How to design a runway scent for fashion week

How to design a runway scent for fashion week

All senses in

Text: Adibah Isa

Image: Getty Images,

What does fashion week smell like? Singapore-based scent designers AllSense shares what it takes to perfume a runway

It's the last leg of the womenswear fashion season for fall/winter 2016 — and after making their rounds in New York, London and Milan, fashion editors, executives and enthusiasts are finally reaching the end of their style world tour in Paris. Ah, the city of love — where the smell of freshly baked baguettes perfumes the air, along the with the occasional ammonia assault in the pee-stained metro. How charming. But what does the inside of a Parisian fashion show smell like?

A scent heads straights to our brain as it gets charging on memory-association, putting two and two together. For Marcel Proust himself, it took a tea-soaked madeleine to recall long-forgotten memories from his childhood in
In Search of Lost Time. Olfactory association's a funny — if not intriguing — thing, and it's something Terry Jacobson has been involved in for the past decade.

He's the chief experience officer of AllSense, a Singapore-based company that specialises in environmental scenting — quite simply, designing a fragrance to match a space. The South African native stumbled across the idea to design scents for spaces some 10 years ago. "This was my calling, not only working with brands and businesses, but also being involved in the powerful role our sense of smell has in our day to day life," he shares.

And what a powerful role that is — scents permeate through without you even realising that there's a group of designers responsible for those notes. AllSense has designed scents for the likes of South Beach, Four Seasons, Singapore Air Show, ION Orchard, Halloween night at Universal Studios, and the Andy Warhol exhibition at the ArtScience Museum. Quite simply, if you can think it, AllSense can scent it.

Which is why they're the right guys to scent the likes of a fashion show such as Singapore Fashion Week (SFW). Last year, the team created two distinct scents to adorn the runway, with one of them described as a "sophisticated creamy floral accented with canilla, cedarwood, jasmine and musk". Continuing their partnership with SFW as their Official Ambience Scent, we caught up with Jacobson to find out how to scent the runway.

Terry Jacobson

Seeing as it's going to be your third year in the row working with SFW, how has your approach to designing scents changed over the years?
Each year we look at the show, new themes or trends in fashion and fine fragrance as well as trending global and local sentimentalities. We use the previous year's official fragrance as a starting point and then move things in a new direction.

How closely do you work with the designer or the production team in creating these scents? 
In the case of SFW, we work very closely with the production team, from understanding key themes for the festival, international trends and of course local preferences. Weather plays a role with fashion as well as with fragrance!

What aspects of a fashion brand's identity do you take into account when creating the scent? Do you look at their typography, target market, mood board, models and such?

The key to designing the best fragrance profile is ensuring harmony across all sensory touch points, so what you are seeing, hearing, touching and even tasting, are all in line with the expectations of what you are smelling. Additionally understanding the show audience will ensure greater consistency.

Where are the key festival touch points within SFW where the scents can be experienced?
The first key touch points are the entrance, which is the point of arrival and departure, so enhancing the sentimentality and emotion of the total show experience at this physical location is very important. In a way it is a mood defining moment. The other touch point is the show hall, ensuring there is impact at point of entrance into this space as well as a lingering experience that permeates the runway and up into the rafters.


How important do you think scent is in bringing together a complete fashion show experience?
There's a lot of research out there that shows how what we smell has a greater influence on our emotions than any other sense (what we hear comes second). The positive effect scent can have on our mood, memory and emotion is incredible. More research shows that our sense of smell has a positive knock on effect on our other senses, so for example what we see, hear and taste will also be better thanks to the right scent.

What are the different scenting mediums do you suggest for a personal space such as a bedroom?
Candle, reed diffuser, room spray or other devices...these media are formulated a bit differently so the experience and the types of scents best suited to each will vary. If you like a fleeting fragrance experience similar to spritzing on perfume, I would recommend a room spray, as usually they contain alcohol which gives you a bright sparkling effect but the moment won't last! The way to deliver a scent is subtly, so it's a background cue rather than an in-your-face experience — it's not about interruption at all.

What sort of scents you recommend for someone who wants to evoke a scent for menswear and womenswear show in their homes respectively?
Broadly speaking, if you are designing an aroma based on menswear, you should look for aromatic (grassy spicy) notes mixed with woods and a hint of water and citrus. For womenswear, floral notes mixed with woody orientals and moss, and a hint of citrus.

AllSense will be launching Pollen, a unique scent diffuser at Maison&Objet Asia 2016 (M&O Asia). For more on M&O Asia, click here.