With our eyes firmly on the fragrant horizon, and the current issue of our award-winning magazine The Scented Letter focusing on The Future of Fragrance; we’re somewhat obsessed with looking at the latest innovations in the world of perfume.
News of a machine that lets you mix your own perfumes at home certainly caught our interest, and we are so pleased to bring you a conversation between CPL Aromas – a world-leading fragrance house who always have their fingers on the pulse of perfume trends – and Abdullah Bahabri, designer of the crowd-funded device, named NOTA NOTA.
Described as ‘a new concept of mixing perfumes,’ NOTA NOTA is a small machine that allows the user to whip up a unique batch of perfume, the mixing pod designed to become ‘…part of your daily routine side by side with your coffee machine. So you prepare your perfume before you go out and wear unique perfumes for every day, night, mood and event.’
So what, CPL Aromas wondered, would ‘the YouTube of fragrance’ look like?
CPL Aromas: How did the idea of Nota Nota begin?
Abdullah Bahabri: It began when I met an Italian nose in Riyadh. He was working with a friend of mine developing a niche perfume store there. I took him to show him the city and we were talking about his passion, perfumery. At that time, I was interested in the so-called “third industrial revolution” and 3D printing as one of its implications. The day after I asked myself, what would a 3d printer for perfume be?
Personalisation is a big topic in beauty currently, and is something beauty companies are trying to get right. What do you think is the future of personalised beauty and fragrance products? What advice would you give to others starting a business within this realm?
The future is in personalisation thanks to the data, which future-oriented companies are working on collecting and analysing to provide their consumers with a personalised product. In the near future, companies will understand our preferences, behaviour and taste better than ourselves. This is the reality in online media already, and this concept is now coming to the consumer product. In terms of personalisation in consumer products, not all customers are designers so even if we agreed that the future is in customisation brands will still need to design their product.
I believe that personalisation in the consumer product has two phases. The first phase is when brands develop a personalised experience where the consumer designs their product and produces it, just like “NIKEiD – By you” from Nike. The second phase is when the brand helps their consumers to design and personalise products. In this phase, the company will reach a level where they understand the consumer and propose designs that the customer will fall in love with 9 times out of 10.
My advice for starting a business is to find a clever way to reach relevant data because it is the base for any successful venture in the personalisation era.
When you created Nota Nota, did you have the vision that the process of choosing a fragrance should be moved entirely away from the retailer and brands? Or do you think Nota Nota will not replace branded perfumes chosen in a retail space, but will just become another option for consumers?
Let me explain how I see NOTA NOTA by comparing it with drinking coffee. When I wake up in the morning, I usually have a Nespresso that has been made in a few seconds and costs me around a Dollar. In the afternoon, I take a cappuccino from Starbucks that costs me 7 Dollars and I enjoy a better coffee in a pleasant environment. For a date, I might go to a luxurious place where a coffee costs 20 Dollars. Each experience has its own moment, mood and cost. This is how I see NOTA NOTA in the world of perfumery. We believe we cannot replace the branded perfumes; some perfumers have been developing perfumes for years. However, we offer new experiences, your personal touch, a perfume for every new day and a perfume for your loved ones too.
Nota Nota also involves a strong social aspect. You describe social networks as a ‘stage’ that can allow the user to view the popular perfumes made by other users of the app. Why was that particular interaction on a social network important to you?
Sharing and interaction is an essential cornerstone for NOTA NOTA. Our mission is to democratise the industry. We want to give gifted perfume designers an access to audiences around the world. Think about filmmaking before YouTube. It was hard for individual filmmakers to reach audiences, YouTube came on the scene and gave filmmakers access to an audience. YouTube didn’t only give access to exciting filmmakers, but it also inspired others to start a career in filmmaking, with a new generation of YouTubers creating a new type of content. That is exactly what we want to do, which is why we have the sharing page as the home page in the NOTA NOTA app.
Tell us about the different Tolas that are available to blend in the machine. How did you decide on the smells for the Tolas?
When we started developing the Tolas, we asked the perfumer to suggest a list of ingredients that would allow consumers to create perfumes for tastes spanning gender and cultures. The perfumer developed a list of basic notes. After looking at it we decided that 12 was the right number to start with. The First 12 Tolas are basic notes such as vanilla, jasmine, musk, bergamot, and sandalwood. Moss, magnolia, and marine accords were chosen for the more Western tastes. The Eastern style Tolas are fragrances of oudh, amber, saffron and Taif rose.
Is there a way to test how the perfume smells when you are making it, so you know when to stop?
Yes, we have designed the experience in such a way that the design can be tested as you go. You add a couple of drops from different Tolas, which you can then try. If you feel that the NOTA needs enhancement you can add a drop or two from one of the other Tolas. You can do this until you reach the 25th drop which is the maximum number of drops in a NOTA.
You refer to the process of creating a scent with Nota Nota as ‘perfume design’. Why do you think blending perfumes isn’t often referred to as being design? How would you characterise the kind of creativity that a user of Nota Nota takes part in?
Design, for us is the process which the designer creates something out of inspiration. For us a chef is a food designer, a photographer is a scene designer and an entrepreneur is a company designer. The designer in our definition wants to experiment and learn how to enhance something. They make mistakes until they reach what they have in mind. What makes designers unique is the fact that they enjoy the process and feel excited when they come close to the vision they had in their mind.
[This article first appeared in Forecast, the trend magazine published by CPL Aromas vol 16 / Autumn Winter 2018 / 2019.]