Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Electron Rants: Niche Perfumes Quantum Mechanics

Not a day goes by that I don't get an offer of some sampling opportunity in the mail and in all fairness most don't create any bleep on the pond, audible, visible or otherwise. I suppose you're guessing that anyway. Considering that so much effort goes into producing a perfume in this industry, with months ahead of brain storming into how to present it, how to market it, and of course how to compose it -and I should know because I worked in launching a couple of things myself- it's perhaps no surprise that people come up with things more surprising than they truly are. I sympathise. You don't come across genius every day. But from genius to lackluster down to b-o-r-i-n-g, now there's a huge leap. And I'm surprised that perfume releases with no business being in the running in the first place are getting released at all, just because the fragrance market in niche and prestige is cannonballing along something fierce. To use a physics analogy, it's a sort of "Dirac sea", an infinite sea of particles with negative energy.

Read the NPD Group's findings, an acclaimed market monitoring tool:
"For prestige fragrances, the segment experienced the strongest dollar and unit performance in 15 years, coming in at $2.8 billion, which marked growth of 11%, while units grew 7%. Juices grew 14% for both women and men, driving overall fragrance performance of 11% growth for women and 12% for men. Fragrance juices priced at a premium of $100 and above helped to propel growth for the category with unit gains of 45% versus a year ago, and fragrance launches were up 21% percent overall, driven by women’s launches, which grew by 33%. Celebrity brands, specifically women’s, were the winners in 2011 with gains of 57%".
In short, don't expect fragrance prices to lower any time soon; as long as people buy these things at those exorbitant prices, upstarts and more established players will continue to think that we're just buying an aspirational thing; even if it has to do with the aspiration of connoisseurship and snob appeal.

A brand that has released other fragrances in elaborate, niche, graphic designed packaging with claims of novel effects and dubfounding results, and which will remain unnamed for reasons of courtesy (the Poirot types amongst you will deduce with accuracy I'm sure), has released the most generic clean rose fragrance possible, only it doesn't even contain one trace of rose essence in it I'm sure. Not only the real thing in terms of absolute, attar, pomade or essential oil is missing entirely, a fairly trained nose can't detect more than just a screechingly synthetic freesia accord that stands for "floral" and that dreaded aqueous/green tea/empty air perfumer's base that passes as "clean" or "fresh" whenever you hear about fragrant releases for spring and summer wear. This "electrically-charged" rose is cropping up with an alarming frequency: I recall Givenchy issuing one for their Very Irresistible franchise, so who knows what else might include it in the not too distant future.

The fact that this brand has been sitting on a table display at some exhibition alongside Serge Lutens and By Kilian is probably an infuriating testament to the reality that you can claim anything and then get treated as such, even by professionals in the field! (Are those professionals so jaded they don't give a sniff anymore, just nod their heads and grant royal rights? Are they so anxious to please everyone they feature just about anything? Are they just paid to act how they act? Who knows.).

My senses aren't shocked by this random new release. My intellect is. Houston, we've got a problem.

painting Woman with Claws by Paul Outerbridge via tumblr


  1. We don't get all new releases on the counters here, being a bit of backwater but during the last few years, exactly two mainstream (read: available everywhere) fragrances appealed to me so much that I actually bought them. Bottega Veneta and Nuit d'un Homme. Well, I could count Mugler's Pure Coffe which I finally hunted down as mainstream but it was a limited release flanker but that's just about it.

    I admit that I like Shiseido stuff when it comes for simple roses. Their simple roses are exquisite though, even the relatively cheap Rosarium. Huh, now my den stinks of geraniol, I spilled some on my table and it will take days to dissolve. The smell, not the table.

    Elena, you well know that I'm a birch tar and patchouli girl... and that's why I go for the mad scientist approach and make my stuff myself. Repetitive stuff, I admit, heavy on woods and resins but if I could buy them in a wide choice, I wouldn't start thinking about mixing them myself, in the first place.

    It's not that difficult as one would think; natural materials are naturally multi-faceted and sometimes it takes as few as three or four ingredients to create something simple yet nice and interesting enough. Maybe it would be worth a rant on its own...

  2. Olfacta13:03

    "Tea Rose" (Perfumers Workshop) can be had for less than 20 bucks for 100 mls. It's a clean and green rose, too. Just PT Barnum said so long ago "There's One Born Every Minute" -- meaning "suckers," as in Those Who Will Pay a Premium for Something Prestigious."

  3. Mimi Gardenia15:04

    I wonder what brand it is ,Elena though I DO have a couple, that come to mind.
    I agree with Olfacta - a sucker born every minute !

  4. Many perfume blogs have an unspoken rule not to write anything bad about niche brands. Maybe it's time for a change? If a small/niche brand feels fine releasing a subpar perfume/line, somebody has to raise their voices against it?

  5. Mimi Gardenia23:56

    *Ding Ding* I got it ! I know which brand it is now... and it is the ONE I thought so all along...
    I concur completely, Elena having smapled a few of these.

  6. Udina, definitely that is one of the first steps! Along with ending the immediate dismissal of mainstream or affordable scents.

  7. I'll be back shortly with detailed replies to each one of you.

  8. Can't tell you which brand it is...but I can say the photo is most painful!! Why o' why!

  9. Funny Olfacta mentions Tea Rose by Perfumers Workshop. Twenty years ago I almost murdered an office co-worker who sprayed that on herself like it was going out of style! That is ONE VERY POWERFUL odor!

    Full disclosure: I have a bottle of it which I use sparingly as an air freshener when I open all the windows!

  10. L,

    honestly, I'm rather zzzzz about releases on the whole by now. What is there that hasn't been done already a thousand times? As you say, however, a pretty excellent interpretation of a beautiful idea can always turn an eye, though: I loved Bottega Veneta and yes, Mugler Pure Coffee too (then again Mugler always does rather different things, you know?) Now, I should try Nuit d'un Homme which I didn't even give a chance! Ha!

    The Shiseido roses have no fear from this "electric" one ;-) You cannot imagine the generic feel of it and all for a hundred bucks for a bottle!
    You make much, MUCH more interesting things yourself, honestly. (Your Wisteria is really lovely!)

    And I'm sorry I haven't communicated more, had the flu and several things to attend to. How are things?

  11. P,

    I have always heard this is a potent true tea rose. I never got a bottle. Maybe I should, for reference sake.

    As to your point, I think since the prestige market is blooming, everyone is positioning themselves as prestige/premium even if the product is generic to hell (like this is!)

  12. Mimi,

    so many dull releases.... both mainstream and niche.

    I had an interesting Tweet convo the other day with a new niche house guy who was complaining we don't give them the light of the day, but I think he doesn't recognize that so many among the new things are just repetitive stuff. He's sending samples over at any rate and he's bracing for scathing commentary if deserved so that's a good first step (and to his credit!). We shall see.

  13. U,

    perhaps that might have to do with writers who have ambitions of becoming friendly with perfumers? I don't see any other reason.

    But very very small artisanal businesses ARE harmed if there is bad talk about their wares, so perhaps in THOSE cases it's courtesy not to review if something is bad. Silence should also mean something.

    However this is not the case this time (charging 100$ for a drone of Calone & screechy freesia accord that has no rose there anywhere), and here you are: it's Electron rose by 12 roses. So there!

  14. M,

    good on you. Isn't it totally zzzzz? And rather bad. I wonder how they got placement alongside Lutens and Kilian, honestly.
    I mean they sent a sample, it's not like one is obligated to write something positive because of it.

  15. Susan,

    I concur. Happily, I have found a couple of very good mainstream releases in the past season, perhaps see our 2011 recap list. You might get inspired.
    In this day and age, it doesn't even matter where something is positioned, as it's a fabricated positioning by now. Niche is not what it was now as it was in 2000.

  16. TFC,

    the painting reflects the pain given by the ouch factor of the price in combination with the screechy, fake smell.

    I have given away the brand above in the comments. ;-)

  17. Oh and I always heard Tea Rose is powerful too, but very true. I need to try it now.


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