The Return to Classicalism; the New Fragrance Mindset
Once upon a time I was a young girl fascinated with perfume. From “Love’s Baby Soft” to Nana’s “Joy”; my obsession started early. Wearing “Paris” and “Opium” in Junior high quickly segued into a rather long love affair with “Beautiful” in high school- and that relationship continues to this day.
When I’m not sniffing, spraying, reading and daydreaming about perfume, I disguise myself as a public relations consultant in order to support my habit. You can also find me being ordered around by my 8 year old daughter and when I find the time; practicing Bikram yoga.
I am thrilled to be contributing to Marina’s blog- PST is one that has been on my radar for some time. You can find me on Twitter @scentrebel
It would be impossible not to notice all the recent conversations regarding the “return of the classics” in fashion and of course, within the perfume industry. For several years now we’ve all witnessed the onslaught of celebrity fragrances and a lot of us have even bought in- until now. Our reasoning (and sniffing) has shifted and as consumers we’re demanding and purchasing perfume with more history and substance. But why? It’s not as though we’ve completely stopped spending but we have collectively, started thinking. Maybe in these uncertain economic times we don’t want to smell like a cloying fruit salad or worse yet, like we just spent the night partying at a rave in Ibiza. Celeb fragrances and master brand flankers are created to capitalize on past successes and what’s genuine about that? But with the traditional perfume houses like Chanel and Guerlain the consumer is lured by history and nostalgia- two elements that make purchases less risky and trendy; as long as there is proven value (the test of time perhaps) in your fragrance choice, one is now safe-guarded from the sting of buyer’s remorse.
Paradoxically, luxury items serve as equalizers between the rich and poor and every income in between. One reason of course, is their current greater accessibility. In the past it was quite a different story all together, a luxury item meant it was somewhat difficult to obtain and too, it was designed with the upper class in mind- in a word, it was exclusive. But now that such items are available to most- what defines these things as luxurious or special now? In a recent interview the author of the new book, “The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume, Tilar Mazzeo tells the tale of how the world’s most iconic perfume was once quite literally as good as gold:
“By 1929 Chanel No. 5 was the best selling perfume in the world. But I think that happened because the investors that bought it from Coco Chanel were a Jewish family and they had to obviously leave France and come to the United States. That’s the thing about Chanel No. 5 being produced in Hoboken, New Jersey during the war, which Chanel thought was just completely outrageous; her comment was “it’s monstrous.” It was because they were here that they made the decision to sell and distribute the fragrance through the commissaries in the United States Army. I think that is really, more than anything, what turned Chanel No. 5 into an icon. It was essentially an authorized luxury good. I mean, the US government was saying to all the GI’s, cigarettes, whiskey, silk stockings and Chanel No. 5; these were the ultimate French luxury items. So what happened was, during the Second World War, it became like gold on the black market. It was exchangeable for anything.”
So now that we say goodbye to a decade and welcome in a new one, we ironically turn to the past and seek olfactory comfort, and borrow from history a story- a tried and true narrative in which we can forge ahead, into the unknown smelling of a rich past. Fragrances such as J.Lo’s “Glow” and Jessica Simpson’s “Fancy Nights” just don’t have this kind of track record.