This issue used to strike me as very important long ago.Choice of brand was crucial. Or so I thought at seventeen. Now this matters far less to me. I smell all sorts of things and know that many releases are merely rehashes of earlier perfumes, and so wear whatever strikes me as genuinely interesting pretty much wherever it came from. But I am naive on this point because the truth is that brands and branding matter a lot. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s the fatal error among perfume companies was to move downmarket. You might think that this is counter-intuitive, but in fact it was vitally important. If your image was exclusive you stood a good chance of surviving the economic wreck, if by contrast you decided to sell your scents in cheap retail outlets like discounters or drugstores, your chances of market share loss were pretty good. It was Saks Fifth Avenue or bust for perfume companies then.
So it would be nice to think that none of this matters anymore. I’m not so sure of that. Many people seem to buy niche brands which haven’t yet acquired reputations. This is fine but you have to go scent by scent. Some are wonderful, some are merely do-overs of already quite famous perfumes done better by someone else already. Sorting through releases becomes a difficult, time consuming business. What is good? What constitutes quality? Are you overpaying? Is what you are smelling original or worthwhile?
That’s sometimes hard to determine. Even here branding begins to be important as a few perfumers already have more substantial reputations than others. Some have been at this business a while and their determination is often a good indication of quality product. Others more fly by night, are less certain bets. Then there are the larger niche brands. They often have acquired some notoriety. Take Amouage over Etat Libre d’Orange? You see what I mean?
This same conundrum still exists. As a for instance, consider the scene in the Sign of Three in the new Sherlock Holmes series. Sherlock tries to home in on a serial seducer and abandoner of women, he narrows the field down to five women and asks them which brand of perfume they use? Chanel say four out of the five, and the fifth, a maid, and a feisty character, answers, Estee Lauder.
Now some of us asked the same abrupt question, might say: “Guerlain” or “Federic Malle” or ” Puredistance” or “Hermes” or even possibly “Creed” but we won’t say, like that maid, “Estee Lauder” though we might say, “Clinique”. You see where I am going with this? It’s a matter of presenting yourself to the wider world in a few syllables. Am I an Estee Lauder person? If so which one? The more exclusive new series of wood and incense notes? Or am I wearing ( and I did once) Sensuous Noir? I’ll just bet the maid wears that.
So put on the spot, asked by a stranger objectively what brand I wear the answer is chaotic. Oh Coty sometimes, or Houbigant occasionally, and Caron, um, what was the question again? We have to ally ourselves with a business all of a sudden and just what kind of profile does that business have right now? Brands are social ambassadors for consumers. You see why “Chanel” is still one of the safe answers?
If someone suddenly asked you that question point blank-what would you say?