Saturday, October 24, 2009

Thorsten Biehl - The Gallery of Perfums/Interview

Thorsten Biehl
Back in July 12 I brought for the first time the concept of Thorsten Biehl fragrances to the blog (click HERE to read). I loved the idea of treating fragrances as a piece of art and bringing together different personalities, different noses under one brand. We have seen this before in Frederic Malle (different noses creating for one brand), but this project is totally different. Biehl Parfumkunstwerke - olfaktorischen galerie is an olfactive gallery, managed by Thorsten who has the sensibility to choose the artists to be exhibited under the brand's umbrella. Each perfumer has his own personality and his own way to relate to the raw material. Each fragrance of the collection has a different story, different sensations and stories behind them. The perfumer is an artist and the highlight is his creation. The brand is only a place to exhibit the beautiful pieces created.
+ Q Perfume Blog succeeded to interview him between trips. It is a great opportunity for all of us to learn a different way to relate to fragrances. I am sure you will love it as much as I did!
The artists
+Q Perfume Blog: You have gathered 6 artists to compose the fragrances for your brand Biehl. Parfumkunstwerk. Six different personalities with different cultural backgrounds, and six different ways to relate to perfume. How was the process of choosing the perfumers? Did they have something in common?
Thorsten Biehl: During my 17 years as a fragrance developer, I have worked closely with a few dozens of perfumers worldwide. When the idea of the olfactory gallery started to grow in my head, I asked some of the perfumers I most admire for their style and creativity. The other thing they have in common is that they have started their careers in Germany.
+Q Perfume Blog: In terms of freedom to create, in what ways did you interfere or relate to their concepts? Did the project have a common line to follow?
Thorsten Biehl:The basic idea for the perfumers was to present some of their personal favorites they have developed without a specific customer project but for close friends or for themselves. If there is such a thing as a common line it would be the need to be different from existing perfumes and trends and the freedom of the use of raw materials and price restrictions. My part was to select the perfumes that I thought would be the most interesting to present to a broader audience.
+ Q Perfume Blog: What makes your brand so special is that perfume is presented as art and the brand is an olfactory gallery. Do you consider the art of making perfume to neglect their artists, when the creative minds are hidden behind major brands or fashion designers?
Thorsten Biehl: You cannot change the past, but you can certainly try to change the future. After more than a century of unknown perfumers behind prominent brands and people, I would like to turn the spot-light back to the creative minds in the perfumery business. Perfumer is one of the rarest professions with only a few hundred great noses worldwide. Instead of creating international commercial brands with little creative freedom, I opted to challenge their artistic side to create perfume masterpieces, not for the masses but for the true perfume enthusiasts.
+ Q Perfume Blog: Your father has created one fragrance for your gallery. Father and son joined in a journey to create art. Tell me a little bit about working with him.
Thorsten Biehl: It is a tremendous advantage to start such a project when you can count on the experience of more than 40 years as a perfumer. We have already worked together on various projects for more than 10 years while we were both at H&R. But the story of hb01, my father’s contribution to the gallery, is unique and it was the trigger for the basic idea. It was created to compete in a creativity contest in 1987 organized by the French Perfumers association, which for the first time allowed international perfumers to participate. His perfume won the first price and after the award ceremony in Paris I asked him who would buy this perfume to launch it. New to the perfume Industry, I have just started my career with H&R in ’87, his answer really astounded me profoundly: ‘Nobody, I guess, too expensive and special, not suitable for the mass market.’
+ Q Perfume Blog: Is there a place for new minds? Will you add new minds or new fragrances created by these perfumers?
Thorsten Biehl: Yes, as in art galleries, I am constantly looking for new exhibition pieces and artists, so there will be new perfumes and noses coming, but not in a hurry and in great numbers.
+ Q Perfume Blog: Does niche perfumery follow any kind of trend? Because it seems that now niche is becoming a trend itself. We saw in the past that some perfumers were signing their own creations, with a different approach and unlimited budgets. Today you can find hundreds of brands calling themselves exclusive niche perfumes. How to do see the future of niche perfumery? I would hate to see big companies buying and turning them into the new form of reaching the masses!
Thorsten Biehl: Difficult to tell, very complex question, I wouldn’t like to generalize. Even the name niche is not very suitable. Too many brands are called niche nowadays, which have nothing to do with real perfumery. One thing seems to be obvious: more and more consumers prefer smaller brands that transport a message of creativity and quality with a personal approach, not a multinational background.
+ Q Perfume Blog: We all know that the best raw materials the market can offer are in the hands of the big companies due to their power of purchase. How can a small brand compete with them?
Thorsten Biehl: This is true, that’s why I work with the leading perfume houses. Most important is the contact to the most creative perfumers and that you can convince them to work with you.
+ Q Perfume Blog: You have been traveling around the globe and absorbing different cultures. Where do you feel at home?
Thorsten Biehl: Home is where I live with my family, which is Berlin since last year. It is a great city with a high quality of living and lots of entertainment, yet plenty of green and water.
The sample set
Thank you Mr. Biehl for this interview. It is always very exciting to be able to get to know the minds behind the fragrances and the brands.
This blog will be reviewing your fragrances in the near future. It is also an opportunity to thank you so much for sending me the exquisite olfactive set of samples of your collection. It is like having a miniature of the real pieces!
Click HERE to the gallery


Karin said...

What a great interview! Thanks so much. I think his ideas bear repeating.

+ Q Perfume said...

Yes Karin, I agree 100%!
Biehl is really gifted!

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