May 23 (Reuters) – “The $31 billion-a-year perfume industry is bracing itself for tighter EU regulations to be adopted by the end of the year that will include ingredient bans and labelling requirements aimed at protecting consumers from allergies.”
Yes, nothing new under the sun there. But contrary to what you might think now, this post is actually not going to be about how the Big Bad IFRA Wolf will huff and puff until the last fragrance pyramid falls. These are a few simple observations that I have tried to put into words.
When I first started to truly appreciate fragrance, visiting perfumeries often, and then started having several perfumes rather than one signature, it was in the nineties, and even if niche existed, it hadn’t reached me yet, but also, it wasn’t really all that important yet, because the mainstream houses produced exciting stuff, and there were forerunners. I’m thinking of Yohji Homme, Le Feu d’Issey, Angel, Féminité du Bois, etc. Féminité du Bois changed what a fragrance marketed at women can be, and Angel arguably created a whole new perfume-genre.
Things changed, I don’t know why, but perhaps perfumes were such an easy win for many companies, mainstream became mainstream, formulas were repeated ad nauseam after the devise ‘if it ain’t broke- don’t fix it’- a fertile ground for niche to develop and take hold. And so it did. Many fantastic new houses and brands created great stuff and explored new ways.
Now within niche so many new brands and launches take place, that creating truly new, exciting and well-crafted stuff is tough. Being first with something completely new, might mean that you won’t survive as a new brand, as might using too many precious materials prove too expensive or simply too risky, as the first casualties have already happened within niche brands I thought well established.
Thinking of the trend of minimalist fragrances, I thought how niche almost seems to have mainstreamified; a lot of similar things are coming out- minimalist seem to still be en vogue, but…
In the middle of the huffing and puffing and the extinction of old formulas, that are only possible to experience as either museums piece,s like at Maison Guerlain, or if you’re willing to pay big sums as the prices of famous vintage bottles on auction sites are soaring, retro perfumery is trending. If you can’t invent new, invent old. Everywhere I look, the most exciting new release is actually an old one, lots of old companies are being revived (Volnay, Oriza L. LeGrand, Jovoy), and/or reissuing (Houbigant, Lubin, Rochas, Jean Patou), or recreating in retro spirit or in a story (Roja Dove perfumes, Andy Tauer’s Tableaus, Envoyage’s Zelda, DSH Pandora a.o, or Penhaligon’s Tralala aldehydes). And I am quite sure I’m forgetting half.
But isn’t it funny, that in the middle of the extinction of whole genres of perfume, and the ghostly shadow of reformulation, or the ‘IFRA Brazilian wax job’ as Denyse termed it the other day, a definite change in the world of niche perfume is taking place with reviving perfumes long gone, and reformulating classic perfumes to higher standards and at a cost. Is the classic perfumery to become the new way of niche? Is it because of the IFRA threat, or is it something else? Or is it not an important trend, but just a branch on the niche-tree?
What do you think?
Picture from Oriza L. LeGrand homepage