Friday, December 28, 2007

2007 in Retrospect: 13 Honest and Cynical Musings of a Perfume Lover

What I liked in 2007

1) So many lovely new releases were mainstream perfumes that could be actually had at a big store. From Infusion d’Iris by Prada to Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia by Estée Lauder through Hèrmes Kelly Calècheand Gaultier Le Fleur du Mâle, I found quite a few scents that I am thinking of upgrading into a full bottle in the future. There is something to be said for being able to purchase a decent perfume without having to jump through hoops or paying inordinate amounts of money on online auctions or sellers.

2) So many fledging or “smaller” (in terms of reputation or business volume, not value) perfumers have come to my attention in the last year and it has been a real pleasure knowing them and sampling their work. Although Perfume Shrine has shown an interest for the artisanal houses from the very start, it is encouraging to see that those perfumers have gained recognition and respect. We will continue to back up their efforts whenever they deserve it.

3) The vogue for “celebrity” scents has finally begun to show signs of waning. Although the releases have been certainly numerous, they have often gone out of the scene without making much of a bleep on the radar. This is what I mean by waning…I interpret this as a healthy sign, after whole seasons when there were sane people who were eager to purchase Jessica Simpson’s nauseating Dessert line! This will allow the few, decent and sometimes quite good fragrances that have arisen from this trend of emulating one’s favourite celebrity through olfactory terms to stand prouder on the shelf and be unapologetic for their till now declassé image.

4) The direction towards the new “chypres” away from the fruity florals of the past few years is a welcome relief. However, this is risky, because they might pose the danger of becoming ubiquitous themselves. In fact they’re about to…I can’t begin to note how many feature the “clean” patchouli base so prevalent among these new contestants: YSL Elle, Dior Midnight Poison, Gucci by Gucci, DKNY Delicious Night, Britney Spears Believe... Companies, take note!

5) Givenchy did the coup and issued decent, delectable re-issues of their classic fragrances in their line Les Mythiques. If only every house did it as well. Brownie points, good people at Givenchy: you have redeemed yourselves for the lapses of previous years which had turned a luxury brand into a run-of-the-mill department store name.

6) Perfume lovers are not that stupid after all. After a scandal on Ebay this past summer, when someone was revealed to be bying and filling up vintage empty perfume bottles with undefined juice and then selling them masquerading as the authentic thing, it was determined that people do pay attention. Some more than others; but that’s nothing new. At least, those who did had the good sense of community to alert other people to the scam. Justice hasn’t been metted out yet, because damages to disenchanted buyers haven’t been paid, but at least now people pay a lot more attention and are not that ready to believe that there is some huge vault of vintage treasures that someone out of the goodness of their heart is selling at moderate prices.

6) The huge readership of Perfume Shrine has shown yet again that they are here for the –hopefully good- content first and foremost and not for public relations or networking. I value that and appreciate it more than you know. Even you, numerous lurkers who don’t want to admit reading us regularly! Heartfelt thanks for the support, your interesting commentary and your valueable feedback on assorted scented matters.

What I didn’t like in 2007

1) The pretence in advertorials continues: from the Nasomatto manifesto for their scent for hysteria(!) ~which reminds me of 19th century “scientific” treatises focusing on abusing women~ to the By Kilian encyclopedic name-dropping of famous authors and oeuvres (to a zenith of excess!), there is a point of saturation when a little modesty and restraint might serve them better. The consumer becomes jaded or sceptical after a while and –dare I utter the word? - a little repulsed.

2) The prices of niche lines have escalated inordinarily. At this point one has to put a small mortgage on one’s house, car or favourite pet in order to be able to get the scent they have been craving. Surely, more expensive doesn’t automatically equate more upscale quality.
But the online business catering to perfume lovers has also gone upward in prices. Understandably, they need to make up for the costs. But somewhere deep, deep down it saddens me to think that people who would really love to sample an exclusive Serge Lutens have to pay upwards of 130$ for a bell jar that is 1/3 full, when the new, full one is available throughout Europe for –the comparatively meak- 100euros. For their sake, I hope prices go down.

3) Chanel decided to make it hard for their discerning fans to get Les Exclusifs. I have elaborated on this sufficiently in the past. But, to add insult to injury, they have withdrawn the small extrait de parfum bottles from the online shops and almost all the boutiques across the world (barring Paris ~and Harrods perhaps), making it very difficult to get what is essentially the best representation of their illustrious creations. On top of that, private sources that shall remain unnamed tell me that at L’Osmothèque there is a practice of recreating the jus from the rather recent batches of Chanel parfums and not the vintages from the start of the century. This is sad…

4) Lancôme also decided to abandon the plans for a complete revival of their long lost wonders. Cuir/Révolte proved too costly to produce, Climat is getting harder to get when it was widely available before, Sagamore and Sikkim are not the easiest to come by. Lanvin is comparable: Rumeur has been drastically changed and although very pretty in its recent incarnation, it is misleading to retain the old name. Scandal is not scheduled for re-issue. Ever.

5) Luxury seems to have lost its meaning. What passes for luxury is overpriced scented liquid that has an obscure place of origin and is only available at two doors tops around the world. I am sorry, but this is so bourgeois to want to have that just because of its above mentioned attributes that it self-evidently contradicts the élite approach of luxe.
What happened to the genuine enjoyment of something that you love for the associations it has or its intrinsic value? The privilege of time and the attention to detail that went into selecting it for a loved one? The intimate knowledge that you are wearing it in your own unique way on your own unique person that will never be the same as anyone else’s? There will come a time when luxury will be to wear nothing but one’s own natural skin odour. That will be a hard time for the perfume industry I predict.

6) Ava Luxe decided to take an indefinite break. Just when I was discovering her line and finding favourites, worse luck! Serena Ava Franco needed a break after filling order after order for her coveted samples: I can understand that it must have gotten on her last nerve after a while, not being able to do nothing much besides. I just hope she returns full force at some point.

7) I was not really surprised, but I was a little disillusioned to find that so many people (judging by comments left here and there on the Net) found the Nasomatto practice of not issuing notes for their ~variable in quality~ fragrances lamentable and even insulting. For once, I thought this was an innovative and trully liberating move; a course of action that would allow us to really smell what we perceive with our olfactive nerves and not what we have been conditioned to smell through advertorials about notes and accords, when in reality the actual ingredients bear no relation to them.

But I am asking too much, I know... It's cool, Dude!

Pics from allposters.com

Our Leather posts will continue next week with a review of a rare gem. There will be lots of exciting surprises too.


  1. Anonymous01:44

    Hi Helg,

    I hope I am not commiting some perfume crime here by admitting I like the new YSL Elle. I like the opening, which I perceive to be citrus-tea like and then I like the drydown which is much darker than the opening. It does have that dept. store kind of feel going on, but sometimes that works for me. ;)

    By the way, Fleur du Male is great!


  2. Dear E., I pretty much agree with everything you've written, but you forgot to mention that Rumeur and Scandal are by Lanvin, not Lancôme.
    The Givenchy reeditions are lovely indeed and kudos to them, but I find they lack depth -- they feel like photocopies of the originals. Still, better than nothing (or than reprising a scent by keeping the name and chucking the juice). But the word on those is that Givenchy may, or may not maintain them in production: this is what the SAs are instructed to say.
    Another striking point is the launch of whole niche, sometimes very pricey collections practically ex-nihilo: Tom Ford, By Killian, Etat Libre d'Orange among others. The results may be pleasing or interesting, but the fact that the lines didn't evolve "organically" translates into unequal quality, an sensation of "un-achievement" in many of the scents. One can't imagine that each scent took several months to compose. Tom Ford pretty much admitted that lots of his Private Collection were rejects from his Black Orchid brief. The little-known Prada exclusives also feel like out-takes from their more widely distributed scents.

  3. P.S. But the Dude abides...

  4. Catherine03:24

    Thank you for many of the things you've said. I haven't years of serious experience behind me, yet many of the same things have struck me in this one year, good and bad. And I find carmencanada's remarks gems of knowledge. My favorite thing of 2006 was Givenchy's re-issues, even if I liked them not at all (in comparison to my love affair with many of them in the late 80s). Perhaps even the big companies are listening to blogs like yours. My favorite things of your blog are 1) that very attention to small-small-small companies and individuals and 2) your sharing of historical perspectives. You do a great service. Thank you.

  5. Maria B.08:23

    Helg, thanks to you I discovered Ava Luxe. Fortunately, at least I got one small bottle of Cafe Noir extrait and another of Fire Wood before...gasp...she closed shop! I join you in hoping she returns.

  6. I agree with much of what you said, but not all. :)

    I didn't mind the Nasomatto nonlisting of notes. I do think it helps in some ways to not know them, so you smell what you smell, not hunt for what you think you should be smelling. That I liked two of them in the line very much was a bonus.

    happy New Year!

  7. Dawn, dear,

    of course there is no crime in liking what you one likes! Enjoy!

    Yes, wasn't FdM really wonderful? I think many women would love to wear it were it issued as a shared fragrance ;-)

  8. D, of course! (off to add it)
    It would be sad if Givenchy decide to dump the line...

    I completely agree with you on those "collections" you mention: there is no way so many scents can be developped in so short a time.

    And did TF actually admit this? Wow! This doesn't reflect well on so many levels.... ;-)

  9. Dear Catherine,

    I sure hope they pay attention! If they act accordingly, then perfume-holics will be a little happier, which is just as well.

    Thank you for your profuse, wonderful compliments. It makes me happy to think that there is appreciation of the concept :-)

  10. Dear M,

    I am very glad you did, because Serena did a wonderful job. I hope she reprises it at some point. In the meantime she does sell some through her jewel site.

  11. Dear P,

    thank you and happy new year to you too!

    This is what I have heard by people who really love sampling things (I do understand your point, like I said). I hope it helps constructively :-)

    I do recall you were one of those who didn't mind the non-listing of notes by Nasomatto. I think I had commented on that post. We shared two likes in the line, I think. One was -even- great.

  12. Bravura, E! Great write and telling it like it is with the industry. I loved this end of the year wrap up of what is wrong and what could be right with the fragrance industry. As always "spot-on" dear.

    I anticipate more great write ups in the future from you, dear.

    A fan forever,

  13. Thank you A.
    Hopefully I wasn't too blunt


    Have a great new year!

  14. irene09:05

    Delurking to comment this time. This was a very detailed and honest post. I share many of those thoughts!!
    Thank you for what you do here, it is unique, haven't come across something comparable.

  15. abigail16:45

    For me, this blog is the best discovery of 2007. Can't wait to test all the new things I discovered.

    Happy New Year!


  16. Malena17:16

    dear e. :)
    you´re so right about the high prices one has to pay for niche scents nowadays - it seems 150 EUR is getting "normal" these days. i doubt that most scents - as lovely as they might be - are worth it/contain such precious material to justify their price.
    it makes it so hard to decide which scent to purchase, because mistakes are not allowed - unless you have a rich mafioso husband or soemthing like that ;)
    i´d say this year wasn´t bad fragrancewise. i found some new loves & discovered older scents that i hadn´t had paid attention to before. & at the end of this year, i rediscovered your blog which is a VERY good thing, too.
    - by the way i finally decided which scent from your list i want to vote for LOL
    wishing you a wonderful evening,
    kiki-scented hugs :)

  17. For me, 2007 was the year of florals. The releases I fell in love with were all florals, and I'm not primarily a floral lover.

    L'Artisan Iris Pallida
    Givenchy Harvest Amarige
    Lady Vengeance
    Serge Lutens Sarrasins
    Nasomatto Venus
    Guerlain Iris Ganache
    EL Tuberose Gardenia

  18. sweetlife19:47

    Thank you for these lovely thoughts.

    I keep looking for the Givenchy re-issues but can only find a few of them on-line. Can you shed any light on their whereabouts?

  19. Irene,
    thank you for your most kind words. I am glad that we are on the same wavelength and I hope 2008 will bring lots of scented lovelies too.

  20. Abigail,

    you make me blush! Thanks!
    Happy new year to you too.

  21. Dear C,

    yeah, isn't it preposterous for it to be considered normal? There is such thing as a plafond, over which one really can't put any more expensive raw materials...you know it's the exclusivity/diamond encrusted bottle/whatever that accounts for the price...

    Thank you for the lovely compliment, I am happy to have you here.
    And yes, please vote: it will be revealing to see how the results shape ~especially as the format allows only one choice.

  22. Dear Iris,

    florals, yes and iris had the share of the lion (you mentioned two more irises which made the grade).
    And I see some Nasomatto love, too (the tuberose one).

    Enjoy the new scents and happy new year!

  23. Sweetlife,

    thank you for your comment.
    The Givenchy re-issues are available at Nordstorm, per my info. I think most of the bottles circulating online are vintage juice from before the re-issue (I am talking about L'interdit which has at least two different incarnations, Givenchy III, Xeryus and Monsieur de Givenchy).

  24. I enjoy reading all your thoughts and edifying informative posts !

    It certainly was the Year of the Iris, and the Year of the Incense.

    Yup, what IS luxury these days ?
    Black laquered coffins for our bottles?
    Diamonds and gold ?
    Silly, silly silly !

    Meanwhile- we've got friendships, some common sense, and a whole lotta love...
    Not bad !

    Be blessed and happy in the coming year...

  25. CresceNet04:29

    Gostei muito desse post e seu blog é muito interessante, vou passar por aqui sempre =) Depois dá uma passada lá no meu site, que é sobre o CresceNet, espero que goste. O endereço dele é http://www.provedorcrescenet.com . Um abraço.

  26. Dear I,
    thank you and it's always good to read your intriguing comments!

    "Black laquered coffins for our bottles" is priceless! I should quote you on that one in the future, LOL. Thanks!

    Happy new year to you too ~and it's good to be able to talk about this subject among people who understand, I agree :-)

  27. Thank you Crescenet for your kind words about the post and the blog in general.
    Will take a look.

  28. Dear E.,
    I share many of your thoughts and feelings, especially on the question of luxury. That, to me, is the biggest issue: the loss of the old, classy luxurious feeling of many big houses. That's my biggest problem with the new Chanels. Living where I am, 30 minutes away from central Manhattan, I'm not impressed with the exclusivity idea. There's very little I can't get here, Chanel included. But I don't like feeling that they try selling us a diluted juice in big jugs. It cheapens the experience just as much as all the cost-cutting reformulations of the other old classics from historic houses.

    I also agree that niche lines are using the situation and over-charge for their creations. There's only so much that can be in those bottles.

    Thank you for the wonderful work in this blog. I wish you a happy and blessed New Year.

  29. Gaia, if I may leap in the defense of the Chanels... I'm also annoyed at the huge flacons and would have rather they had stuck to the 100 ml, but after speaking to very senior people at Chanel I think that they wanted to convey the idea of luxury through abundance. I have conveyed to them the general annoyance for the poor lasting power of some of the scents (28 La Pausa, Bel Respiro). The light concentration was actually deliberate, to go against the very pungent, tenacious trend of a lot of mainstream perfumery.

  30. Dear G,

    thank you for your lovely compliment on the work done here. It's good to know that the love for perfume here is perceived.

    Re the Chanels: I had been the first to say -with quite the opposition!- when Les Exclusifs came out that there is no point in them keeping online the small bottles, since they have issued the Rue Cambon collection in the trully big bottles. That those would disappear slowly and become exclusive, when before everyone could just order them online from Gloss.com. I said that they are "pulling an Hermes on us".

    Then Gloss ceased to cater for them... Then the stock in the small bottles quickly disappeared... Then the extrait de parfum became available only in a couple of boutiques and that was it...

    See, I was proven right. I hate when that happens.

    Have a wonderful new year too!

  31. D,

    of course they would say that! OK, this is a joke, I know they don't decide based on what we tell them...

    I appreciate the abundance concept in the EdC (it seems to be a de facto thing to splash on cologne copiously), although in the rest of the line it's a bit wasteful?

    As to them being lighter than the mainstream market, of course this is an element of chic (restraint being patrician, because there is no need to prove anything), but this contradicts their own Coco Mademoiselle, which if I am not much mistaken is a bestseller and quite potent ;-)

    Still, one has to give it to Chanel that they always do beautiful scents: there is none in their line that is not well-crafted and wearable.


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