People say there are so many products that they can’t choose, but a CD store has thousands of CDs and people can still choose. I think the market lacks inspiration, trendiness and edgyness. I see edgier things in fashion, music and architecture…In the last 10 years what has made you say ‘wow’?1
That's perfumer Christophe Laudamiel, and I have no quarrel with the second part of his statement: the perfume industry would be in much better shape if we didn't see so many entirely dull and uninspiring new launches. But I can't make up my mind about the first part. I've long felt that the best thing that could happen to the perfume industry in terms of reinvigorating consumer interest would be to see far fewer new releases — maybe about half of the 1000+ new fragrances that we've been seeing every year for the past few years. So, a two part poll...
Do you think the number of new releases matters? Would consumers (present company excluded, of course: if you're reading this you're presumably already interested) be more interested in fragrance if there was less product to wade through?
And just for fun, name one fragrance released in the past 10 years that made you say WOW.
Note: image is Now my room smells like a department store. by dno1967 at flickr; some rights reserved.
1. Quote is via “Cosmetics International talks to Christophe Laudamiel, perfumer, International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF), New York”, 12/9/2005. At that time, of course, there were far fewer new perfumes every year than there are now.
Good questions, Robin. I don’t think the casual perfume shopper is affected by the number of launches that seem so mind numbing to us. Even though I’m very interested in perfume sometimes I want to say Stop The Madness. Periodically I feel like ignoring the new perfumes altogether and concentrating my attention solely on those that are either classics or that have been around for at least ten years. It just occurred to me: maybe a fragrance that’s survived for ten years can nowadays be considered a classic! Instead of launching more, how about launching fewer and creating bath/body products in more of the best selling perfumes. And, of course, give us the choice of smaller bottles!
No, they cant’ be as annoying to the average consumer, who isn’t even paying much attention, but I do still wonder if it’s a turn off. One of the very interesting things I’ve noticed over the past year is that there are so many (uninspired) niche launches that now “niche” has even become a dirty word — perfume houses don’t want to be called niche anymore.
Yeah, I’ve been following Andy Tauer’s anti-niche sentiments…
It’s not meaningful to me, I must admit — to me, niche is about distribution and nothing more — like shorthand to say you won’t find it in Macy’s.
I understand the CD market isn’t doing too well, either, these days. Publishing is also suffering. Not such a great argument, Laudamiel.
There’s no way to absorb all the new releases raining down on us. Many NST readers try a lot harder than the average perfume consumer, but it’s impossible!
Interesting point. I was focusing on how much easier it is to find & try new music than it is to find & try new perfumes, and on how much more variety most people want in music than in perfume (again, perfumistas not included), but you’re right, even the music business is in trouble.
Well, but that’s because they’re being replaced by online/digital versions. It’s a bit different. I don’t get a daily paper, but I read a lot of online news. I don’t buy many/any CDs anymore, but I still download things from iTunes or Amazon. Even books, you have the choice of traditional, digital (Kindle/nook/etc.), or audio. There is no such equivalent for fragrance, though.
Still, they’re making less money, right? I keep reading that whereas bands used to tour to support a new album, now they make most of their $ from tours because music sales are down regardless of the format.
I suppose that might be…I don’t know actual #s. But it makes sense, when you think that now you can buy almost any song as a single and not have to buy the whole album to get a song you like that wasn’t one of the big, released singles. Not to mention all the illegal sharing/downloading.
Not to stoke the tangent fire, but musicians have always traditionally made their money from touring and merchandise sales on those tours. Profits from record sales were and are almost solely the province of the record companies. The hand-wringing over diminishing sales is mostly done by record execs.
LOL…and I was just repeating random things I’ve read, so can’t contribute any more to this particular tangent!
I don’t know if I would even be aware of the number of new launches if I didn’t already care about perfume. I think the average perfume consumer is picking a name or a brand that they are familiar with, and having many choices out there allows them to find one that best suits their personality, the image they have of themselves, or that they want to project. If I think I am elegant and understated I might go for Vera Wang because I’ve seen her dresses and like them. If I’m young and hip, something from Juicy Couture (and the bottles are so cute!). Tough, strong woman? Maybe Queen Latifah is who I’m looking for. Don’t know much about perfumes but know that I like vanilla, I have a zillion choices.
As for myself, the number of new releases is a little overwhelming, because I want to keep up with what is new and good – but mostly from the niche and classic houses. I’m not a perfume snob like the ones profiled in the Evening Standard article, but I find that most of the things I like are being released by lesser known companies. I have tried many, many mainstream releases and like and wear some of them, but I also have learned to ignore a pretty large selection of things because I have smelled them before in another form, another bottle, or with a differrent celebrity’s face on them. I don’t get bogged down trying to wade through those. I’m still pretty new to perfumista-hood, and I do sometimes get overwhelmed by the volume of fragrances released by say, CdG or L’AP or whole collections released all at once like VC&A. That is where you guys come in. I can’t reasonably try evertyhing that say, Bvulgari puts out, but with your help I can do what my husband calls a “surgical strike” and get started with just Black and the original Omnia. I’m also trying to catch up on classics. I’ve done a pretty good job with Guerlain, but I still haven’t tried things like Joy or No.5 in extrait. And then there is the search for vintage versions of classic perfumes.
Since I became serious about fragrance last spring, practically everything has made me say wow and many of them were not released in the last ten years, or even the last 50 years. Off the top of my head, the Amouage fragrances Epic and Lyric (woman) have rocked my world.
But the average consumer isn’t buying fragrance at all — that’s the problem! Sales are down and fewer women are wearing scent, that much we know.
Part of the problem, at least from where I sit (perfumeless *sob*!) is that so much of it (mainstream stuff) smells just like fabric softener, so why even bother?
Yes, that’s another problem: so many perfumes now smell like functional products (laundry detergent & cleaners & whatnot)
What I mean by “average consumer” is someone who is interested in grooming products and cosmetics and likely to shop in places that carry perfumes like department stores and Sephora and therefore aware of perfumes and exposed to new launches. My point is, that sort of consumer is likely to be influenced by new launches, especially if they identify with brands or celebrities or if there is a nifty gift with purchase. Before I self-identified as a “perfumista” I occasionally noticed things like that and have been known to respond to promo campaigns that include incentives like the really nice cashmere/silk embroidered wrap that came with a bottle of Hanae Mori.
1) Yes, specially if there was more clever ways of marketing… for example mixing the products with popular fiction (i.e. J.Lo made a very funny appearance on “Will & Grace” on the early noughties promoting “Glow”) or other tie-ins. That is more effective than tons of ads, in my opinion. So, less releases and better/more focused marketing shoul work.
2) The M7 launch. I think sex sells, and the naked guy torso caught my attention. The fact that the fragrance was good enough to “back” such a bold ad (full frontal nudity in those magazines that dared) was a surprise, and added to the WOW factor.
In a honorable mention, I must say that the photos for Donna Karan Cashmere Mist Luxe edition, Featuring a back to her natural haircolor Milla Jovovich, were wonderful. The shoot reminded me of both the late Herb Ritts work and of why I found Milla so “”‘Hot” (as in fashionable and visually photogenic) early on her carreer. Cashmere Mist, along with the relaunched Chaos, embody sexiness without regrets or explanations.
M7 is a great “wow” scent.
I think you’ve hit upon one of the problems, kaos, and that is that perfume itself (not the ads or tie-ins) has limited exposure possibilities: you can’t play it on the radio, or make it a soundtrack for a movie or a TV show, or use it as the music for an advertisement. Sure, there is person-to-person buzz, people trade, ask around, do what their friends are doing, but you I doubt you can reach huge numbers with the actual scent. Without huge, direct exposure, it may be a liability to have so much perfume choice.
I do think the average consumer would be more interested in perfume if there were fewer new releases, if only because fewer releases would probably mean more thoughtfulness on the part of the perfume houses. Hopefully, fewer releases would equal greater inventiveness. As for scents from the past 10 years that have made me say WOW! — well, I haven’t had my perfumista card for that long. Is Miller & Bertaux #3 within the last 10 years? A punchy green opening that I believe would make anyone say wow, regardless of whether or not they love green scents. What about Chergui, Chene, or Cuir Mauresque? Cuir Ottoman is def. within the past 10 yrs, and that made me say wow, and why can’t my skin smell like this all the time?? I think my list of scents from the past 10 years that made me say wow is probably pretty big, but maybe I’m easily wowed.
I was also going to say MetB #3. It was my first FB purchase after discovering the wider world of niche perfumes.
And actually, was also going to say fewer launches might equal better quality, and in that sense yes, the average consumer might be more interested. Otherwise, though, I don’t think they’re aware at all of the vast #s out there. I certainly didn’t know there was a world beyond what was available at *insert department store name here* before stumbling across this blog.
ooh, I love Chergui. I think that may be my second SL purchase.
I think most people who occasionally buy fragrance aren’t even aware of how many new ones there are on the market each year. The music store analogy is a good one—if you’re not a person who tries to keep track of all the new music releases or (as Robin and many of the readers of this blog probably do) all the new perfume releases, then the reason something catches your interest is probably because it’s a new release from a band (perfume house) you already know and like, or because a friend recommends it to you, or you hear someone else playing it (or smell someone else wearing it) and like it. I don’t think most people, when looking for a new album or a new perfume, start from scratch and look at the whole spectrum of what’s available.
As someone who has been seriously interested in perfume for a relatively short time, I remember the search for something new being kind of overwhelming even when I wasn’t aware of how many things there actually were on the market—and so I tended to stick with the familiar or something I felt I had a connection with.
Interesting. Wish we had a way to quiz people who are vaguely interested but not captivated.
On one hand I can see Laudamiel’s point but then, I suppose, people are perhaps a little more clear about their tastes in music so can ignore numerous things more easily. Plus the fragrances seem to come with such a load of (mis?)information attached to them – the ad copies, the ads, the SAs’ sales talk. All that can really add to the confusion.
1000+ releases a year is just insane but I agree with Suzy Q that an average buyer is probably not that bothered. In my experience, if a non-perfumista is in the mood to spend some money then she’ll often smell the latest release and buy it on the spot because she liked what she smelled for the first 5 seconds. Whether she’ll re-buy it is a very different matter, of course.
The WOW fragrances released in the last 10 years would be 31 Rue Cambon and Ambre Narguile for me. Both provoked a real visceral reaction where I simply had to have them.
Yes…the massive (mis) information. And the bad ad copy, and all that — another big part of the problem.
Frankly I’m not convinced that too many releases are a problem: they’re just quite annoying! It’s their average low quality, and the fact that they are not released to last but to surf a trend or a name that looses the consumers. You feel that not much care has been put in the perfume, and since it is a “luxury” product we are talking about, if you break the spell it’s difficult to bring the magic back!!!
On question n.2 there are so many perfumes that made me say “wow” that I feel quite naïve!!!
The wow perfumes are not necessarily my faves, just those that impressed me as *totally different*, like: AT’s l’ADDM, Carnal Flower, Amaranthine, many Serge Lutens…. And I am forgetting many!!!!
Yes, exactly — once the spell is broken, perhaps nothing *will* bring the magic back.
why is it however, that it is normal to have serious and reliable CD reviews in all media , but honest perfume reviews can be found only on perfume blogs? …one of the many mistakes of the (mainstream) perfume industry , and yes, I believe they’re issuing many too many products… less is more, as some wise person once said. Can’t answer the wow question, I’m still discovering perfumism, ten years ago I still believed in one bottle at a time (it was cerrutti 1881)
Yes, do think that’s another thing hurting the whole fragrance business — they’ve stifled conversation so long that now it isn’t taken seriously.
Bee, I think this is a smart observation re: availability and reliability of reviews.
As someone who aspires to perfumista-hood, I can imagine that the industry has held a lot of focus groups with consumers who have told them that perfume is “inaccessible” to them. The industry’s response appears to be to change the scents- hence the roll-out of the industrial-strength strawberry syrup every time a new fragrance is concocted. Bland enough to be “accessible” to everyone.
I wish perfume were more accessible too, but to me that doesn’t mean smelling like a baby dipped in candy no matter what I have on; it means being able to tell by a list of fragrance notes, comparisons to other scents (either actual perfumes or just out in the world), and commentary from trusted reviewers whether or not I will like a new release. “Fragrance writing,” I guess.
As Joe mentions below, fragrance sampling isn’t as instant and accessible as movie or music sampling. I am honestly just as flustered by new music releases as I am by perfume, but I can find tracks or trailers online easily enough. Perfume requires me to make more of an effort… and if that effort doesn’t pay off, then I have a bunch of vials left lying about.
Maybe what I really want is for someone to start a free monthly perfume sample service that would adjust based on my preferences. Like Pandora but for fragrance!
Oh, Pandora for fragrance! Perfect.
I had to go look up Pandora – and find that I must go use it. Now.
i couldn’t agree more with you! I find it so annoying that you go into a perfume store and you ask them for the components of teh prefume and the slaes woman can not even tell you the main ones, there is no training of sales people to buidl up and tittilate customers. Before the perfume blogs there was only one magazine in europe, Votre Beaute which had perfume critic maite touquet, who actually wrote perfume reviews now they dont do that anymore. Why dont they in stores class perfumes according to smell eg fresh etc rahter than by house? I feel there is still so much that could be done, but perfume houses keep churining out the usual!!!!!
gosh, it would be just great if we could download perfumes as well. just a tiny little tap inserted in the laptop : D
1. Consumers are accustomed to a multiplicity of choice. How many varieties of Coke are there? How many varieties of Tim Tam (a decadent chocolate biscuit, where I live; half the biscuit isle is devoted to them)? Toothpaste … tinned soup … books … you name it. Consumers navigate this all the time, and I guess most people realise that their favourite type of Tim Tam may not last, so they either stock up, or shrug their shoulders and move on to the next newly released Tim Tam. And so it is with perfume.
An interesting trend (I think) is say, the new DKNY release, Pure. Sourcing the vanilla from a women’s co-operative in Uganda (I think?) may provide a way of appealing to the ethical consumer, and hence (maybe) a marketing edge.
2. No. But I keep hoping. I had rather high hopes for Idylle. But no. And in any case, some of that WOW can only come if the market is not already awash with perfume. Jane Austen only wrote a handful of novels. If she suddenly came back from the dead and released a new one, we’d all go WOW.
Adding: as some have said, 31 Rue Cambon has wow factor, and it does for me too, although I don’t wear it often. Have to say I wish Chanel had released it on its own with the full suite of concentrations.
Interesting point…and part of why I can no longer stand the cereal aisle, LOL — too many choices!!
Ahhh Tim Tams- gave them up 2 years ago but a very happy memory!
Sometimes I hate my local supermarket. Not only are there too many things to wade through, but by the time I find a new product that I like, they discontinue it. Just like perfume! So I head straight for the Grape Nuts in the grocery store and the classic Guerlains on ebay!
Well, I can’t say I pay much attention to the mass market launches, unless the scent is authored by a perfumer or house I admire. It really irks me, though, that the luxury lines don’t offer smaller bottles. It was great to see Kilian’s and Histoires de Parfums’ travel-sized sprays. Would love to see Hermes, Chanel, and the others follow suit. Spending $90 on a smaller sized bottle seems much more practical and affordable than spending $200 on a giant bottle that may never get used up.
And speaking of Chanel, my WOW scent would have to be 31 Rue Cambon. And I love No 5 Eau Premiere as well. In fact, just the other day, while wearing EP, I thought, “I’m definitely a Chanel girl…” When I wear them, they make me want all of the great Chanels. Wore Cristalle and No 5 years ago…scared to try the new Cristalle formulation, but I’m curious. I also wear Coco Mademoiselle occasionally. Have some left of my Allure, but haven’t worn it for a few years. Have been wanting a bottle of 19, but not sure of the current formulation quality – is it any good? Perhaps I should look for vintage…
(Of course, I’m also crazy about other fragrance houses, so I’m by no means exclusive.)
Duh. Didn’t really answer your first question. Got sidetracked.
As to whether or not the number of new releases matters to the average consumer, I have no idea. But I could take a guess. I’d say the market is shockingly oversaturated. Like wine. My husband sells wine, and it’s near to impossible to keep up with all of the new wineries that keep popping up. After awhile, everything begins to blur together. It becomes overwhelming and impossible to differentiate between brands. With fewer choices, I think it’s easier to differentiate. If fragrance companies were to ask us, I’d say, we want fewer releases, higher quality, and more bottle size variety. Of course, with fewer releases, there’s the chance that EVERYONE would be wearing the same great scent. Do we really want that?
And another segway, went to a gathering the other night with a few hundred people milling around. What did I smell more than once? Two scents – Parisienne, and believe it or not, ANGEL!?
It’s so funny, I smell Angel everywhere! Of course, half the time I’m probably smelling something that just copies Angel, right?
Lately I’ve been smelling Angel everywhere, too. I suspect some are copies.
I smell it everywhere too.
A lot of people grumble about those huge Chanel bottles and maybe Chanel will bring some of the Exclusifs out in smaller bottles one day (there is now a 40ml of EP, I hear). But the point of the large bottles is actually to be ‘exclusive’, or at least that is what I have assumed. Chanel doesn’t actually care that they are impractical and hard to afford for many people. That’s what Chanel likes. The inaccessibility of the big bottles keeps people longing for them, aspiring to own them, and THAT ultimately that keeps the whole brand alive. They have things like Chance for the other end of the market.
Still, all of this reasoning is undercut by the split and decant industry that hums along the internet, in the background.
If Chanel offered the Exclusif scents in extrait or edp I might be tempted, but edt, no. (As it is, I’m buying no22 extrait and bath products on *bay. . . if Chanel were currently producing them, they’d be getting more of my money. But I digress).
The new Cristalle is a sad, wan and pointless ghost of itself. if anyone can come up with a reasonable replacement it would be great.
Karin, the current version of No. 19 is still good. It has been reformulated to lose the leather and a bit of the moss in the base, though, and smells quite a bit “cleaner.” If you’re like me and love the leathery base, you’ll be somewhat disappointed. But if you’re like AnnS, and you’re focusing on the galbanum-iris-vetiver character of it, it will probably suit you well. It’s definitely worth a spritz at the Chanel counter (assuming you have access to that).
*squeak* — Yeah! the new stuff is good too if you prefer the floral aspect of it. My final take on No 19: I pefer the new version of the edt. I prefer the old version of the parfum. Go figure. But you can still find the vintage stuff online if you keep your eyes out for it. My fav No 19 “smell – alikes” that may satisfy your cravings: Ralph Lauren Safari (which smells IMHO like the original No 19 with a powdery aspect, but it keeps that great vetiver base) and Annick Goutal Heure Exquise edt (swoon worthy galbanum, iris, rose).
I agree with others that most casual consumers aren’t aware of the myriad fragrance launches. However, as a somewhat fragrance literate consumer, I find the many launches unsettling. The best analogy I can think of is books. If an author is releasing books one after the other I will suspect the writing is poor and not even try reading them. I may be wrong, but my assumption will put me off the author. If the author only occasionally puts out a book I will think that there might have been some thought and art put into the creation. So, with perfumes, if I see a million launches by a house I will suspect that all the launches are of bad quality.
As for most “wow” thing in the past 10 years . . . I am too inexperienced to say. But, I will happily read the rest of yours.
I like your “books” analogy, Minnie. The motives of the author would be questionable as well. The perfume launches turn me off because they seem motivated by greed or just desperation. If perfume sales are down, as Robin says above, then their shock and awe strategy isn’t working.
Oh, great analogy — I like it too. And I do make the same assumptions about authors.
Of course, those authors we avoid are also the authors on the NYT best seller’s list. Analogy continues.
I totally agree with you that there should be fewer launches. Lately I’ve been having this issue where I feel like I have so much perfume I’m completely overwhelmed, and I realized the reason is that while I LIKE a lot of it very much, only a few fragrances truly have that WOW factor for me. I’ve started thinking about paring down … but then each fragrance I have a full bottle of does have its purpose …
The WOW factor fragrance for me is Vetiver Tonka. Well, it’s the first one that came to mind and one that truly makes me salivate.
Love Vetiver Tonka
Leaving aside the daily multiplication of flankers alone within the mass market, I am more upset about the whole pseudo niche phenomenon.
The idea that every single corner of poor Italy is churning out its fake local niche bullshit fragrances (“Acqua di fill in the blank” or “Profumi di you name it), like a bad tourist leaflet in a bad fragrance nightmare, is really annoying me.
Anyway, not everything is “pseudo” and it still happens that you eagerly wait to smell a new fragrance and it totally wows you. For me the biggest coincidence of great expectations and wow factor was last year’s otherwordly Manoumalia.
See, the “pseudo” niche thing doesn’t resonate with me at all…to me, niche just means it isn’t widely distributed. It’s true that you used to be able to make some assumptions about niche scents that you can no longer make, but that’s true of all fragrances.
Well, I don’t know if the CD analogy works at all because you hear free music on the radio and other place – in clubs, advertisements, in the movies, and on television. Where can you go to smell the latest release? Scent strips? They pretty much suck and might be responsible for turning people off to new perfume – first off because they stink up your magazine and secondly, because they don’t accurately represent the scent. Between that and the people who overapply and turn everyone else off… well… there you go.
We might be the only ones who are aware and disgusted by the sheer number of new releases – of course, if so many of them weren’t dreck, we might be more excited about them.
I do have to admit that, as interested as I am, companies that release an entire line of 3 – 6 scents often get skipped by me from sheer fatigue.
Oops – I forgot the second part. I’m a pretty new perfumista, so I get wowed a lot. I’d have to say – the entire Amouage line, Tonka Imperiale, Le Labo Iris 39, Fleur d’Oranger and Aldehydes 44, several of the Chanel Exclusifs…. okay, I’m easily wowed.
Those are some pretty impressive frags, though.. I wouldn’t say easily wowed at all. Now, if you were wowed by the last 10 mass market scents, odds are that’d be easily wowed.
Ditto on the sheer fatigue!!
I agree that those people wearing too much perfume are responsible as much as the P&G, Coty, L’Oreal cheap policies for turning people from perfume-land!!! When I read here that some people wear 5/10 sprays, I think there’s no hope
LOL! Oh, but there it depends on WHAT they’re spraying, and what it does on their skin. I rarely, rarely use more than 1 or 2 sprays…but with NR, I can use 6+ and *still* a) not have a huge sillage trail and b) have it vanish within 6 hours or so. So, I make no assumptions there.
I guess it does depend on *what* people are spraying several times. I tend to be a light applier, and four spritzes are heavy for me. I do that for very light things (MH Fleur de Matin, if I can wrest it away from my daughter) and low-sillage things (Bvlgari Black, which even spritzed four times doesn’t waft past my outstretched fingertips).
Other stuff I spray once or twice – or even dab.
I notice a lot more interest in perfume than I used to, and I think all the new releases are a huge part of that. Perfume is constantly in the news in one form or another. But their accompanying advertising, and lobotamized magazine coverage have kept a lot of people in arrested development, personally I have found it increasingly hard to learn about perfume over the last five years as counter space goes to all these new releases over classics. I think the idea of a signature scent will always be appealing to women, as will being able to purchase a small piece of a high-end brand like Chanel and Prada. But for the most part the model doesn’t work for anyone when your brand smells like someone else’s – it certainly didn’t work for me last weekend when I was wearing Michael Kors and someone asked if it was Kim Kardashian. So I think when consumers don’t have to play “which of these things is not like the other?” with thousands of new fragrances, they will have a shot at taking interest in the juice. And hopefully things will get a lot more lucrative for the fragrance houses that put their money towards innovation rather than a marketing formula.
I’m blown away by LesNez The Unicorn Spell, as you said in your review it has nary a whiff of focus group but still manages to be darn likeable and utterly wearable.
I recently tried Unicorn Spell and LOVE IT! In fact, between that, Kelly Caleche, and Sinfonia di Note, I think I’m on a new green, aka vegetal, scent kick.
Oops! Meant to say Sinfonia di Note Saveur d’Artichaut…
1) My answer is two-fold (and perhaps a bit tongue in cheek), but I say MORE releases of inventive, exciting, or even just high quality (not necessarily high cost) perfumes, and LESS releases of low quality, dull, and cookie cutter perfumes. I mean, a girl can dream right?
2) Tauer L’Air du Desert Morocain really blows my mind. And Annick Goutal Songes…. that was in the last 10 years right? Just lovely and beautifully balanced, really hits all the right notes for me.
I love both of those too…
Maybe part of it is the distribution channels that fragrance INHERENTLY is tied to. You can sample *thousands* of music clips, videos, book excerpts, and so forth on your computer at home, but there is by its nature no equivalent for “virtual” perfume sampling. So one has to sample and buy in a store if one is an “average consumer.” I think the delivery model (shopping) is more of a deterrent than the amount of product.
And I really don’t know a bit about how “the average consumer” shops for fragrance. In my workplace I’m around many many college-aged men and women who seem to frequently be wearing some type of scent, so I don’t know what might explain the *alleged* downturn (I mean, sales are down, but part of that would be a function of the economy, right?). I mean, if a teen or early-20s person can drop $80 on one piece of Abercrombie clothing, it stands to reason they’d drop $80 once or twice a year on a bottle of fragrance, right?
And as Angela points out, the music industry’s sales are slumping too (I assume that’s true even with digital sales factored in?), as is publishing… so what to make of it. What “disposable” industries do have increasing sales? Apparel? Porn?
If I had to make a pronouncement, my opinion would be “No”… the number of launches doesn’t make consumers less interested in fragrance on a general level.
As for true WOW: Take into account I’ve been a “perfumista” merely about three years, but “Wow!” for me have been (can’t choose just one):
– ELdO Vierges et Toreros
– Serge Noire
– Sécrétions Magnifiques
The first two are wearable. The third is not, but I wish I hadn’t given away my sample. “Wow!” is a different reaction from “Beautiful!”
Really interesting how few people here think the # of launches matters…I am really out of step on this issue!
I guess an analogy would be the number of cosmetics products out there. You’d think the bases had been covered years ago with every possible shade of red, pink, pink-brown, etc, but I mean look at the number of new lipsticks and nail polishes that come out. Jeez Louise… and I know bupkus about makeup! But the consumers seem to navigate that “mess.”
Yeah, but here’s what I’d argue: eyeshadow (to take one example) is a quick deal. You look at it, you maybe try it on. If you don’t like it, you can wipe it right off and try on something else. If it looks good, you can buy it. And it’s usually under $20.
Furthermore, you see right away which eyeshadows are the same. Everybody’s doing pink this season? Fine, you can look at them all and decide which you like best.
Perfume is a PITA to shop for. If you spray it on: there you are, you’re stuck walking around with it on. You have to wait hours to make sure you like it. You can’t test out 20 of them in the same shopping trip. If everyone is doing the same thing, its annoying that you wasted your time and skin space to find that out.
Then if you make a mistake, it’s a lot more than $20, and many people don’t like returning it even if it’s allowed.
Robin: thank you for putting this into words. I will be using this info in my job because the S/A’s will be very interested in the principles you have laid out.
I would like to respond to the comments about the “useless” S/A’s. The very young and new to the business can’t possibly know much yet and they tend to leave the business and go on to their “real” careers or motherhood. Those who stay for years don’t leave till retirement or when they get the axe in the latest purge. The more mature staff are replaced by “fresher” employees who are paid less and know less. There’s also the matter of flogging one’s own line. Some are on commission; some are not, but still need to account for sales. And those sales may come on a day when the clerk is not there which means he/she cannot account for it. Thus hours are cut and there are fewer employees that are knowledgeable to help out.
As Robin has said, perfume is not necessarily an impluse buy. Unless a customer comes in for a quick replenishment bottle, selling a new fragrance often takes time and more than one visit to the store.
Smaller bottles would translate into more sales and returns to the store to buy more and maybe larger bottles, if the customer really liked the scent.
I have no quarrel, in general, with inadequately trained SAs, at least not in stores like Sephora where they aren’t (usually) flogging particular products: they just make you samples and leave you be, for the most part. I have a quarrel only with the system that pays by commission and then emphasizes some products over others. That’s bad for everyone: the consumers and the SAs, IMHO. And rude and/or pretentious SAs, which I think makes it intimidating to shop for perfume at all.
As I’ve said before, I think the fragrance industry ignores the whole issue of how fragrance is sold and how unpleasant many consumers find it to shop for perfume, and I do think it’s a major factor in falling sales. Most everything else on earth has become EASIER to shop for in the past 10 years, largely due to the internet, but mainstream fragrance has not.
I should have added that — even though I’m sure there are souls out there who wear it — I consider Sécrétions to be in a similar category to some strange, avant-garde, post-postmodern piece of weird performance or “installation” art that makes you say “Oh!” or “WHOA!” (or something less family-friendly) rather than “Wow.” It’s barely a consumer product, but I’m kind of glad it exists. I’d still love to see someone write about people who wear it and love it (I think Angie could search far and wide and find a few… heh.)
avant-garde, post-post modern?? sign me up! (i just ordered a sample today, teehee…)
I wonder if it’s not the quantity or quality of the fragrances launched that’s the problem, but a change in styles and consumer attitude towards fragrance. At one point in the not-so-distant past, a woman wouldn’t think about leaving the house without wearing her lipstick, a hat, and gloves. Perfume was a fashion accessory as well, and classic French perfumery the most admired. Today pajama bottoms and flip-flops are considered acceptable street wear. The minimalist scents that came into vogue in the 90s made you smell vaguely “clean” but nothing else. Consumers today (and it’s the younger generation that has the greatest spending power, or at least a major say in family consumption decisions) just don’t know anything else. And of course, in some circles (the don’t-invade-my-space-with-your-perfume types) fragrance is a dirty word. I have a feeling the 1000+ launches a year are evidence of the perfumers’ desperation to get consumers to buy something! anything! If one type of fragrance (say fruity-floral) has a mild success, all of them jump on the bandwagon.
As for the WOW factor, I’d have to say all the perfumes I currently own had that effect on me. A couple of standouts would be 1740 Marquis de Sade and Tabac Aurea.
I think that’s absolutely true: people don’t dress up as much as they used to, and many places now discourage perfume use.
I was a regular consumer not too long ago. I can honestly say I didn’t really notice perfumes that were not my signature scent. I had no idea what was out there. Now that I’m aware, it’s strange to me that I never noticed how much product was out in stores and online.
But like anything else we buy, they really only PUSH the latest and greatest. It’s easy to forget they still sell last years perfumes when they are not being shoved down your throat by the ads.
As for the WOW – it’s funny, but the perfume that made me say “wow, I LOVE that!” lately was the perfume voted least likely to wow anyone: Chanel Beige. It’s the first Chanel that I’ve really taken to, and I am so not a beige person!
Interesting, so new launches didn’t filter into your consciousness at all. Would love to do a random poll on this issue!
I think, Robin, in this situation with the new launch issue, it is unfortuanate that because of your blog you must/can/do monitor as many as you can find out about. It’s like a little press release each time you tell us some new fragrance comes out. You have to pay attention b/c of the function of the blog. We can choose to ignore those posts very easily if we want to. Only a handful of the new release posts catch my attention. Perhaps that is why so many of us state we don’t really pay that much attention to new launches. Or maybe it’s because we are all busy hunting down our beloved, endangered fragrances on ebay…!!
I do like the analogy with the CD store.
But the difference is that no matter how many CD’s are being released in a year, unless you are a music critic, you are going to limit yourself to the few artists that you know you really love (and even my favorite recording artists have had bad CDs).
Sure, there are tons of releases in the perfume industry, but I know that I am much more likely to go and seek a new release from a compagny that I know (Dior, Guerlain, Chanel, Lutens) than from one of the hundreds of new niche line.
Niche lines, to me, are are the equivalent of the independent record-import labels. They cost more and are harder to find. Maybe they’re great and I’m missing out, but the throughly great will generate enough review that I will get them eventually.
And then there is the Classical music section AKA as the vintage frags. There is always something great to be discovered there.
My last few WOW have been
SL Louve, Chypre Rouge and Ambre Sultan
Gucci Rush for men
Gucci pour Homme
I hope it’s true that the really great niche lines are rising to the top, so to speak.
I’m in my fifties and my perfume career goes back over forty years! Back to when choice was good, to when all frags seem to be a bit ‘classic’, even if you didn’t like them at first, they were reassuringly still there for the next shopping trip. And I’ve always lived in rural Australia and my perfumism entailed deliberate trips to the city to experience scents and new releases.
That said, after I discovered my holy grails (Mits and LhBl), I did tend to settle, because nothing else ever compared. Then of course you go thru’ the full-on career years and mothering etc and your attention shifts a bit.
I remember the sad disappointment of getting to DJs in Sydney and making my usual beeline to Guerlain to find things like Champs, Samsara, LInstant etc muscling in on the counter! I remember the amazement at Angel.
Goodness knows what made me decide to start looking at perfume on the internet, it opened some sort of frustrated floodgate of at least 2 decades disappointment. My greatest discovery has been Serge Lutens, which until about 2 years ago was not available in Australia. Then I would add other niche lines, that represent a trend of individual artisans coming in to take up the space left by the corporatisation of the classic houses.
I think some of the problems are actually being created by the consumer industries themselves. I think there is a big awareness of chemicals, and the evil hypocrisy of the chemcos to market things AS IF they were natural makes me sick! We are being deluged by chemical fragrance in our everyday lives, the only scent ads I see on TV for instance is for those ghastly plug-in air fresheners. I am positive some of the anti-scent sentiment (ha) is a backlash. And yet, this sort of frag will win out because I believe ‘functional’ fragrance makes up 90% of consumer ‘demand’.
I see the proliferation of new fine perfumes as just a panicky sort of thing done by corporations trying to out-compete their rivals for the dollar, and it reflects the throwaway ethic that dominates consumerism. With the world at my keyboard it is almost amusing to see the mad rush to get on a trend bandwagon and pump out something that some executive group thinks will grab the dollar, whether it be type of scent, packaging, or advertising style.
And I don’t see anything changing too quickly! Sadly in my own short time doing this, I see the ‘niche’ and the corporate starting to converge, aided and abetted by the likes of IFRA which is only a self-serving industry front designed to protect the profits of aromachemical companies. However I wont get started on the politics of big business!
And like all the thinking people above, I agree that it does not matter anyway, those of us who care deeply about any artistic endeavour in the face of commercialism are a tiny minority.
I don’t see anything changing either — the recession, so far, appears to have had very little effect. So this is all just for the fun of talking about it
I’m a bit like you, in that my tastes have ‘settled’ somewhat since discovering some great loves. It’s kinda nice to let all the new releases just wash on by. It’s a but frustrating tho’, that even DJs in Sydney seems to have the standard run of Guerlains. I think I’ve seen Samsara at Priceline. So why can’t DJs differentiate itself a bit more? Oh well.
Wini, thanks for your very thoughtful response.
My last “wow” was for Fracas- not new, i know, quite old, but new to me-last 12 months. Unless perfumers can discover a new wizz bang ingredient, or a few- all we will be smelling are the same ingredients, just mixed differently.
Some truth in that, although they do come up w/ new aromachemicals all the time.
Enjoy the analogy of CDs/music industry to perfumes/perfume industry. However, one of the most obvious breakdowns perhaps to the average consumer is that while they could easily listen to anywhere from 1-20 albums in a day, they would find it strange to wear more than one fragrance a day. To own a CD collection is something that is a point of conversation with almost anyone, but how many people can you discuss your perfume collection with in your daily life?
I also agree with fleurdelys, it’s plausible that the younger generation is just choosing to wear scents less often. (Quel horreur!) Perhaps with our “culture of clean” we have removed some of the “need” to use perfume to smell good. It’s certainly not socially acceptable to go around smelling strongly of horses, leather, and the elephant’s cage, but I do Dzing!
Yes…and the fragrance industry, by scenting all of our cleaners and detergents, has made it possible for people to get that fix w/o using perfume at all.
Hm. Well, I’m a fragrance blogger, and reasonably well connected, and I haven’t smelled several of the “brand new” releases — which will be “old” in the next two months. I simply can’t keep up, and I’ve given up trying. And I’m not even talking about Macy’s stuff.
OTOH if I were a music critic … would I honestly expect to hear all the music released in a year? Would I want to know about every single band? I mean, should we be rejoicing in the vast breadth of new perfumes, including non-mainstream stuff, and shrug our shoulders at the relative lack of depth, figuring, well, ya gotta dig to find the gems?
Oh yeah, I miss huge chunks of new product now. I don’t even try to keep up. (I now think of Saks as the black hole of perfume: if it launches in Saks, it might as well not exist for me)
Sorry for my ignorance (I can’t help it; I’m Canadian) but what do you mean about Saks? I know it is a department store, but that’s all I know.
Many music critics specialise and mostly only review one or a couple of music genres. I suppose it would make sense for perfume critics and bloggers to do the same, in some ways the fragrance industry is moving towards the same diversity and genrefication that the music industry has.
Great discussion topic!
Unlike CD’s, the way perfumes are organized in department stores and perfume boutiques is usually by gender or brand at best. Add to that the lack of knowledge of the average SA’s and it’s a recipe for consumer’s confusion when shopping for fragrances.
Perfume is so much more vague and ambigous and personal than music or movies. While some CD’s (or DVD’s for that matter) might be found under “jazz” in one shop and under “pop” in another (and usually in alphabetical order as well) many SA’s are just as clueless when a customer comes and asks even for something specific. For example the term “spicy”: I’ve witnessed it being used for the real “Spicy Oriental” category, but also many confuse “musky” with spicy, or “ambery” with spicy. Or anything warm that they can’t describe. Generally, consumers and SA’s are nearly equally at awe when required to describe what they are looking for or offering. And there is no system in place (as the “drama” or “comedy” section or even alphabetical order) for the vast number of fragrances that are offered even at a typical department store.
As for lack of inspiration – I think this can be found in any art/industry. There are lots of movies that are just made in the usual formulas, and offer nothing new or artistic and people still watch and enjoy them. Same for music, and fashion. As a whole we are in an information overload era, and if we don’t come up with systems to help us sort the gold from the trash, it’s going to be frustrating either way (i.e.: even if everything was good quality).
That being said, I think in the past few years we have also witnessed a lot of great perfume launches. The vast amount of trash perhaps makes it more difficult to find them but they are out there waiting to be loved.
Perfumers are not going to stop creating new perfumes, it’s against human nature. I can only hope that whatever new is created will be better rather than mediocre or copy of existing scents. And it would be also nice to see some stuff that is not great quality being discontinued (although this is unlikely – it’s usually the more interesting and esoteric stuff that gets discontinued).
Good point about mediocre movies & music & fashion.
I absolutely agree that categorization is something that would instantly benefit the perfume market at large. As you say, if I’m into ‘electronica’, I can walk to that part of the CD store and listen to a couple albums that look relevant. Likewise, if I want to branch out, I can find subgenres (shoegaze, IDM, techno, drum ‘n’ bass) that further refine my choice or allow me to to specialize. These are not quite the same as flankers in the perfume market as they are substantially identifiable as discrete from their parents.
While NST is great for perfumes at large, there’s not a resource for someone that wants to specialize–it’s kind of a Rolling Stone catch all magazine of information. There’s not really a Chypres magazine for those that want to focus on that one area. Or, for those really deep into chypres, a Bergamot Today magazine. If you wanted to explore and jump out of your genre, there’s no Musk magazine.
I would absolutely love a visual relationship display of perfumes like http://www.music-map.com does for music. It shows you the position of the band/artist you’re interested in, shows you closely and distantly related ones.
Related to the CD store concept are the concepts of offering singles or single downloads. I’d love to be able to have mailable blisters of any scent I wanted like those ketchup packs you fold back on themselves and the ketchup squirts out rather than glass vials with those maddening caps.
Time is the greatest judge of beauty, quality, and cultural importance. There is *always* a relatively large amount of mediocrity produced relative to each culture and time in history. Time blows the chaff away from the wheat, and so it will be with all these fragrances. I wasn’t even alive when Mitsouko came out, and I am very glad it has stood the test of time. Was there another less expensive, less “good” cologne or perfume released in 1919. Probably. But it is no longer with us and I don’t really care about it. We are just living in a time when unfortunately, we can produce much much more than we can ever hope to consume which makes all these historical comparisons disproportionate.
I trust my nose when I look for fragrances. I ignore 90% of what is released and hope that those fragrances I love will still be around in these next few decades so I can enjoy them. I don’t really care whether the mass of mediocre fragrances lasts more than a year. What I *do* care about is whether or not quality fragrances will be made over time. It is completely normal in all arts and culture to have a disproportionate amount of drivel produced for every one or two masterpieces.
The question to put here is this: does the mass market of poster art or whatever cheap art you can think of diminish the quality of “real” art created by “real” artists – painters, musicians, designers, singers, poets, etc.
My humble selection: Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea, SSS Lieu de Reves, SSS Jour Ensoleille, Lyric Woman, Shel el Nessim by Grossmith, Chanel Coromandel, Annick Goutal Songes, Kenzo FlowerEssentielle, Chanel No 5 eau Premier, Badgley Mischka, the re-release of Baghari, Tom Ford Black Orchid Viole de Fleur, Ferre (2005), Montale Jasmin Full, Mauboussin, FM Noir Epices, Stella Rose Absolute, and L’Artisan Timbuktu. I am sure I could find some more too….
Interesting question, and I’d say no, but with perfume it does hurt perfume’s chances of ever being taken for an art form.
I am both a music and perfume fanatic. As much perfume that I have, I have even more music. I have lots of CD’s but in recent years, I mostly download music and make my own CD’s. But like perfume, there is lots of music out there that I do not like. I do think that too many launches of the same types of fragrances are churned out each year and there are very few WOW’s. If I had to pick only one WOW in perfume over the last 10 years, I think it would have to be Carnal Flower, although AT’s un Rose Chypre, SL’s Chergui, Amouage’s Lyric and Jubiliation 25, Stephen Jones, and Chanel 31 Rue Cambon have also been WOWs for me.
Carnal Flower is a great choice, glad to see it get several mentions here today.
I stopped cruising the perfume counters in the ’90s with the discovery of the Annick Goutal and Guerlain lines at Saks in NYC. In the early 2000s, I stopped reading beauty magazines, so have become pretty much removed from most fragrance launch news except for the occassional television commercial or when waiting at the hairdressers or Drs offices – until the discovery of NST and other fragrance blogs, of course. When I began ordering fragrances on-line about 10 years ago, I suddenly became overwhelmed by the number of products available in the market. I tend to zero in on the labels that interest me – either ones with products I own or know by reputation for quality and ignore the rest (which would emcompass mostly the typical designer and celebrity scents).
I do feel there are far too many releases and not enough attention paid to serious concept and quality aimed at building long-term relationship and customer loyalty. Much like many mass-produced CDs, they are aimed at the fickle and the trend followers – hot today, trash tomorrow. With the economy in the current state, I do hope companies will rethink their strategies.
Since I rarely visit the perfume counters these days, the fragrances that have given me the biggest WOW factor have all been niche and indies. Fragrances by Goutal, Montale, SSS, and Tauer come to mind and all were created in the last 10 years. Where to start? Montale’s Taif Roses (WOW-sadly discontinued), Tauer LDDM (nothing more I can add), Amouage Lyric and Jubilation 25 (Incredible), SSS Jour Ensoleille (I can’t think of anything like it anywhere). These are the classics of the future.
Thanks Robin, for giving me time to stop and think.
Love “hot today, trash tomorrow”.
Some really good and though provoking comments here, and I really can’t add much that hasn’t already been said. While I don’t think the average consumer is even *aware* of the vast number of releases each year, I do think the general proliferation of chemical scents in our environment with the half life of plutonium is a big factor in turning people against scent altogether. I think cost is another factor. A bottle of even department store perfume is quite a bit more expensive than a CD, book or DVD.
For WOW factor, I’ll offer two at opposite ends of the cost spectrum: SSS Champagne de Bois and Guerlain’s SDV.
Yes…the price is definitely a factor, esp. given that you can now buy a song for 99 cents.
After reviewing all of these weighty responses and thinking it over, I guess I’d have to say that although I’m a relatively new (going into my third year) perfumista, I’ve always considered myself a perfume addict. That said, I’m also a music, wine and food lover. And a book whore to boot. Has the craze of cooking/chowing shows via tv, blogs, etc made it easier to find better choices? Of course. Do I read more because of the internet offering me more book reviews and therefore more choices? Of course. The wine market is another matter. As to music I’m a diehard indie fan and my mind is boggled by what’s offered. I take advantage of all of it. And then I discover the perfume blogs and my eyes are saturated daily with choices. Hence my love and appreciation to the perfume blogs, which help me filter the staggering amount of perfume being mass/indie produced. They provide so much necessary information and happily share it all. To my mind the fact that the market is inundating us with so many choices isn’t a problem. That is solved for me by the perfume bloggers who do a lot of leg work for me. I don’t always agree with the reviews, but they help me walk through the minefields without becoming as overwhelmed as I would be if they didn’t offer comments and qualified reviews.
My wow factors: Andy Tauer, Ormonde Jayne, SL, Amouage. I want to say, too, that It’s hard to answer the question of there being too many scents released without addressing the fact that the perfume blogs provide a forum to counteract the overwhelming desire to smell everything.
Interesting that the blogs help. I sometimes feel like there are so many perfume blogs that it perhaps makes the matter worse…
Maybe… if one tried to read them all. I only read a few regularly and those are the ones where I’ve found the best information. If is weren’t for the guidance of NST, the Posse, PST, and a few others, I’d throw up my hands in disgust because there’s too much to wade through on my own. I might not always agree with a reviewer, but it gives me a point of reference and a place to start.
And you begin to know the bloggers too, to know whether their taste is similar to yours or not. I almost never read any of the others, just because by now I know Robin’s, Angela’s, and Kevin’s tastes at least well enough to know 90% of the time, based on their reviews, if it’s worth me trying something or not. Always a few surprises, of course. I mostly go elsewhere only if there is no review here.
Yes, Robin, there are a lot, but then each one really can do a different thing for us readers. I really tend to drift toward the more technical, info heavy blogs that help me with my “research”. I am not always interested in sites that are more purely emotive, unless they are swooning on about a fragrance I already adore, lol. I think NST straddles this rather well and keeps a nice high standard for data, point of view, format, useability, etc. As a librarian I am pretty picky about quality of information too! NST, basenotes, PST, are my fav fragrance blogs, and then Nathan Branch’s blog is really excellent for other broader culture, fashion, arts, fragrance, etc….
Well said Meadowbliss. Having access to all these great blogs is an amazing research tool that helps me hone in on what I do want to pursue – regardless of how high or low market it is!
There’s a theory that too much choice simply overwhelms the consumer, (an article on that theory here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/27/your-money/27shortcuts.html ) and I think that’s true. From deciding what book to read to figuring out where to go on vacation (and via what airline and what hotel to stay in) – this seeming wealth of choices can actually be paralyzing, and consumers go away empty handed.
Long-winded way of saying, yes, the number of releases matters and there are way too many.
Wow factor? L’air du desert marocain. It knocked my socks off.
Fascinating article; thanks for the link. And I totally agree.
Was this the one that had the study on jam samples in a supermarket? When I saw that article, the first thing I thought of was “perfume launches”! They found that consumers bought more when they sampled from among six types of jam, rather than when they were given the ability to test all twenty-four jams the company makes.
As for a wow perfume: Ormonde Jayne Woman, closely followed by her Ta’if, and SSS Champagne de bois.
It actually took us six years longer than we’d planned to make a move toward building our house, largely because my husband was daunted by all the choices we would have to make, from home style to choice of flooring to cabinet pulls. (I, of course, had no such hesitation. ) Finally, we decided to go the manufactured home direction, which simplified things immensely. We had twelve choices of vinyl siding, one choice of paint, six of cabinet style, eight of flooring, five of light fixture. That was manageable for him.
I definitely just shut down. I returned from overseas a couple years ago, and it took me two years to buy a computer because I couldn’t decide! Sure there are reviews, but you still have to make the fundamental choices between PC and Apple or something else, desktop or laptop or something else, cheap or expensive, etc. I used to enjoy having a lot of choice but now I resent the time it takes to shop and figure out what to buy. So I find somewhat arbitrary ways to narrow it down, like only wear Eileen Fisher. Buy everything I possibly can on Amazon. Got to save time and brain cells for more important things!
There’s a great line from Absolutely Fabulous that is one of my many mantras: “I don’t want more choice, I just want nicer things!” (It’s from the episode “Jealous”)
fast forward to about three minutes to get to the whole great speech!
I don’t think we will ever see the last of it. Who will be creating a political perfume? Think Sarah Palin. Shiver me timbers! What would President Obama’s signature scent be? The buck doesn’t stop anywhere.
Interesting conversation. It does seem that consumers – especially younger consumers – are able to handle navigating huge numbers of shopping selections, regardless of the product. Having too many options just makes me tired. I don’t like shopping malls or superstores of any kind. (For one thing, I get lost in them, LOL!). So for me, the internet is a wonderful tool! For fragrance and many other products, I can do searches that narrow the selection, just the way I want it, and selective reading of perfume blogs and forums keeps me informed.
I think Timbuktu was the biggest WOW in my last few years of fragrance exploration.
So you wouldn’t laugh at me then if I told you the first time I set foot in an IKEA store, I looked around for approximately 5 minutes before I turned tail and fled?
I don’t even want to think about Ikea!
Oh, funny! Wish I’d been with you. We could have fled to a nice little coffee shop to trade samples! I really want to check out the stuff at Ikea, but I’m not sure I will ever make it into one.
So I guess you *would* laugh, after all. I did go back later, but not without my trusty guide, aka my husband (who, being Scandinavian, is intimately familiar w/the layout). You just have to be prepared not to “dash in and grab a couple of things”. I still hate it though, and mostly send him for things… I’ll stick w/my hometown Target.
I was in a smaller IKEA once for about one hour, and I thought I was going to cry. No, not really, but you know what I mean – it is brain numbing – and that was before the gal I was with ever made it to the candle section! It is a never ending disappointment to me that their shipping costs are so high as I’ve seen some of the products and furniture I like. I haven’t enjoyed shopping at malls and really big stores, etc, for a number of years now. I do miss the chance to actually handle and smell items as some things like fragrance, handbags and shoes are so hard to shop for online! But I love having things I specifically can pick out at my own leasure delivered to my door! That is luxury.
I’m with you, Haunani! Timbuktu forever altered and expanded into another dimension my whole concept of perfume beauty.
I’d also never really smelled incense perfumes before AT L’Air du Desert Marocain, and it’s still my favorite. Currently, I’m a bit transfixed by AG Matin d’Orage, which so strongly evokes for me a morning in the rainy season on the west coast of Africa. But Timbuktu is beyond them all.
Of course I have to make the curmudgeonly point that there there might well be something else out there just as nose-altering as Timbuktu that I may NEVER get around to sniffing in the deluge!
Nozknoz, I think I know what my SotD will be tomorrow. I’ve had a long week, and there’s something about Timbuktu that cleans out my mind and helps me focus on the new. You mention Matin d’Orage. I’ve yet to try it, but I’m intrigued!
Hey Noz! Another Africaphile? I lived in Accra, Ghana for nine months several years ago. I’d be curious to hear where you were… and now I have to get around to finally smelling Matin d’Orage.
Joe, YES, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Monrovia, Liberia, decades ago, and I’ve lived in a few other countries but never Ghana, which sounds so amazing.
I don’t think MdO smells exactly like anything I smelled in those days, but it does somehow lead me to recall very vividly those humid mornings in the rainy season, when it had really stormed the night before, and the sun rising over mangroves. MdL has lush flowers and a sort of horseradish note that to me evokes all this. Denyse at Grain de Musc also enjoyed it, but LT found it painful, so caveat sniffer!
It would definitely be easier for me to keep up with fragrance releaces if there were far fewer of them given my primary method of trying perfumes is acquiring samples from online sources. There simply aren’t any places within reasonable distances for me to try more than a few very mainstream releases that debut each year. I’d much rather fewer but very interesting or even challenging frags a year rather than a flood of all too similar frags. Price is also part of it given it is a rare thing for me lately to find something I truly adore and desperately want to procure under $100.
The standout fragrance that really grabbed my olfactory heart and refused to let go would be Bond No. 9 Chinatown. It was one of the first niche discoveries I tried when venturing further into perfumistahood, and I was instantly addicted and still am completely besotted with it. Following those, I’d say Guerlain SDV, L’Artisan Fleur d’Oranger ’05, OJ’s Seraphim, Caron Narcisse Noir and L’Arte di Gucci. On the inexpensive end, I adore Strenesse, C&E Wisteria and LLP’s Crepe de Chine and Ecussin. Oh, and my bottle of Arba Wardat for $30! I was over the moon when I found out the price for such a stunningly gorgeous frag.
Chinatown would definitely be one of my “wow” scents, too. Love.
Yes, NN and L’arte are simply gorgeous!
As a SA, I can tell you it’s extremely important to the average consumer that we give them what is ‘new.’ And that really translates into, “give me something special that no one else has.”
So my job/goal was to steer them away from the latest drivel and have them test something worthy and under-the-radar – Bvlgari Black, SJP Covet, Hermes Sur Le Nil, Kenzo Flower Oriental, etc. Basically, whatever I had on hand that i liked and didn’t get much press play was what I sold. Or conversely, I sold whatever was on spiff to customers that bored/annoyed me and I wanted them to pay for my next purchase.
So yeah, shorten the crappy releases, get some real fragrances launched and promote the illusion of exclusivity and individuality and everyone wins.
What’s so interesting about the desire for the “new” is that, presumably, most people are wearing whatever’s new and if you really wanted to smell different you’d find something obscure from the back catalogue.
I wonder how much people do want to wear something no one else has, though. Lots of SA’s tell me “everyone loves it” or “it’s flying off the shelves” when they are trying to make a sale, presumably because it’s what customers want to hear.
I really appreciate this insight from an SA, and I also agree with what Capillary said: it’s interesting that people may want to have something “unique”, yet the SA’s are always saying things like “Oh, Acqua di Gio is our most popular seller!” A bit bipolar!
You guys have quite a range opinions on this subject! Its really interesting to read.
I am someone totally new to fragrance- never wore it when I was younger, never noticed it on anyone else, totally oblivious until a few short weeks ago! I have to admit I found the amount of choices staggeringly confusing. But by sniffing all the offerings in the stores and researching the scents online a bit (here, MUA, sampling sites), I’ve already narrowed down what appeals to me by a lot and the perfume counter is no longer intimidating.
So guess my response to question #1 is that I don’t really think the number of releases matter, in terms of becoming intimidated by getting into perfume. Even an ‘average’ consumer can narrow down the stock quickly and buy what they like. At the same time, having sniffed around a bit now, I can see how having so many new launches all the time could decrease the quality of the offerings… there are truly awful things out there! (read: Light Blue=GAG) I think perfume isn’t big with the general public because the companies don’t provide the public anything to get excited about!
As to question #2, being so new I can’t really address it, but I’m actually really proud of myself. I just purchased my first real bottle of perfume! A steal on ebay for Miss Dior Cherie. I know there aren’t a lot of high opinions of this scent around here, but I love the crisp fruitiness of it, even though I’m in my mid-20s and maybe ‘outside’ the target market. Don’t judge me too harshly : )
Wear your Miss Dior Cherie loud and proud!!
Congrats on your new bottle, and hey…everyone around here likes different things, so it isn’t worth worrying about so long as you love it.
Haha, I know, you guys are really great about that around here : ) I suppose for me my biggest fragrance hurdle has been distinguishing between scents I love to smell (like Chanel Coco, or YSL Parisenne) and scents I actually want to WEAR. I wonder how many other people have the same dilemma?
That’s an interesting point. Perfume is an art, but it’s also something we put on our bodies and that shapes others’ perceptions of us. There are definitely lots of scents I love to smell but don’t want to smell like, or that don’t match what I’m doing most of the time. And I’m often not sure how the scent will be perceived by others. I have a lot of perfume that I only wear at home!
Welcome Halimeade. I’ll echo to wear what you like/love no matter the reviews or opinions of others. And great point about things you love but wouldn’t actually wear out. For me, that would be Parfum d’Empire’s Wazamba, a new release last Fall. I love it as it smells like the balsam Christmas trees of my youth, but I realized one day that I don’t actually want to walk around smelling like a Christmas tree!
I’m so happy you gave this description of smelling like a Christmas tree as I’ve read so many reviews about Wazamba, but haven’t tried it. However, I do admit to loving the smell of pine sap rubbed between my fingers; it’s heavenly to me. Definitely going to order a sample and *hopefully* I’ll smell like a tree in the privacy of my home.
Welcome! So true: for me, the frag I love to smell but would not wear often is Avignon. Love, love, love how it smells, but I wonder what people would think if I went around smelling like a church.
Meadowbliss – if you find pine sap heavenly (as do I), you’ll enjoy your Wazamba sample. I’m out of the mood for it now that spring is – hopefully – coming, but I imagine about Thanksgiving, I’ll be happy to pull it out and put just a bit on the back of my hand to sniff on days that I’m home alone. Instant Christmas! I have read some commenters say though that they like that kind of scent in the summer to evoke pine forests.
I don’t judge you at all — I like Miss Dior Cherie, and I’m 38.
Hurray! : )
How wonderful! Congratulations on your new purchase of Miss Dior Cherrie.I think that is a great fragrance.I had a bottle of it and finished it and I am craving a new bottle.
If it wasn’t for google, I never would have happened upon this blog and been educated about perfume. I just didn’t know what quality was available to me. I wanted to spend my money wisely.
The perfume industry is offering crap to consumers and they aren’t buying it. I say GOOD! Perhaps if high quality, innovative, non-copykat fragrances are offered using high quality ingredients maybe consumers will be willing to spend their hard earned money on it.
The latest WOW! fragrance for me was VC&A Bois d’Iris. It was love at first sniff and I bought it on the spot!
That was my latest immediate buy too!
I suppose that for most shoppers, the insane number of new scents isn’t even an issue, and we scent-heads only notice it because that’s the way our brains are tuned. I mean, there are probably a thousand different styles of shoes on the market, but I don’t ever notice them: I just go and buy a new pair of black Rockports in size 10 1/2 EEE whenever my current pair gets a bit shabby looking. On the other hand, I could easily spend a few hours browsing in a really well-appointed fragrance department. I bet nearly everybody has a thing that they can obsessively shop for, while most everything else is just a necessity that they only notice when they have to buy some more of it.
As for my biggest WOW of the last decade, that would be Miel de Bois. There have been plenty of scents that knocked my socks off (Rossy de Palma, Ambre Narguile, quite a few Lutenses, Ormonde Jayne Woman, and CDG Carnation, to just scratch the surface), but Miel de Bois seemed like something absolutely new, something that had never been done before, and it thrilled and amazed me in a way that few scents ever have.
Interesting pick — took me a long time to appreciate MdB!
Yeah, I love MdB too and so glad I bought a bottle. Almost wishing I hadn’t sold off any splits!!!
I was smitten by MdB, too, but it took a few sniffs.
Hmmmmm…..I’m probably in the minority on this, but I’m actually glad that there is so much perfume available now. Of course, there is the argument of “quantity vs. quality”, but I try to remind myself that “quality” is in the eye of the beholder (as is taste, price range, etc.).
I tend to liken the recent Perfume Boom to the internet.
It boggles the mind to think about the amount of information that is available to us online, but none-the-less, I’m glad (particularly as a consumer) that I have so many options! Even though it can be bothersome to surf through countless websites trying to find the right one, once you find that perfect site, you realize the search was worth it. I think about perfume the same way – I’m sorta glad I have to wade through SO many fragrances to find a keeper….in my naive little way, it somehow makes it more “special”.
If perfumes were as available as boxes of cereal, it might be easier to track down new releases!
I don’t specifically seek new fragrances. Too new to perfume to be bored with the older stuff so there is plenty for me to try without worrying about what’s the latest. (But I do like to read about them on the blog so hope that feature doesn’t disappear!)
The last perfume that got me to say wow was M.Micallef Note Vanillee.
Don’t worry — we’re going to keep reporting on new scents!
I love this Blog beyond words…but I am at the point where I have no clue what it hot, what is not…WAY TOO MANY offerings! Decants and samples everywhere….yet I still can never get enough! I am not as gifted in fragrance description writing as some of you…but I know I am DEF hooked! Note to self…NO MORE BUYING…until you can easily answer a basic BLOG thread. Perfumaly yours….Carlos!
Crushed my first quarter spending…heres to NO MORE until 2011! Anyone taking bets yet? HA!
I don’t think you will get many takers for that bet, Carlos! LOL
Is the consumer confronted with all of the new releases? I don’t think so. Let’s keep in mind we are addicts and have a radar for new releases. One of my local perfumestores just re-opened after a adding another floor (and doubled their m2’s). The only addition in the collection was Reminisence!. Also many consumers will pick op the usual suspects and do not even see the rest. Luckily there is also a store with the usual ‘niche’ suspects….
I think pricing is a bigger problem (i.e. smaller bottles are becoming more and more popular)
Yes, the smaller sizes are the one good thing that’s happened in the industry lately.
Ok, so i think the huge number of releases does have an affect on you average consumer and i think that’s because perfume is such a sensory thing.
What i mean by that is; say the average customer, lets call her Joanna Bloggs, walks into DJ’s and tries on a couple of perfumes. Now if joanna listens to the advice of the sales assistants, she’s going to end up smelling either (depending on her age) some horrible fruity-floral dross or, if she’s slightly older, an old-lady-floral. Neither is going to be particular high quality and, if she does even end up trying one on skin, after 30 minutes it’s going to smell like Paris Hilton after a couple of Appltinis.
Great, Jo walks home thinking that perfume is not really her thing.
My understanding is that a couple of decades ago fragrance was high-culture – there were limited releases each year and most of those were likely to be quite good.
Ms. Bloggs can only really smell a couple at a time, and chances are she doesn’t know enough about perfume to wade through the thousands of terrible perfumes released every year and find something she likes.
It’s a shame, but that’s more or less the way things are heading.
Excellent illustration, Gabriel! And probably a very likely scenario.
If ONLY I had the problem of too many releases to keep up with!! In South Africa we get next to zero niche lines (one or two tiny boutiques have a few L’Artisans, one or two old CDG’s, but that’s IT), and even mainstream releases don’t always reach us. Can you imagine my pain, reading about all these great new perfumes and not being able to even order a sample, as delivery to SA is usually a big no-no? (Not to mention our currency of Mickey Mouse.) So yeah: get over the quantity issues, is what I’m saying and just be glad you get to smell so much! And to weigh in on the debate: No, I don’t really think consumers would be put off by the quantities, I think people get pissed off buying something for the topnotes and then being short-changed later on in the scent. Then they start saying perfume stinks, etc.
Great points, Lekkerruik! If only we could arrange to swap perfume with you for South African wine or game park visits!
Oh, I do feel your pain!
1. The number of new launches should matter but it doesn’t when most new launches are:
a) smelling alike
b) similar to previous year’s launches
c) outside my target market
Also, I have started to resent the shopping experience in brick and mortar stores. SA’s are haughty and obviously brainwashed into thinking the customer is ignorant and should buy whatever happens to be advertised. And that, unfortunately, applies here to niche shops as well. The owner of the one shop selling L’Artisan, Annick Goutal, The Different Company and Penhaligon actually physically threw a customer out of the store because she said “this fragrance stinks”. I can’t imagine that happening in the States.
2. I liked few fragrances over the last 10 years but the only WOW I had was for Tuscan Leather by Tom Ford. Maybe because I couldn’t buy it. It was at Selfridges in London; they only had the tester and there was a 3-week waiting for a bottle. I was leaving the following day
Yes, I do think the way fragrance is sold is a huge part of the problem, and one the industry never talks about.
This question has brought up so many insights. Brava, Robin, and huzzahs to all fellow commenters!
I would only add a couple of points. First, I do often wish we Americans were a bit more like the French in consuming fewer things of better quality. I know people want all this stuff, but I don’t think empty calories are any better for the soul in the form of clothing, scent, entertainment or home decor than they are in food, ultimately.
Second, I just see everything being increasingly driven by PR, which is inherently deceptive. We can laugh at the perfume PR, but some of the other things it drives are not so innocuous. I hope we evolve some better way to deal with the clamor of competing products and interests. Blogs like this one do help…
“…empty calories for the soul” – CLASSIC!
Excellent post, Noz. We should start a “slow fragrance” movement!
Like Robin, I’m inclined to worry about the multitude of launches – not only because it removes some of the “thrill” of a new release, and because it probably means that the company hasn’t been working on it as long. I also think that it doesn’t give people enough time to come around to more difficult or novel smells. I remember reading that both Opium and Angel took several years to become really successful, presumably because they were so weird that the consumer needed to try it a few times, or smell it on another person, to come round. With the dizzying assortment of perfumes arrayed on the shelves, there’s no time to try all the new ones, let alone retest things you weren’t sure about the first time. Personally, I find I need to allow for a process of adjustment and that this helps me to appreciate new kinds of smells.
For the wow factor, Le Temps d’une Fete and Ormonde Woman come to mind.
I think I’d agree – there seems to be much less thought going into mainstream releases, in particular. Bam! Time for the next Lancome, the next celebuscent, the next Gucci… and the general public walks into the department store and asks, What’s NEW? Consumerism and the splintering of markets are at work.
(I do wonder if the next generation is going to have nearly as much “scent memory” of their parents and grandparents as many of us seem to have. Everybody of my generation watched, say, The Waltons and Scooby Doo, and everybody seemed to have a copy of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours – but that’s not the case these days. Shared cultural references are becoming less common.)
Last 10 years’ releases – gosh, I have no idea what’s old/new… I know for sure SSS Tabac Aurea is new, and it is WOW.
Interesting point. Of course, shared cultural references are both good AND bad. Having grown up as the kid who only got to watch 30 mins of TV a day, and only *very* appropriate shows at that, I remember well what it was like to be on the outside of all the conversations because I didn’t watch the show everyone else was talking about. Now, my kids may be on the outside, but so are 75% of the rest of the kids, so it isn’t really “outside” anymore in the way it used to be.
Good point — and more than that, stores no longer give the outliers a chance before they remove them from the shelves. I do know that many times when we complain that a fragrance got discontinued it’s really because stores wouldn’t stock it.
I too wish that the perfume landscape was less cluttered. For many consumers I think perfume buying is a bit like trying to sift through the 10 million options and variations for cellphone packages. It becomes so overwhelming that they end up buying what’s sold to them vs. what they really want/need/like.
For WOW factor I’d say SMN Nostalgia (really does smell like a vintage convertible on a hot summer day in the Mediterranean), OJ Woman (like nothing else I’ve smelled before or since).
Oh, cellphones are the worst!
As a man in his mid 40’s I avoided scent for all but the last couple of years, mainly because the scent I was exposed to was vile, i.e. cheap and generic. How many variations on blue can any person stand. It was my frustration that led me to search for scents that represented masculinity…….. leather, tobacco and woods.
My WOW scents released in the last ten years have been Tobacco Vanille, Fougere Bengale, Fumerie Turque and Chene. Other WOWs have been vintage Cabochard and Knize Ten.
I am still looking for other oak scents or walnut scents, the perfect pipe tobacco etc. For me the internet has been a Godsend, the scents I want are difficult to find and generally expensive, without the net and blogs like this I wouldn’t even know they exist, let alone where to buy them.
In the end I think it comes down to the consumer, when people stop buying rubbish and start saying I want something better and will pay for it, then manufacturers will begin to provide. The proliferation of the same scent types in different versions, by different manufacturers is in part a reaction to this already, but the companies are just using marketing to push their product, rather showing any creative talent.
I know women all over the world love Chanel No.5 but is it really that good that every woman has to own it and decide they need to wear it ? It is brilliantly marketed, it is available just about anywhere in the world, but it’s very success makes it boring. And surely this is what has happened with most scents. They are succesful andd therefore everyone has to get on the bandwagon. (Aoudh ……God help me)
So go to your nearest and best store, see what they have and refuse to buy it, come back the next day with something truly splendid on, and ask them if they have anything like it.
Of course they don’t! So you won’t have to buy it either. If every perfumista did this once a year the message would soon get across.
No more Cool Water clones, no more candy floss dross. No more trends, just tell them what they are selling isn’t good enough and refuse to buy it.
I’ve not tried it, but Roxana Illuminated Perfume’s oak scent named Q has received excellent reviews in the blogsphere. Here’s the link:
I had forgotten about this one, I must admit it will take me a little while to get to it, I appear (ahem) to have spent a little too much on perfume.
Apart from Eau The Rouge I haven’ t been able to find a scent with a discernable walnut note, any advice?
I appreciate your comments, Dacha, and I like the idea of oak and walnut scents, though I’m not sure what that means. I remember TS saying that Diptyque Tam Dao smelled like her new oak table. Also, have you sniffed Yohji Homme? It’s discontinued but it would not be hard to find samples. Toasted hazelnut is part of it. Not sure if that’s walnut exactly, but it’s a marvelous masculine. But please let us know what else you find!
Hey up nozknoz, when I think of walnut its more about the dried wood or the green leaf as distinct from the nut, though I’m open to ideas.
I always wondered about that comment by TS as Tam dao didn’t smell like an oak table to me, but what the hey! Chene for the dried and cut wood, Quercus by Penhaligons for the living tree…..so far!
Now I’ll have to find some Yohji Homme, I really should have taken this up 20 years ago.
Thanks, Dacha, I need to try these!
Great points. Many consumers *have* stopped buying perfume…I think the only question is why, and perhaps it is because they found it all rubbish.
I know I’m late to the discussion – but there was an interesting guest on the Colbert Report last night that reminded me of your question. This guy has written a book, the basic premise being that more choice is not better. He mentioned a study where consumers were given less choice and as a result ended up buying more. A reason for this is that when there are so many hundreds of variations of the same product, you’re not content with something that is just good – it has to be perfect.
I can definitely relate to this when buying perfume. These days I’m always sampling perfumes – though really a lot of them are older and come highly reviewed here and on other blogs. At the moment I’m in the process of educating myself on the classics. There are so many that I like and appreciate, but nothing yet has justified buying a full bottle. And it’s not because they’re not great scents. It’s just that I have difficulty ranking them, and end up deciding to just get more samples and keep looking.
The closest I’ve come to being blown away recently is Vetiver Tonka and Chanel Beige – though I can’t figure out if someone put them in an unmarked bottle and didn’t tell me how much they cost, whether I would really think they are worth the price.
Oh good…I tivo Colbert so I’ll see that eventually.
And yes…really hard to judge “value” in perfume, esp. when you already know the brand name.
Wow, there are awesome discussions here! I’ll go through and read them when I have the time…. Just want to quickly say that I’ve been wowed by Borneo 1834 and Eau Premiere. I’m still in the exploration stage, too, so maybe I will find more!
Both great scents though!
Yes, it matters – if you think of arounf 800 new launches in Germany only – every year. Can you then take perfume seriously? Is it luxury anymore?
To make something exquisit it means not only to have a high price tag (which is impertinent for the laundry/cleaner stuff) but also to make it “rare”, something “hard to get”.
Still, consumer will not be more interested, because nowadays everything is scented – everything smells! Perfume has lost its art character, and turned into smelly stuff.
I consider perfume an olfactoric art; so I am impressed by the Hermès range as (for me) wearable scents, because the kind of “speak” to me; and I am also very impressed with SL scents, they might not be wearable for me, but they are smells from a different world.
So using perfume to “smell” I consider a different thing to smelling perfumes to get an olfactoric tableau (a “peinture”) for oneself.
I have to say once again that I love NST and consider it one of the greatest blogs ever. Role-model