Michael Kors’ Perfumer “I always leave a fragrance session with Michael Kors laughing and smiling. He’s so gregarious.” So says Trudi Loren, SVP of Product Development for the Estee Lauder Companies in New York City. She’s been working with Michael for almost 10 years now and understands his reactions to notes. “He likes to say the words ‘divine’ and ‘fabulous’ a lot,” she laughs. “He works from his gut reaction to perfume notes and he’s spontaneous. I quickly learned not to bring him overly sweet notes like vanilla. He once said to me, ‘Why would anyone want to smell like crème brule.’”
Loren spent time early on hosting raw material smelling sessions with Michael to understand his likes and dislikes. (A modern perfumer works with a palette of 2,000 different ingredients.) “Green notes and vanilla were on his ‘no’ list. But I was surprised that he really liked amber, moss and sandalwood. He always has customer in mind when creating a fragrance. He’s all about her many moods and how to express that in a fragrance.”
She says there is return to classic construction in perfumery. The quality of the raw ingredients is a key focus these days. “When you use quality ingredients you don’t need to use as much. A little of a very good oil for example is all you need to make an impact.” Michael is a big fan of jasmine so she spent a lot of time getting the perfect blend of jasmine beginning with jasmine sambac. “It’s very expensive but it gives you this textural, petally effect that floats to the top of a scent. It can cost up to $7,500 per kilo so perfumers use it sparingly. Egyptian absolute creates big volume in a scent and Transparent jasmine adds another veil to the fragrance.” She even likes Nature Print jasmine created in a laboratory for its dewy texture. It is this combination that creates an interesting texture and depth to a prestige fragrance.
Michael Kors & Jaime King
When it comes to working with Kors, Trudi says that they work at least a year in advance on the formulas. While she is creating and tweaking the scents, the marketing team and visual artists are creating the ad campaigns and instore visuals. One of the most challenging aspects of launching a new fragrance is the legal process of securing the rights to the name around the world. “Almost every conceivable name for a perfume has been registered so it is a challenge to find one that works in each country and culture.”
“A woman is sexy when she feels confident and fragrance is a big part of that,” explains Michael. “When I put the right thing on, everything changes. I honestly believe that glamour can be upbeat and fun. Everyone wants to look and smell great.” He says that tuberose and white flowers are how he’d describe the iconic Michael Kors scent. “I don’t want something too overtly sexy in a fragrance. I don’t want someone to smell my fragrance and ask ‘when did you get back from the Casbah?’ It has to have a level of sophistication and elegance.”
In the end, the success of any designer fragrance brand comes down to the relationship between the designer and the perfumer. Once there is a level of trust, both feel confident enough to challenge each other. And it is clear that Trudi and Michael have a close bond.