Designer brands have dominated the fragrance market for the last few decades with a succession of blockbusters. But the problem with massive commercial success is that it often creates a relentless cycle of crowd-pleasing smell-a-likes. And the art of perfumery, a luxury in itself, is compromised by a focus on rapid merchandise-shifting.
This is not to say that designer fragrances are on their way out. Far from it. But that the big-name fashion brands have realised that while their best-sellers have made the idea of luxury seemingly accessible to the masses, they may have compromised on quality and their heritage in the process. Of course, they would not put it so bluntly.
With the shift to niche fragrances, designer-brand private fragrance collections offer increasingly savvy and discerning consumers the experience of exclusivity, quality and service – at a price.
This is reflected in:
- The packaging – solid glass bottles and ornate boxes speak the language of style, substance and brand story.
- The quality and concentration of the juice – only the best ingredients and EDPs please.
- The below-the-radar marketing – after all, not everyone should know about these fragrances.
La Collection Privée Christian Dior, Les Exclusifs de Chanel, Herrera Confidential, Ermenegildo Zegna Essenze and Mugler Les Exceptions are just some of the private fragrance collections you’ll now find in select upmarket retailers. And, of course, then there’s Mr Tom Ford, whose Private Blends have become a perfume phenomenon.
The big question: Do these private fragrance collections offer value for money? That’s a purchasing decision you will have to make, depending on how you cost your perfume pleasure. For myself, I have sometimes found better value further down the chain when comparing some of the private fragrance collections with their more widely available scent siblings. But then there are the truly exceptional stand-outs in private fragrance collections that are worth every cent.
“The big question: Do these private fragrance collections offer value for money?”
Launched in 2004, Armani Prive was one of the first private fragrance collections. Originally created for his own personal pleasure and those of his closest friends, it set the standard for others to follow. Armani Prive Vetiver Babylone and Armani Prive Ambre Soie are highly rated classics of the genre. The Italian maestro also spotted the lucrative Middle Eastern market before it became de rigueur. With its emphasis on exotic and heavier ingredients, the Armani Prive La Collection Des Mille Et Une Nuits was launched in 2010.
Fragroom’s Choice: I have not been able to keep up with all the launches, but Armani Prive Cuir Amethyste is a superb interpretation of leather. Its notes of bergamot, rose, violet, birch, patchouli, benzoin, vanilla and bourbon create the best kind of luxurious indulgence.
Armani Prive EDPs, from R2 550 to R3 520 for 100ml, Giorgio Armani Sandton City and V&A Waterfront, Luminance.
DOLCE & GABBANA VELVET COLLECTION
I will leave it to Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana to sum up their contribution to private fragrance collections. “We have put our memories and our roots into the Velvet Fragrance Collection, which have the same vibrant, hedonistic heart as Sicily and Italy. With each one, we invite you into our world,” they say. Originally launched in 2011, the sensual range now features 17 fragrances. These include Velvet Vetiver, Velvet Tender Oud and Velvet Exotic Leather.
Fragroom’s Choice: One of this year’s launches, Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Cypress, hits the woody-aromatic spot. It’s fresh and crisp, with notes of cypress, bergamot, lemon, galbanum and clary sage absolute. A surprisingly reserved D&G fragrance.
Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Collection EDPs, R3 505 for 50ml and R5 050 for 150ml, Edgars Sandton City, V&A Waterfront, Gateway, Clearwater and Rosebank.
BOSS THE COLLECTION
Thanks to the juggernaut of its more commercial fragrances, there are certain perceptions of Boss fragrances. That changed when I was first introduced to Boss The Collection about two years ago. It includes six EDPs: Wool Musk, Cotton Verbena, Cashmere Patchouli, Velvet Amber, Damask Oud and Silk Jasmine. Inspired by the key materials used in Boss’s sharp suits, the fragrances in the collection have very simple note structures. Although primarily aimed at men, women will also love the fragrances in this complete collection. Launched in 2011, it’s one of the best and most surprising private fragrance collections I have come across.
Fragroom’s Choice: Boss The Collection Velvet Amber, with notes of amber, vanilla and resin. The result is an eminently wearable composition that feels warm, cosy and tailor-made.
Boss The Collection EDPs, R3 050 for 50ml, Edgars Sandton City, V&A Waterfront, Gateway, Clearwater and Rosebank.
YVES SAINT LAURENT LE VESTIAIRE DES PARFUMS
The grand name says it all. Inspired by the classics from YSL’s venerable fashion history, Le Vestiaire (le French for “wardrobe”) is a luxury perfume wardrobe. Launched in 2015, the collection includes Caban, Caftan, Tuxedo, Saharienne and Trench. It was recently expanded with the Oriental and De Nuit collections.
Fragroom’s Choice: All of the fragrances in the launch collection are très chic. But the woody-citrus Yves Saint Laurent Le Vestiaire Trench, created by Amandine Clerc-Marie, is the one to sniff out. Tangerine, bergamot, neroli and cedar feature in the notes structure, but it’s the iris that takes prominence in this beauty.
Yves Saint Laurent Le Vestiaire des Parfums, R3 500 for 125ml, YSL Boutique Sandton City.
BULGARI LE GEMME
Tapping into its luxe jewellery heritage, the Le Gemme collection takes inspiration from precious gems. Bulgari Le Gemme launched in 2014 with six fragrances for women. All with suitably exotic names and, some might say, over-the-top packaging. Amarena, Ashlemah, Calaluna, Lilaia, Maravilla and Noorah were created by Daniela Roche Andrier. Men were given the luxury treatment with the launch of their own Bulgari Le Gemme collection in 2016. Master perfumer Jacques Cavallier created all of these men’s fragrances. So you know Bulgari is taking private fragrance collections very seriously.
Fragroom’s Choice: I have not been able to sample all of the above fragrances. But Bulgari Le Gemme Amarena is a gorgeous hit of cherry, rose, tuberose, pomegranate and powdery notes.
Bulgari Le Gemme, R2 245 for 30ml and R4 485 for 100ml, Edgars Sandton City and Edgars Mall of Africa.