Niche fragrance houses are on the rise. By niche, artisan or cult, we’re talking small, quality driven perfume houses creating beautiful smells, often in small batches, offering something different from the main stream.
These producers are thriving at a time when the big fragrance houses are creating scents that have become a little dull and predictable of late, with a reliance on one too many celebrity scents. And much like the food industry before it, fragrance is being reinvented by artisans, who are going back to basics and putting ingredients and creativity before cash flow.
WWP was at Pitti Fragranze in Florence, where the best and newest niche fragrance brands show their wares. So here’s what we think are the most interesting trends in fragrance and key niche brands to watch out for.
Perfume is now an olefactory experience
Once we bought fragrance to smell good, now we want a wearable experience, something that will enrich our life story with more intimate, personal and meaningful smells. Leaders of the pack here are MiN New York, founded by Chad Murawczyk and Mindy Yang, two of the nicest and certainly coolest perfumers you could wish to meet. Their Scent Stories Volume 1 and 2 are a gorgeous, beautifully packaged and extremely competent collection of fragrances. Not cheap, but worth every storied molecule. One of our favourites is Old School Bench, which smells of dusty books, woody desks and nostalgia.
We all need more love and comfort
An unsettled world is making us nervous, what we want is a scented comfort blanket, with gentle, calming fragrances that evoke feelings of love, warmth and support. Where better to go for it than California, a place that understands the importance of wellness, with San Francisco based Ineke Perfume. Ineke’s award winning range is influenced by the soft ocean breezes and flowers from the Bay area and her contemporary smells are quiet -rather than shouty- and beautiful. Balmy Days and Sundays smells like a walk along a cliff path on a sunny day.
Or we want to be Happy
There a strong move towards upbeat bright and easy scents that remind is of good times and holidays. Salty seaside breezes, sunshine-baked skin or herby aromatics -like you’ve been pottering in the greenhouse- are all memory-trigger smells of happy times and carefree days. Heaven knows we need more of those. My favourite is the Mediterranean-holiday-in-a-bottle Salina, from Laboratorio Olfattivo.
Interesting people make interesting perfume
There is an increase in people coming to perfumery after successful careers elsewhere and Swiss based Vero Kern, of Vero Profumo is possibly my favourite example. She was a pharmacists and an aromatherapist before coming to perfume and her small collection of five fragrances demand attention, they all have attitude, a sense of drama and are above all, NEVER dull to wear. Be warned, once inhaled, you will never go back to a main stream offering again. Available from Bloom.
Scent is an invisible layer of style
Increasingly scent is being thought of as an additional layer of style, a much more seriously considered dimension of your own personal brand. Just as we’re all searching for individual style with our clothes, so fragrance is becoming less something to spritz-and-go and more a carefully considered design statement. Consider something from the uber-chic Preparation Parfumée Andrée Putman collection, particularly L’Original, which is style in scent form and created by Putman herself, or Tan D’Espices, a spiced honey scent that I am giving the Best In Show rosette to.
Storytelling is artistic and thoughtful
The stories around each fragrances are becoming more closely connected to emotion and art. Australian designer Naomi Goodsir, who is based near Grasse in France, is an independent thinker who has created four fragrances of great charm and originality, but it was the artful presentation of her range, using hand drawn illustrations from French artists Lemesle & Roubaud which we loved. Bois d”Ascèse smells like an autumn walk punctuated by bonfires, falling leaves and hints of the warm interior of an English pub, but I’d happily have all four in my scent wardrobe.
Heritage is personal
Brands with interesting heritages are producing good things. Diana Vreeland’s grandson Alexander is behind the launch of her eponymous perfume collection, which is all upbeat colours, glamourously tasselled bottles and dramatic titles, such as Perfectly Marvellous, Absolutely Vital and the very British sounding new release, Smashingly Brilliant. British brand Grossmith’s long heritage has been successfully resurrected by family member Simon Brookes and his wife Amanda. I’m torn between the original and divinely glamourous Phul-Nana and the newer Sylvan Song, which is exclusive to Fortnum & Mason.