In late 2016, the men’s fashion and clothing retailer Markham, South Africa, commissioned Max Millies to design them an in-house, signature fragrance. Markham is part of The Foschini Group (TFG). TFG has 18 retail brands that sell clothing, footwear, jewellery, sportswear, etc. Markham has 320 stores across South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Ghana and Zambia.
The “Markham Lifestyle” offers a range of smart wear, casual wear, foot wear, accessories, cellphones and fragrances. While Markham sells designer perfumes such as Hugo Boss and Dunhill Icon, this anchor, store-owned perfume brand will complement their own brand identify and in-house brands such as Relay Jeans. If you look at their blog, it is all about their young, sexy, very cool, laid-back and relaxed style – whether the guy is dressed casually or wearing a suit. The look is definitely designed, upmarket and urban South African.
Getting to grips with the brand identity
This was a significant commission for Earthgro Fine Fragrances. The process from commissioning a perfume to getting it on the shelves in thousands of units, can take up to a year. (The perfume was on the market by December 2017.)
After Markham communicated their brand identity and matching fragrance preferences to Max Millies, in other words presented the “perfume brief”, he came up with the samples of possible perfume themes, usually presented as “fragrance strips”.
Underlying this first, time-consuming fragrance experience is hundreds of possible compounds and mixtures, but the essence on the fragrance strip must, in an instant, communicate the correct associations for the client, as described in the brief. Which words come to mind? What does it remind you of? Does it smell sexy, warm, or is it cool? Is it too flowery, or too woody? Is it fresh enough or does it need more green notes, or water notes? What makes it distinctly South African? Perhaps it is altogether not distinctive enough, or not dark and amber enough. In which case, it is back to the drawing board and another round of sniffing.
Of course, these associations are subjective interpretations by the client and perfumer, in the same way that a connoisseur interprets a wine, or a musician interprets a music score. The client is the expert on who their typical buyer is, and the perfumer is the expert on which odours and which compounds will achieve a match to that profile. A match – a love match as is often the case! – is a rare and fortuitous moment which means that the perfumer is a true professional.
Following that finalization, Max prepared samples of packaging options, as can be seen in this example above. This is the stage at which the Markham perfume was at March 2017. Once the mockups of the bottle and packaging have been signed off by the client, the perfume can go into production.