One would think beauty and perfume blogs exist in a sparkly, sweet-smelling bubble, where the writers and readers go to escape daily life and not think of the economy, North Korea and Iran. But try as we might, we aren't really isolated; the outside world with all its ugliness can touch us and creep into what we're doing here.
The good news, I guess, is that even major brands no longer ignore the blogsphere. The bad news is that they're not forward-thinking enough to understand the concept, and try to manhandle it/us with the same belligerency they show in their normal business practice. Case in point is today's Guerlain vs. Octavian Coifan.
Octavian, a perfume historian, has been very vocal about the downward spiral Guerlain has taken in recent years. He spoke up about classic scents no longer smelling as wonderful and luxurious as before (cheapening of ingredients and over-regulating the use of raw material through IFRA). Now they want him silenced. They'd rather have Octavian (and the rest of us) post their press releases word by word without critiquing. They want us to help them promote their products without asking any questions they'd rather not answer. Or else.
Blogs are the one place you can find real reviews by people who are passionate about perfume and not about advertising budgets. We'll tell you what's great and what sucks. We talk about things the industry would rather hide. And they're terrified when they realize we can't be controlled and managed the way they're used from dealing with traditional media.
The griping and kvetching on the various blogs and forums is starting to get somewhere and annoy the snot out of marketing executives. Sometimes they try to retaliate. Longtime readers might remember why I and a few others have been boycotting a certain NYC-based perfume house. I really hope not to get to that point with Guerlain.
Guerlain and its owner, LVMH, have been getting a lot of well-deserved flack for destroying the wonderful tradition of the once family-owned house. They've been churning one mass-market scent after another in tastelessly expensive packaging that seem aimed at a very specific crowd, from the Russian mob to oil nobility.
Add to that the crapification of Dior perfumes to the point they are unrecognizable (just ask Luca Turin). They also eliminated Fendi perfumes (after discontinuing the good ones- the original Fendi, Asja and the legendary Theorema). It's safe to say that LVMH is not about the art of perfumery.
Of course, they are not the only major force in the industry that thinks their customers are a bunch of idiots who would buy any dreck as long as there's a fancy label. YSL perfumes aren't any better (have you smelled Elle???). The butchering of Jean Patou by Proctor & Gamble is lamented by many, and I hope the ghost of François Coty is haunting the boardroom of his company and poltergeisting the executives with Beckham For Her bottles.
If you've found this blog because you've been searching the net trying to figure out why your new bottle of Diorissimo, Opium or Joy doesn't really smell as good as it used to be, you're not alone. While I doubt the old classics can be resurrected in the short-to-medium term, there is an alternative. Don't give your money to companies who don't respect you. Instead, search the web for names such as DSH Perfumes, Tauer Perfumes, Vero Profumo, Anya's Garden, Liz Zorn Soivohle, Roxana Illuminated Perfumes, Ayala Moriel, Strange Invisible Perfumes, Neil Morris Fragrances, Hilde Soliani, Mona di Orio, CB I Hate Perfumes and Aftelier Perfumes. Think of it in the same terms as the Slow Food Movement and supporting small, local businesses who have integrity and pride in what they do for a living.
Yes, I know it's becoming an almost political issue. It also smells better. A lot better.
Image: Pierre François Pascal Guerlain. Taken from lipstickpowderandpaint.com, original unknown.