Thursday, January 10, 2013

What I'm Tired of Right Now

Ladies' Home Journal, "I'm Fed Up" (1944) by Irving Nurick

Articles in the general press having to do with olfaction/perfume/the sense of smell titled "Scents and Sensibility". (Or the pun-ier "Sense and Scentsibility") Journalists should dust off something else besides their Jane Austen paperbacks for titles inspiration. (It did become a movie title, apparently. I swear I did't know until I Googled this very title! Thankfully it tanked). It can still remain a perfume boards handle though; that's OK in my books.

"The most primitive sense" should also be excommunicated from smell writing. It predisposes me I'm about to read a guide for bored housewives into regaining their husbands' mojo attention span via cheap tricks. Baudelaire quotes don't, on the other hand, but it's overdone by now.

(Predictably) The oud bandwagon. The "noble rot", the "prized essence", the "most expensive raw material"... it's all a lie! (I've been saying this since 2008) Enough already.

The Perfumery is Art bandwagon on which everyone hops on in the hopes it should pay dividends. It won't , particularly. (And I am ever so pleased I am not the first one to predict so) [btw, special thanks to Patty of Perfume Posse for the pdf linked]

Worrying about which scents IFRA regulations will massacre with their successive reviews each time. Basically it just prolongs the agony. Just kill me now.

Online "experts" on assorted beauty boards that regurgitate half-learned lessons about perfumery (rather than their personal opinions or just solid facts). Open a decent book on the subject, allow a dissenting voice (another's opinion is just as valid as your own), and stop acting like you know it all, like a 15 year old. No one does. Not even perfumers; they're still learning.

Press releases and fragrance advertisements that use any combination of the words "for the confident, sensual woman who celebrates her femininity" (define femininity please!), "grace, confidence and charm", "the link between fragrance, confidence & women." See a pattern? Best of all (just an example of the full idiocy): "This fragrance is for the confident man, one who is not afraid to show who he really is". If he's really not afraid to show who he really is, then why not go au naturel? Why PAY GOOD MONEY for something to show who he is? Is his real self hiding? (And if so, why is it hiding? Isn't he confident enough?) You see my point...

Do you have a rant of your own? I'd love to hear it in the comments. 


  1. I'll happily sign the petition to stop the use of "confident", oud (for the love of oakmoss, just stop already) and anything regurgitating bad Jane Austen puns - or just bad puns in general. I'm tired of perfume PR with overly purple (and badly done) prose, and I'm terribly fed up with anything containing patchouli, red berries or any combination thereof. Oh! And lack of imagination. Did I say that already? ;-)

  2. Anonymous11:18

    I agree absolutely with every word you've written!

  3. T,

    ah, yes, the same materials over and over again (there's a reason for that, but anyway it's not a totally convincing reason) and the lack of imagination....The latter most of all!

    Thanks for commenting, hope you're very well and happy new year!

  4. Jillie,

    now we should join signatures on that petition to the industry :-)


  5. There are many things I am sick of when it comes to perfume and food. Celebrity perfumes are one of them. Normally the smell like somebody just thought that last week, they should release their own perfume. Then it smells like a chemical mess. There are not that many celebrities that are willing to take the time or actually loves perfume to make it smell really good. Catherine Deneuve was probably the last celebrity that took an active interest in creating her (sadly discontinued) perfume. Madonna did take somewhat of an active interest in hers and it was alright but it didn't blow me away.

    1. Yes, celebuscent are primarily awful. But I have to put in a plug for Sarah Jessica Parker's great Lovely. She was apparently quite involved in the process, has decent perfume/scent knowledge, and came to the table knowing exactly what she wanted. She modeled the scent after the three she herself mixed together and wore. It's a "lovely" balanced and cozy scent - an admirable celebrity effort. But in general, who wouldn't agree that the whole celebuscent thing produces a large portion of the industry's garbage.

  6. Dearest Elena,

    what a brilliant piece of witty writing! Yes, I have some rants of my own but you already named them :0)

    The Oudmania is ridiculous - I think it's just a strategy to justify a high price tag by brainwashing people with the ever so repetitive Oud = expensive mantra. I doubt that most perfumes named Oud contain the real thing!

    I also couldn't agree more on the IFRA insanity ("self regulation" of companys that are wanting to make business is actually paradox.)
    And yes, the "experts" are getting more and more. Basically almost everybody is an expert, be it perfumes, music or, of course soccer :0)

    And the advertising! As long as somebody doesn't really know about the heart of the matter, he must talk with empty words and hope nobody will take notice...

  7. Loved your rant! It's too early in my day to come up with additions to the list, but I'm tired of hearing how "youthful" the advertised frag is. Ever see one sold as "this is for the older woman"? And youthful always seems to mean "fruity".

  8. Thank you for the morning smile, while I nod my head in agreement, E! I agree with everything you said. My personal sigh of perfume weariness comes from the elaborate back stories that companies concoct to interest me in their products. Inspiration is fine, in a nutshell, but please don't wax rhapsodic over the months spent in a souk, breathing the dry desert air, and the peculiar scent of daybreak over the hills mixed with spices etc etc. Just make something that smells good, is reasonably priced and available somewhere besides a remote part of the world. And have samples available.

  9. All of these things, I think, can be ascribed to the evils of marketing. Even the 'perfume is art' posture. =(

    1. It IS art, however. Generally speaking.

  10. Anonymous17:27

    Nice article.

    Especially agree on the oud. It's mostly not real so stop claiming it's luxe. Haven't been this annoyed by false claims of "noble ingredients" since Infusion d'Iris (EDP).

    I would say, re: reformulation fears, the ones surrounding the aftermath of the 2010 round, completely justified! I just found out a beloved 2007 release is changed in the 2011 bottles, so it's not just the classics that got hit hard in '10. If a 2007 release can be rendered unrecognizable by the first round of restrictions, I fear 2013, yes I do! The discussion of this upcoming round is annoying because it's basically centered around Chanel No.5. Only. Style mags, propose a solution instead of just musing. Let's just all advocate for labeling. If McDonalds can list their ingredients and nutrition info online, make Chanel list their ingredients online for the allergy-phobic. And frankly, transparency might just lead to better sourcing as brands need to set apart their particular rose from that of another.

    Also, Perfume as Art not paying dividends? Do you mean for the fragrance industry? Explanation please. (I do think that MAD exhibit was somewhat silly in narrowing the definition of "Art" to one that no longer exists in most contemporary galleries, ie high modernism.)

    - Lily

  11. :) I don't have any rants to add - you summed them up quite nicely!! Thanks E!!

  12. annemariec19:41

    Small bottles. I want small bottles. If I could have that, it would make up for a lot of the other grumps and gripes already aired. By small I mean 30mls max. I assume that small bottles don't make business sense, but still, a few niche places seem to manage it.

    And say what you like about Le Labo - and many people do! - they sell 15ml bottles. No questions asked, no strings attached, you don't have to buy three, and they still put your name on the label (if that floats your boat).

    Okay, end of rant.

  13. A lovely rant!

    The first time I read aloud the word "oud" I wasn't sure I was pronouncing it correctly. Now I know it is the sound of me yawning.

    I go back and forth on those splashes of go-to, out- of-context Baudelaire quotes. I suppose I should just be happy that 19th-century poetry is still relevant or recognizable enough to lend sparkle to the popular press.

  14. Anonymous22:58

    So true. I'm tired of stupid ads, pretty much everywhere, so predictable in any possible way. Before the new fragrance is launched i can already tell you who is it for and which words were picked to describe potential customer. I really wonder whether people believe in them, do they really think they were thought of while the whole process of creation, production and promotion took place? Really? You might be a bit naive at the very beginning but it shouldn't take much time to realise these are just empty words.
    Another thing is when SAs are trying to encourage you by mentioning what notes are included, not absolutes or oils, but notes, which in most cases mean that it's synthetic. And one more, these funny faces when you tell that fragrance was changed and initially they feel confident telling you that it wasn't. Then you speak a bit more and they can't do anything more but sympathetic face feeling for you that you're disappointed, but in the same time they just haven't got the faintest idea what to tell you.
    And as usual, recommendation of sth NEW or telling you that it's a bestseller being bought by a lot of people.

  15. Miss Heliotrope23:40

    That my-opinion-is-the-One-True-Way attitude is both universal & infuriating - rant away.

    The whole new-is-the-only-way-to-go with the sub-clause of otherwise you'll smell like an incontinent old bag who never washes is always a good one.

  16. Merlin01:51

    There is ONE positive thing about cliches: it gives the reader a very quick indication of what he/she will get out of the text...If the writer is regurgitating over-regurgitated pieces of language, he/she probably has nothing original, insightful, or even well-researched to say.

  17. sentences like: "It predisposes me I'm about to read a guide for bored housewives into regaining their husbands' mojo attention span via cheap tricks."
    The grammar is completely unintelligible, yet makes it into a published blog post. That tends to bug me a little. Especially when it's written by someone who reads a lot of books . . . presumably.

  18. Dangerous-looking, inky black bottles/juice, with edgy ad-copy and imagery--and insipid scent inside.

    Flankers of flankers of flankers of flankers's just lazy, greedy marketing.

    Limited-editions and exclusives that are nothing special scent-wise, again just creating false demand.

    Spending too much on these limited editions, only to see them show up 70% off at discounters 6 months later.

    Tired of my own "collector" (ahem, hoarder) tendencies. Not wearing them so much as looking at the bottles pretty on the shelf. Not enjoying what I already have, instead looking for more, more, more.

    I miss real sandalwood :(

    That is all.

  19. Eld,

    I have begun being more lenient with celebrities themselves; they're not necessarily the ones to blame. Since most are totally without any knowledge of what is involved and since many are not even interested themselves in scent, though interested in extending their brand, they're led like sheep to the slaughterhouse by those "who should know". If that last part changed...

  20. JT,

    hello there lovely! How are you? Missed you! Happy new year to you!

    As you say, empty words. There is clever advertising but it doesn't appear every day. It's a pity, as perfume by its nature allows so much leeway into making something truly fantastic. (in both senses of the word)

    The regulations have greater significance than usually thought of by the average perfume lover (they do test for lymph nodes, for neurotoxicity, for accumulations in fatty tissue, all most important things and I'm willing to accept that this is serious), but the action itself has lost credibility because there are several other major issues with our world which are conveniently bypassed. IMHO.

  21. P,

    youthful=fruity is a strange combination indeed. Someone decided it should be so at some point by introducing one product (much like "clean" was equated with Pine Sol etc and it stuck)

    The youthfulness as a lure is a phenomenon of the last 3-4 decades (though I find the olfactory associations with that youthfulness have shifted in that period); it all started in the late 60s. Up till then the sine qua non was to appear grown up. Funny, eh?

  22. R,

    perfume needs a story. Like ads need a story. I guess that particular story has proven to capture the escapist gene in us, so it's used a hell of a lot!

  23. D,

    ain't that the truth!

  24. Lily,

    great points!

    I always found Infusion d'iris to be a non iris! A great fragrance and a modern classic indeed, but it's a chamber music piece on benzoin and other soft and woody materials rather than an iris etude.

    Oh I think the discussion on the newest restrictions isn't centered on Chanel No.5 (which is already relatively ruined anyway, since it doesn't contain what it always claimed to contain). It was just picked up by the press because it's an icon, while it was mentioned originally in discussions/posting exactly because it is such a recognizable reference that it would provoke discussion. That's marketing too.

    Perfume=art> I mean it won't springboard careers (unless one has already an established one). Ifra-related panic did, but that nut is harder to crack. Who ever understands, understands ;-)

  25. C,

    perfume lovers' understanding and sharing: priceless.

  26. Annemariec,

    I do think that smaller bottles are slowly but surely coming into the center of attention, ever since the economic crisis. People want to indulge, only they want to do it at a more approachable level. And also people have increasingly more perfumes in their rotation so more bottles in a smaller size makes sense.
    It's nifty of Le Labo to do the 15 bottles! I didn't know that they labeled them for you too. (Only had it done in London and it wasn't a small bottle either)

  27. C,

    glad you enjoyed the rant.
    Oud the sound of you yawning, that's brilliant!

  28. Cheryl,

    forgot to mention that if people are encouraged to crack open Spleen de Paris, it's a good thing. It just that too much quoting around ends up debasing/devaluing the material in a way...I don't know, it just feels that way to me (I'm sure Baudelaire can't be really debased, he's pretty visceral and nuanced)

  29. Dominic,

    absolutely yes to all of this.
    I think the sales associates meant to push perfume should be trained differently than for other products. It needs a completely different system (the ingredients of a skincare cream do play a role but the ingredients of a perfume are not those that press releases tout). It also needs a more sensuous approach and a non-brand-specific presentation (all perfumes of one brand in one cubicle, another brand's in another etc).
    Oh well, one can hope.I guess this is why perfume boutiques like Les Senteurs etc caught on.

  30. C,

    the implied blackmail "or else" is a psychological tool of abysmal level. I cringe as I read your excellently put phrasing.

  31. Merlin,

    that's rather a good point! You're absolutely right.

  32. Bryan,

    the arrogance of native speakers towards non native speakers who attempt to write not only in a foreign language but in a foreign alphabet as well is apparently like the Danaïdes's barrel; it can't be contained. Imagine if Joseph Conrad or Kafka had heeded that advice at the start of their respective careers... (not that I am comparing myself to them, of course, just illustrating a point).

    I prefer to focus on content rather than form, if there's a need to choose.

    For a blog post that is supposed to be light, direct, prompting readers to fill in the gaps, snarky and written in 15 minutes or so, one could do worse.
    For someone who has apparently had their writing (non professionally edited) nominated in a finalist position twice by a committee specifically judging good writing, I mustn't be doing too bad. :-)

    Finally I don't get why anyone should "prove" anything. The work over the years speaks of itself.

  33. M,

    you added some seriously important rants.
    Indeed the need for new and "grab it now before it's gone" has pervaded the industry and not for the better for either consumer or sellers (after a while one just loses respect for them).

    Real sandalwood is kaput, I'm afraid. Has been for several years now. Some sandal scents however manage to smell lovely despite the hindrances, see Santal Blush for instance.

    Hoarding has become tiresome, I agree. It's because niche has multiplied so crazily, like they took an overdose of fertility pills.

  34. Anonymous10:58

    I think firs of all is there any new perfume worth to buy? Perfume houses changes original formula not only IFRa says that and tahat on some ingredients but they abuses it to cheapen and cheapen the formula but still they sell this cheap thing as if its the same formula.There is a probleme of consumer protection here.The formula make a perfume a kind of unique creation for it the consumer pays so much. There should be a kind of contract here the perfume house could not to change the formula without informe the consumer.Fun of this or that perfume are always in doubt if there any change. Its not fare.First of all it sould be considered by perfume consumers and perfume writers or conaisseur And event it should be started a campaign against it.
    And ı'm against the inflation of perfume. This is another raison for cheapness of last years perfumery.

  35. Anon,

    I agree with your points. Sadly, the silent "contract" between company and consumer is breached all the time. The consumer should have a say. This is why I respected Lutens when he had admitted that reformulating is part of the necessary process and it happens every 3-4 years anyway. It's at least good not to be lied to.

  36. Annina,

    oh, Lovely is among those which are quite respected within the perfume community, I haven't seen a negative reaction to it, on the contrary (I admit I own a bottle of it and have worn it with much pleasure myself)
    But yes, SJP is an exception in the level of personal involvement in the project (and even she had to compromise somewhat).

  37. As to being art, hmmm, it potentially could be, but I don't think it generally materializes as such, most of the time (exactly because the mercantile part enters the equation)

  38. Anonymous16:51

    Hi Elena!

    My rant, Chanel's choice of Brad Pitt as the face for No. 5!

    That ruined it for me. I can't even look at that stupid ad without a smirk. He was everywhere when I was out Christmas shopping. Every dept. store had a huge poster by their front doors of Brad and his No. 5. :)

    Adding another rant, the prices of some niche perfumes. They seem to be going up and up and quite frankly, the ones I have sampled are "meh". I was looking at one this morning and it's a new niche line and the price was $280.00 for a 1.7 fl. oz. bottle!

    Other than that, hope you are doing well over there in that beautiful place known as Greece.

    Big warm hugs to you,

  39. brie11:04

    AGREED with everything you have said as well as many of the commenters! (and may I add that I thoroughly enjoyed reading your rants as it is rare that you rant and I rather like it :) !!!)
    Truthfully as a perfume wearer for almost 42 years much of the "mystery" has been taken out of perfume. Years ago you would go to the dept store or pharmacy, sample a VERY LIMITED amount of what was available and either like the juice or not (there was no dissection of notes or idea of who the perfumer was and EVERYTHING was AFFORDABLE! I guess I am ranting about what others have already commented on but I am also tired of the number of releases (can't keep up with trying them all) the ridiculous prices of niche, exclusives and even mainstream, the perfume obsessed who brag about their hoarding (years ago I would only have 5-7 full bottles and only when one was empty would I allow myself to purchase another...and I actually wore them and did not just look at them or put them away in the fridge/closet!) and the copious amounts of snobbish perfume experts who claim to have sampled everything under the sun (not you, of course, you are far from a snob and I have always enjoyed your posts!) Lastly, the number of new "perfumers" popping up everyday...I have sampled some and I am sad to say that the perfumes that many make are not so wonderful, yet they are charging over $100 a bottle! I play around with essential oils blends and make them for my friends and family as a HOBBY but I would NEVER be so audacious as to call myself a 'self made' perfumer or attempt to sell my creations!
    thanks for letting me rant!

  40. Brava! Brava! Brava for going against the grain! I am sick of every new release being covered by every blogger who was sent a free sample with great seriousness! All perfumes don't merit attention just because the exist and have a marketing budget!

  41. Dawn darling!! Happy new year and thanks for stopping by!

    Yeah, that Brad Pitt Chanel No.5 ad was something. Of course I do have some other thoughts on that too (that it was all purposefully and carefully planed no matter how non sensical and ridiculous it ends up being!) and it did have us all talk about Chanel, so mission accomplished I guess... *le sigh*

    As to niche, I think we're seeing a dissolving of most of this segmentation of the market, slowly but surely, some lines drop off the chart and pretty soon only the strong players will remain, them also dissolved in their own way (see my rant of the latest L'Artisan moves, which personally pains me because I love L'Artisan). The asked for prices are truly ridiculous too! SL has become the new cheap, comparatively (though the bells for US market ask for a pretty penny I hear!)

    Thankfully all is well on my side of things and even thought this latest crisis the country remains beautiful and welcoming. :-) We need to drop a line in email one of these days!


  42. Brie,

    thank you!!

    As to the readers, they're the cream, so I'm not surprised the comments are intelligent and bringing new points to the discussion at hand. :-)

    There is SO MUCH PERFUME out there released every year that it is impossible for any one person to try everything. For better or for worse there is a selection being made in what to sample, for starters and take it from there. This is why perfume blogging and perfume writing in general has become really useful and a good tool for the consumer to gauge the market and direct their energies better.
    The prices asked are a direct relation to studies showing that the only sector going well is the luxury one (because those who buy luxury are either people who have always done so and are unaffected by the crisis, or people who consider this move a calculated, necessary indulgence to soothe themselves for all the other things that happen to them in this crazy life). Time will make the worthless or the non resilient enough drop off the charts and close their businesses. The market can't support so many niche creators. That's at once a good and a bad thing. *shrug*

  43. Wendy,

    the pile of samples is daunting and not everything deserves mention or analytical coverage. I guess this is experience which comes with years of writing. I can be lenient with the newbies who are enthusiastic about the opportunity to sample new things. It's human nature.
    But at the very least (IMHO) the consumer must always know the kick-starter of every mention, so as to make an informed decision.

  44. Agreed! This was a hilarious rant!

  45. Eva H.09:51

    I am fed up with cheap and alike- smelling perfumes (like the Escada summer editions for the last few years, most celeb scents) and with "intellectualizing" perfumes (is that a word?)..does everything HAVE to have a deeper meaning? Can´t it just be for fun? To elevate your mood or to make you feel comfortable, etc.?

    I could also live with better staying power on a lot of perfumes.
    If I pay $80 or more for a ´fume it shouldn´t evaporate after 2 hours..

    I am really waiting for one celebrity to come up with a really interesting perfume. Something said celebrity would be proud to wear him- or herself. I know they´re not all bad but they´re so run-of-the-mill, it´s just boring (I would be happy to pay a heftier prize if it was for content, not just the name - looking at you, Gaga!)
    Okay, I´ll get off my soap box now. Sorry.

  46. Sbe13,

    thanks for saying so!
    An occasional rant provides catharsis for the soul. :-)

  47. Eva,

    there are two extremes indeed, as you delineate them yourself: the expendable and the "too meaningful". And both of those extremes have started irritating the hell out of me (and you and lots of others I bet).

    Alas, it seems we have shifted off the content and into building the "brand" and that has to do with all the outer signs BEFORE the actual juice itself. Still a couple of celebrity scents are good and some others could have been better if given half a chance (Gaga's for one, which outwardly was very interesting)


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