Friday, November 28, 2014

Bullshitting the Bullshitter? Chanel Damage Control Over Lidl Fragrance Smell-Alike Sounds Skewed

I'm not a usual reader of the DailyMail.co.uk, but when the title "Yes, a £4 bottle of Lidl perfume CAN smell as good as Chanel: But be warned -it could wear off in half an hour" sneaked into my inbox, I just had to look at said article. And look I did and I have a truckload of rant on the sketchy argumentation trying to manipulate the consumer yet again on the part of the industry. There's a stink raised, so your faithful bloodhound got going.

Just two days ago I too had read the Independent.co.uk article titled "Revealed: Lidl's £4 perfume smells identical to Chanel's £70 scent -but the difference is in the bottle" after all. It  reiterated what money-saving expert Martin Lewis said in an interview with Radio Times (and which I already knew myself from experience), namely that the German supermarket Lidl's own brand fragrance Suddenly Madame Glamour (which costs £4, I kid you not, for 50ml/1.7oz in a pretty decent if plain packaging) smells the same as Chanel's Coco Mademoiselle which retails for £70. 
Yup, 15 times costlier, you read this right.

Vanessa Musson has written a detailed side-by-side review ages ago on just this and myself I had included Madame Glamour in Best Inexpensive Fragrances back in 2011. So the immediate response with caveat emptor about the longevity of Lidl's perfume smells of desperate damage control and at points it sounds like people in the field are embarrassing themselves.

With apparently close to 85% of women admitting they would occasionally buy a supermarket version of a fragrance for themselves -if they really thought it smelt the same- the reason for this isn't very hard to see. In fact according to data within the Daily Mail article, the Perfumer's Guild conducted a blind test in which 90% of women actually preferred the scent of the Lidl perfume over the Chanel!

The question whether luxury items differ from much more economic products in similar vein is the packaging, advertising and marketing costs behind it has been already explained only too well in industry's whistle-blowing worthy books by Chandler Burr, the former New York Times scent critic.
If you have missed the breakdown of a cost of fragrance, I urge you to read this old eye-opening article which explains how 100gr of eau de toilette perfume costs only 1.5 dollars to produce!

The tangent then becomes "will they [cheap perfumes] last as long -or vanish, or go off- after half an hour on your skin?"

So, now, let's dissect the arguments against the Lidl fragrance and for the Chanel and see if they hold any water. I'll be quoting from the article in red and presenting my own argumentation right below it in black.

"The main ingredient of all perfume is alcohol (anything up to 90 per cent), meaning that it is the remaining ingredients, labelled ‘parfum’ on the box, which make all the difference.Traditionally, the more expensive scents are those with the highest concentration of this parfum, meaning that an eau de toilette (4-10 per cent concentration) costs significantly less than eau de parfum (8-15 per cent) or pure parfum (15-25 per cent)." 

Correct and therefore it's only fair we should be comparing two similar concentrations: since Lidl's scent comes in only eau de parfum, since Chanel's comes in all three (eau de toilette, eau de parfum and extrait de parfum), we should focus on comparing Lidl eau de parfum against Chanel eau de parfum.

‘One of the main ingredients used in Chanel perfume is natural rose essence, which is one of the most expensive ingredients in the world. It is like gold,’ says Lawrence Roullier White, who runs an artisan perfumery in London.‘Petals do not give out much oil, so you have to distill tons of petals to get any rose oil, which all adds to the cost.‘One bottle of the Chanel perfume contains 1,000 jasmine flowers.‘These flowers, which are grown especially for the brand in Grasse on the French Riviera, are picked by hand and only at night to capture their full aroma.’The cost involved in producing such luxurious essential oils is huge.For example, to make just half a kilogram (1lb) of jasmine oil, 3.6 million flowers are needed at a cost of almost £3,000. Other ingredients in Coco Mademoiselle (named after Chanel fashion house founder Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel) include iris flowers from Florence, Sicilian oranges, French roses and essence from the rind of the citrus fruit bergamot, grown in the Italian region of Calabria."

False on many levels. First of all, all these precious ingredients do not necessarily enter into the eau de parfum (much less eau de toilette) edition, but only (if at all) in the extrait de parfum which is not the thing you regularly see on the department store counter. Chanel does admit to using the Grasse grown jasmine, rose and tuberose only in the extrait when talking about their iconic No.5. But furthermore the ratio of those is so low, that even the allergens regulations threshold (which had raised a furore back in 2008 as threatening to damage Chanel No.5) isn't met! And we're talking about the 0.7% threshold for Jasmine grandiflorum (that's the Grasse varity) in the finished compound, which is already -as per above- only aproximately 10% of the eau de parfum!!!
Then again Chanel has always relied on expounding their "precious ingredients lore".
Besides the bergamot even in the famed Shalimar by Guerlain (nestling its allure on the bergamot top note) is synthetically produced for many years now.

 Then mr.Laurence Roullier White, who runs an artisan perfume store in London (also distributing Caron, Marc Buxton, Farmacia SS.Annunziata, Parfums d'Orsay, Slumberhouse etc.) goes on record with some rather embarrassing, even butt-clenching if I say so myself, stuff.

‘At the end of the day, you get what you pay for,’ adds Mr Roullier White. ‘You cannot expect a £4 bottle of perfume to be the same as a £70 one. 

We have already proven above that fragrance costs very little to actually produce. Visit the eye-opening link mentioned above.

‘For £4, the essential oils will be completely synthetic. ‘Perfumes which are not made from natural essential oils do not last on the skin. 'Those which are, react to the body’s individual chemistry and can transform over time, becoming more floral or musky for example. For £4, you’d be lucky if it lasts half an hour.’ 

Talk about confused. Essential oil is a very specific term and denotes "nature derived". Therefore cannot be synthetic. Surprised mr.Roullier White works in perfume and conflates the two terms. He clearly means "the aromatic ingredients will be completely synthetic".  But as a niche distributor, surely he knows synthetics are often mentioned in niche fragrances official press (!?)

He furthermore undermines himself since every hardcore perfume lover knows that most all-natural perfumes are exactly criticized for their short-lived duration on the skin, while synthetically man-made essences have giga-lasting-power. This is after all one of the main reasons they're used so much! You can read about Iso-E-Super, Ambrox/Ambroxan and synthetic musks on the respective links and enlighten yourself, if you have missed them, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. Besides their longevity, synthetics are wildly used for reasons of stability and unchangeability: they ensure a steady  product that doesn't fluctuate risking to alienate its faithful customer.

For the record, Lidl's Madame Glamour eau de parfum lasts a solid 3 hours on my own skin and several more on clothes.

Mr Rouiller White adds: ‘Some of the £70 you pay for Coco Mademoiselle factors in Chanel’s packaging and marketing, but there is no comparison between natural and manufactured essential oils.’ 

He is apparently continuing with the "manufactured essential oils" [sic] confusion. I do hope it's a misquote. And I suppose it was about time he admitted the pay check paid to Keira Knightly and all the people working with her, as depicted above.

The article then states "At times, the bottle may be even worth more than the scent inside, such as with limited-edition bottles of Clive Christian’s Imperial Majesty, which comes in Baccarat crystal with solid, 18-carat gold and white diamonds and which costs £115,000."

It sorta shoots its argument on the foot. If the juice inside is, as per Chandler Burr's breakdown, less than $1.5 then ANY packaging s automatically worth more than the scent inside, I would presume!

Unsurprisingly, many perfume makers are reluctant to reveal whether their product is made from natural perfume oils or synthetic chemicals imitating the real thing. 

There we go again: Natural is good, man-made is bad. Long-time readers know this is highly more complex than that and that in my view it all depends on the context and aesthetics. What initially made an impression, based on having tested both Madame Glamour and Coco Mademoiselle extensively and relying on my life-long experience and *cough cough* knowledge, gained alarming dimensions upon seeing that Chanel is directly "threatened" by the success of the lowly Lidl chain's perfumes and others (such as M&S Autograph line). 

Obviously not because the regular Chanel client will start buying Lidl fragrances, but because the aspiring Chanel user can do just as well without anybody being the wiser.

But the mere implication that a luxury perfume is better because its ingredients cost more, being of better quality, is skewed. If fragrance is an art form, as many of the advocates of posh perfume claim, then would you criticize a painting's worth on the cost of the paints it uses? Exclude imaginative creativity and visionary ability? To do so would be to automatically reduce it to a craft.  It's demeaning and uninformed.

You needn't feel like a fool buying Chanel fragrance (or any luxury perfume) from now on. As long as your choice is informed and you know what you're paying for, which in many cases is mostly the image you're buying into (and that's an art form too), it's an indulgence you can indulge in and it's YOURS to claim. Everything else is bullshit and should be called out on. 

The thing is, anyone can commission a gas chromatograph test (a test which reveals all the ingredients & their ratio in the composition of any given fragrance) and compare the two fragrances' "blueprint" side by side. It only costs around 100$, so if you're determined, you can do it.

A parting shot: Lidl makes excellent lipsticks in beautiful colors and lovely texture and longevity. They retail at 2 euros (!) locally. They only get imported & distributed once in a blue moon. The average Maybelline or L'Oreal lipstick costs no less than 12 euros locally. I leave you to draw your own conclusions regarding why this erratic distribution pattern...

If after all this my post disappears without my desire or consent (things like that have happened in the blogosphere before) then you know what I said is the absolute truth and someone is scared for their fugitive profit margins. In any case, this is your food for thought, assuming Thanksgiving hasn't totally knocked you out (which is just as good and I hope you had a great time!)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Britain's Best-Selling Fragrances (2014)

These best-selling fragrance lists have their use. Sometimes nodding in comprehension ("ain't that a gorgeous thing?"), sometimes in utter puzzlement ("that dull thing?"), but they always pique curiosity (You can find them all by scrolling the right hand column of this blog). What is out there? Who buys this stuff? Do they wear it a lot? Why are the same fragrances repeat themselves in patterns?

Here's the latest round of fragrance best-sellers for the UK for 2014, according to the Independent.co.uk.

CK One
Chanel No.5
Prada Infusion d'Iris
Chanel Chance
Calvin Klein Eternity
Davidoff Cool Water
Tom Ford Black Orchid
Ralph Laurent Romance
Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely
Estee Lauder Beautiful
Jo Malone Lime, Basil and Mandarine
YSL Black Opium
Gucci Rush

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? UK-dwellers are much encouraged to comment on whether they do smell these around.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The winners of the draw...

...for the Aedes incense samples are:


Congratulations and please send me an email using Contact with your shipping data so I can have these in the mail for you soon.

Thanks everyone for the enthusiastic participation and till the next one!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Start Up Sets to Make Your Vagina Smell Like Peaches: A Feminism Issue & Then Some

There's too much brandishing around about how feminism is obsolete (apparently by women -and men- reaping the benefits of a good 3 decades of women's rights advocates fighting the cause) but some piece of news crops up and makes you rethink things. Yes, if you haven't guessed by this introduction, I'm irate. A start up is asking for funding on Tilt (their Kickstarter campaign was denied because the fund raising platform doesn't accept biotechnology projects) to market their product "Sweet Peach" which is a probiotic meant to change your vagina's natural smell into that of a ripe...peach.

A probiotic making your lady parts smelling of peach like a Bath & Body Works shower gel. OK, get me the barf bag now!

Gustave Courbet, L'Origine du Monde (1866) at Musee d'Orsay 

The project is undertaken by scientists Austen Heinz and Gilad Gome, of the biotech startups Cambrian Genomics and Personalised Probiotics respectively. Sweet Peach will use Genomic's DNA printing technology into manipulating the odor made by micro-organisms that live in the vagina of a woman. They state the practical benefit of avoiding yeast infections but they also state this controversial claim: "The idea is personal empowerment" as "all your smells are not human. They're produced by the creatures that live on you. We think it's a fundamental human right to not only know your code of the things that live on you but also to write your own code and personalize it." And they continue by stating that "The pleasant scent is there to connect you to yourself in a better way" (but it also serves as a sort of function indicator). 
Which makes me so very surprised to see that they're also partnering on Petomics, a probiotic for dogs and cats that would make their feces smell like....bananas! 

Right, because pet's feces's odor and the odor of a healthy woman's vagina are on the same plane of values. 

The fact that the two scientists are male did raise a feminist antenna or two. Why not focus on something more universal, dudes? Like feces? Everyone poops, after all. The explanation was that the gut micro-biome is more complex, whereas the vaginal one is stabler, being upset via the period's "interference" only once a month (Hmm, hey guys, I have news for you!). 

But apparently the story is even more fucked up!  

The founder of the company, a 20 year old woman (and a "ultrafeminist" as per own her claim), Audrey Hutchinson, says that the vision of the product was totally different: aiding women to manage their reproductive health without the need of doctors or clinics (or even help the microflora fight HIV, as one company envisions this whole new frontier!). The male dudes, Heinz and Gome, collaborate on Petomics, while Heinz is only a 10% share holder in the Sweet peach project, which he unveiled in a public forum at the San Jose DEMO conference without quoting Hutchinson and even without notifying her beforehand!

But the thing isn't whether the dudes made a publicity blunder and a PR screwup which had the Internet up in arms about  it. They unquestionably have. 

But Gome has been put into record talking about hacking the micro-biome to "make her vagina smell like roses and taste like Diet cola". And Heinz had also explained his general logic by saying "We think on an airplane you're breathing 90 percent farts, right? So it'd be good if they were good-smelling." Talk about "la negation de la mort par le fast food". 

The thing is that there still are straight men out there who believe a healthy, average woman's vagina smells bad. Makes one nostalgic about the 1970s when American Cosmopolitan advised its sexually uninhibited readers to put a drop of vaginal juice behind their ears to attract a mate...

And there's this small little detail too: Nazi-odor-selection. Peach...bananas...coke. Who decided only fruity or edible scents are good smelling?

Long time readers remember our articles on Perfume Shrine which focused on how the industry shaped the market by hitting them on the head with fruity scents for at least a decade, mainly through the abomination of Bath & Body Works synth flavors incorporated into body products such as deodorants, shower gels, body lotions etc. 

If perfumery has long tried to emulated the odor di femina, with all its loaded innuendo perpetuated in literature, the arts and philosophy, such as in Shocking perfume by Elsa Schiaparelli or Ambre Sultan (Lutens) technology is reversing the tables by subtracting it and adding something totally inhuman. I'd say, get these start-ups some odor specialist and call it a day. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The winner of the draw....

....for the Fragrant book is Phyllis Iervello. Congratulations! Please email me using Contact with your shipping data so I can have this out to you soon.

Thanks everyone for the enthusiastic participation and till the next one! I'm going to go put on a pair of jeans and some lipstick and get out of the door, so please continue entering comments on the other draw, I will check them out later on.

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