Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Three Case Studies from 2021 Mapping the Way into 2022: Fragrance Market Cues

 Apart from the pandemic, which made 2021 a very hard year to test out fragrances in physical stores, since testers were removed, there were three significant signposts that pertain to the fragrance market at large and which dictate how 2022 and the coming years will flow. 


DIOR & SAUVAGE: Ads and Representation

When the ads for the men's Sauvage Parfum with Johnny Depp first hit the scnreen with images of the wild American countryside, and descendants of Native Americans dancing ritualistically in late 2019, I remember thinking "the only thing worthwhile about this synthetic swirl whichpasses for perfume is its advertisement ”. Being a true harbinger of failure, the ad was harshly hailed as cultural appropriation.

Having no shares in Dior, or in the monstrous behemoth of LVMH to which it belongs, I find that it is one of the few times that the audience proved to be less informed than the house. The counselors of the house had done a thorough research, in order to be completely respectful of the context towards the minorities of the natives. They even named the native people who participated in the project. However, the French connection of sauvage with silk fabrics with a weave anomaly, the most "irreconcilable", was completely lost in the Anglo-Saxon language. Thus in the collective unconscious, as is often the case, the conflation of the name sauvage (= savage) with the depiction of Native Americans, was the strike of death… Advertising was withdrawn in 2020. 
Dior exhibited quick reflexes for the main face of the campaign. Johnny Depp's cancellation apropos his trial with his ex wife, Amber Heard, was completed in 2021. And while the lawsuit, which Depp lost, concerned his own lawsuit against the British media for libel, in the public consciousness it was as if every charge against him had been proved. Acting as Pontius Pilate, Dior froze every ad with the old protagonist in 2021. Just 3 weeks ago Dior announced the replacement of the main person in the Sauvage campaigns with the French footballer Kylian Mbappé.
How the American public, which is targeted by designer brands, will identify with a person so French and especially with a footballer (a sport that is much less popular in the US than in the rest of the world) is an issue that obviously did not concern them. And the reason is simple. Sauvage sells itself, since its release in 2015, with the intensive promotion that has been given to it so far in stores. In other words, LVMH only cares to be considered politically correct, so as not to risk a second John Galliano controversy… For those who do not remember, Galliano was also (justifiably) fired by Dior when he had an unacceptable anti-Semitic outburst in a Parisian restaurant, which was broadcast extensively.

Billie Eilish's breasts and the vanilla of her dreams 

To say that the American pop singer is the pop phenomenon of the last 2-3 years is an understatement. Billie wrecks havoc on the Net, with her body image disorders, her exposure to porn from the age of 9, her loose clothes that seem to swallow her, and the viral photo shoot for Vogue with corsets. So she released her first perfume , like any self-respecting celebrity. Eilish by Billie Eilish, currently available in the US.
 The choice on the one hand of the scent, and on the other hand of the bottle for Eilish, arouses the interest of any student of pop culture. Regarding the actual scent, while one would expect a fragrance as subversive as the image of the young singer - a breath of fresh air in a hyper-sexualized environment that visually projects pop stars as concubines at the very least - is a predictable vanilla. The launch was accompanied by the usual claims that "Billie was dreaming of the vanilla she could not find and decided to make her own". (I swear, I've been hearing this exact tag line ever since Donna Karan introduced her own fashion house at the close of the 1980s-early 1990s). 
As for the perfume bottle, it represents a bust of her body, with her breasts overemphasized. The official version claims she personally chose this mold because she is very proud of this segment of her anatomy. Cool I'd say, self-emancipation! Only there's the catch that the company that oversees the perfume project, that is Parlux (who released the perfumes of Paris Hilton among others) probably wanted to compete on an equal footing with the independent brand of the Kardashian sisters, KKW (Kim Kardashian West, from when Kim was still married to Kanye). Said independent company released some very successful commercial perfumes under the KKW umbrella in the last 2-3 years, with bottle-molds made out of the trunk and infamous hips of Kim Kardashian…

100 Years of Solitude for Chanel No.5 

It sounds like an oxymoron, but it's really not. The most famous perfume of all time does abysmally in blind tests. Typically, when we give it to modern audiences to smell and evaluate it, without telling them what they smell, it is rated much lower than it's really worth. The perfume continues to be produced and sold, but not actually worn! Gifted, symbolically, totemically, but safe-kept… 
The Ψηανελ company, however, is very careful in maintaining the legend of Chanel No.5. With various screenings, revealing "reports" about his bottles on the nightstand of Marilyn Monroe (its most famous customer), and snippets in the history of its creation. 
Ernest Beaux, the perfumer of Chanel, actually envisioned his original formula one night in the Arctic Circle, in the ports of the soon-to-be Soviet Union. The generation of millennials and generation Z no longer finds contact points with it. 
 A friend, a critic and acclaimed author had said about it, “Chanel N ° 5 remained more wearable than most old perfumes, but it shows its age again. This is not an argument against him. In fact it is just the opposite. There is a royal correctness in N ° 5 that you will not find in a perfume of Comme des Garçons, and an extreme or boldness in Comme that you do not find in N ° 5. As long as you understand what you are communicating with either one or the other.”  
Modern audiences are familiar with vanilla (see Billie Eilish above) in thousands of variations and the soapy sophisticated profile of No.5 looks heavy, formal - and oh mon dieu "old lady"! (age racism for perfumes is the last bastion) This year's 100th anniversary for Chanel No.5 was therefore celebrated with a series of "collectible" body products and items (such as a water bottle and stickers!) called FACTORY NO.5 at stratospheric prices for what they offered… The highlight was Chanel's Advent Calendar, offered at a steep price, with some flimsy products (there were stickers again...), key chains and other such trinkets. The influencers were rampant with calling out Chanel on Tik Tok. And rightly so. For half the  price you could have gotten the advent calendars by Dior or YSL with normal useful products.
So corporate hypocrisy got a big churn during 2021. Fragrant market please beware of such phenomena in 2022. 

1 comment:

  1. ugh. this seems an accurate assessment, and most demoralising for those who really care about perfume as a wearable art/poetry...

    admittedly, trends very rarely resonate with me in any sector. but when they influence the production of much that is worthless and devalue or make obsolete much that is worthwhile and beautiful, it's depressing.

    i for one shall keep buying and wearing and treasuring the truly distinctive and beautiful perfumes, whether classics or recent releases from less "influenced" makers.


Type your comment in the box, choose the Profile option you prefer from the drop down menu, below text box (Anonymous is fine too!) and hit Publish.
And you're set!

This Month's Popular Posts on Perfume Shrine