Start by tuning into the world of scents around you, in order to hone your sense of smell and make it sharper and keener. Sample different fragrances, and reflect on their composition. The key to designing perfumes and scents is a deep knowledge of what makes a great aroma, so make your everyday life and experiences a part of your desire for becoming a perfume designer. Passion is the key to becoming a great perfume designer, and you can intensify it by allowing it to suffuse your daily life – e.g. spend spare time at your local perfume counter, or at a flower garden, immersing yourself in scents.
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Next, pursue a degree in chemistry – this will be essential, in order to help you understand the intricacies and nuances of combining and creating scents, and gain advanced knowledge about the olfactory system. This will aid you in learning the chemistry behind scents and aromas, how to make them last longer, how to create a stable product, and how to make shorter or longer base notes. For these purposes, a Bachelor’s or Master’s in subjects like chemistry, organic chemistry, or biochemistry can be a major boost.
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Once you have a university degree in the required subjects, it is time to specialise. Enrol in a specialist course for perfume design. These are available at various institutes around the world, so spend some time on the internet hunting for a suitable course that appeals to you. France is a great place for a budding perfume designer – you can check out the Grasse Institute of Perfumery and the Givaudan perfume school which offers a free three-year long course in perfume design. However, admission is highly competitive, as they only admit five students per year. The Institut Supérieur International du Parfum (ISIPCA), located in Paris, also offers a Master’s in perfumery. Other options include the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in San Francisco.
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Alongside your specialist studies, keep a close eye on the perfume business, and study perfume marketing. Stay up to date with the latest trends, the most popular scents and fashion products, and what’s new and happening in the scent industry.
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Finally, once you have gathered the required knowledge and degrees, start work with a perfumer to learn the trade. It is likely you will start out as an assistant or intern, so make use of your proximity to the work you are interested in, and learn the ropes – if you show enough talent and passion, you might be promoted and selected for specialised perfume design training. When selecting work, you can either opt to work with a fashion house that manufactures their own fragrances lines, or a larger company which uses scents in the thousands of products they manufacture – e.g. Proctor & Gamble.
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