“Consumers quickly learned that Chanel doesn’t sell the best sunglasses, and a Casio watch is more accurate than a Rolex. You can get pretty good clothes that aren’t handmade in Italy, and perfume doesn’t need to cost $100 an ounce to smell really good. The problem for many luxury items and brands was that they no longer sold the best functioning or looking stuff – a lot of the time. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of exceptions exist, but in a cash strapped world, disposable income is used for utility rather than show.”
[From “Are Tech Toys The New Luxury Goods?” Read more at Forbes]
The line in this article that jumps out at me is the one about perfume. I happen to agree with a lot of the rest of the article. What I am seeing all around me is that people are more interested to spend money on the latest iPhone, the newest Android, the Nike fuel band, or make sure that their Apple TV is installed and that they have the complete package from Netflix. The people who had to have the Prada belt with the right buckle, the latest Gucci shoe and the “IT” bag seem to have all gone shopping at the outlet stores or are on eBay, BeyondTheRack, Gilt, Shopify, or they just don’t care about that status symbol anymore. With every designer on a binge to open a store in every mall where did the exclusivity go and is that part of the problem? Why spend big bucks when you know it is everywhere and accessible to everyone at every price? Even Louis Vuitton will customize their products for you in an effort to be different than the knock-offs you find so easily. You only need to know how much a real Chanel or Hermès bag costs to know that you are probably seeing more knock offs than the real thing.
But what about perfume?
Can you knock off the magic of a perfume? Are you willing to spend less as the article says? Is perfume not the one thing that is still capable of taking us someplace magical (and personal) where price is less our concern than what it may do for us? That moment a fragrance gives us when we first put it on and that place it can take us to throughout the day seems priceless to me.
As I learn more and more about perfume and fragrances and more specifically about niche perfumes and small perfume houses I see that what is behind these brands is a need to create a perfume more than a need to create profit. They have to go hand in hand at some point because without profit the well will run dry eventually, but as we see designers selling themselves anywhere and everywhere, I am excited to see perfume houses that are small and exclusive. These creators are more concerned about the nose behind the fragrance, the ingredients, and the journey the perfume will take you on than if they will be in more stores. They would rather be in stores where the owners understand their fragrances and are able to translate the story behind them than to end up in that perfume store where the walls are lined with bottle after bottle of perfume from anyone and everyone.
If you smell the latest fragrance from Atelier Cologne, Mistral Patchouli, you are taken right to the South of France. It takes me to the summers I spent in my early twenties in Cannes. Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervesal have captured it perfectly. I am taken right back to a carefree time that makes me smile every time I wear the fragrance and remember the innocent and not so innocent times of my youth.
With a collection like ARQUISTE Parfumeur each fragrance has a history, but the true journey is the personal one that you are taken on. Boutonnière No 7 may be about the Opera in Paris and conjure up images of the turn of the century but for me I am brought back to my childhood as I was taken through photos of my grandfather at formal dinners with a giant Gardenia on his evening clothes surrounded by his contemporaries looking solemn and serious in black and white at the now demolished Royal Alexandra Hotel in Winnipeg. When I wear that fragrance I feel a bit of nostalgia for a time gone by but a lot more of the glamour and sophistication that this fragrance is all about.
Penhaligon’s from London has a long history and a selection of fragrances that seems never ending. They are much more classic than the other brands we carry at Etiket but that is exactly what makes them perfect for that moment when you are feeling exactly that, a little more classic. When I get out a suit, polish up my lace-ups and put on my cufflinks, I have a choice of so many: Sartorial is the easy choice but what about the classic Blenheim Bouquet? If it was good enough for Churchill I think it is good enough for me! And I don’t stand on ceremony or believe in that concept of “men’s” or “women’s” fragrances. Perfume didn’t start that way and although I may not go so far as to wear Lily of the Valley, I might just wear Bluebell if the mood is right.
When I wear Patchouli Patch from L’Artisan Parfumeur I am taken to a sultry, sexy place with the possibility of what may happen on a night out. From one of the first niche perfume houses, L’Artisan’s fragrances are each a story created by a nose that will take you exactly where they say they will, and yet in the end, you will be taken through your own story. Is it the garden you visited as a child? Is it the smell of the trees and the lake after a late night paddle in a canoe? Or a reminder of someone you once knew or once loved?
All I know is, as our lives seem to move faster and faster, as we shift the importance from designer to tech and from sensory to intellectual, and from real communication to social media, does perfume and fragrance not allow us to slow down, come back to our real senses, allow us to communicate ourselves to those we come into contact with and let us hold on to a true luxury that may just be worth holding on to.
President/Owner of Etiket