Ready To Wear: Perfume – it's liquid rock'n'roll, you know

 

While most women wear perfume, few are conscious of the work that goes into its creation.

It's a fascinating process – from the concoction of the scent or "juice" itself courtesy of "the nose" – to the packaging, marketing and promotion that runs the gamut from openly heavy-handed to so discreet one might not even realise it is there.

The first in a new documentary series on the subject – it's called Perfume, which is straight to the point – sheds light on a relatively unexplored world. "Something Old, Something New" is this episode's subject and it follows the path of two different scents from the perfumer's laboratory to the store.

On the one hand, there's French Guerlain, today owned by LVMH, but among the oldest and most revered companies of its kind. On the other is Tommy Hilfiger, an American super-brand best known for its jeans.

Enter the chateau of Jean-Paul Guerlain, a fourth-generation perfumer, and be greeted by flower-filled gardens and an opulent interior straight out of a preternaturally chic costume drama. "The most beautiful woman in the world takes off her clothes and what's left is her voice and her perfume," he purrs.

M Guerlain's deputy, Thierry Wasser, pictured above, and Guerlain perfumer in ascendant, is the first non-family member being groomed for this position. He is working on a new interpretation of Shalimar – a daunting prospect.

Over in Manhattan and a different story is unfolding. In the offices of Estée Lauder, creator of fragrances for the aforementioned Hilfiger, Loud is in development. Described as "liquid rock and roll" it is created by bright young noses and comes in a bottle that looks like an album: coloured pink for girls and black for boys. Simple and effective.

The most high impact moment comes from M Guerlain himself. Halfway through filming, and in October last year, he was forced to step down due to racist comments made during a TV interview.

An embarrassed Wasser, now thrust into the limelight, is forced to admit that a man who has been a father figure has behaved in a way that is "crass... from another time... It is very sad and disturbing to me." Not everything is as fragrant as it seems.

Perfume, 9pm, 28 June, BBC4

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