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Why I Joined Osmo

May 31, 2023
Christophe Laudamiel

My name is Christophe Laudamiel, Osmo’s new Master Perfumer. I compose fragrances in many formats, from art gallery installations to large commercial projects.

The artform can be a fine fragrance for skin, a shampoo for hair, a printed paper or a fabric. It can also be airborne, which I call “scent sculptures”: creating and playing scents in the air with different “scent players,” some of which I have to invent myself with engineers or via a romantic candle.

I’m delighted to tell you why I joined Osmo, but first a few words about what it means to be a master perfumer, and my background in the profession.

Mastering the Art

Due to the complexity and the rarity of the art, there are only a few master perfumers in the world. A master perfumer must compose fragrances using 2,000+ “moving” unstandardized notes. These notes are used by perfumers with no theory of perfume composition to rely on to this day at the level of music theory or Photoshop. Instead, the art is learned via trial and error, like dancing or playing an instrument, except our learning happens only in the brain. Formal perfume education is extremely hard to access, with only three or four academic schools in the world. Practicing with a master perfumer – as with master painters, or Sifu and Sensei in martial arts – allows you to accelerate and hone your skills in the jungle of so many ingredients and variables. I was fortunate to train with several, but these master trainers are rare. Even rarer are master perfumers with a strong background in chemistry and technology, who have collaborated all along with scientists to invent new media to play scents or new molecules to build new scents.

My Background

Over the last 20+ years, I’ve worked at or with prominent industry companies including Procter & Gamble and International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), Firmenich and Mane, and the largest air management company in the world (FlaektWoods); founded my own company, DreamAir studios; composed top 10’s scents for fashion and beauty houses such as Abercrombie & Fitch (Fierce), Béyoncé, Clinique, Tom Ford, Thierry Mugler, Ralph Lauren (Polo Blue for Men), and for numerous niche brands. I have received numerous awards, from chemistry medals and a CNRS Award to the only “Education Award” ever presented by a Fragrance Foundation and a lifetime achievement award from the Los Angeles Institute of Art and Olfaction.

So the natural question is:

Why on earth would an accomplished master perfumer join a machine learning startup based in Cambridge MA, funded by Google and led by a neuroscientist?

Art/Science Symbiosis

I’ve learned that artists must collaborate with scientists and technologists to develop new forms of expression, new instruments, new pigments, new electronic effects, or new fragrance materials. Simply put, science and technology allow the art to push beyond its own artistic frontiers – and ultimately to create new emotional rides for people. In turn, artistic projects allow scientists to put their new hypotheses or their new discoveries to test before making them viable in the commercial market.

Consider the symbiosis between music composers and sound engineers. Music composers need (and like) to work with world-class sound engineers to extend their creative frontiers and to respect their art. Sound engineers need (and like) to work with world-class music composers to create new emotions and atmospheres to excite the public. My entire career I have crisscrossed between scent composition and scent engineering (which is not taught at perfumery school, nor in any university that I know of).

Osmo has identified this symbiosis as necessary in the fragrance space and on its team from the day it was founded in 2022. Entrusted first with a special consulting and creative mission, I have now become Osmo’s in-house staff perfumer, working with our scientists and technologists to extend our creative and commercial frontiers.

Commitment to Ethics

Very importantly, the symbiosis within Osmo is also happening on the human and ethical side. As a company, Osmo is registered as a Public Benefit Corporation, which is quite unusual in our profession. I could not join a company without assurance of strong ethical standards that I have learned in academia at Harvard and MIT, and in the corporate world at Procter & Gamble. I have created the only ethical standard to date that applies specifically to the perfume industry, and am a fierce advocate for more transparency around fragrance ingredients and fragrance reality. At Osmo, we have already begun discussing how we could define a code of ethics for perfume activities from classical perfumery all the way to “olfactory AI.” In our decisions and actions, we commit to respecting perfumers, farmers and chemists, and to creating a healthy environment for molecules and naturals in formulas.

Back to My Future

Finally, I am so happy that Osmo is based in Cambridge, MA. Tucked between famous universities and private research centers, Cambridge and Boston are areas where I used to hang out, day and night, as a student at MIT and faculty at Harvard. It is very touching to return to those study and play grounds. But it’s more than personal for me.

I have always believed that scientists in olfaction do not experiment with ingredients enough and do not sniff enough. We’re going to change that and build, in Cambridge, a great library of ingredients and a world-class perfume studio where one scientific experiment will lead to the next. One can find a music recording studio just about anywhere on this planet, even on remote islands. Perfume studios are rare. We’ll have one in New York, one in Cambridge and one, already made available via BélAir Lab, in Japan.