Trusting The Customer - Emmanuelle Moeglin of Experimental Perfume Club on the Launch of Layers 02

Emmanuelle Moeglin
Of all the perfume brands to have hit the market in recent years, perhaps the most innovative - or the most foolhardy, depending on how you look at it - is the London-based Experimental Perfume Club. Founded a mere four years ago by French, ISIPCA-trained, chemistry graduate Emmanuelle Moeglin, its retail product is essentially a make-your-own-blend kit. Called Layers, it consists of an empty bottle, a plastic dropper, an instruction booklet and three scents- a Top, a Mid and a Base - which can be worn as standalone fragrances, but which have also been orchestrated in such a way so that they can be combined with each other in any permutation the customer wishes.

Amber / Iris
Want something heavy on the drydown? Add a few touches of Top and Mid to a large dose of Base. Or maybe you fancy a lighter, more fleeting scent? Take a generous chunk of Top and give it a tiny bit of oomph with a hint of Mid and Base. It's a cliche, but the possibilities really are almost endless.

Although Layers is currently the most prominent public face of EPC - the first kit launched at Liberty in 2018 and Layers 02 is available at Harvey Nichols from May 2019 - the brand didn't actually start life with a saleable product. Indeed, Moeglin says that when she set up the company, she didn't think she'd end up formulating fragrances for it. After a childhood of being obsessed with smells and scents - her parents always told her she'd have her own perfume one day - and following several years as an evaluator and fragrance development manager at none other than Symrise, Puig and L'Oreal, she decided that what she wanted to do was share her love of perfume creation by setting up a series of day-long workshops in London at which attendees could learn the basic principles of perfumery and then apply them to making their own, rudimentary creations.

Fig / Neroli
“Originally, EPC was very much a passion project,” Moeglin says. “It started out in my bedroom. For about a year before I quit my job, I was doing it on the side, at weekends. I was doing maybe one workshop a month. I didn't have a studio then. Workshops then became a perfume lab, and then I started taking on projects as an independent perfumer.”

It was the increasing demand for her perfumery skills that led to her considering the formation of her own scents.

Jasmine / Osmanthus
“I thought I'd keep on doing only workshops, to be honest. But I'm always striving for what's next. I was very focussed on the workshops, but they're very energy-draining and I thought I was repeating the same thing. I was trying to think of a way of getting out of my routine, and I was starting to formulate for other brands, so I thought I'd start formulating for my own brand.”

With the help of a designer, the idea for Layers 01 began taking shape and took a year to develop.

“There are a million brands around today,” Moeglin explains, “and a lot of ‘me' brands. I didn't want to be another brand with another ‘me' perfume. In my workshops, I was teaching all these incredible individuals, who were showing me that people are not dumb and that they can blend and can understand the basic principles of perfumery. So I thought I'd do that in a retail collection. Why not create perfumes that can be blended together?”

Bergamot / Incense
The concept presented a significant technical challenge, not only because Moeglin wanted each component to work as a bona fide scent on its own, but also because she had to consider the range of possible blends that customers could come up with, all the while making sure that any permutation would comply with legal guidelines and anti-allergen recommendations. To accomplish this feat, Moeglin had to approach “a lot of regulatory people” and call on the support of various friends and experts.

“It is complicated, but I'm also surrounded by professionals who can advise me and help me, because I come from the industry myself. The way I formulate has to be minimalist, because we're blending a few different things together. And the challenge was to make a minimalist fragrance that smells nice and finished. One of my biggest fears is that people start mixing the Layers scents with perfumes that aren't ours, but of course we can't take any legal responsibility for that. We've pointed out the importance of safety to our consumers.”

Having solved the conundrum with her initial Layers trio, she then had to repeat the trick with Layers 02, while striving to ensure that the Top from 01 could successfully be blended with the Mid from 02, and so on.

“It is a bit of a jigsaw,” she says, “and I had to think about it onpaper. I had to think of another three parts of a bigger picture. I knew that I wanted to do an amber, so I went from that. And a friend said I should do a green note, because green and amber are not often seen together. It was all a chain of thought, and eventually I started working on a rose [for the Mid], knowing it would be fresh.”

Rose / Rhubarb
Moeglin stresses that although the visuals and packaging of Layers display a strong, youthful, Pop Art sensibility, the most important aspect of her work remains the process of composition.

“The cost of my juice is high. I've followed my nose when making my formulas, and sometimes when I enter them into my software and I see the cost, I'm shocked. Amber Iris, the Base from Layers 02, is extremely, extremely expensive. I haven't communicated that to people so much, and I'm not sure why. I mean, how can you say to people, ‘My juice is £300 a kilo. You'd never see that type of price on the market.' People just wouldn't understand. Our brand is not bling. Our retail price is very affordable. And I've always prioritised the juice and the quality of ingredients. I hope it's something people can smell.”

Sandalwood / Musk
And as she heads into the next chapter of what has been a period of extremely rapid change and growth, does she still remember how she felt when she saw Layers 01 on the shelves at the perfumery department in Liberty?

“It was amazing, because that was always my go-to perfumery in London. I couldn't believe it when they accepted to take us. When I saw the window, it felt like the dreams of a young girl coming true.”

About the author
Persolaise is a four-time Jasmine Award winning writer with a lifelong interest in the world of fine fragrance. His perfume guide, Le Snob: Perfume, is published in English by Hardie Grant and in German by Süddeutsche Zeitung. He has written for Sunday Times Style, Grazia, Glass, The Scented Letter and Now Smell This, amongst others.

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