Saturday, March 30, 2019

New Perfume Releases- Do We Care? Should We Care?

Pierre Amédée Marcel-Béronneau, Parfum Caressant, circa 1897

There’s a YouTube genre of videos called “reactions”. People film themselves as they watch or read something semi-controversial, from the Red Wedding to celeb plastic surgeries, clips by Dr. Pimple Popper or their followers’ assumptions about their own lives behind the scenes. I was thinking about it recently while browsing lists of new perfume releases , making mental comments and the kind of facial expressions my mom has always warned me I’d be stuck with if I didn’t stop right that moment (she was kind of right).

I’m definitely not going to film myself doing it, but you may picture me trying to balance George and Lizzy, my laptop, iPad, messenger alerts on my phone, and a cup of tea. That’s the visual. My scent of the day was Chaos by Donna Karan from the original 1996 icicle bottle (“The Precious”. I also have the 2007 version in the black bottle which is just as discounted. Go figure). It may or may not influenced my attitude, but you tell me: can you avoid even a minimal snark when faced with the launch of Mademoiselle Rochas Couture, a new perfume that opens with notes of pear and pink peppercorns and dries down to a musk?

My reactions to the other perfumes went something like this (you can treat it as blind items if you wish):

Klassy.
Great. A flanker of a flanker of that thing I hated back in 2014. Can’t wait.
As opposed to “inauthentic woman”? Seriously? In 2019?
Mmmm... iris. Must. Investigate.
WHO ASKED FOR THIS?
I actually like the name. It goes with my image.
Can they just bring back two or ten of the originals?
Who let this happen?
I had no idea they still exist! Cute. 
Lord. The bottle. They can’t be serious, right?

The thing is that I’m highly unlikely to get out of my way to try any of them. For any perfume I’m going to sample one way or another there are 30 that will be completely ignored, even if they come from brands that twenty, fifteen, or ten years ago I’d bend over backward to get a sample as soon as the first testers trickled in. 

I’ve washed my hands off Serge Lutens. I no longer recognize the brand that still occupy part of my soul and a considerable shelf space in my cabinets. I’ve given up on L’Artisan three reformulations and repackaging ago, and on Malle, Kilian, and Le Labo a Lauder ago. Indie and micro-niche haven’t escaped the feeling of drowning under a tsunami of releases that feel rushed and half-baked, even from some of my favorite artisan perfumers. I feel that we as consumer and semi-industry savvy are partly to blame for that. If you’re a blogger or a mega consumer who goes to perfume events, how many times have you eagerly asked the perfumer or brand owner “so what’s next?” all while spraying yourself from the tester of the new fragrance that won’t be launched officially until next week?

If you’ve been a perfume enthusiast for decades, do you still care? Are you still excited about a Harrods exclusive you’ll need to have muled to you by your cousin’s in-laws? Do you still get butterflies at the name “Tauer”? Do you order sample packs from Luckyscent? Do you call Josie at Osswald to reserve your bottle of the latest oud? Do you still expect greatness from Guerlain and Chanel? 

Let’s talk about it. I’m genuinely struggling with the question “should I care?”. I’m beyond privileged, of course, having the depth and breadth of a perfume collection that had begun around 1989. I have a serious vintage collection as well as modern gems that delight me to no end. It’s easier for me to shrug at a new Dior exclusive called Holy Peony. I tend to dislike peony notes, so whatever. I’m also not as jaded as to lose my love for DSH who never bores me, Bruno Fazzolari who recently created the solution for all of us who were gutted by Chanel butchering Sycomore (again). Buy a bottle of his Vetiverissimo and send me chocolate and kittens as a thank you (note to self: get one for the husband ASAP). I never skip a Zoologist release, even If I end up hating it, because Victor Wong’s vision is still an adventure. 

But should I try to keep up? Do I care? Do YOU care? And if you do, about what and whom? Are you hiding behind your vintage collection or are you out there shopping like it’s 2006?


Please tell me about it.


28 comments:

  1. I’m exhausted by all the perfumers launching themselves and their products every day. I will still rush to sample Neela Vermeire but that’s about it. I have a lovely extensive collection and I “shop” in it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathryn, most days that's exactly what I do: look at what I have and pick out something I haven't worn in months (or years *shame*). It's a lot more fun than worrying about missing an "important" new release.

      Delete
  2. I care, but not in any sort of completist way. After several years of accumulating perfumes, I certainly have enough to last me a while. I know the ones I like and the ones my wife likes. Indeed, in recent months I have bought second bottles more often than I have gotten new perfumes.

    On the other hand, I do find occasional new releases interesting. Every so often I hear of something I really want to try. Vetiverissimo, for example, just made that list. People who do have the energy to keep up help me choose, of course.

    The heart of the problem is the sheer number of new releases and the high cost of so many of them. But other things often trouble me too: the far-fetched connections (e.g., Zoologist's T-Rex) and the woman-hating sluttiness (e.g., "I am trash") drive me away. The first strikes me as trying too hard. The second is just offensive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Fernando, it's so good to see you here!
      I have no idea how and why some brands make naming and marketing decisions. It's the same thing in makeup. I'm not here for my eye shadows or lipsticks to tell me that I'm a bitch/a slut/ underage (ha!).
      Speaking of Zoologist, if you haven't tried Civet I think you should. My husband also loves the greenness of Elephant but it's too fleeting on my skin.

      Delete
  3. From time to time, I do a bit of addition of an object category in my possession (not just scent) and then divide the total by 365. It creates perspective, particularly at my current age. How often will I be able to enjoy this? Am I available to appreciate it enough? I'm sympathetic about the drive to have something (read "something new") to talk about if you've advertised yourself as a content producer, but lately I'm a more frequent consumer of the entertainment than of the objects discussed. I value your writing on underlying themes and details, Gaia. Your blog is much more than the weekly scent circular.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Vicki!
      You fully got it: even as a content creator I don't want my writing to be about shopping for stuff or how I managed to get an amazing new thing before anyone else. I also don't want to be an "influencer", a promoter, or to measure my relevancy by sale-generating. There's nothing wrong with any of that, I'm just not here fo it. I'd rather tell an amusing story or share a cat photo. That and my deep love for perfume is what keeps me going.

      Delete
  4. Wonderful to read your thoughts on this, especially as for some reason I've been thinking about the same thing for the past few weeks. I suddenly realized I hadn't bought a bottle of perfume in a year or more. The last one--maybe two years ago?--was M di O Violette Fumee, purchased after I went through three large decants and admitted I really "needed" a full bottle. (Oh no! That's a lie! YOU were responsible for my last perfume purchase, made last spring or early summer: Edward Bess Spanish Veil. You mentioned it in a post as your SOTD and I got curious...and got a sample...and then sprang for the bottle. So: thank you.)

    Beyond the rare mention of a scent from a blogger I respect, I'm just no longer interested in new (or "new to me") perfumes. That shocks me, considering how mad I was for more more more perfume a decade ago, and throughout the two decade before that. Now, I have my large stash (though I've given away much of it) and simply wear my favorites. I have so many they'll likely last me the rest of my life (if they don't turn before then). I don't seek out samples anymore, either purchased or free; something has changed, either in the market or in me. Or both.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Violette Fumee! I think my husband has appropriated my decant. Must search for it. I'm glad you're loving spanish Veil. My bottle sees good use and now that I've gone through a sample pile of Genre and La Femme Boheme I'm feeling a need coming. Do I care that they were released in 2016? A world of no.

      Delete
  5. I have so much perfume that if I never buy another bottle it will still last until I die, especially since I just keep reaching for a dozen or so favorites. Not sure what to do with the rest. I am absolutely ill that I spent so much time and money chasing the scent when I could have done something more constructive with the cash. Surprised my Dear Husband has not divorced me over the perfume considering he hates many of the ones I cherish. Can't abide by the fruity, sweetness that is the trend in perfume these days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tatiana, I'm sorry you're feeling anguish over your collection. It shouldn't be like that and you deserve to feel joy no matter how big or how small it is. If you lean towards downsizing you can probably do it easily on eBay or in any of the Facebook perfume groups. You'll recoup a little money and hopefully some peace of mind. Just don't be hasty about it and make sure you keep all the ones you cherish.

      Delete
  6. This is actually one time that being mostly housebound is an advantage! I just don't see the new releases because I'm limited in how much outside activity I can do these days, and when I was badly crashed with ME/CFS, a lot of online stuff was unsubscribed because I just couldn't process it (or deal with it piling up), and I've never signed back up. Most new scents do nothing for me. I've got some favorites that I keep a stash of, and I go looking for vintage online every so often. I'm in the incredibly fortunate position of having met with a local perfumier who is making me a custom fragrance - and it's been a fascinating process.

    We shouldn't need the "rush of the new" - in clothing, food, furniture, makeup or perfume (or even my beloved books and music). We should be able to enjoy something that is made to last, to be savoured. But we should also not shut ourselves off from experiencing something different. But it's a conscious sampling, not a mad plunge into consumption.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry you're unwell, Erika. I wish you better health and easier days.
      I'm completely with you about the rush for new (and often disposable) goods. I want things that are well-made, last, and are satisfying far beyond the act of purchasing. Most pieces of furniture, houseware, art, and home decor in our house are antique or vintage, and on the rare occasion I buy an ink-and-paper (almost said flesh and blood) book it's a second hand. I collect vintage accessories and jewelry, which are a joy to find and wear.
      Congratulations on your bespoke perfume. That must be an experience to savor. It's on m bucket list.

      Delete
  7. I still care about Tauer, Fazzolari and Papillon. Like another poster, I am buying more second bottles than new stuff, but there are still a few worth buying each year. Serge Lutens, L’Artisan and Kilian are dead to me. I only try things if I receive a free sample or happen to be passing by a counter and feel like testing. I already have enough perfume to last several lifetimes, so there isn’t the rush to chase after new stuff there used to be, plus I dislike 99% of all new releases.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tara, thank you for reminding me of Papillon. Liz's perfumes are among my most cherished modern bottles. I probably do have enough perfumes for my next several reincarnations. I might reach nirvana with some vintage Shalimar still sealed.

      Delete
  8. The hyperproduction of the last two decades could only have ended in disappointment. I give a chance only to perfume houses that have up to seven-eight perfumes in their range. I don't feel like sniffing my way through thirty perfumes only to end up disappointed and come back sulking to my vintages.
    I discovered some American perfumers some years ago but they are so hard to find in Europe that I already regretted falling in love with their perfumes (Antonia's Flowers, Charenton Macerations, Fazzolari). The shipping costs even for samples and the fact that some were discontinued soon broke my heart. After reading your review of Fazzolari's Seyrig, I got a sample from a perfumista. Then I decided to bite the bullet and order a bottle but it was never again available...sigh.
    Yet, I still care. My heart beats faster when I spray something new and it brings a huge smile to my face. I cannot go past a perfumery without hoping I'll find another gem. Today I've tried a few perfumes from The Different Company for the first time and yes, I like them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Neva. I'm glad you can still find new things to like. The fun of discovery is great. It's very disappointing that a few of the best American indie perfumes are inaccessible in Europe. Have you tried Hiram Green? He's based in Holland and his work is outstanding.

      Delete
  9. I think you should buy what you like, and try the new only if you are truly curious and open to it. We're listening, we're interested, but I think we're all tired of being disappointed. Serge's new perfumes do not interest me. Yet, I still want to visit his store when I go to Paris in the fall and get a bottle of Criminelle de tuberose. Or maybe I will go and create my own scent.

    Today, i think I care more about how different scents make me feel, and I am wondering if the Nue Co's Functional Fragrance would make me more alert and focused at work, or if it's just a gimmick.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Visiting the Lutens store in Paris should still be a pleasurable experience. I'd get new (recent) samples before committing to a bell jar, but if you do the joy of buying a treasure over there is immense.

      Delete
  10. I am one of those who do not care. I use to respect houses with a certain coherent vision but ranges (even for indie perfumers) have starting to swell, overflow and just remind me of an olfactory cacophony. Brands I used to be excited about like Dusita or Francesca Bianchi are coming up with 2 new perfumes per year lately. So I have given up. Now when I pass a perfume store, I go in to get a shot of some good oldies like Dune or Eau d'orange verte.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know what you mean, Ksenija. I just can't deal with new lines/perfumers releasing more perfumes than I can sample within a reasonable time. It's not sustainable in the current overflooded market and brands go out of business like never before (I'm still mad at myself for not buying a bottle of The Peradam by Apoteker Tepe while the line was still in production).

      Delete
  11. I still care with a side of disappointment, but I'm not sure I SHOULD care. Neiman Marcus had a dollars off thing recently that included perfume, so I took that advantage and ordered two bottles. One was Guerlain's Jicky in that darling bees bottle. Since I've never smelled the original, I can't compare, but I think I'll wear this new version. Also ordered a wood capped bottle of Nasomatto's Narcotic V, which reminds me of Fracas. I know I'll enjoy it in the warmer months to come. To round out the approximately yearlong perfume purchases, I bought a bottle from Soft Surroundings called L. I can't say that it would interest any serious perfume addict, but I kind of like it and find myself wearing it pretty often. I can't get really philosophical about this because I'm not sophisticated enough about perfumes, but, Gaia, please continue to educate me in whatever comes along that you can care about. THANKS, Judy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Judy, I'm no exactly sophisticated in my taste despite my stash of very civety vintage Jicky :) . I wear happily a Kim Kardashian fragrance, Pure Honey, just as I stock up enough Miel de Bois to kill a zombie army.

      Delete
  12. Hello Gaia, I'm really glad you're back to writing here, for me this has always been the place where I can find thoughts and ideas about perfume, so please keep sharing.
    I still love pefume deeply but I'm not sure I care anymore, especially about the dozens of new releases every year; the ridiculous price point of almost all niche houses if compared to the quality they offer (among the exceptions I've smelled Vero Profumo stands out) and the fact that many fragrances from the past still in production are zombies of their formmer selves. So the last couple of years has been quiet on the purchasing front, except for a bottle of Lyric Woman, two from Le Galion ( Whip and Special for Gentleman ) and Opus 1144 by UNUM....which I know is still quite a lot but considering all the bottles I've finished ( and not repurchased) or given away is nothing short of heroic. This year my bottle of Sous Le Vent will probably be over and isn't it crazy that with all the fragrances available I'm sure nothing could replace it? Well, at least nothing Guerlain is doing right now....
    Thanks,

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hello my friend! It's delightful to see you again.
    I'd sgn my name to every word you've said (except that I prefer Lyric Man to Woman).
    I'm scared to open the box of my Sous Le Vent and see how much is left. It's truly irreplaceable.
    My heart is broken that I'll never be able to replace any of my Vero Profumo bottles now that Vero is gone and the line is no more. I do have one last backup of Onda Extrait, but I'll be gutted when my Kiki is gone.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Loved this post, great big parts of it rang true to me. I have found it hard to get enthusiastic about new releases for several years, there are simply too may of them. Like Edina Monsoon said in Absolutely Fabulous: "I don't want more choice, I just want nicer things!"

    But every now and then something picks my curiosity. Recently Miller Harris Violet Ida did, I bought it blind (on Escentual's -25% sale), and like it very much. Perhaps quite linear, but very comforting iris, nicely carroty and powdery.

    I would also love to try L'Artisan Bana Banana, the description sounded interesting, and I love banana notes in Penhaligon's Amaranthine, Miller Harris Coeur d'été and Pierre Guillaume Felanilla.

    I probably MUST get my hands on Bruno Fazzolari Vetiverissimo, since Chanel Sycomore WAS on my wishlist. Big thanks for the tip, Gaia!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi Gaia,
    Boy how I love this post, it echoes my sentiments exactly! I've been collecting since the mid-1980s, I haven't purchased a new release in probably eight years, nothing appeals, many releases have a screechy vibe that does not work on my skin. I will purchase the occasional sample from Luckyscent but the days of getting excited about the latest Guerlain and Chanel are gone in part because not only is the juice not appealing but I'd rather give an indie perfumer my dollars. I am probably a geek, but I miss the days of each scent having it's own unique bottle design. I also object to the price point of many big-name releases. I'd prefer to spend on something worthwhile like travel, or donating to an animal rescue instead. After recently moving, I realized that I have enough perfume to last for 15-20 years and I'd rather enjoy the collection I already have.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thank you for this. I’m with you. Should we care? You’ve expressed perfectly how hard it is to get excited about drinking yet more water when one is already drowning in the stuff. My aim, as seems to be the case with you and some other perfume folks these days, is to try to go deeper into what’s already right in front of me. At any rate, this is why I write at: OtherWise: Perfume, Philosophy and Other Trivial Pursuits. (www.otherwisephilosophy.com for anyone who cares). I don’t need to smell much more perfume, but I am still hungry for thinking about perfume as an artistic and cultural form. Again, thanks for this. Really terrific.

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is a timely article for me, personally. It dawned on me about a month ago how much my activity around scent releases and niche options has changed in just ten years.

    I've still been what could be could be called a high consumer of fragrance, all along and I do seek out some not mainstream available scents, though not things that require an adventure quest to find ("Coriandre" by Jan Couturier) but just ten, even five years ago, I'd be jumping on samples upon samples at "Luckyscent", essentially getting on waiting lists for in-demand niche scents and new releases.

    I realized just recently that it may have been a full year since I've even visited that site. Some of the previous star darlings of the niche world are fully defunct brands. Many scents that "perfumistas" were entering boxing rings for, were discontinued.

    This could be due to many things, changing consumer demands, changing costs but personally, I think it's really one thing: Fragrance hobbyists like security but fragrance brands need sales and they're already struggling to create profit and expand product value when they have the sort of products that even loyal customers might buy only twice a year. It's a hard product to rely solely on to support a brand and company, despite how reliable a base of die-hard fragrance users might be.

    I also think that this existential anxiety of this, particular industry leads these brands to panic and ignore the requests and even demands of the very customer base they rely on for their bread and butter. How many times have we felt our requests have been totally ignored, while fragrance brands always seem to be wooing what they imagine are "greener pastures" of markets?

    They'll ignore the requests and tastes of the customer who has been regularly buying their product since 1973, with her granddaughter now loyally committing to the same scent, only to chase after some mystical ideal of another, better performing fragrance market that never materializes. Look at what's happened, especially, to mid-market brands like "Crabtree & Evelyn"; they abandon their legacy to get "fresh" and they loose the loyal customers. Meanwhile, the new loves they abandoned their reliable ones stand them up and they're left with neither.

    I feel these things are absolutely necessary for the survival and growth of fragrance brands:

    Never disown your brand legacy; in fact, play-up its uniqueness in such a cluttered market, to kitsch levels. Set-up little "museum" displays throughout your brick and mortar stores showcasing the brand's history. NEVER abandon long established logos and trade dress, just to "get with the times" -- you sell a product based on nostalgic memory associations, why would you want to separate your customers from their personal history and its relationship with your brand's identity and story?!

    They refuse to make both the products and experience special for us, then whine about the unreliable market. But who wants to spend $50 on something that's comparable in both quality and presentation to a $3 bottle of body spray at a drugstore?

    ReplyDelete

I love comments and appreciate the time you take to connect with me, but please do not insert links to your blog or store. Those will be deleted. The comment feature is not intended to provide an advertising venue for your blog or your commercial site.