Finding Your Niche Fragrances

Niche Fragrances - Penhaligon's Much Ado About The Duke

The fragrance market ain’t what it used to be and niche fragrances are on the rise. The steady decline of the celebrity fragrance category is gathering pace. Designer fragrances that used to fly off the shelves are increasingly being discounted.

The numbers below speak for themselves. These figures are for the world’s largest fragrance market, the USA. But these are international trends, according to industry analysts NPD Group, The Business of Fashion and Perfumer & Flavorist. Amid all the number-crunching, there’s a discernible shift to niche fragrances. They have added almost $250 million to the fragrance market since 2014.

66%  the decline of the celebrity fragrance market in department stores from 2011-2014

6% – the drop in overall fragrance sales from 2015 to 2016

 1%  – the sales growth of prestige fragrances

The rise of niche fragrances - Boss Bottled Tonic

RETAIL BLUES: Designer fragrances aren’t the guaranteed hits they used to be.

Even South Africa, a land of mass market and designer fragrances, is not immune to these changes. Hence the recent arrival of Skins Cosmetics, the renowned Dutch niche beauty and fragrances retailer, in Johannesburg (www.skins.co.za). Skins Cosmetics strikes a good balance between big-name niche fragrances and more experimental niche fragrances. You’ll find everything from Aqua di Parma, Creed, Diptyque, Floris, L’Artisan Parfumeur and Penhaligon’s to Aether, Escentric Molecules and Le Labo at this upmarket store.

While it’s pointless to get bogged down in definitions, it’s always good to know what we mean when we use a buzz-phrase like “niche fragrances”. And why exactly are niche fragrances showing such growth. I asked two of my favourite bloggers for their thoughts on the above and this is what they had to say.

DEFINING THE VALUE OF NICHE FRAGRANCES

“If I were being really ‘black and white’ about this, the only honest, accurate answer is ‘nothing’. ‘Niche’, as a descriptor, does not signify any particular style or aesthetic. If the term has any value, it is only as a method of describing limited and/or independent production/ distribution. I would concede that the best so-called niche perfumes possess a clear reflection of the visions of their creators.” – Dariush Alavi of Persolaise (http://persolaise.blogspot.co.za)

Niche Fragrances - L'Artisan Parfumeur Au Bord de L'Eau

THE ARTISTRY OF NICHE FRAGRANCES: L’Artisan Parfumeur Au Bord de L’Eau, inspired by Claude Monet.

“Niche perfumery is a very creative arm of the industry. Most of the trends that have become prolific in commercial perfumery started in niche. It’s an important place for generating and testing new ideas. Niche is a good incubator for creativity. Its audiences are genuinely interested in unusual or forward-thinking fragrances. They don’t want to smell like every second person on the street.” – Clayton Ilolahia of What Men Should Smell Like (http://whatmenshouldsmelllike.com)

BEWARE! THE SNOBBERY OF NICHE FRAGRANCES

These insights from Clayton and Dariush pretty much sum up the role and nuances of niche fragrances. I would also like to add that we need to beware the snobbery of niche fragrances. Just because it’s a designer/mainstream/commercial fragrance doesn’t mean it’s inherently crap. I have come across a fair amount of that snootiness online. Equally, just because it’s a niche fragrance doesn’t mean it’s better quality or more deserving of the cash you’re about to splash.

Niche Fragrances - David Liss Fabulous Men

DAVID WHO?: The joy of new fragrance discoveries.

For me, perfumery should always be about the joy of discovery. The joy of discovering the classics of perfumery. The joy of discovering new variations on seemingly exhausted themes. And also the joy of discovering cheap and cheerful bargains. Ultimately, niche fragrances should increase our options, expand our knowledge and pleasure. So yes, be a discerning and savvy consumer, but snobbery is so self-limiting.

“Perfumery should always be about the joy of discovery. So yes, be a discerning and savvy consumer, but snobbery is so self-limiting.”

Niche Fragrances - Budget Buys Have Their Place Too

BARGAIN SHELF: Budget buys have their place too.

Clayton offers very useful advice to those who are just starting their discovery of niche fragrances: “Buy from a retailer who specialises in niche fragrances and let them help guide you in the beginning. With experience, most people will see common threads, maybe an ingredient or note they like, or a perfumer whose work they like, which begins to influence their buying.”

Niche Fragrances - Nasomatto fragrances at Skins Cosmetics

GOING DUTCH: Let Skins Cosmetics introduce you to Nasomatto fragrances.

Fragrance is such a personal and mood-influenced choice, so I hope niche fragrances bring you much joy. These are are some of my favourite niche fragrances:

Penhaligon’s Much Ado About The Duke EDP (2016)

British heritage brand Penhaligon’s has been in the fragrance biz since the 1870s and is one of the most celebrated companies in niche fragrances. From its recent Portraits collection, Much Ado About The Duke is an unapologetically sparkling rose, with notes of pepper, leather, wood, gin and tonic adding to its irreverent appeal. It was created by Daphne Bugey, the nose behind Jean Paul Gaultier Scandal, Le Labo Bergamote 22, Mugler Aura and Valentino Valentina Pink.

Niche Fragrances - Penhaligon's Much Ado About The Duke

Etat Libre d’Orange Like This EDP (2010)

While the company founded by South Africa-born Etienne de Swardt is sometimes better known for its shock-and-awe tactics, it also produces top-notch niche fragrances. You can read my interview with Etienne de Swardt here (http://fragroom.com/2017/04/20/etat-libre-doranges-etienne-de-swardt/). This collaboration with Tilda Swinton captures the English actress’s idea of home, with cosy and comforting notes of ginger, immortelle, pumpkin, tangerine, vetiver and heliotrope. Created by Mathilde Bijaoui, it won the Fragrance Foundation France Award for Best Niche Fragrance in 2011.

Niche Fragrances - Etat Libre d'Orange Like this

L’Artisan Parfumeur Tea For Two EDT (2000)

One of the best tea fragrances around. It conjures up spicy-aromatic intimacy with notes of tea, tobacco, cinnamon, honey, ginger, star anise, gingerbread and vanilla. This treat from L’Artisan Parfumeur, one of the pioneers of niche fragrances since the 1970s, was created by Olivia Giacobetti. This nose also created Diptyque Philosykos, Frédéric Malle en Passant, Hermès Hiris and several other L’Artisan Parfumeur beauties. This is a vintage bottle below. So if you’re looking for Tea For Tea, it’s to be found in the company’s newish grey bottles.

Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal (2012)

Founded in 2009, this Paris-based company has made its mark in the niche fragrances industry with its cologne absolues. These cologne absolues combine the traditional citrus character of eau de colognes with longer-lasting natural materials. I am a big fan of vetiver fragrances and Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal is a gentler interpretation of the usually earthy theme. It features notes of Calabrian bergamot, Sicilian lemon, Tunisian orange blossom absolue, fig, Grasse violet leaves and Texan cedarwood. A super-fresh summer in a bottle!

Niche Fragrances - Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal

 

THE SUNDAY GROOMING SESSIONS

Not to be confused with some post-post-nightclubbing comedown, the Sunday Grooming Sessions are often my favourite part of the week. Relaxation does not come easily to me, so this is the one time of the week I impose some downtime on myself.

The Sunday Grooming Sessions are the perfect time for me to:

  1. Slow down and get off the busy express.
  2. Take care of myself. After all, grooming is not just about looking presentable and well put together – it’s a fundamental act of self-care.
  3. Have some fun and get messy with products.

The products below have all become part of my recent Sunday Grooming Sessions. But a few months from now, no doubt I will be playing with a whole new mix.

SIX SENSATIONAL SKINCARE GLYCOLIC ACID 8% FOAMING FACE WASH

Glycolic acid, one of the main alpha hydroxy acids, is renowned for its cleansing, exfoliating and anti-ageing properties. In small doses, like this face wash, it can form an essential part of your daily grooming routine. Kudos to this South African product for delivering on its promise of breaking down skin surface build-up, without stripping my skin.

Six Sensational Skincare Glycolic Acid 8% Foaming Face Wash, R415 for 200ml, http://sixskincare.com

CRABTREE & EVELYN TAROCCO ORANGE, EUCALYPTUS & SAGE SHOWER GEL

I do love a good scrub in the tub and on Sundays, bathing is not the rush job it is during the week. This zesty shower gel is the perfect accompaniment. It foams up nicely, while the main ingredients condition the skin. While I might be living in an apartment in suburban Johannesburg, South Africa, it does a good job of conjuring up a sunny Sicilian vibe, with its notes of orange, bergamot and neroli.

Crabtree & Evelyn Tarocco Orange, Eucalyptus & Sage Shower Gel, R400 for 250ml, http://crabtree-evelyn.co.za/

DERMALOGOCA DAILY SUPERFOLIANT

Did you know that environmental pollution is a huge contributing factor to ageing? Building on the success of Dermalogica’s superb Daily Microfoliant, this fine-powder product contains several ingredients (including white charcoal; papain, lipase and subtilisin enzymes; malic and lactic acids; and niacinamide) to combat pollutants and smooth the skin. I love the application process (just add water to the grey powder, apply to the face and gently massage).

Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant, R1 180 for 75g, from authorised Dermalogica spas, salons and skin centres nationwide, www.dermalogica.co.za

KIEHL’S CILANTRO & ORANGE EXTRACT POLLUTANT DEFENDING MASQUE

Hmmmm, do I spot an anti-pollution skincare trend? This mask contains a potent mix of ingredients to fight existing damage to the skin and protect against future damage. You are supposed to apply it to the skin, leave for five minutes, tissue off the excess and then sleep with the remainder. I prefer to leave it on for 30 minutes and then wash it all off. This mask gets a big thumbs up for its super-moisturising and -cleansing effects. Cool green colour too!

Kiehl’s Cilantro & Orange Extract Pollutant Defending Masque, R485 for 75ml, www.kiehls.co.za

ATELIER COLOGNE TREFLE PUR

Sunday Grooming Sessions call for a light, fresh and uplifting fragrance. Well, hello, Atelier Cologne Trefle Pur, with notes of bitter orange, neroli, cardamom, basil, patchouli, oakmoss and cedarwood. Each time I spray this one, I can imagine it in the form of a sparkling cocktail. Actually, pretty much all of the Collection Originale fragrances (with their concentrated citrus accents) from this French maison would do the trick on a Sunday.

Atelier Cologne Trefle Pur, R2 300 for 100ml and R3 600 for 200ml, Edgars stores