Berlin perfumer Geza Schön is an industry rule-breaker. Just as the Bauhaus School dispensed with anything superfluous, the fragrance purist has used functional finesse to create a global success story
A modern perfume is not simply a fragrance. It is an intricate composition, unfolding in a choreographed sequence: there is the top note, which defines a perfume’s first impression; then the middle note, which shapes its character; and finally the base note, which blends with the skin’s own scent and is the reason why every perfume smells subtly different on different people. Even something as fleeting as a fragrance has structure. “Linearity and complexity – those are the characteristics of any good perfume,” says Geza Schön. “But that does not mean that it has to be complicated.” The Berlin perfumer is seen as a rebel in his field – firstly because he no longer works for a label, but produces his fragrances himself. But mostly because he has broken with the rule that a new perfume always has to be a combination of those two thousand tried-and-tested ingredients that all perfumers use when they want to create a fragrance. No one would have dreamed of using only a single fragrance ingredient for a new perfume. No one – except Geza Schön.
“It doesn’t take a genius to do this,” he says, “you just have to be able to think outside the paradigm.” Here, Geza Schön’s philosophy meets that of Walter Knoll. Just as the perfumer extracts the very essence of a fragrance, Walter Knoll emphasizes the origin of both material and function. A chair is, and remains, a chair. Leather, stone and wood are effective because of their natural qualities. Refined purism was central to the Bauhaus School – drawing a clear line, beyond which lurked the arbitrary. Until now, in Geza Schön’s industry the rule was that the more complex the composition, the more meaningful the fragrance would become. More was more: richness was created through quantity. This is a way of thinking in many industries. In perfumery, this led to a situation where fragrances were becoming increasingly similar – until Geza Schön brought “Molecule 01” onto the market a few years ago. A perfume that takes the opposite path, back to simplicity, clarity, reduction. A perfume that springs from a new way of thinking, as effortlessly elegant as a Bauhaus design.
“Molecule 01” contains just one, single, synthetically produced molecule. It is called “Iso E Super” and has been used as a component in perfumes since the 1970s, but always in limited quantities. Geza Schön was introduced to it while training to become a perfumer at a large German fragrance manufacturer. One evening, he showed it to a friend in a bar – whereupon, less than ten minutes later, this friend was approached by a woman asking about his fragrance. The perfumer never forgot it. “Iso E Super smells woody, dry and warm, but also has something skin-like, velvety,” says Geza Schön. “It is sexy, but it doesn’t get on your nerves.”
Geza Schön worked for the large German fragrance manufacturer in Singapore, London, New York and Buenos Aires for twelve more years before he turned the idea for his own fragrance into a reality. Now, his clients include stars such as Kate Moss and Lionel Messi. He would not say that he has a better nose than other perfumers. In truth, a good perfumer does not actually work with his nose; he works with the whole wealth of associations, memories and hidden desires that a fragrance brings out in a person. “Everything we smell is emotion,” says Geza Schön. “None of our other senses is triggered so much by our feelings.” Sometimes the path to great emotion seems simple.
Geza Schön began to collect samples of men’s perfumes at the age of thirteen. After graduating from high school, he spent twelve years working in the global perfume industry. In 2005, he founded the label Escentric Molecules in Berlin-Kreuzberg. Here, he develops fragrances, some of which are based on just one molecule.
Text: Marcus Jauer