Last month I attended the annual Future Laboratory trends briefing here in Sydney. The London based organization travels the globe preaching observations in the retail market and the effect mass and sub cultural movements have on our global society. Culture bunnies and Apple fans filed into Sydney’s historic Mint building eager to be informed of the upcoming trends before they read about it in Monocle magazine. Looking around at the fashion savvy people in the cue my friends and I couldn’t help but chuckle thinking we have been called to a casting for a Satorialist photo shoot.
This year’s trend forecast is a continuation of previous predictions. Generation D is born; a new digital era for children born between 1995 and 2002. Technology is the air they breathe. Geopolitical turbulence, the continuation of the GFC was discussed. Rises in social and corporate responsibility towards our communities. Society has begun a move away from un-interactive online culture, toward a culture of conviviality. Explorations of the five senses were all hot topic discussions.
It was at this time in the briefing my ears pricked. International Flavours and Fragrances (IFF) researcher Sissel Tolaas’ was mentioned. Her research projects were discussed in relation to consumer interest in engaging the sense of smell.
Sissel Tolaas, a Norwegian scientist is part of IFF’s research and development team and has created some media interest lately with her explorations into scent. Often described as a scent artist, Tolaas’ work explores the forensics of identity through the language of odour. In the past 20 years Tolaas has built a library of over 6730 molecules. Her work focuses on the nature of scent. As an artist she challenges her audience to not distinguish between good and bad smells. Tolaas collected sweat samples from a range of donors who suffered from panic attacks. Synthesizing their sweat scent Tolaas curated the exhibition (I Fear, 2006) at the MIT List Visual Arts Center in Massachusetts. Tolaas imbedded molecules of her donor’s synthetic scent into white paint used to paint the gallery walls. This micro encapsulation technology allowed the audience to scratch the wall, releasing the scented molecules into the air. Not only has she experimented with the scent of fear, Tolaas has also performed similar experiments on male prison inmates, creating the scents of white and blue-collar crime.
The result of her work and that of other scent artists is an open dialogue with a range of industries interested in advertising opportunities within the realm of scent. Adidas are currently exploring the possibility of a signature scent that will impregnate their product from shoes to clothing. There are rumours they will use David Beckham for the project. The idea being every time you buy their product you will smell of Beckham, one of the world’s most successful athletes. American Express is also exploring the possibility of scenting their credit cards with the smell of money. Research has shown this smell makes people spend more. Hotels are not new to scent branding. Walk into any Hilton and the scent is instantly recognizable. It could be your first stay in that hotel but you feel like you are returning to a familiar place having stayed at many Hiltons before.
If you are interested in the work of Sissel Tolaas pick up a copy of Mono Kultur, Issue 23. If you are lucky copies may still be available. The German magazine published Tolaas scratch and sniff work without imagery. Simply scratch and sniff the blank page and experience the scent of (men in the midst of a panic attack) revised. I hear the experience is quite confronting.
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