19 Aug 2021 --- After being part of the blockchain community and monitoring the technology for the past five years, Look Labs’ founder Jordan Katzarov set about harnessing its potential. Blockchain technology, which has risen to prominence in finance and investment in recent years, is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “a system in which a record of transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are maintained across several computers that are linked in a peer-to-peer network.” Marrying this technology with perfumery is an innovative combination and one that sparks curiosity in fragrance consumers.
Experience in the worlds of blockchain technology and perfumery created a lightbulb moment for the Look Labs founder. “Being head of research and development in one of the biggest beauty companies helped me to design and work on several blockchain prototypes and this unleashed its amazing potential to me,” shares Katzarov.
Rather than stalling as some predicted, the prevalent technology space has grown in sophistication over the past 18 months with new developments such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) emerging. Katzarov says: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, I knew that digital would accelerate and I expected technologies like NFT that live on blockchain to have their momentum.”
How is blockchain inspiring beauty?
The role of blockchain and cryptocurrency in perfumery may not seem obvious, yet it is increasingly proving to be an innovation that has the potential to advance brand-consumer relationships through interesting engagement opportunities.
Click to EnlargeInspired by sci-fi, Cyber comes with a digital label. Source: Look Labs.Look Labs’ vision is to be a brand from the future, bringing together the digital and physical landscapes in its signature product. To do so, the brand has minted their Cyber Eau De Parfum (EDP) on blockchain. “Perfume has always been a symbol of luxury goods,” says Katzarov. “Combining its premium status and my personal passion for scents is why I chose it for Look Labs’ launch project.”
Focusing on conceptualization, Look Labs created a physical version of Cyber EDP with a printed electronics label. The label blinks in red when pressed and uses near-infrared spectroscopy (NIR) which the brand encoded into the NFT artwork via a spectrogram, a picture that displays sound. To create the final NFT art piece, Look Labs teamed up with the Canadian artist SCVisions and embarked on a collaboration to realize the brand’s vision of blockchain and perfumery together.
Look Labs got its inspiration for the scent from sci-fi movies, where technology, artificial intelligence and advanced scientific innovations are integrated elements of daily lives. Berlin’s techno scene and atmosphere also influenced the final fragrance as the brand sought to produce a scent that combines unisex, metallic, retro and futuristic nods in one. The scent was formulated in collaboration with a master perfumer in Grasse, France, which is produced in 888 limited editions by the same traditional boutique house.
Cyber EDP is the first fragrance available to be bought with cryptocurrency, Look Labs claims. It is also the first commercial product with a printed electronics label. Currently, the brand recognizes that digital finance, blockchain and NFTs are the biggest communities shaping the brands of the future, and believes product drops and brand promises will live there.
Using NIR technology
“The idea of extracting the scent using NIR and ‘digitalizing’ it on blockchain came from the NFT hackathon in which we were exploring how to authenticate physical goods to NFTs,” shares Katzarov. “We wanted to encode the first digital scent on blockchain and potentially, when the technology advances, to replicate it.”
Detailing how NIR technology works, the brand founder explains: “Imagine a device that can read from blockchain and recreate the scent, something like a perfume mixing machine but with a huge database of scents.”
Commenting on the opportunities and obstacles that govern the use of the technology in perfumery, Katzarov. notes: “We are just in the beginning and Cyber EDP is using printed electronics labels.” The brand is now looking to enhance and connect this part of the packaging to blockchain and provide more information about the fragrance, authenticity, sourcing and owners.
Moving forward, and taking the technology to its fullest potential, the beauty tech brand is “thankful that the crypto community welcomed us.” For its next perfume, Look Labs plans to create a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) using smart contracts and involve them further in the creation process. As the name suggests, a DAO is a means to provide a decentralized and automated entity that enables cryptocurrency transactions.
In addition, Look Labs wants to work more on the neuroscience aspect of fragrances. “We believe the scent interacts with the brain chemistry and, especially in the post-COVID world, this can bring more positive emotions to many people,” says Katzarov.
By Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe, BPC Insights Senior Journalist