The end of the year is always a time of contemplation: summing up what happened, what left its indelible mark and what could have gone better. This is true in all things and more so when one is compiling a list for publishing purposes such as happens here. Theoretically, this recap should serve as a history lesson in not repeating the same mistakes and helping map out a better and more fruitful new year. Arguably, as per Hegel, "we have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deducted from it "  however, which is so painfully true for the fragrance world and the luxury section in general. But let's not dampen our spirits just yet! Perhaps as evidenced before someone is paying attention, so here's to a better 2009.
The Perfume Shrine, along with a group of esteemed independent perfume bloggers participating, decided to publish some musings on 2008 and its fragrant twists and turns. So here are mine.
Something is rotten at the kingdom of Fragland?
To take things at the top, the main problem is there are too many fragrance launches. I mean, they're like rice grains as a reward on a chess board in some ancient tale or microbes on a petri-dish: one is not having an embarassement of riches anymore, but an embrassement full-stop. I know I am not the only one who has become jaded after all this time watching one after another announce the new miraculous composition that will incidentally both cure AIDS and end world hunger while making us smell fabulous. It's hard to get surprised any more, I guess. Still, the latest Serge Lutens ~which my friend Denyse was first to spread the news of~, the upcoming Hermessence and the newest Annick Goutal have managed to create some palpitations to my -otherwise- lukewarm heart. I'd hate to be disappointed and it's rather late to plead with the companies and the perfumers to please not mess with my heartstrings (they're all coming out in January, so we'll find out soon enough), so I am merely extending my wishes for something if not magnificent and earth-shattering, at least interesting enough.
It's worthwhile to note that amidst what is generally referenced as the worst recession since 1989, the hyper-luxe companies, such as By Killian, state that they have not noticed a decline in their turnover. Sibyllic...
Everyone is an Expert
When "Perfumes the Guide" erupted at the end of last March like a Godzilla-sized "menace" (?) on the front of thirsty lands (the perfume-discussing ones, I mean), suddenly a whole stampede of people nodding their heads energetically started quoting bits and pieces in order to justify their personal preferences; while another group of people were actively voicing their opposition questioning the validity of those opinions in that book in not so polite terms. The phenomenon left us with something of the weird mix of mirth, sarcasm and pained empathy. (Surely the authors were entitled to their opinions, weren't they? I thought they were).
Never before has such a small world taken itself at such breadth of importance! It was like watching Tim Burton's "Mars Attacks" with lots of popcorn. It was almost certain the authors would intellectually appreciate the crassness of Gaultier's Ma Dame. So what? You don't have to wear it! I doubt they're advocating that you should! They're simply evaluating its lack of pretence (good thing).
Yet suddenly the ratio of traditional press articles quadrupled with some quite original and serious and some hilarious results! Suddenly fragrance writing became big business. And although one could trace this last bit all the way back to The New York Times appointing Chandler Burr a scent critic a couple of years ago, this year's evolution has shown that starting one's own site or writing a piece for a newspaper leaves all the holes of one's semi-knowledge free for filling with fresh air. I am personally enjoying the wide selection ~when before did news circulate so quickly, as to make the new exclusive, moderately-priced Comme des Garcons sell out of stores carrying it in one day?~ that this development has given us, but I am urging you to judge with your best analytical and rational criterion while reading. (Obviously everyone has their own opinion, but not every journalist knows some facts).
Intriguing Trends I Noticed
Speaking of wishful thinking for 2009, I noticed that already 2008 brought a handful of things that raised my antennae to the direction of Interestville. Namely, the new direction for woody fragrances for women, the widening of selection of florals for men, and the ressurgence of melon notes through non-Calone -using ways. A handful of genuinely intriguing trends emerged.
Woody fragrances are nothing new, but it seems that they have caught the eye of the makers of feminine fragrances: Sensuous by Estée Lauder, Magnifique for Lancome and Secret Obsession by Calvin Klein. From the predictability of the first to the hypersweet distortion-of-facts of the second and to the spicy austerity of the third (which I prefer out of the three, if pressed), I was pleased to witness a new trend coming, after what seemed like a tsunami of fruity florals and an oversimplification of modern chypres. May they continue (but with better compositions please)!
Floral touches for men took over where the pioneer marketing of Dior Homme had left: the metrosexual of 2008 is not afraid to wear his
heart flower at his sleeve and go for Kenzo Power or Prada Infusion d'Homme. Then again, he can always fall back on Polo Modern Reserve by Ralph Lauren and its butch retro-machismo!
Melon and aquatic notes have been anathema for a whole (young) generation who grew up lisping "niche" and shopping at Aedes and Luckyscent with all the gusto of a card-holding dot.com progeny. Well, there's nothing like an old trend coming over for revenge and it seems like three 2008 releases are having a laugh at ou expense, admonishing us to shed our preconceptions and stop being annoyingly snobbish: Jean Claude Ellena did it first with Un Jardin Après la Mousson for Hermès and his daughter Céline followed with Sublime Balkiss for The Different Company, while Bertrand Duchaufour is continuing the laughter behind our backs with the river-like Fleur de Liane for L'artisan Parfumeur.
And then, there was Dans Tes Bras for F.Malle. Interesting to be sure.
My Coups de Foudre!
Then again there were some straight-arrow shoots who came up with things I loved immediately: a couple have even won pride of place in my ever-overspilling bottle collection! I feel for the honeyed apricots soaked in spices of El Attarine as soon as I smelled a sample. I came to love the somber, cool and warm antithesis of Serge Noire. Serge Lutens has largely redeemed himself in my eyes for the rather unoriginal latest releases of previous years. He has earned a grace period.
Chanel has also come up with a true rose-cut-like gem (Sycomore in Les Exclusifs line), a graceful if a little too pretty for its own good twin-set of a scent (Beige in Les Exclusifs) and a genuinely modern interpretation of an iconic milestone (No.5 Eau Premiere). Well done!
Suprisingly, Guerlain has produced only one modern fragrance this year that I liked in a year that was scattered with vintage acquisitions for me: Cruel Gardenia. But don't be fooled by the name, because it smells neither cruel nor gardenia-like (and I doubt they intended it to be either!). Still, this soapy prettiness has crept up on me. Don't get me started on Les Elixirs Charnels/ Carnal Elixirs though. Just don't!
This year has been fulfilling on a personal level as related to my work here on Perfume Shrine and to my capacities as a fragrance writer and consultant. I have learned a lot of new things (for a constant student like myself, I have still lots of ground to cover though!), have expanded my horizons conversing with professionals who have taken an active interest in Perfume Shrine and am ready to relay my adventures with people who have a genuine passion for the art of perfumery. On top of that, in what started as a panicked attempt to salvage whatever I could out of a fragrance world that is constantly changing and rationing perfumery ingredients, thus creating a shortage in beauty, I finally managed to obtain some rare vintage collectibles which have graced my collection and have touched my historian's soul: Pour Troubler, Djedi, Fleur de Feu, Atuana, Ode, Liu (all by Guerlain, click to read reviews), Dior-Dior, Shiseido Nombre Noir, Lanvin Scandal...I am deeply thankful for the journey they have taken me on.
Last but not least, I have cemented a true rapport with my loyal readers, my guest writers and my perfume community friends and for that I am truly honoured.
Don't forget to check out what other bloggers have to say when recapping 2008 in their own words:
A Rose Beyond the Thames
Grain de Musc,
I Smell therefore I Am,
Notes from the Ledge,
Smelly Blog (and her "best of" list)
The Non Blonde
approximate quote, Hegel referred to goverments.
Calone is the sregistered name of a ynthetic aroma-material that dominated the 90s fragrances with its aquatic green melon note.