Every perfumista who’s not living on Newt Gingrich’s moon colony has probably already heard about Chandler Burr’s Untitled Series project, but just in case, the concept here is that you pay $50 for a 50 ml bottle of an unidentified perfume. You spend a month experiencing it without being influenced by its advertisements or marketing, and at the end of the month Mr. Burr reveals the perfume and explains why he chose it.
I was at the Sniffapalooza lunch at which Mr. Burr announced his Untitled Series. I found him very bright and very tall, and I didn’t get the impression that he was trying to run any sort of scam. I did get the sense that hardcore fumies are probably not the appropriate target audience for this project, as we’re so familiar with so many perfumes that most of us are fairly likely to instantly recognize at least a few of the Untitled scents.
Other perfume bloggers have already dealt extensively with the fact that 50 ml is too damn much perfume (especially if it’s 50 ml of Prada Infusion d’Iris, which was Burr’s first pick). What I want to talk about is the concept itself. Do we really need to ignore marketing to truly experience a perfume?
I can definitely think of at least ten perfumes that should be experienced in an unlabeled lab bottle rather than in their original packaging. For example, L de Lolita Lempicka is a scrumptious gourmand, but its blue bottle and mermaid ads suggest an aquatic perfume. If I hadn’t read reviews of L online, I never would have picked that bottle up off of the Sephora shelf. On the other hand, I always think back to a very savvy quote from perfumer Ineke Ruhland: “The average person has a rusty connection between their nose and their brain. I think it’s important to use visual cues to give some guidance as to what a fragrance will smell like, and for a niche brand without advertising, that has to come mainly from the packaging.”
I guess my opinion ultimately comes down to this: as a perfume lover, I want people to wear perfume, and I have to say that I don’t particularly care why they’re wearing it. So what if someone gravitates toward a perfume because they connected with its ads or packaging? There’s no right or wrong reason to be wearing a perfume. What am I, the goddamn perfume police? Am I supposed to be giving out citations to people who don’t have a sufficiently deep connection with their perfumes? (Because I might be willing to do that. I’d definitely have to hear the Perfume Police salary and dental plan first, though.)
What do you think about the Untitled Series project? Do you consider marketing and packaging to be helpful or detrimental when you’re experiencing a perfume?