A perfumer has the job of making perfumes. The majority of students may feel that they are not familiar with perfumers. Actually, this may not be true. Do you know the webcomic My ID is Gangnam Miin which is on the website Naver? Kang Mi-rae wants to become a perfumer and is the heroine of this webcomic. She is interested in fragrances and likes to collect perfumes. Recently, new stores have popped up where people can make their own perfume by mixing different scents they chose. This means people can experience the kind of work perfumers do. As interest in perfumers grows through the webcomic and self-making perfume stores, The UOS times interviewed Kang Mi-sun, a perfumer. She previously worked as a researcher in a perfume company and now she teaches students and runs a fragrance material store. She has been working in the perfume industry for some time, and has worked in various fields, such as researching, fragrance material store, and education for fragrance. Through her experience, you may get an understanding of a perfumer and a perfumer’s future.
01Is there a difference between perfumers working at stores and perfumers working at companies? People often mention an amateur perfumer. To become a professional perfumer, a perfumer should have about seven to ten years of experience as a researcher in a fragrance and flavor corporation. They have stages in research years, and experiences such as junior perfumer, perfumer, senior perfumer, and master perfumer. Nowadays, many freelance perfumers are showing up. However, most professional perfumers are working in fragrance companies.
02Should a perfumer be able to smell well? There is no problem if one does not have a great ability to smell something. When taking examinations, smelling is not difficult. A score of 50 out of 100 at a smelling test is enough to pass. It is more important to memorize and apply.
03 What are some important things to become a perfumer?
One essential thing is a chemistry major, then foreign language and patience. In order to be a professional perfumer, you should major in chemistry. Second, since all textbooks about scents are in English, Japanese or French it is an advantage if you are good at a foreign language. Also, most perfume material sellers are foreign corporations. When you buy fragrance materials with a foreign company, a marketing team from the fragrance company will mostly communicate with foreigners, but researchers should also understand what the company says, in that the final user of the perfume material is the researcher. Lastly, perfumers should study constantly. It takes about three months on average to make one perfume. When making them, a perfumer should try different mixes in different volumes every day. So, patience is also an important factor in becoming a perfumer.
04 Do perfumers have a retirement age? I have seen an 80 years old researcher, who was working in Givaudan, a global company in the fragrance industry. For perfumers, the retirement age is not meaningful. After retirement, perfumers can teach junior perfumers by passing on their know-how. They could also work as an advisor.
05 You started your career as a researcher in a perfume company. Now you are running a fragrance material store and teaching students who want to be perfumers. Why did you quit your job as a researcher and decide to teach students? I worked as a researcher for seven years. At that time, the social atmosphere toward working women was not good. The cognition that a married woman should leave a company was common. After I got married, I quit my job as a researcher in a perfume company. Two years later, a candle diffuser was starting to get popular. I thought that the diffuser market will expand. So, I decided to establish a company that sells diffuser materials. My expectation was right. In 2012, there was only one scent material store in Bangsan market. But now, the entire first floor is for fragrance stores. The reason I started to teach was that there was more demand for education about fragrances from people who sell perfume items to customers. By that time, I noticed some people who wanted to have fragrance stores, but did not have professional knowledge. So, I decided to open a kind of academy that teaches about fragrances.
06 It has been over one year since you started teaching. Who was the most impressive student you taught? The most impressive student to me was the first student, who now works as an art director. One day she suggested working together. It was at an exhibition and I made perfumes for the exhibition space. The concept was Christmas and I made three perfumes.
Now, we are still working together. We also did a project in the Walkerhill Hotel. It was for the Walkerhill Cherry Blossom Festival. I made a cherry blossom fragrance perfume and sprayed it on people’s wrists. I was so happy to see that people were satisfied with my perfume. Some even asked if they can buy it. When I worked together with the art director I managed the perfumes and she designed the perfume bottles.
07 What do you think about the prospect of perfumers? Do you recommend a perfumer as a job? I think the prospects of a perfumer are very bright in today’s market. The big demand of freelancer perfumers means a new market and new jobs could become available. Space design also belongs to it. Space can be changed by different scents.
People with allergic rhinitis will not be suited to this job, but for others, I recommend perfumer as a job. Until now, I have never been tired of my job, every day is different. I admit, it could be seen as repetition of the same work pattern, but every day I smell a new scent. As far as I know, most perfumers’ satisfaction with their career is very high. That’s why some people work as a perfumer even after they are 70 years old.
Kang Mi-sun advised students who wanted to be a perfumer, but are worried about their non-chemistry major, that they are not too late. Although a performer’s door is narrow, some people break through it.