perfume brands creations, here you can read about the rules and judges.
 


All my criticism is chiefly focused on the process of how awards are conducted. It is never ideal, and I hope that my remarks, along with others', will help to keep organizers accountable and true to their original promise and reduce the affect of favoritism, lobbying and other negative influences or actors that might affect awards.

The world of perfumery faces many significant threats. It is not just the simplifying of products due to following the taste of the general public, but even more the massive and shameless copying of any good ideas by greedy traders. New big markets, along with their benefits for perfume producers, bring challenges, which are especially huge for independent perfumers and brands; in a couple of words, it is called stealing. What is especially disappointing is that perfume producers themselves, big and small, participate in this fraud.

In this regard, any award used as an authoritative opinion helps us to keep away from encouraging frauds. Although competing in art does not make any sense, the process of filtering is necessary. We do not need to choose the best of the best, but knowing the circle of brands recognized by people of authority in the perfume community is tremendously important.

Bloggers and perfume fan groups, perfumers and influential individuals who communicate to the public (and awards could be considered as a way of communication), or in short – the education of a larger perfume community helps weeding the world of perfumery and supports artists. So, at this point, I can't say that I am against awards. But if we go into details, there are plenty of questionable subjects, such as judges, positioning, blind testing, etc.

First of all, I do not see the point in opposing the Art & Olfaction Awards to the FiFi Awards, because FiFi was established for the industry, not for consumers. The industry recognizes its players by a set of criteria important to the industry rather than the end user.

The Fragrance Foundation has yearly membership dues based on the company's gross revenue it makes by selling fragrances, and the number of votes correspond to this amount. For example, if your gross fragrance sales in the US exceed $950 million in 2017, you pay $90,000 for your membership to The Fragrance Foundation and get 9 votes for that money. Another example, if Fragrantica as a media company participated in the FiFi voting, we would pay $6,500 and have 1 vote. Fragrance retailers also are allowed to become FF members, they pay the same $6,500 and get 9 votes. As you can see, large companies and perfume retailers have the most influence in the FiFi Awards voting. Here you can find information about membership dues and votes for 2017. Decide for yourself, how relevant this voting system is.
 

https://www.punmiris.com/himg/o.9054.jpg


In this situation, independent or niche perfumery does need some type of platform to be visible, and the Art & Olfaction Awards have proclaimed itself as such.

I consider the Art & Olfaction Awards as an opinion, and as long as they co-exist with other sources of public education, including other awards and ways of recognition (and reviewing and spreading the word is one of the best of them), they will have my support. Perfumery, as any other art form, needs public attention and interpretation, but it does not need a helper or a nurse to broadcast on its behalf. Evaluations are made by certain people and will serve as a guidance for their admirers, but it certainly does not have any universal mission. I am for personalized choices: every suggestion for the best perfume or finding should have its author.
 

Art & Olfaction Award


My recommendation to Saskia and the Art & Olfaction Awards is to allow the perfume community to vote and nominate judges every year, and to make the pool of judges wider and more diverse. I am mostly against permanent members of the jury, because it exposes awards to bias of a small circle of people. There is also the big question around the submission of perfumes. I think there should be some program of public participation in the nomination of perfumes. It definitely has room for improvement and I am sure that public discussion will only help in this matter.

 

Elena Knezhevich founded Fragrantica together with Zoran Knezevic in 2007. Since then Elena has taken care of its design and content as the Editor-in-Chief.

Elena was born in Russia, studied Slavic languages and literature in Moscow, and lived in Sarajevo and Belgrade, where the idea of Fragrantica was born. Now she resides in California.

"I have had a nomadic life style since I was born, changing homes, cities and countries. I love having this island on the Internet that I built myself, to reach from everywhere and feel at home.



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ProfessionalWidow
ProfessionalWidow

This is all so interesting. We definitely have a long way to go to making these awards more valuable and less political. I think that there's a big movement now of more and more people appreciating and exploring perfume- I think helped largely in part by websites like fragrantica where you can fall down a rabbit hole of exploration. More awareness of and appreciation for perfume as more than just glorified deodorant hopefully will create the necessary public pressure for these awards to be conducted in a more balanced way. Not to mention, there are so many houses now, and mroe starting every day. Having more diverse voices entering the industry and community will hopefully mitigate these problems of a select few figures dominating the conversation too much.

May
22
2017
Flying Dutchman
Flying Dutchman

A very good and informative article, thank you.

I apologize for my nay saying, but I have my doubt about the objectivity of the O&A awards. I find it very suspicious that the moment the awards are presented in Berlin, Schwarzlose Zeitgeist EDP wins an award. This perfume does not garner a lot of interest on Fragrantica ( 20 votes, 3 posts) and reactions are underwhelming to put it mildly.
Too much of a coincidence that the home juice won, IMO.

Not a good sign and this does not give confidence that the best wins.

May
18
2017
motto1410
motto1410

Just a factual correction - A+O Awards was founded in 2013, that makes 4 years now.

May
18
2017
Aela
Aela

What an interesting article! I think organizing the A+O Award requires so much effort and work from Saskia and her team, we should honour this fact. Improvements like involving the perfume community and a program of public participation could triple the hours they spend to make this amazing Award happen. If I am for these suggestions I should offer some kind of help, support, whatever.

May
18
2017
johngreenink
johngreenink

I appreciate your frank assessment of the award system here, and putting context to how they operate. It's very helpful to readers, who may not know how very different the Fragrance Foundation awards are judged compared to Art & Olfaction. When we know the criteria by which something is judged, it helps us understand the importance of an award. It also helps to know what importance it plays for us. I also agree that ultimately people decide the merit of something through its use.

This kind of discussion between Fragrantica writers is vital and totally transparent, and tells readers that we're willing to disagree and yet explain why. It's what makes journalism in fragrance alive and well. Thanks to both of you.

May
18
2017
StellaDiverFlynn
StellaDiverFlynn

Regarding blind testing, I think the current rules set by A&O awards are a fair exemple. In the link provided in Miguel's article, they stated that creative briefs submitted by perfumers are presented to the jury, but with identifying information blacked out. They encourage the jury to read them before smelling, and there is a scoring category dedicated to how well the scent fits the description.

May
17
2017
Filomena1941
Filomena1941

Great Post. Thank you Elena!

May
17
2017
I.D.Adam
I.D.Adam

With regard to the Art & Olfaction Awards, I believe submission should be left to the perfumer/brand otherwise some very creative people will never be nominated due to relative obscurity. I imagine a fair number of artisanal perfumers prefer to remain small but the A&O awards allow them the chance of artistic acknowledgement. When the public votes or submits it becomes more of a general popularity contest. In fact, I would wish for the A&O program to remain small in scope as it is now. The idea of a rotating judges panel is one that has merit.

May
17
2017
jeca
jeca

My opinion about awards was more negative when we started our conversation with Miguel, but at the Beauty World I realized that copying perfumes and in general their production on such a commercial level will totally ruin perfumery, and we have to do something about it. Awards could make a very good tool, if are properly done.

May
17
2017
jeca
jeca

For perfume nomination, I agree. Maybe they should still be submit by brands, but people could submit their recommendations and then awards organization could contact brands based on them... I also not quite agree with blind testing. Sometimes perfume esthetics is more than smell. A good example is Secretions Manifique - without knowing its story, you can't judge it propely.

May
17
2017
janjanjan
janjanjan

How do the Oscars do it (and do people think that's a good system?) Might be a handy guide...

May
17
2017
StellaDiverFlynn
StellaDiverFlynn

Thank you Elena for this informative and great article! Knowing that FiFi is meant for the industry insiders, it makes more sense to me now.

I agree wholeheartedly that the jury for A&O awards should not be permanent, but I'm not sure if it's better that the submission of perfumes and the choice of jury are entirely in the hand of the general public, as it might undermine the goal to shed light on some obscure but quality brands. Maybe something along half-half?

May
17
2017
perfumecritic
perfumecritic

Beautifully put, Elena! Thank you for the lucid argument, not so much against awards, but how to make them more valid and meaningful. :)

May
17
2017
smellagent
smellagent

I agree with you!

May
17
2017

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