Now for something completely different

Last week the new Maxiamo Perfumes® website/blog went live, and I am well pleased with it, but most importantly, the owner, perfumer Max Millies, calls it “brilliant”. The previous website was basically a placeholder while Max established and grew his business. By now, Max’s clients include national fashion and lifestyle retailers like Old Khaki, Poetry Collection and Markham. The business luckily has its own ready-made USP – Max is one of very few people in South Africa who professionally creates fragrances, from the concepts to the bottles on the shelves of major retailers. He not only designs the perfumes to complement his clients’ brands, he also designs the bottles and packaging to their specifications, and his company produces the perfumes – a highly specialized, delicate process in a super-hygienic environment. He has been involved in the perfume industry, and growing the plants from which he extracts the oils to give the perfumes that special, South African something, for more than ten years. His track record has shown that Max has a most excellent “nose”!

The site came as a welcome distraction from the business of communications for mining clients, though I had been working with Max since about 2010, designing his brands. Now, the challenge is to keep blogging and to keep the website up to date with all the product developments.

How to make a smell come to life

Max Millies, the nose of Maxiamo Perfumes.

To create the new website, firstly, I had to learn about the perfume industry, organic chemistry, and the basic terminology that gets used. Secondly, I had to use all my creative abilities with art and music to “give shape to” or “reify” the fragrances that are the products of Earthgro Fine Fragrances, the division of Maxiamo Perfumes® where the perfumes are designed and manufactured. To create a picture of a pretty bottle is relatively easy, but how to describe what is in the bottle is the problem.

The most obvious words to use would be those that describe taste and smell, but perfumers, like French parfumeur Jean-Claude Ellena, the “nose” for Hermès perfumes since 2004, also describes fragrances in terms of colours. For instance, “dark red” would describe a floral or oriental scent. And, he explains, if colour doesn’t offer enough parallels there is always texture, for instance, “cold” and “smooth” for a fresh note. In addition to Ellena’s tactics, I used visual associations, both of the compounds that make up the top, middle and base notes of the perfumes, and the overall sensation and connotations that the combined ingredients would conjure up.

Unlike the glamorous but largely abstracted videos of many commercial perfumes that you see on TV, I wanted to keep the visuals as close to the ingredients as possible – images of citrus if there are citrus elements, roses if it contains Rose Odenol, or a red dress if the rose type is a red or pink Tea Rose. Sometimes I had to just make a leap of imagination. For instance, one perfume contains Patchouli, a scent that is so typical of an era that people call it “The Scent of the Sixties”, so in the video of that product, there is a laid-back guy driving a 60s VW Beetle.

But of course, as imaginatively as you try to depict it, perfume is invisible – you only experience it if you smell it. But the idea is that the site should serve as a showcase for Max’s work. And when the time comes for him to launch his own perfume under the Maxiamo Perfumes®  brand, the world will hopefully be watching – and sniffing.

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