Upmarket/Downmarket Perfume

"What do you smell?" Sherlock and friend from The Telegraph

“What do you smell?”
Sherlock and friend from The Telegraph

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. Continue reading

The Best Customer?

Original advertising for Coty Muse

Original advertising for Coty Muse

The best perfume customer,  Do such people exist?  Can they exist?  Are they us?

In the States we tend to reference Estee Lauder’s steady and entirely sensible business practices, the slow and persistent knock on consumers’ sensibilities with demonstrations, free samples, and gifts with purchase. Estee was in fact a follower of Francois Coty in all this.  He too, wanted the wide market, and bet that he could obtain it-which he did of course- and with spectacular success.  That all began though with demographic democracy by targeting the middle class consumer. Continue reading

Perfume Partnerships

Rogers and Astaire

Rogers and Astaire

Not the cute pairings of masculines with feminines worn by couples.  What I mean by perfume couples, are scents in your wardrobe which you know will form a stable partnership with at least one other perfume you own. Maybe that might strike some people as odd, but I have done this for years.

Bear with me.  Fond as I am of the fragrance wardrobe concept, I tend to change it seasonally or even monthly, and usually in this way, morning or daytime scent with evening or afternoon one. If you use two perfumes from the same house it’s often easier to pull off since they frequently share a base. Right now I’ve done this with Le Temps d’un Fete and Vanille Tonka from de Nicolai. They play off one another extremely well and can be worn for a month or so at a time. You feel like you have choice but also harmony and some familiarity. Try this with any maker, from DS and Durga to Estee Lauder, the only common point being a house signature.Since the idea is not layering per se here(although you can try that) but to wear both in the same day with one perfume giving out as the other takes over and the overlap smelling wonderful. Continue reading

That Man!

Have you ever spent two hundred and some odd pages with a real bastard?  I just have, and by the way, the description is one that Charles Revson himself would have embraced.  In fact, he did embrace it. He got ahead in his business by being a bastard, and his life story bears that one out in spades.*

He was born the son of Jewish American parents in New Hampshire and got into the cosmetics trade by selling nail polish for a firm based in New Jersey.  Then came the Great Depression. Instead of being grateful to have a job at all, he was miffed when he lost out on a promotion.

He brooded. And he decided to do something about it.

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Why So Few New Classics?

Why are so many new perfumes failing to become staples in the public’s wardrobe?  It’s a good question.  We still wear perfumes that are quite old by the estimation of the Industry. D&G’s Light Blue came out in 2001, Dior’s J’Adore in 1999, Lolita Lempicka in 1997 – you see what I mean.

And it’s not as though things are vastly more au courant on the other side of the pond.  Frenchwomen still wear Thierry Mugler’s Angel 1992, or Victor and Rolf’s Flowerbomb 2005.  In fact there weren’t many I could find on bestseller lists younger than three years.  Will things like Wonderstruck or Someday survive till next year or 2014?  Sensuous in the US, a 2008 Estee Lauder release, and in France  Idylle from Guerlain in 2009, might manage  a few more seasons in the sun.  Does it  take that long for us to make up our minds that we really really like something?  Or is it that we are now inundated with product and have a hard time filtering the perfume deluge? Are we so busy bailing out our little dinghies on the ocean of scent that we can hardly tell what we’re smelling before we heave it overboard? Continue reading

The Zaftig Floral

Florals come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are fusspots, some are exercises in carnality – tuberose comes to mind – and some are simply comfortable.

Of all these varieties, I find the comfortable ones, the ones with curves and a tendency to sit down on the job quite a lot the most pleasing.  They are seldom completely synthetic, since formulae that are molecularly sparse just don’t conjure up the requisite Mae West or Lillian Russell curvature. You need some big juicy naturals there to fill out a bottle.  The zaftig perfume is bodacious.

She’s also built for comfort and not for speed, so the formula is never simple or sleek, and the zaftig is seldom a soliflore perfume.  In fact I can’t think of a one that is based on a single flower.  They need to be big generous bouquets, the sort that fill your arms and start falling all over the carpet.  What actually fits this criteria? Continue reading

The Specialists

Ever notice that some perfume firms simply are better at certain kinds of fragrance?  I’m thinking of the fact that if you want a wonderful oriental, Guerlain still is pretty hard to beat (Shalimar, L’Heure Bleue), or that gourmand scents are the strong point of Parfumerie Generale (Aomassai, Cadjmere), or that even though Dior makes periodic sorties into enemy held territories, like the oriental, they are usually only partially successful, e.g. Dioressence, or that… but I expect by now you’ve got  the picture.

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Beer on a Champagne Budget

“After you’ve been having steak for a long time, Beans, beans taste fine.                                      
And after you’ve been drinking champagne and brandy,                                                              
You’re gonna settle for wine.”

He said, “the world is funny, and people are strange                                                                  
And man is creature of constant change,              
And after you’ve been having steak for a long time,                                                                      
You know that bean’s taste fine.”

Shel Silverstein

Generally it’s supposed to be the other way around, of course, and I suppose that all of us assume that if we hit the big time, we would not have a fond nostalgia for the lager and weenies of our pasts. Continue reading

Drier Than a Dirtbath in Dallas

It’s not the sort of description that you find often. Perfume is supposed to smell sweet, or floral, or spicy, or woody. But dry? Hmm….

The dryness of perfume, however, is sometimes a great selling point. Consider Hermes best selling Terre d’Hermes. Since its introduction in 2006, Terre has become the business perfume du jour. It is what European executives – both real and aspirational – now wear. The also-rans wear something that smells macho, or brisk but not unflappable. The completely effortless aplomb of Terre d’Hermes is what makes it the business parfum par excellence.

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