Tuesday, 2 September 2014

"Everything Is Fluid" - An Interview With Andy Tauer (part 1)


An odd little fact. Over the course of the last four years, I've been fortunate enough to publish interviews with several prominent industry figures here on Persolaise.com, but amongst their august number, one name has been missing: Andy Tauer. I've reviewed pretty much everything the Zurich-based perfumer has made and I often cite him as an example of all that's best about 'niche', but I've never posted a Q&A with him.

One reason for this is that he doesn't come to the UK very often. Another is that I try to avoid interviews by email; I much prefer face-to-face interaction. However, Tauer is just about to release Gardenia - the first scent in a new range entitled Sotto La Luna - so he and I both decided that this would be a perfect time for me to add his moniker to this site's Interview page. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to chat to him in person, but rather than just sending him a set of questions and waiting for his responses to come back, I suggested that we could aim to replicate a 'real world' discussion by entering into a relatively free-flowing e-conversation. The results of our dialogue are below; part 2 will be published tomorrow and part 3 the day after that.

Enjoy!

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Persolaise: So tell me, why did you decide to create another sub-line within your range? Why couldn't Gardenia just have been within the regular Tauer range? Is it something you feel you have to do bring attention to your work in a market which is ridiculously saturated?

Andy Tauer: This market IS over-saturated. And imploding. The other day, I made a post on my blog about it, and the comments there told me that I might be right. The name of the niche game is changing.

Somehow, ironically, I have the feeling that the saturation and the tiredness of the consumer actually help me. I have, sort of, a reputation for doing things my way, differently, and am blessed with a very loyal client base. Therefore, I do not have to create a lot of attention. I mean: How could I, really? I am no multimillionaire who can pump his millions into perfumes and press coverage, nor do I like to talk too loud. Why come up with a separate line for Gardenia? Strange: for me, this was never a question, really. Since I started working on the idea of (white) flowers in the night, blooming under the moon, and when I started composing following this imagery, it was always clear to me that they need to go into a different line.

P: Why does the sub-line have to have an Italian name? Is this an attempt to appeal to Italy, which is your largest market, I believe?

AT: To be frank, I am not sure whether the Italian name will help in Italy. I got some mixed feedback there. But that's missing the core anyhow: the first time I heard "sotto la luna" was many years ago, and since then it has stood for a lot. There is a poem by an Italian author, Giuseppe Barberis, called Danze Di Conigli Sotto La Luna (Dancing Rabbits Under The Moon). For a couple of reasons, the image of dancing rabbits under the moon is very inspiring to me. It is a melancholic, happy, soothing, saddening and enlightening picture.

Italy is the largest market in terms of the number of bottles that we sell there. My own online shop might be more important, however, from a profitability perspective. I have to ask my book keeper... But you know: I have seen too many economic disasters here and there these last 10 years, like the Euro crisis. I stopped worrying about markets and numbers. I guess it is a privilege that I can do so, as my numbers are still good. You know, Persolaise, you would not believe how many niche perfume brands out there do not really make money these days.

P: I'm curious: why is the image of rabbits under the moonlight sad and enlightening? Why do you read it that way?

AT: I see the rabbits are dancing (hopping) in the moonlight, in their own little world. Tomorrow, one of them might be gone, prey for the fox (hence the sadness). They do not understand the dangers of the night, they do not understand the mechanics of moons and stars. They are innocent and live their short lives, doing their rabbit business. The moon, the world does not care about them. It is a cold universe where these rabbits dance. It is an allegory for the conditio humana. We are all dancing under the moon and the moon couldn't care less about us. In that sense, it is enlightening.

P: You say you've stopped "worrying about markets and numbers." Are we really supposed to take that statement at face value? Isn't that pushing the Tauer persona - the free-spirited artist unencumbered by the realities of the world - a little bit too far?

AT: Maybe my statement sounds "unencumbered". It is a bit flashy, but it brings out a point. So here's the thing: I try not to worry about many business issues, for instance about how many bottles I sell in a particular month. Or how a particular regional market performed in a particular month. These days, the markets and the economy are all changing so fast and everything is fluid. If I would worry about things that I cannot change, it would be the perfect recipe for sleepless nights and a lot of mental troubles. Thinking about markets is quite often 'negative territory' these days. I have seen the US market crash for a couple of days/weeks in the financial crisis a couple of years ago. I have seen the Euro collapsing versus the Swiss Franc, with frightening consequences. I have seen buyers going bankrupt, suppliers falling over the cliff, you name it. Every month brings new challenges and opportunities.

The statement that I do not worry about markets and numbers does not mean that I do not care about how my business is doing. I sure do. You bet. But I do so by worrying about my services, about my products, about my pricing and how I can keep fixed costs low, about my communication with partners and clients. There I think a lot, I worry about whether I am doing enough, whether my products are good enough, innovative enough, and so on. But I do not worry about whether I sell this or that number of bottles in Italy in September. Will we sell Gardenia, and how many? Who knows? Why worry? I can't change it if it doesn't happen. If it is not happening in September, then it will happen in October. I think, I am pretty zen there. It's the rabbit thing, Persolaise. They dance! Tomorrow we are all dead. Thus, no worries.

P: In your particular set-up, you personally have to fulfil many different roles. Yes, you have some help from your book keeper, but basically, everything that has to be done at Tauer is done by you. You have to be Tauer the Artist, Tauer the Creative Director and Tauer the Business Manager. How does that scented trinity work? Which of the three has the most influence? For instance, which of the three decided this was a good time to make and release a gardenia? Or is it not a case of one of the Tauers having a more powerful say? Do you wait for moments when all three Tauers are in agreement?

AT: Are you familiar with the double nature of light? Light can be explained as a wave, and at the same time it can be explained as a particle. Depending on the situation, one explanation makes more sense (to me at least).I think the same is true when it comes to 'Tauer'.

Here is a nice phrase: "Creation directs business". Let`s take the Gardenia fragrance. Born as an idea, an image (you know: the moon shining on white flowers, the solitude of beauty...), I started working on the fragrance. The Creative Director told me that I need to put this into a separate line, with illustrative labels. The Business Director decided that it must be launched in autumn, because of my markets' needs, and he also defined the pricing based on the price of the production costs that were - again - decided by the Artist who doesn't give a sh** about costs per kilo. Your question points right at the core of what makes everything around 'Tauer's unique, to some extent. From the beginning, the 'brand' was guided by creative processes and the result: perfume. With all the troubles and mistakes that came with it. I got better, learned to balance business and market needs better with my quest to create. A couple of mistakes still haunt me, though: for instance, I lost a little fortune due to business partners going bankrupt. The Business Director did not do his job there.

I get a lot of mails from perfume loving fans who want to build their own brand, asking me how to do it. I give them three answers, usually: 1. I do not run a counselling business, and will not support them. 2. By asking me, they have already made the first mistake as they must find the power and the knowledge within themselves and 3. If they come up with a great perfume, the brand will build itself, with ups and downs.

I think we all have a mission in life. It is rare that this mission is big, like conquering the world. I feel it is small things that make our missions. For about 13 years, I have felt that mine is to create perfumes et al. For that I was given a gift. It is a blessing, in my opinion, and I feel blessed, I really do. The Business Director and the Creative Director have to make sure that this is possible, one way or another. Sometimes they need to act as gate keepers, like my book keeper, but in the end, they act as enablers.

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For part 2 of the interview, please click here; for part 3, click here.

Persolaise

7 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you've finally got an interview with Andy Tauer! In my opinion, the hat that Andy ought to wear is "Poet", because he is, whether in his musings on his blog or through his fragrances. I enjoyed reading this thoroughly.

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    1. Smelly Vagabond, thanks very much for your comment. And yes, there's certainly something very poetic about Andy's persona.

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  2. Andy Tauer is a perfumer that I can't help feeling inordinately fond of, even though I have never actually met him! I love his work, and I love reading about his views on the world in general even more. Thank you for the interview.

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    1. Yuki, thanks very much for stopping by. I'm glad you're another Tauer fan.

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  3. Replies
    1. Kingpharroh, parts 2 and 3 have been published now.

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    2. I love so many Andy Tauer fragrances and all of his Tableau creations. His perfumes come from passion and innovation not instruction books. I am very grateful for Andy and all that he does...and he always has a personal note for we mere strangers which shows me that he is made from as good stuff as his perfumes!

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