PHLUR and the making of fragrance through music


Everyone uses music to set a mood; whether it’s romantic, melancholy, or upbeat, music moves us in a way that can greatly affect how we feel. But can music set… a smell? PHLUR, an Austin-based perfume house, believes that  fragrance is not only about smelling good, but about feeling good – it can make or break a mood just as much as music. It evokes certain feelings and memories, just as music does.

Phlur’s Beginnings

Eric Korman, the CEO, tells me how he came to create PHLUR. As the former President of Ralph Lauren Global E-Commerce, and former President of Ticketmaster, Korman has decades of business experience – including within the music industry. But it was his work at Ralph Lauren which led him to be involved in the production and selling of perfumes.

Although he was often involved in the business side of fragrance production, he was less so with the actual creation. However, after a visit to Barney’s, where he encountered a variety of high-end niche fragrances, his preconceived notions about what fragrance should be were totally altered. “I became a bit captivated… on the product side,” he says. “[But] as much as I liked some of those products, I hated everything about that experience. I hated the way the sales associate was speaking to me in this opaque language about notes and accords.”

Armed with his dissatisfaction of the fragrance industry – from the lack of diversity in fragrances, the monopolistic aura, the less-than-stellar methods of purchase – he blossomed his passive interest into a full-blown perfume house. And with PHLUR, fragrance wasn’t going to be about vaguely descriptive terms, like he had encountered when purchasing fragrances – it was going to be about capturing the essence of the feeling, the energy, and the emotions of fragrance.

Perfume in a playlist

For each of PHLUR’s fragrances, they create a playlist, or “soundtrack.” The goal of the soundtrack is to provide customers auditory insight into the experience the fragrance was designed to be; the soundtrack then tells the story of the fragrance in a much grander way than typical note descriptors. As Korman says, “Fragrance can elevate every moment of your day – from the most melancholy to the most joyful.” PHLUR allows customers to engage with every mood, place, and story that a fragrance encapsulates – every moment of the day – and there is no better medium to do this than through music.

To create the playlist, PHLUR, obviously, begins by creating the fragrance. However, rather than giving the perfumer a set of notes to base the fragrance upon, or an already existing fragrance to mimic, PHLUR gives the perfumers what Korman calls “rich, lush story boards.”  They give the creators sets of stimuli, part of which is music, to create the fragrance. So from creation to consumer purchase, the mood and setting of the fragrance is never lost – it’s part of PHLUR’s mission to keep the essence of the soundtrack the entire way through.

Keepin’ it local

For Korman, the goal is to make fragrance part of every situation and mood – just like music is. “We want to make those connections between fragrance and different arts,” he says. “There were a lot of through lines we could connect between how people think and talk about fragrance… with how individuals who are really lovers of music talk about different songs, or different concerts they went to.” Being based in Austin, a city profoundly in love with its music scene and all the emotions it has brought its people, PHLUR is definitely right at home.