An Explosion of Brands

 John Singer Sargent  Promenade during the uncrowded fin de Siecle

John Singer Sargent
Promenade during the uncrowded fin de Siecle

Believe it or not this happened once before.  You may think that nothing like the multiplication of perfume niche companies has ever been seen in the history of scent sales but back in the early twentieth century something very like this happened.

Frankly I’ve long since lost count of the number of new niche fragrance houses that have debuted in the last three years or so.  Some of them will survive of course, and many will not, but back in the teens and twenties the world of perfume was similarly flooded.

Old classic firms like L.T. Piver (1813) or Houbigant (1775) or Guerlain (1828) were joined by all sorts of new ones like Coty (1904) Caron (1904), Fragonard (1926), Corday (1923) and Bourjois (1925). Still other houses were refugees from Russia, examples being Krigler and Rallet (both post 1917 in France, though both existed before that in Russia).  To confuse matters further this list does not include designer perfumes such as Jean Patou’s (1925) or Coco Chanel’s (1921), Worth (1922) or indeed Paul Poiret’s Rose de Rosine line (1911).

In general terms I like to see a burst of creativity come along, and also recognize that only with a lot of competition do perfumers- like any other kind of artisan- do their very best work.  Right now they may well be

In 1921 Chanel went from hats and jersey dresses to perfume sales as well.

In 1921 Chanel went from hats and jersey dresses to perfume sales as well.

stressed out, but the opportunity to do something individual and distinctive is greater now than ever for perfumers.  It’s precisely out of this sort of crowded decade that you get some really great perfumes, like  Le Trefle Incarnat, or No 5, or Quelques Fleurs or Moment Supreme or Nuit de Noel or Chypre, or Fleurs de Rocaille.

Not that  I’ve identified many masterpieces that are new mind you.  I look, sniff and wonder what will turn up next.  Periodically someone will produce a list full of putative masterworks, but I’m not positive that I’d come up with a very good one.  Maybe my nose would not be up to it, or maybe my choices would be too taste specific, but for the record and of perfumes created within the last decade I’d mention : Terre d’Hermes- Because this  Jean Claude Ellena perfume is somewhere between a vetiver and a petrichor scent and something new which really took off, the Eau Sauvage of its time, and also Narciso Rodriguez For

Narciso Rodriguez For Her

Narciso Rodriguez For Her

Her because that seems to have started a whole new genre, the floral woody musk.  Things like Dior Homme and Shalimar Parfum Initial owe the NR composition done by Francis Kurkdijian and Christine Nagel a debt of gratitude, especially when chypres because of IFRA restrictions began to die off.

This probably doesn’t seem like many perfumes to select but I have chosen scents that started trends and that were popular with the public.

You don’t come across either of those phenomenons very often.  So tell me, what have I missed?  What have been the great perfumes of the last ten years- and if you can’t think of any, please say so, because that’s pretty interesting in its own right.

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8 thoughts on “An Explosion of Brands

  1. Since the only perfume from mentioned by you I consider to be great (Terre d’Hermes), it’s not that hard for me to name at least several that I would call great perfumes – and it’s not even close to an exhaustive list:
    Ambre Russe
    Bottega Veneta Parfum
    Calamity J
    Carnal Flower
    Cuir de Lancome
    Fille en Aiguilles
    L’Air du desert marocain
    Portrait of a Lady

    Having said that, I want to mention that I’m annoyed by the number of new brands: I do not believe that the best would survive.

  2. Boy I hope you’re wrong about the best brands not necessarily surviving, that would be a little sad.

    I think Frederic Malle and Serge Lutens and Amouage are all pretty safe but what about Parfums d’Empire and Puredistance and even (to my mind) Neil Morris? They might all disappear and that would be a loss.

    Great list though and I would particularly second Bottega Veneta and maybe Ambre Russe too. I can’t smell Alahine for more than ten minutes 🙁

    1. I hope too but from the experience I can see that those who have better marketing budget (preferably family money ; -) ) are doing much better than those who created really interesting perfumes. I’m talking about small companies, not spin-offs of existing brands.

      1. Unfortunately I’ll bet you’re right, there are so many companies that have to fight like mad to get just a little market share, and the fact of originality may be against them actually.

  3. My mind has gone a blank, but I feel sure there are lots of more recent masterpieces – I would concur with about half of Undina’s list, notably Cuir de Lancome, LADDM, Carnal Flower, Lyric and Coromandel. I daresay more will come to be in a bit. Diptyque Volutes EDT I rate very highly, for example, and En Voyage Zelda.

  4. Zelda! I missed out Zelda, but that is one of the best independent US perfumes done last year I’d argue. Also I’d add Neil Morris’s Afire (Shalimar backwards in high heels) and has anyone smelled Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s version of Iris Gris-Scent of Hope I believe it’s called?

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