FrontRunner: Making Scents

Selecting a fragrance is a personal exercise, and no scent could be more personal than one custom-made from scratch. Last fall, Jean Patou Paris (+ introduced Parfum-Couture, a program that invites women to participate in the development of their own fragrance. Jean Patou’s master perfumer, Jean-Michel Duriez, meets with each client in Paris (or in the location of her choosing) to learn about her personality traits, sense of style, and scent preferences during a day of dining, shopping in flower and spice markets, and sampling pure essences. Duriez then concocts three sample fragrances and requests feedback from the client. The exchange and modification process can last from a few months to a year, after which the client may christen her perfume.


The fee for Parfum-Couture, which starts at approximately $60,000, includes what Patou calls “the source”—a cube of Baccarat crystal that holds a liter of the fragrance and serves as a reservoir for refilling the accompanying Baccarat 90-milliliter and purse spray bottles. The house of Patou keeps the confidential recipe on hand for subsequent refills; the scent is not available to anyone else unless it is bequeathed.

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