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Bella Interview: Chandler Burr, Perfume Critic


Yesterday I wrote about The Perfect Scent, Chandler Burr's fascinating book about a year in the perfume industry. (You can read an excerpt to find out why I'm so smitten with his prose.) When it comes to fragrance, Burr is one of the world's most knowledgeable experts. That's why I was so excited to speak with him about everything from celebrity scents to perfume shopping. Check out the first part of our interview, and be sure to come back tomorrow for more.

Both fragrances that you wrote about — Un Jardin Sur Le Nil and Lovely — have been successful. But what kind of story might have happened if they hadn't been?
I thought about that a lot, actually. I was very, very happy to be able to write about two perfumes that I really liked, two perfumes that were commercially successful. Had they not been, I really don't know. Julie Salamon was invited to follow the making of a movie. She did the same thing I did, but with The Bonfire of the Vanities. The novel was called The Devil's Candy. It was about the making of an absolutely disastrous movie. If that had happened to me, I would have done the same thing.

For Chandler's thoughts on celebrity fragrance, read more.

You wrote about Lovely, and it was a phenomenal hit. When a celebrity-backed fragrance does well, is it usually because of the scent itself or the celebrity factor?
The first three months is entirely the celebrity, and then the juice kicks in. If you create a juice that's a piece of crap, then people simply are not going to buy the second bottle. It's the second-bottle phenomenon. The second bottle is about the juice — virtually always. It doesn't matter who the star is or how much you love him or her; people are simply not going to buy that second bottle if the juice isn't good.

I think Britney Spears Curious is a good scent. Jennifer Lopez Glow is a good scent. Paris Hilton's first perfume, made by Steven DeMercado, is a good scent—not great, but it's a good standard, commercial, competent perfume.

Come back tomorrow for more of our interview!

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