Friday, November 7, 2014

Et tu, Frederic Malle? Estee Lauder Buys Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle

It's not enough that performer-perfumers of the niche market with their own eponymous brand under their belt shun perfumistas, considering them irrelevant audience that needn't be cajoled because they don't really matter. It's not enough that indie niche perfumers have the guts to spell out the truth and state that perfumistas account for less than 1/4 of the total sales they make. Now Big Companies buy out the smaller players, at least the ones with the highest profit margins... First Le Labo was bought by the Estee Lauder Group, the fusion effective this November 2014. Now Editions des Parfums Frederic Malle is being bought by the conglomerate., according to an article by Julie Naughton on the Financial side of WWD. [Read the rationale on Vogue UK online, very quick to pick up the news]


I've been saying it a lot during the last couple of years (and initially articulated the thought back in 2010) but I have been accused of being cynical: Niche is (now) dead. Marketing is not a dirty word. Presenting an "updated" segmentation within a luxury brand is a plan to have your cake and eat too. When you hear too much art talk, you know something is fishy. Fragrance costs little to produce. Above all, think of what gives you pleasure, what is beautiful, and choose to support the ideas that matter to you and additionally not be swayed by fear-mongering. I suppose what I'm saying is "use your head". And we all know that the head is very purposefully elbowed out of the equation by the fragrance industry for decades, all that fluff talk about emotions, dreams, sentiments blah blah blah....

Let's re-iterate: Perfume aficionados form a very small, insignificant segment of the actual buying audience of perfume niche market. Expect the winners to be bought off by big brands, the struggling unoriginal ones to wither and die via survival of the fittest and the dedicated artisanal indies to continue to cater to a small, cottage-size industry. Consider where your buck flows carefully.

Bottom line, what bugs me most: The perfume aficionados have been USED as a stepping stone in order to build covetable brands that would bring back the investment by being sold off later on.
You call it business acumen. I call it exploitation. Let's agree to disagree.

NB. I was alerted to this news snippet originally via Basenotes


  1. I'm still reeling from the news. Maybe, if I'd stopped to think about it, I would have seen it coming... then again, maybe not. I thought Malle would be happy to keep growing under his own name. Perhaps that's just not possible these days.

    Do you really think aficionados have been used, though? Nobody forced them to buy Malle's work in droves, right?

  2. I don't hold it against Malle the person. He was obviously offered a very good retirement plan and he has his hand in other pies too. I also assume that he was nicely (and cordially) reassured that his baby wouldn't be messed up with. It's foreboding however for the niche segment, which has stopped being niche for some time now.

    L'Artisan is at Sephora and they're itching to shed any Jean Laporte components. Diptyque has lost something of their "edgy, eclectic" touch in their presentation. Other brands (Byredo) never really had it anyway, yet positioned themselves as niche.
    Niche was the latest "It girl" and everyone was intend on grabbing a pinch of her delicious bottom. Then all of a sudden niche cut off her hair and had kids and it was time to ensure a steady income and a white picket fence house. No crime, but a let down for those of us who once dreamed that vision led the way, right?

    As to whether "nobody forced aficionados to by Malle's work in droves", there are two things at play:

    1) they didn't buy his work in droves, if they did they'd contribute to a larger percentage of his market share and therefore possess a say in any decisions made (not so, as it transpires)


    2)I'm afraid that you and I and several other people who are talking and writing and thinking about scent have done the deed and have promoted those niche brands for free (!! think about it for a moment!!) . We made anyone who didn't have access to them ache with the desire of beauty that cannot be attained, and made anyone with the small disposable budget for samples go out and seek those samples and rhapsodize anew and build a huge word of mouth on how desirable they were. And gave them the seal of approval for relevance and made them bankable. Us, not the general public, because we were the ones who knew about them. Now more people do and they don't even know why they do.

    Do you agree, D?

  3. I have reached very similar conclusions but regarding many used-to-be-niche beauty and cosmetics companies. We bloggers promote these brands for free because we feel passionate that we've discovered something unique, only to have the same brands abandon what they originally stood for. Well, at least I still promote things I like personally, and have the choice to ignore brands requesting me to advertise their products, preferrably for free. I guess I'm cynical too :D

  4. Anonymous21:32

    I wonder how much of Malle's decision is based on his disillusionment with IFRA. He has been one of the very few perfumers to openly express his dismay. Perhaps, he has no desire to reformulate his darlings into unrecognizable shells of their former selves. THAT, I can understand, especially, since there seems to be no end in sight. Just my two cents. -- Cristine

  5. Anonymous00:27

    Such a difficult topic.

    We had 2 family businesses, and the time came to sell the branch I worked at. It was the right decision for many many reasons but it was still painful. Of course there was no control once the sale went through and some of the customers that I had the privilege of serving for 16 years did not stay with the new brand. There are many reasons people choose to but from a certain company.

    The perfume bloggers have been so generous with their information over the years. No professional marketer could have drummed up the support for the brand. When I need some thing cheerful in my day I come to you, and Bois de Jasmin, and a few others, and I have learned I can count on you to keep me informed and entertained. I would gladly pay a fee for certain select blogs-it's like the work of authors or respected journalists.

    I guess what I am trying to say is I feel for you, for sure. And while I liked the Malles, and everything they stood for, and have no bad words to say against the EL corp-I think I will be way more careful with my purchasing power in the future.

    Have a good weekend, and try not to beat your self up. Hindsight is 20 / 20.


  6. Anonymous04:06

    I understand. I fell in love with fragrance about 4 years ago. I respect and reach for vintages, difficult and 'niche' perfumes for the art I find in them. Reading news like this causes me to wonder 'what was it all for?'

  7. Oh no!!!! Not Malle !!!

    Everything will be "fiddled with" and will end up a pale and not very interesting!
    I must get a bottle of Fleur d cassie!!!
    The sooner the better!!!!!

  8. Anonymous09:07

    Deeply disturbing. Whilst EL are not the worst big company out there still keeping the classics in their main brand with some effort re IFRA regs and I think with horror of the other companies that coukd have been involved I am very concerned on a number of fronts.

    1. Pricing. When EL took over Jo Malone the bottles of cologne were a good price around £28. In a very short space of time the price doubled to £54.

    2. Aesthetics and culture. FM is a French house with a French sensibility. Although I have noted a shift to some US tastes lately (Eau de Magnolia) some FMs are a long way away from a US sensibility (Cassie) and I fear that the whole culture of the brand woukd shift Stateside. When EL took over Jo Malone some of the better more complex perfumes were culled in a short time. Anyone remember Fleurs de la Foret and the original Gardenia? Malone used to carry a full bath and body line in each perfume which died a death.

    3. Stability. One of the reasons I have a few FMs in my rotation is that I know I can use them with abandon because FM does not discontinue or flankerize. Look at JM now. Look at Tom ford. I would not buy a Tom Ford due to the risk that even the popular ones (Amber absolute get inexplicably discontinued) No perfume fan wants to fall in love with a perfume on borrowed time.

    4. Uniqueness. The appeal of niche is individuality. I do not follow mainstream fashion or popular culture and I want a similarly individual perfume. I wear niche because I do not want to smell like other people or go on a date and smell like someone's ex, sister or mum. Once a brand becomes ubiquitous (tom ford) that is a risk. I liked a chanel perfume but cannot stand it now due to it being the signature of a frenemy I dislike intently. If EL puts FM in too many doors it destroys the brand.

    5. Mystique. With no advertising FM perfumes remain individual. If they are advertised with print ads featuring scrawny teenage American bronzed bimbo celebrities like so many other brands dressed in trendy clothes that is not me as a 40something. I don't want to be patronised by that advertising and lumped in with twenty something gang!

    6. Competition. EL simply owns too many brands. Not healthy for the consumer. Where are the competition authorities on this?

    7. Integrity. Malle built his brand in rebellion against the lowering of standards by the big industry. Then he sells out. The customers that built his brand deserve better and this in itself destroys trust in the brand.

    8. There were so many better brands to buy. Despite all I said I woukd have been relieved to see EL buy YSL because I think they woukd have made effort to restore Opium. I woukd love to have seen them bought Caron which I fear I will not survive with its poor reformulations poor packaging and advertising.

  9. I winced when I heard the news about Le Labo: I do not love their perfumes that much and will probably survive if I cannot replenish Iris 39 and Rose 31 that I like and wear. But this news saddened me a lot.
    While loving perfumes, I do not really consider them art... But still, I thought it was a great idea to put a perfumer's name on his creation and I applauded Mr. Malle for that. Even real artists are selling their paintings to be printed on t-short and mugs and writers allow their books to become TV series. It is business and I understand the idea to cash it in. But still I feel sad: the brand won't be the same, no matter what anybody can think or promise today.
    As to perfume bloggers and perfumistas' role in brands' marketing, I expressed my opinion in the post I did last year after reading your interview with Andy (remove the link if it's against your blog's rules).

  10. I'm really enjoying reading all these comments and I have so much I'd like to say, but I also have a gigantic pile of virtual exam papers which I need to get through (the proasic realities of a blogger's life) and so I have to be brief.

    Elena, I know exactly what you mean about the 'free publicity', but I've never viewed what I do in that way. I started writing about perfume - and I continue writing about perfume - purely because I adore the subject and I was driven to articulate my thoughts about it.

    Yes, of course, in the process of doing that, I may end up providing free advertising for some brands, but that's incidental, as far as my intentions are concerned. I don't shy away from writing negative reviews, so I guess my influence - assuming I have any - can work both ways.

    I totally agree with your point that blog-reading perfume lovers didn't buy Malle's fragrances in droves, but I wasn't referring to them. I was just referring to those perfume lovers who are ordinary members of the public, if you get my meaning. There must have been enough of them to make Malle a viable prospect for Lauder.

    And now I really must tear myself away from the keyboard. We should have some sort of a virtual conference on this topic!

  11. I think the whole IT girl thing is an accurate description. She's a hypocrite and all those who used to believe in her are now fucked over in her quest for that picket fence. The cynic in me feels like that's what she wanted from the beginning anyway and the whole IT girl schtick was just a way to hitch her wagon to a rich husband. So congratulations. You did it. Now f**k you.

  12. Monica,

    thanks for chiming in!

    I find that in view of the EL holds the comparison with cosmetics is highly intriguing; many of the brands they bought which established themselves as "niche" became something else in the following acquisition phase.
    Obviously we will continue to write about things that drive us. Problem is these things diminish all the while. (IMO)

  13. Cristine,

    you bet me to the punchline, I wanted to bring this into the comments myself.

    Given that, indeed, what does the future hold? And how much freeway will he have into preserving things as they are?

  14. Carole,

    thank you so much for sharing your personal story.
    I get it that selling is a some point the sane thing to do and probably yes, painful too.
    I suppose I feel bad that I was part of driving that sale a bit sooner than I expected. But I don't feel sorry for "promoting" any Malle scent I wrote about; I consider the brand very worthy of thinking about and sampling and owning. As it has been till now, at least ;-)

  15. Anon,

    I believe that the niche perfume "renaissance" is over and we're going to see that in the next 5-10 years from now.

  16. M,

    Cassie, which is so antithetical to the US sensibilities, you should stock up on!

  17. Anon,

    an excellent commentary and a conscie round up of all the reasons of concern. Bravo!

    #1 I'm absolutely sure that prices will go up.
    #2 That's also a valid concern.
    #3 You're making very worried indeed. Hadn't really thought of that, but makes sense to cut slow sellers.
    #4 I'm pretty sure they won't want to destroy the exclusivity cachet; the TF private are still pretty "exclusive".
    #5.Hmm, let's hope they don't go there.
    (Goutal is also owned by big group, yet they don't do print ads in the way you mention, let's be hopeful)
    #6. We need a person trained in law to explain about that details.
    #7. This is EXACTLY my pet peeve. I wonder how this will be explained, because it can't be.
    #8. Hmmm, but YSL is not a niche, and it looks like the Group is intent on buying up "interesting brands" (valid on their part).

    Thanks for all your effort and time in writing! :-)

  18. Undina,

    you're free to post you link, no worries! I only remove spam comments.

    (Funnily I just read your post, which I admit I had missed originally, forgive me, and it might be pretty confusing for anyone reading now since there's no link given to very interview you're critiquing, or have I missed that too?).

    I think the reality of the matter, the reality of the market and the course that companies take, having discussed this with industry professionals, proves that I was right in some degree, wasn't I?

    If splitting was beneficial and augmented the selling base then they wouldn't object to it, nor would they be itching to sell out, correct? By going to a much more amunition-rich company they have the legal weight to impose a more restricted policy on such matters, surely? The way that Ebay cut down on the sales of Guerlain fragrances (MVMH owned) on its French branch, for instance. No full bottles, no semi-full bottles, no decants, no anything.

    For what is worth I find my own experience totally different from your, as stated in your post.
    The more decants and samples I gather, the less I'm interested in upgrading and laying down good money to own full bottles! In many cases the decant suffices; the itch is scratched, the desire to try out "just to see" is satisfied and the spark of "hey, this is totally different from the rest of the 300+ bottles I have back at home, I'd better buy at full retail price" becomes inexistent. After years and years of buying niche, since the mid-90s in fact, when those first erupted on the scene for good (discounting L'Artisan and Diptyque which I had only tentatively tried while traveling with parents and never had access to till then) I find that they're often re-representing things that already existed under less attractive, less intelligent marketing. Or that they're OK, but not WOW enough for the price tags asked.

    The proliferation of samples is also rather confusing and unappealing; I know what's coming before it comes by now. There's no curiosity anymore. Less enthusiasm. I know I'm not the only one. I see it around, so I can only assume it's not due to some deeply personal reason/phase but a phase of the industry itself which produces it.

    In a way bloggers and forum participants have indeed contributed to the "It" factor of some brands. When Googling something some crazy cool chick told you about her scent at the VIP club at 3am, you make a mental note, and when actually doing the search a perfume blog -no, several of them actually!- crops up on the first page with fawning praise, you can bet that the brand earns "points" even if no one bothers to get down and read our long reviews in their entirety (I'm voicing unpleasant things again…aren't I).

    So it's something that CAN be built just with minuscule samples alone (I mean, word of mouth) because everyone was so eager to sample (even a tiny bit, a drop!) and write intelligently about them and therefore decants haven't really broadened the buying audience because those luxury brands with the 200$ price tags already cater to wealthier customers ("and not to their maids" , as Malle himself had voiced an unpopular aphorism at some point). It's better to have 100 super $$$$$$ customers and sell $$$$$ products than having 10,000 customers of $$ income who buy $ products. How else can you position yourself as luxury???

    Business is business and there's no wrong in that inherently. What I'm (me, as a blogger and free-thinker I hope) criticizing is an end of an era.

  19. D,

    I know you would put in a comment worthy of a few hearty bites, thank you and best of luck with the virtual exam papers. I'll take you up on your offer of a virtual conference anytime! :-)

    As I said to Undina above, I'm starting to question everything. Sure, we all write because we feel passionate about perfume (as a concept) and that probably won't change! But I see a shift in the industry that I can't not comment upon. It demands to be noted and to be dissected with a scalpel.

    Obviously PR companies and artisan/niche perfumers send over small (tiny) samples in order to be considered. I don't know whether they send full bottles or gifts to others, there was much talk years ago, but it's under the bridge now, anyway. I know that beaty bloggers DO get gifts and whole collections etc and obviously this is a sort of income. What I see is that perfume bloggers have hopefully remained more independent (I have included a great link regarding an EL-held brand and one beauty/perfume bloggers commenting on the blogging practices regarding that brand), but the brands act as if it's rather desirable if you just mention their name and their product, it doesn't really matter what you write (whether it's negative or positive, after all we haven't reached the zenith of snarkiness that was a certain book and look how relevant the author is, still vying for a position after all these years). In a way, I can see the brands' POV, a "who bothers reading those things anyway? As long as they spell our name right". So all publicity is good publicity. And hey, yeah, it is so indeed. Otherwise you'd be sure we'd be closed down in a nano-second (this did happen once over a pre-released photo).

    It's all very interesting, isn't it?

    One industry insider told me "Only about 10 or so niches will continue to thrive, designer frags will get a rejogging and the rest will die"

  20. Xing,

    I wouldn't be so very caustic, but there's a point to consider. I don't think Malle specifically is a hypocrite, in fact I admire his honesty thus far (far and above what most have exhibited) but I am hesitant regarding his remaining control of what the brand will stand for in the future.

    Or maybe with the IFRA regulations the brand was a hot potato and he was looking to let someone else handle it. There's a thought! ;-)

  21. Sorry for the typos folks, I'm battling with a toddler in order to write!!

  22. Ellen17:25

    All true. The dollars( Euros) have won again. There will be a few crazy priced "luxury" fragrances and then there will be the fragrances for the rest of us. So be it. What I'd love to see, going into the future, are people brave enough to say that that there are fragrances out there which are similar and that there are less expensive fragrances out there which are marvelous on their own.
    Malle and Le Labo and Tom Ford may or may not be sell-outs. It's business not art, and business has won. Price as become associated with something good and the higher the price, the better it is, unfortunately. Its not true, but... (place the classic Gallic shrug here).

  23. Ellena, i completely understand the way you feel about being used, because i feel the same. At the moment you start to speak with passion about something that you believes to be true, you end being influential to others and building audience to an specific brand. So yes, we have been used and now that the market is fully created persons like the one you mentioned at the very beginning doesn't care to say that we mean little to them.

    Somehow, the impression that i have is that we are reaching a full cycle now, very similar to the one mainstream brands (if we can still do this division, i guess) went through the beginning of the 2000's, with many disappearing, many being sold and a lot of them loosing their true image to become something else to the new company they were under the belt. It's a little sad to see this happening again, because the results are usually not bad. Altough i'm not so sad only due Frederic Malle being owned, but more to see the reality i couldn't see before. This makes me reflect about what i write, what i stand for and also makes me think that it doesn't make sense for me anymore to defend scents due their quality regarding the formula price, since even on 'Niche' this is getting by the day less important.

    I would just like to add regarding the free publicity of blogs, which i believe that is only true to a few ones. We know that brands offer, at least freebies, to who has a talent to write and be influential. So even that you are not being paid in money, i don't believe that you can say that it's for free. Someway, it ties you because you cannot bee fully sincere and bite the hand that feeds you, right? I guess that the blogosphere also changed and it's much less honest these days, with exception of few blogs like yours that have the guts to say uncomfortable things.

  24. Anonymous19:20

    "Bottom line, what bugs me most: The perfume aficionados have been USED as a stepping stone in order to build covetable brands that would bring back the investment by being sold off later on.
    You call it business acumen. I call it exploitation. Let's agree to disagree."

    A bit harsh? It bothers us because we romanticize about niche artists and cottage industries being true to their art and not the dollar. Why shouldnt any of them that become successful reap the benefits. Why did they start their business to begin with? Making money is a good thing

  25. Elena, the link to your interview is there, in the first sentence :) Unfortunately, the current design of the blog makes links in such dark green color that they are almost not visible unless you hover over it. When I remember about it, I assign un underline font to it as well.

    I understand your point on decants/bottles but I still think that after some number of bottles in our collection, if decants option were to disappear, with most perfumes we wouldn't vote for getting a FB - we would just skip it altogether. But it's another topic, I'll stop here.

  26. Oh Elena, don't get me started on the issue of 'independent' bloggers! Now THERE'S something for a virtual conference. 'Sample whores' and 'quote whores' stain everything more honest critics are trying to do. But I'd probably stop there, because I don't want to digress from the topic at hand.

    Your idea that Malle handed his company over to Lauder so that he wouldn't have to deal with IFRA issues made me chuckle ;-)

  27. Anonymous12:39

    What will we have to look forward to? A few flankers?

    Portrait of a Sexy Lady
    Carnal Flower Summer Bronzed Beach Babe
    Noir Epice Noir
    La Princess De Therese Pink Glamour Edition
    Musc Ravageur Blue Sport Edition

    Une Pink Blossom de Cassie

    Does anyone recall the BBC perfume Series where they went behind the scenes of an EL company launch with the clueless PR people trying to source a patchouli plant? Reading Malles book this am and I am just so sad. All what he says about starting the company because perfume was being destroyed by marketing and by companies used to selling deoderants. Perhaps fighting IFRA does require investment. But he would have been better off with a sympathetic private equity backer rather than an American super conglomerate. I just hope Ormonde Jayne and Roja Dove stay independent.

  28. Mimi Gardenia00:21

    I am gobsmacked Elena .Gobsmacked. Malle sold out..... literally.
    Estee Lauder and Malle is like oil and water. Chalk and cheese.

  29. Anonymous01:33

    I'm in a small-to-midsized town where I have no hope of seeing Malle perfumes - the nearest store is hours away. But, the local department stores do stock Estee Lauder.

    My hope (and I'll admit it's a faint one) is that (1) Malle's perfumes won't be tampered with, and (2) they become available at Lauder counters along with the usual Lauder lineup.

    Mind you, #2 didn't happen with Tom Ford (at least, not locally), so I probably shouldn't hold my breath :-)

  30. Ellen,

    one wonders if the decision is only about the money, though what you're saying about the two parallel markets rings absolutely true (even without the take overs this is happening, the prices rising as they do).

    "It's business, not art". For a LONG time we had been fed the line that it was art. Some took it very much to heart.

  31. Henrique,

    thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and for all the feelings and thoughts you share.

    Yup, you articulated it well. The moment you feel passionate, you start building influence because that passion transpires to a potential audience and then once that's built, you've got a fully fledged brand (I realise building a brand has more behind it, naturally) and recipients willing to consume said brand, so ....where does the passion go? Is it ever effectively compensated (not in monetary terms) if the brand sells out?

    An industry insider told me exactly the same thing: that designer brands went through a "stall" with niche, but they will get rebooted once niche is cleared by process of elimination. It's uncanny that we had been discussing this 1.5 year ago, because it's shaping up now.

    Re: niche and writing about it. Sure, if it rings a bell for you, do continue because every voice brings something dlifferent to the table. The problem is that so many brands have already harnessed this drive in some way or another and that writers have increased so exponentially that sometimes the dialogue is getting lost due to sheer volume. On the one hand multiple voices is the very best thing that has happened and on the other hand one can't possibly follow them all, which seems a terrible waste. (And I know I'm doing an injustice to many by not having the time to read everyone)

    Thanks for the vote of confidence on the unpleasant things said on this blog. I like to think that since I'm doing other paid work on fragrances elsewhere on the industry, I can honestly claim that the independence of this site will remain unchanged.

  32. Anon,

    I suppose I am being harsh.
    Can't say I had been romanticizing too much about niche artists and cottage industries but still, it somehow left a bitter taste in the mouth. I don't blame Malle the person, in fact I like his frank manner a lot. Much better than PC bullshit that gets brandished around by others and their desire not to step on anyone's toes.

  33. U,

    ah, my eyes haven't been the same as they were before, then. Thanks for clarifying! I admit that I get confused sometimes as to what people refer to if there's not a direct sign, especially if I have "lost episodes" as we say around here.

    Interesting what you say about "after some number of bottles in our collection, if decants option were to disappear, with most perfumes we wouldn't vote for getting a FB -we would just skip it altogether." Doesn't this mean that the story, the yarn, the concept isn't terribly intriguing us anymore? We have seen what there is to be seen? (How many times can you twist an iris or an oud? Is it indefinite?) Aren't we...jaded? Isn't that some fault of the industry? How much perfume can one person amass and still claim they wear it?

    No problem on hijacking the thread a bit, if you care for it! ;-)

  34. Right now, I am shaking my head at this recent purchase. Because it seems like Estee Lauder wants to buy just about every niche brand out there. And to what purpose? To make more money or own just about every perfume brand out there. If they buy Andy Tauer's company, Chanel or Amouage, I shall just give up on perfume and stop buying it. Guess I should bite the bullet and just get myself a big bottle on En Passant before it gets mucked up.

  35. Don't forget that Estee Lauder started out as a one-woman indie company in 1946. Things change. Maybe Frederic Malle just lost interest in being a perfume designer and decided to move on. Change of focus happens, especially if one has the means to play around.

    For those who want quality perfume at reasonable prices, there will always be indie and artisan-artist perfumers around, and there will always be new scents to discover. The internet will help you find them.

  36. Tara C20:40

    I am very disappointed and somewhat surprised to see Malle sell out to Lauder, but that's business for you - the almighty dollar/euro/pound rules the day.

    I am glad I already have all the Le Labo and F. Malle scents I love as I don't plan to purchase any more. My perfume budget will go to the likes of Andy Tauer, Vero Kern and Laurie Erickson.

  37. I don't buy niche because it's niche, I buy it because it's usually made by someone with a distinct sense of style and the desire to create something beautiful, rather than something that will shift a million bottles over Christmas. That's what bothers me most when the big conglomerates buy smaller houses, that they'll take out the elements of daring and difficulty that make perfumes from smaller houses so distinct.

  38. Mimi Gardenia14:35

    I am not sure ,myself, if I will ever buy Frederic Malle again after this news. Never say never of course ...but I remain highly disappointed by this news. First Le Labo then Frederic Malle.
    Estee Lauder is a giant ..eating up companies in the same way as Kraft and Sara Lee.
    In future, I will give my money to Chanel ( as always anyway ) , Hermes and Guerlain .

  39. It's art and business, but business almost always trumps art. Perfumeistas are an insignificant market share to a global behemoth like EL.

    As Tara C. commented, there are many remaining independent companies to support.

  40. Eld,

    I found myself bitterly biting my lip reading your comment.

    On the one hand the desire to write off the brand that has let us down, on the other the fear of losing a love we have (and woe is me, I have several in the Malle line...)

    It's such a tough world. And we haven't found the cure for cancer either.

  41. Eld,

    I found myself bitterly biting my lip reading your comment.

    On the one hand the desire to write off the brand that has let us down, on the other the fear of losing a love we have (and woe is me, I have several in the Malle line...)

    It's such a tough world. And we haven't found the cure for cancer either.

  42. Ellen,

    excellent comment.

    It's sort of a different situation since Malle was "to the manor born" so to speak (raised within Dior perfumes) so the luxury market suited him like a glove. Still, I do admit that he has been frank so far (which I appreciate more than I can say) and Lauder is much better than LVMH in handling of brands. (What about Puig? What might have happened if those were the highest bidders> European brand too...We'll never know I suppose).

    It's small consolation that we will find other artists/artisans/niche. They might fall off the face of the earth or sell out at any given moment. That's the feeling I get.

  43. Tara,

    good thinking, thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    Though I had been expecting brands changing and changing hands (L'Artisan was a good first indication), somehow I always pegged Malle in particular as someone who could afford to stay aloof and above board on the whole shenanigans. I'm eagerly awaiting his first interview after all this solidifies.

    Lucky you, I have run out of a couple of favs of Malle and never replenished as I wished.

  44. Mim,

    you said it.

    Niche was smelling niche because it was small. If it becomes big, how longer will it smell niche?

    Let's wait and see, of course, but it's not a very optimistic thought.

  45. Mimi,

    it's a bit shocking, I'll give you that.
    (Surely not Sarah lee and Kraft "greedy"?)

    Guerlain is already owned by LVMH and look what happens: discontinuing things, reissuing things at 3x$$$ the price, hundreds of LEs for Russian oligarchs and the petrol-rich and for the masses LPRN.... :-(
    Of course they do continue to make nice things, can't knock that.

  46. Nathan16:45

    Fascinating discussion. Malle can do what he likes with his own business, even if the products are ruined in the future. We know he really loves perfumes, but this is a man who was probably born wealthy and surrounded by clever business-minded people with good educations. He studied economics in New York before deciding to get involved in the perfume industry, surely aided by family connections. Maybe he is more of a self-preserving business type than the artist some think he is.

    I am on the romantics' side, though. I hate the thought of losing a beloved fragrance. I only recently come back to being interested in perfumes after many years, and am horrified that they don't/can't make the classics like before(the only tolerable men's ones being Guerlain).
    I just want fabulous perfumes to wear... ones with soul. But I have not found one scent in the whole of Sephora (Champs-Elysees, Paris) that I would wear. They are all so synthetic/hollow smelling. Even in my limited experience so far with 'niche' brands I have been disappointed with the price/quality ratio. Some, like Robert Piguet, I really love, though.

    Maybe, we have been duped into thinking that a fragrance will live on. It is part of us, or was part of us and we want to meet up with that old friend again.
    But we don't feel this way so much with other items. We accept that we cannot buy certain clothes any more because the designer is gone or retired, or fashions have changed.

    We will have to see fragrances as temporary from now on... friends for only a few years.
    I do believe these big companies are 'taking the piss' out of us, though. They can do a lot better. The only thing I can do is educate my kids about what a proper perfume smells like, and tell them that the synthetic fruity dishwater on offer (in the mainstream) is a big money racket.

    Thanks for your great blog!


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