Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Paying Good Money on Shampoo-Worth Perfume Formula

The most spontaneous posts on Perfume Shrine often involve a small rant and this is one of them. The ideas for the rants also strike me as I'm going through the motions; no preplanned, big thinking dissertation projects, which is probably why they come out of the blue. The other day was one such day of an unwelcome epiphany, concerning several issues we have touched on this site before: similarity between current perfumes, recycling of ideas and ingredients while not revealing sources under penalty of Chinese torture, focus group practices that deprive any originality, pricing of fine fragrance at fine fragrance level while the perfume formula obviously costs as much as a mass-range shampoo... Unlike wanting to find a dupe for MAC Ruby Woo lipstick or DiorShow mascara, perfume stands for something that can't be irrefutably compared in qualitative terms by the average consumer. With cosmetics, it's right there in your face, you can't deny it. With perfume...not as easy to claim your case.

What made me have this light-bulb light up in my brain? Simple. Re-smelling the best-selling (or so it seems from the commentary and the numerous flankers) Chloe Eau de Parfum, the re-orchestrated one from a few years ago.

It smells like -effing- L'Eau d'Issey

Now, the two fragrances, L'Eau d'Issey (feminine) from 1992 and Chloe Eau de Parfum (2008) share no common notes apart from rose I believe (which scent doesn't, you ask). You can compare their respective fragrance notes pyramids here and here. Of course seasoned readers of this blog already know notes do NOT correspond to actual ingredients in the formula; they're meant to convey an olfactory impression. But still huge numbers of people review Chloe EDP as rosy, as well as soapy (and it is sudsy in a very sharp, shrill way most definitely, as I had said in my fragrance review of reformulated Chloe eau de parfum, comparing it with the vintage ). The same doesn't happen for the modern classic floral aquatic by Miyake of course, people view it as watery, aquatic, white floral; no rose, no powder, no soap.
In fact I see that I had already mentioned that the Chloe EDP opening reminds me of L'Eau d'Issey all those years back when I first wrote the review in 2008. Can't be blamed for a reformulation, then.

But wait a minute. Are people that suggestive, then? Not quite.

Here is one reviewer of Chloe on Fragrantica, blurting it out in plain sight:

I must say I was a bit disappointed with this perfume. Only because I was really expecting a super floraly rose. But I got none of that. Instead on my skin it's a fresh fruit with the tinest hint of something floral. On my skin it smell exactly like bombshell from Victoria's Secret. I got no hit of anything rose and the peonies only stuck around for about 5 minutes. The search for the most Rosie perfume continues....

And even though there are tons of other reviewers insisting on the classiness or uniqueness of it (and they do have a perfect right to like it and wear it in good health), I strained my eyes to find someone hinting at what I had perceived at of the blue.
In the end it does seem I am not alone, nor mad at feeling the similarity.
Here it is:
The shared name of this distinguished fashion house,
together with its exquisitely designed bottle,
would make you think that what´s inside holds at least some of the same quality.

Not so.
This is actually one of the greatest disappointments
I have come across, if I may say so.
The fragrance itself reminds me of the crude 'aquatic'
(based on the note of Calone) Issey Miyake L´Eau d´Issey.
With added cheap cotton-candy-ingredients for a more 'feminine' style.
Clean? Well, like a chemical lab I suppose.
Easy to sum up for me; a dull, generic, all-synthetic-'muguet-rose' made by some team who doesn´t care one bit about perfume.

The most fascinating part of it is Chloe EDP smells identical to the cheap chemist's dupes of L'Eau d'Issey sold in plain glass bottles for a buck! Even the formula of the Miyake is considered "expensive" nowadays? 

This valuable lesson also teaches us something important: Familiarity is of paramount importance in perfume tastes. We like what we're familiar with. If an idea has worked once, it will work again, assuming the time lapse is just right; too soon and you risk being called out as derivative, too long and you risk being considered as moldy as an attic full of mothball-preserved clothes.
This is why the industry churns out endless variations on a known theme. And when the theme is considered somewhat passé, they recycle it under a different campaign, a different image and a different set of notes. But it does smell very, very similar all the same.

Consider where your buck flows to.

For those reading Greek, please consult my article on Perfume Sameness on this link.
Next, we will have a niche samples giveaway, stay tuned!


  1. I can pnly speake for myself and I hate this sameness with an intensity that actually surprise me. I do not pay 120$ a bottle to smell exactly like anybody else.

    The people who makes (no creation here) these perfumes needs to quit their focus groups and trust their noses and just come out with something that justify their prices.

    1. Exactly!
      I think this is why perfumers have sought to get their own creative outlets and brands (there's a very exciting collaboration of three niche "pioneers" coming up this spring, more soon!) and why people have responded with excitement on niche releases. Not that niche is immune to sameness, of course. After a decade of full on niche, we have seen no one is immune. But it's not that shameless (yet?)

    2. I am very excited about Barbaras (Yesterdays perfume blog) perfume project too, Hope it will be some news about release soon.

    3. I just saw them on Fragrantica, actually. I haven't finished reading about the details, but it's great news for those of us who do like the bolder scents. If only the market for them subsists!

    4. Do you have a link?
      I have only read an interview with her there from some month ago.

  2. agree. it's a pity, really, and a disservice to customers of all price points---not to mention an insult to the intelligence of everyone involved (except, perhaps, the account executives)...

    1. The thing that bothers me is that people insist on going by "notes" because they believe that what they're smelling with their own nose is wrong. No, it's not. The notes are fantasy, that's what's wrong.

  3. Mimi G15:57

    I agree Elena !
    I recently bought Beige by Chanel .. although I do like it a lot ..there is that soapy shampoo -sameness to it .Not very Exclusif ,in all honesty. I wear to the gym because it smells like soap.

    1. Good thinking on your part, sounds like a great plan!
      I wouldn't compare it to Sycomore, Rue Cambon or Coromandel, much less so to the former classics in Exclusifs packaging, that's true.

    2. Mimi Gardenia21:16

      Elena every year I become more and more disheartened with mainstream perfumery .
      The way things are going ...

  4. Creativity is dead!!

    Well, at least in the more mainstream houses, both designer and niche. I still find enjoyment from most small indie houses and from the few niche houses that have some integrity and originality.

    1. Integrity and originality will be the things to really pull brands through in the near future, mark my words. People are increasingly aware of the uniform facet of our culture. Just see the success of Etsy!

    2. Which is why I barely care about current releases, the last thing I bought was Guerlain's Santal Royal, I think, and the other day, I chanced upon Sisley's Soir d'Orient and it's about the same, including the black bottle with gold print. Phew.
      And it's nothing new. I'll need to go through my growing collection of old perfumes and write about it as there's a lot of derivative work as well.

      I claim that anyone can make their own perfume. The basic cologne composition of some wood, some herbs, some citruses is a no-brainer, the natural ingredients can be acquired in any shop with esoteric crap and at least here, getting the 96% ethanol is the most difficult part. The rest is same as in cooking, one needs a bit of trying to get it right.
      Since I am a market demographic which comprises around 7 people on the globe, I just make my own stuff. I like my perfumes abstract and asexual and sorta resiny - leather in my rendering is not some butter-soft suede but a cross-section of a thick hide which starts with a bucket of birch tar and then goes downhill. If I want to smell of soap, I can just have a shower.

    3. Disheartning about the Soir d'Orient....The Guerlain gold filigree or arabesque designs actually come from Guerlain cosmetics' history, so not surprised they're recycled. It's a nice touch, until everyone starts copying them.

      I think it was Salaam Attar (Dominique Dubrana) who had said what you say, that's not that difficult to make a nice perfume, if you have the inclination and the wish to study and try again and again. The thing is this subtracts off the "magic" and "art" and as such as been stoned down....Pity.
      Your own efforts that I have tried are quite decent!

  5. Paris Alaia was a good mainstream release last year. In Love from Scherrer too. Bet none of them will stay too long on the marked, though.

    1. What makes you say that? *ears perk up* I mean, I hope they will stick around, obviously.

    2. They are too special and strong. People who buy mainstream releases are not used to perfume in that regard anymore.

    3. That does make sense. Dumbing the solid headed ones for wimpy ones. Yes, I see what you mean. Everyone wishes not to offend.

  6. This reminds me of that thing they say about pop music - that it's all based on the same 3 chords or whatever... I'm not really sure what the saying is, but I think you all get what I'm saying! It's a shame though :(

    1. That's a very clever quote! It does hold true more or less. If you notice all the influencers were those who sought harmonics to bypass the 3 same chords. Same with perfumery I suppose; the landmarks are innovative.

    2. Quite true. Sometimes I wonder if derivation is laziness or if there is some cap on creativity. At some point (maybe not today, maybe not in 1000 years) will everything be tried? Will there be no more books to write, no more songs to sing, no more new perfume combinations to smell? A scary thought.

  7. Miss Heliotrope06:37

    Ha - you follow Australian federal politics? Focus group sameness, not even a pretty bottle...

    1. Not really but I can see what you mean perfectly.

      BTW, people I found the problem with the comments: Blogger is having trouble with Safari browser right now. Works perfectly with other browsers.


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