Friday, 1 February 2019

On The Emperor's New Clothes and perfume industry fatigue.

It’s been a shockingly long time since I last posted. The reason? Perfume Industry fatigue. I still love perfume. I’ve just become cheesed off by the balderdash that currently surrounds it. To follow are some reasons for my fatigue, hopefully poignant to my readers. I’ll endeavour to return to writing about fragrances that continue to inspire me in the near future.

A cautionary tale

1. The boom of the fragrance market

In 2009 Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez published the semi-biblical ‘Perfumes: The A - Z Guide ‘. It contained a comprehensive review of (almost) every fragrance in existence, and some discontinued gems worthy of a chase. We read it cover to cover.
Last year, they published ‘Perfumes: The Guide 2018’. An insightful book that depicted the state of the current market i.e so oversaturated that they were only able to review a small percentage of what is now a boom industry. Within its covers, I read a marvellously accurate essay entitled ’10  Years Later’, the spot-on review of Black Opium (which represents the worst of recent releases to me) and flicked through the necessarily incomplete ‘Index by brand’. The book remains by my bed with the occasional rare dip. 

This is the situation - there is too much perfume, released too quickly, by too many companies keen to cash in. You can’t blame them, it is after all a business. The result is that a great many trend led dreadful fragrances abound and discontinuation increases as brands are unwilling to continue production of an older line that isn’t selling at ‘trend’ speed.

2. Repetition

Amber de sultan’s flip-flops, rose oud de Thomas Cook desert camel outing, cuir de handbag, bois de something more expensive than all of the other woody scents in our line sold at Boots, cologna di inexpensive ingredients that is the same as Spanish folk sensibly buy for 10 Euro at their local pharmacy. 
We all own at least one, some have spent the equivalent of a new car on repetitions of the same theme. 

3. The death of the pyramid

My great joy in wearing fragrance is the delight of the pyramid, experiencing the journey as a scent develops and transforms from euphoric sparkling top notes to a satisfyingly deep and comforting base. It was an art, perfumers were a cross between alchemists and travel agents. 
If you read the aforementioned ’10 Years Later’ essay you’ll receive one opinion on why we are now stuck in boring linear rut.

4. Niche versus Designer

The internet’s longest running bag of hoo-haa. Snooze…

Frederic Malle manages to make his other fragrances seem cheap

5. Pricing

In a housing boom, your £150’000 terraced house becomes worth £250’000. It’s the same house. Nothing has changed. Your house does not have ‘better ingredients’ than it did before the boom. Ormonde Jayne - I’m pointing my finger at you here, and lamenting the approximately 35% increase on a 50ml bottle of Ormonde Woman in the last 5 years.

6. Daft concept marketing

Walk into a Penhaligon’s shop and you will see beautiful fragrances, created with care and time, released infrequently over a period of close to 150 years, crammed into side shelves as if they were a neglected elderly relative. 
In the main body of the shop will be a big table featuring ‘The Portrait’ collection, an enormous collection of blinged-up bottles featuring names that take a ‘humourous’ slant on heritage or monarchy. Examples include ‘The Tragedy of Lord George’ and ‘Clandestine Clara’. Bonkersly expensive, this collection is now the main focus of the company. A couple of years of aggressive concept marketing has wiped out the history and class of one of Britains few independent perfumery houses.
I imagine the next release will be named ‘The Venereal Misfortune of Major Tarquin’.

8. The dubious rewards of blogging

I love to share my thoughts with the many readers of Odiferess. I am thrilled when I look at my stats and see that yesterday 500 people in the USA read an article written from my sofa in soggy Yorkshire. I love the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made through writing and my fragrant hobby. I love the fact that I now know people from New Orleans and New Foundland. I love to engage in comments and feedbacks from readers.
I do not like the fact that I’ve written the equivalent of at least 2 well-read novels in the last 6 years in return for no income from perfume creators. I made a choice not to add advertising to the site as it was created initially a way to share words and creativity with fellow enthusiasts. But sometimes, when I see the thousands of hits on an article about a niche perfume, I consider how valuable this publicity is to a small brand and think - “Well, you could send me a full bottle as a thank you please!”.

7. My resurrected interest in skincare and toiletries

During my fatigue, I’ve become once more enthusiastic about beautifully fragranced skincare and body products. Wearing less (and sometimes no) perfume to bed these days, I get my nocturnal fragrant kick from that which I apply to my skin post bathing. You can expect to see more reviews and musings in this category at Odiferess in the coming year. 
It’s interesting to compare prices of skincare to fragrance. Some think that exceptional natural ingredients justify the inflated pricing of perfume, and yet a widely revered, science led, natural beauty company like Elemis can sell an insanely luxurious 6 piece set of anti-ageing facial and body products at QVC for around £55. When I bought this set just before Christmas, it brought more Tonka scented joy than an overpriced bottle of Tonka Imperiale would have done!

8. Age

At 45 I’ve seen numerous fragrance trends wax and wane and have scent memories developed over 4 decades. The emergence of trend led brands filling the shelves of Selfridges and Harrods does not excite me in the same way as my first whiff of Aromatics Elixir aged about 14. 

9. This guy...

and this...

and the relevance of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes. 

Rant over.
Well done if you’ve got this far. Normal service will be resumed soon.