Monday, November 17, 2008

My first article for perfume school

Hello readers. I had to write a short article for perfume school today, and although it was kinda rushed an ghetto I'd like to make it available on here too. Its kinda long and will make my blog page like super text infested but if your interested to read it, heres all 755 words:

An observation about perfume trends:

Universal perfume trends since 2005 and beyond can be difficult to pinpoint, especially now that there has been a giant swelling of the market for niche perfumes, often sold under the premise that they are made with higher quality / natural materials, and designed more to fit the growing eclectic tastes of perfumistas and the growing focus on purchasing perfume for ones own personal pleasure rather than for the enjoyment of others. If we take for example the online retailer Luckyscent ( which has over just the past few years grown from carrying twenty-some brands (many of which looked to be almost “home-made”) to now stocking possibly a hundred brands of commercially produced, high priced and very exclusive niche offerings ranging from established companies such as Shiseido's Serge Lutens to Oman's Amouage, we can see the great growth of this niche industry. If one were to take a time lapse of the niche industry over a month one would see that there are not only established companies pumping out new releases at the rate of three or four a year but new companies also opening shop and offering their first collections almost weekly, everyone from hair stylists (Boadi) to the sons cognac makers (Killian Hennesy). How did this industry come about? Possibly the public grew tired of the many less than stellar releases of the 90's and the very bland aquatic era of the early 2000's. In fact all the corporate entrepreneurs currently riding the success of the niche wave can give their thanks to what was just recently a cottage industry of do it yourself'ers. It is amazing to think that “the power of the people” could start such a trend, however this is evidenced by the pioneering successes of perfumes like Yosh Han, Pink Manhatten, Kai, Child, Ebba and Tauer Perfumes.

Getting back to perfume trends, I believe that they are now difficult to pin down as they were in the past (the 80's had power scents, the 90's aquatics), as it seems that the current “trend” for the niche (and even now some of the fashion houses) is to have a version of everything and they need it all at once. Take for example the highly successful house of Serge Lutens, who famous for its orientals, scrambled to release a chypre, woody scents, incense and florals seemingly as fast as they could produce them; all notes are currently in fashion because fashion is currently eclectic. The trend of perfume right now seems to be that there is no trend at all, and that once must have a full offering to let the customer decide what they want to wear to express themselves. Those more keen on the matter will probably agree that this “no-trend” is in fact a trend in disguise; as customers eventually will tire of this freedom and will again want to be told what to do (which perfume to wear). I cannot put a precise date to when this will happen but I believe that those on the cutting edge of style will eventually being to push this concept forward with greater momentum. I have recently read some articles in the that people are growing tired of this free for all and gender bending in the perfume industry; The New York times has recently declared that the power scent is coming back to us, and influential perfume blog Vetivresse has just released a review of the new fragrance Esprit du Tigre by James Heely praising it as a long overdue return to men's fragrance which smells “manly”.

Not to neglect what is still be far the largest perfume market, the so-called “designer” fragrance market, my observation is that it generally catches trends that have already become in their plateau or even decline phase in the niche industry, such as one note perfumes (Prada's Amber and Infusion d'Iris). What will probably occur is that it will continue to feed off spent trends in the niche industry similar to the way that the United States is reported to catch European fashion trends 2 years late. Will this be the new model for fragrance trends? Will the niche market become the new feeder for creative direction in the designer market ? Or will the niche market evaporate in the event that we move towards a more top-down leadership style for trends as its sole purpose was to offer the consumer personal choice and style? Only time will tell


Vetivresse said...

Your essay contains thought-provoking speculation, to which very few in the industry have clear answers. The move to niche is still quite new. Its influence is being seen in the choices that some of the larger brands are making with their new releases as well in the choices that a growing number of consumers are making at the mall. Whether this will pay off for them remains to be seen. If by niche we mean some sort of intellectual approach to scent, I think the movement will fail. People want interesting new things to smell, new stories, new landscapes of smell and aspiration (a cleaner, more peaceful, greener planet) but not more data of which their lives already have too much.

Parfum said...

I also think that it will fail - it will as every other movement in the past "go hollywood" and never come back. I'm sure there will always be a small subculture but niche as an intellectual movement is already falling apart. Alot of "hollywood" type releases are already starting to appear...

thanks for reading my article :)

bogdan said...

Now that time has past I'm wondering if you can make any connection between what you said about niche, personalized fragrances and wider cultural trends. I'm thinking about music particularly; there was the aquatic scents in the nineties which remind me of the sort of the single note manufactured sound of the club based dance music and now with technology via itunes and all the rest we get fragmentation of the market. You can anything exactly what you want as long as you search and then pay a premium. We're not looking for domination but a niche.