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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mirabella the Cat Announces New Niche Brand


“Feline fashion icon Mirabella, Moggy Extraordinaire, announced the launch of her niche perfumery brand today. It features 9 utterly unique scents, each featuring a blissful odor, such as Everglades catnip or Miami fishtail, that Mirabella encountered in her extensive travels through the exotic alleyways of Boca Loca, Florida. Mirabella worked with famous nose Guy Beaucoupdesnarines to bring these precious odors to life. The divine scents will retail for $495 for 30ml and will be available exclusively at Mousey’s department stores.”

I had you there for a minute, didn’t I?? Well, maybe for a second or two. But doesn’t it seem like everyone and their cats are coming out with a niche brand lately? What’s up with that? Do they actually make money? Do they fold after a month or two? Nerd girls want to know….

If you’re like me, you haven’t even started to make a dent in the PLETHORA (good word there) of niche perfumes that came out in 2011. Heck, I’m not even a third of the way through 2009. And now I’m barely a week away from 2012 launches. I’m overwhelmed and suffering perfumista migraine.

So what I want to know is, what impels you to go out of your way to sample one of these new niche brands? What is it that hooks you? Is it the purple PR prose? A personal recommendation? The list of notes? The life story of the personality behind the brand? The nose who created them? I tried to fish out of my tired brain what rules I follow when I’m choosing which tiny slice of the Perfume Pie to sample, and here’s what I’ve got.

1. A certain level of humility attracts me. I’m an ordinary gal, and I don’t really like hearing about these Amazing Women and Their Amazing Travels and Amazing Romances that inspired their Amazing Perfumes. Gimme a break! I call this sort of PR nonsense the Gilderoy Lockhart Effect, and I avoid these brands whenever possible. One of my favorite niche brands has no purple prose, and the nose herself is inspired by locales she really lives near and visits regularly. Like her city’s rose garden. I like that. It seems real.

2. Personal recommendations from other perfumistas. There are many blogs out there, and some are for PR, and some are truly independent. I correspond with other perfumistas, so if I hear good things about a line or a perfume from a perfumista friend, and see the same types of comments on independent blogs, I’m more likely to go out of my way to try something new.

3. Cost. I don’t know about you, but I’m blown away by the inflation happening in the perfume world right now. Most of it is just status inflation, meaning, some ambitious MBA said if you price your perfume astronomically, people will buy it to show off how One Percenter they are. I don’t need that. I’m an Ordinary, 99-percenter Nerd Girl. If the cost seems out of line with the ingredients, I’m not interested.

4. City exclusives and other hard-to-get gimmicks really put me off. I just can’t be bothered. I want a good website, good availability, and friendly service. Paypal is nice, too.

5. A small number of perfumes for the launch signal higher quality to me. When a brand launches with 12 perfumes, I’m skeptical. And I rarely hear good things about them. To my mind, a massive launch collection means a lot of “meh” and “same old” and “a sketch, not a perfume”. A careful, thoughtful launch of 1-5 perfumes signals more attention to detail, and time to create something worthy.

So that’s what I’ve got so far. What rules do you have for sampling the PLETHORA?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely I go by the notes first. Then I wait until others have tried it. First and foremost, if I read that it disappears after an hour it's an automatic dismissal. If a fragrance can disappear as fast as my money then as far as I'm concerned it's thievery. Next I trust my trusted blogs, like this one and a few treasured reviewers. Angela on NST and Foetidus on Basenotes. If they give something the nod, I'll look into it further. And finally, I trust my own nose and try desperately to overcome enthusiasm to buy unsniffed and sample first. I have avoided many no goes by doing this. Ad copy, ridiculous media hype, celebrity endorsements just make me chortle. I've been at this a while now and that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

7:53 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your rules! They speak for sanity in an overwhelming marketplace.

8:02 AM EST  
Blogger queen_cupcake said...

I am intrigued by notes but more influenced by the word of trusted bloggers like yourself. There are certain commenters on various blogs whose taste in perfumes I also like. I pay attention to those folks, and pretty much ignore the advertising copy.

8:38 AM EST  
Anonymous jen said...

Word of mouth. Accessibility. Ability to sample it (I don't blind-buy bottles). And the very basic: the list of notes or scent description (not PR spiel, but actual scent experience) must appeal to me.

9:04 AM EST  
Anonymous Fernando said...

All your rules seem good to me. I'd add one that has already been mentioned: Samples are essential. Making me pay for them is ok for a small company, as long as the price is small. That's why the Dior "exclusives" haven't made any impact on me, for example.

It's weird the way the big companies keep trying to be niche, isn't it?

9:22 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, queen cupcake! And yes, Scent Twins are invaluable, aren't they? As are Evil Scent Twins. I have one of those and if she loves it, I know I'll hate it and vice versa....

9:48 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, am attracted by certain notes in the list. But lately, I've found more and more disconnect between the listed notes and actual odors in the perfume. Is it just my nose or has anyone else noticed this? It's most marked with the mainstream brands, but creeping into niche as well. I haven't spotted this trend at all in the naturals-what they list is what I smell.

9:50 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, samples are essential. And I agree, it's veeeery interesting how mainstream brands keep trying to cash in on the niche behemoth. Not cool, is you ask me.

9:51 AM EST  
Anonymous Kym said...

Actually, your rules are pretty good. I don't think I have anything to add to that.

I have yet to find a scent twin in the blog world - although I do have an evil scent twin and that's just as helpful! If she likes it, there's a really good chance that I won't :)

10:39 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find my Evil Scent Twin to be very helpful, and I don't have a Scent Twin, either! :-)

11:41 AM EST  
Anonymous Thalia said...

I read perfume blogs and reviews, and I tend to zero in on things that have notes that I like or want to experiment with. Price is definitely a consideration for me -- I'm not broke, but I can't justify spending thousands of dollars on perfume.

And I'm much, much more interested in trying a line that provides samples at a reasonable price. I recently read reviews of new perfumer that sounded very promising -- until I went to her Web site, and found that with shipping, three tiny samples would cost $20. There went my interest - and my potential money. I ordered a sample pack from Histoires de Parfums instead. Somehow, HdP is able to send me six vials of highly regarded, pricy perfume all the way from Paris for $10. Both companies have very pricy full bottles -- but there's a chance I'll fall in love with a Histoires de Parfums and buy a bottle, while the other company will never see any of my money.

And personally, I'm happy to see mainstream brands cash in on the niche mystique, IF they do it by producing interesting, high-quality scents. The more good perfume that's out there, the better!

1:58 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments and experiences. I agree that reasonable, comprehensive samples are key. And HdP has a great set and excellent service.

2:27 PM EST  
Blogger carmencanada /Grain de Musc said...

I don't think most niche brands start making money until they've been able to hold out for four or five years. Many brand owners, if they don't have backers with deep pockets, pretty much struggle from one month to another to make the bills. Still, I guess there's such magic to the business it'll go on attracting more and more venturesome entrepreneurs...

As for your question: since it is literally impossible to follow everything that's coming out, I tend to stick to what is physically accessible in Paris. Since this is already more than I can handle, I focus more on the work of specific perfumers or trusted brands.
To discover new things, in Paris we're lucky enough to have two new multi-brand niche stores, Jovoy and Sens Unique, where brand owners and perfumers regularly present their products and hand out samples.

And, like everyone here, I do pay attention to things that are singled out by my fellow bloggers.

4:04 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've outlined a sane process for keeping up! Zeroing in on one aspect of perfumery, one geographic area, one type of perfume, or a certain "school" or set of noses (funny image) is a good way to handle the plethora. It seems to me that setting up a niche brand as a primary business is a bit like going into acting-- plenty of magic, but not so many make it to the Brangelina level....

5:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting topic, Marla. I cannot keep up with niche perfumers. There are entire lines I haven't tried, and I'm comfortable with that.

I think your rules are a good starting point. I tend to follow certain perfumers and established companies. If blogs I follow create a lot of positive buzz about a new release, I'm interested in trying it. Certain reviewers carry more weight for me, not just because of a positive review, but because their descriptions seem accurate later once I've tried the scent.

I love your "nerd girl" posts and continue to learn from you, and all the posts here at PST. Be well.

5:14 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hemlock Sillage,
Thank you very much! You are wiser than I am in that you're comfortable with sampling what you choose, and leaving the rest. I still feel a nagging sensation when I don't go out of my way to sample a new brand. Angst!

5:48 PM EST  
Anonymous Flora said...

Great subject! All of the above, plus some degree of originality to separate the new fragrances from the herd, which is NOT the same as a weird concept or purple PR prose - I want to see something truly new and interesting. And of course, samples!

6:12 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point, originality counts double these days! There are too many perfumes out there which are 90% Ambroxan or Iso E with a few sprinklings of other things on top....

7:49 PM EST  
Anonymous maggiecat said...

Notes, for me, and the nability to purchase samples. An absence of purple prose and creator egotism is definitely a plus!

8:52 PM EST  
Blogger Tammy said...

Notes for me, all the way. I will sample and if I like it, and can afford it, I'll buy it.

I'm not wealthy, but I don't begrudge anyone their wealth, or things marketed to them. I pity people who are buying things just to try and give an impression of something they are not, but I'm not going to deny myself something I like just because of snobby marketing. And I love pretty packaging.

I will likewise wear something absurdly cheap if it pleases me. (Love Baby Soft Jasmine, I'm lookin' at you!)

9:02 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you find that the notes accurately reflect what you smell in the perfume most of the time? I'm finding more and more disconnect between stated notes and actual perfume. What do you think?
And yes, I love gorgeous packaging, too!

7:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for a well timed post! I'm finding the perfume world to be both interesting and disconcerting.... the costs, the confusing text, and the general unavailability of some is off putting. I've been lurking, reading, and wishing while feeling more than a little overwhelmed. Thank you for the blog. Interesting and informative.

8:07 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad our blog is helping you negotiate the weird, and often overwhelming, world of perfumery!h

10:51 AM EST  
Blogger Doc Elly said...

Marla, as someone who has a foot on each side of the aisle (consumer and indie perfumer), I loved your post!

As a consumer, my ideal strategy would be to sample just about everything that comes along, but the number of offerings does get overwhelming. My rule is to sample whatever sounds most interesting first, whatever seems like decent quality and is reasonable in price, and whatever doesn't have ridiculous hype and/or sleazy celebrities advertising it. I try to mix classics with new releases. Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised by fragrances I thought I wouldn't like. Sometimes I'm disappointed by the highly praised fragrance that is a scrubber or only lasts 15 minutes.

As a perfumer, it is beyond my control that I've traveled extensively, having been schlepped from one side of the Atlantic to the other several times even before I was even in high school. However, I don't try to overly romanticize this odd lifestyle, I just present it as a down-to-earth and truthful background for some of my perfumes.

I try to be reasonably accurate in listing the notes that are in my perfumes, and am seriously considering publishing a complete list of ingredients for each one to help consumers make informed decisions.

I sell samples on my website for what is a break-even price considering materials, packaging, my labor, and postage. In my opinion, samples should not be thought of as a money-maker, but rather as a form of advertising. Every perfume producer, from the largest corporation to the smallest indie should provide inexpensive samples of everything they sell. I would never buy a bottle of perfume without sampling first, so why should anyone else?

This has gotten almost as long as a blog post, so I should stop. However, I feel very strongly that perfumers should provide the best possible quality at an affordable price without overblown advertising - no-nonsense perfume at no-nonsense prices.

2:42 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doc Elly,
Thank you for an excellent post. You are a 3rd culture person, as am I, and all of my family! I can relate to that, and so, when I read purple prose that is obviously fabricated, my BS meter goes off! For people who have really traveled and experienced the world, I think they have an extra bonus in terms of the arts- they have experienced (and sometimes suffered) other ways of looking at the world, other ways of sensing it. So bravo to you! I wish you all the best with your endeavors and many more adventures on this intriguing planet....

5:13 PM EST  

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