There is a well-kept secret in the fragrance industry: A secret Perfume Shrine has been privy to, but not sworn to secrecy and if she doesn't reveal sources, all is well. So, my sweeties, today I will reveal it to you!
Yes, yes, I know you will cast unbelieving and imploring puppy eyes to the Shrine and ultimately want to say "Nah...Helg is having a bitchy day, that's all!". But no, I swear to you that this comes from inside info and is very credible.
We have talked time and again how it is my personal opinion based on several little factoids from observation and discussions that people when judging a fragrance rely as much on their eyes as they do on their noses, if not more. What I mean: there is the undeniable brand recognition which even though is often pooh-poohed, it usually does feature right there in the factors that contribute in making a decision to even sample a fragrance in the first place. The latest discussion I initiated on Perfume of Life on this produced interesting results. It sounds like a trusted house, a brand which produces perfumes that are simpatico to one's sensibilities or which has a interesting reputation is more likely to get customers to sample their other products as well. Of course this is not exactly inventing the wheel: it applies in so many other markets as well. But it is especially applicable in perfumery, it seems. If one consolidates a brand well enough, then customer interest will be forever piqued. This is what happened with Serge Lutens and his olfactory seraglio of lovelies. Even the less lovelies are not wont for desire to sample. Every new Serge is a thirst to be quenched! The same applies to Chanel. And in so many more ways than one.
Coco Chanel herself had the wonderful knack of knowing how to provide what women wanted, yet did not know they wanted it just yet. This is a quality that marks the successful enterpreneur from the unsuccessful one and it is -completely coincidentally I am sure- the secret of the marketability of Tom Ford and everything he touches (ewww).
But to revert to Chanel. The brand has a solid, unshakable seal of approval. It's the Homeric καλος κιαγαθος (=beautiful and virtuous): no woman -or man, for that matter- who wears Chanel could be accused of commiting a serious faux pas in the eyes of good taste. It's the brand with the highest visibility of all luxury brands, the one which most people recognise at a glance, the one who has safe-guarded its pedigree best of all and the one who has been faked most; which only serves to prove that people desire it desperately.
Chanel No.5 is so iconic that it has stayed in the top 5 of perfume bestsellers in France for years (to be slightly nudged off its pedestral by Angel in recent years) and it features among the top 10 or at least top 15 in almost every market it is available. It is this which has earned No.5 the moniker le monstre (=the monster; against which everything is compared to in terms of sales), because of its immense marketability. The thing practically sells itself.
And yet (and here is the catch), when participating in blind tests, the fragrance does especially poor! This is something that has been discussed in the corridors of Firmenich, Givaudan, International Flavors and Fragrances and the rest of those hidden pillars of capitalism for some time now. But the average customer does not frequent those places, ergo he/she is unaware of those facts. What is left is hearsay and their own nose. And so often the former is commenting deafeningly louder than the subleties of the latter.
And yet there are people who object with their nose more than their eyes. You might call it whatever you like, but it's there, it's tangible and it's a share of the market that is breathing and kicking and yielding bucks in the pocket. So not to be patronised. I came across this fascinating recount:
"i'll eventually figure out the note in perfumes like that, but right now i'm calling it "french". there are fragrances that smell french to me, it's a sharp powdery/sweet note that makes me think of grannies. maybe when i'm a granny i'll decide to smell like that.~from If Only it Were Fiction blog
i've tried chanel 5 on me so many times, always hoping for a different result. even in the dry down, i hate it. and i hear these young celebrities bragging about wearing it, and i think, "there's no way you actually like how that smells. you're wearing it for the name". it's been one of the most popular fragrances since it's release and i can't figure out why".
Don't get me wrong: I like Chanel No.5. In fact I own some and have been enjoying it for years. It was first given to me at the tender age of 14: "every girl should try out Chanel No.5" the fairy-godmother told me. I even keep some in extrait de parfum form. But is it the be all and end all of fragrances? Probably not.
I thought you might want to be privy to this secret as well. Let's call it our secret handshake ;-)
Eddie: Sweetie, what are you drinking?~from Absolutely Fabulous
Patsy: Oh this? Chanel No. 5.