When enough is enough?

Perfume world is a beautiful world. It might sound plain or even vain to some of you. But being a part of this world is not only about smelling nice (or less nice) things, there’s much more than that. Perfume industry is full of smart & intelligent people who like to share their knowledge with a person like me, even if they do it without being fully aware of it. I’m very thankful for having a chance to learn from them. As someone who intends to be a professional in this industry it’s a lesson with no monetary value. I just hope I will be able to make good use of it when the time is right.

decants

Market segment of fragrance products is growing every year, the figures go up by the value of few per-cent from one year to another. As the saying goes – the more you have, the more you want, which leads to our first question: will the perfume market ever become saturated or oversaturated? Some think that this is happening already. In my opinion we’re still at least few years away from that. I explain it to myself in these words: if the market expands that must mean that companies succeed in finding new audiences for their product. That means that new ‘unexperienced’ customers appear & there’s a high chance they will be willing to explore the market more in the years to come. On the other hand – is the creativity of perfumers endless? Will they be always able to deliver something new and exciting? Maybe, maybe not, I don’t know. Even today there are some perfume themes that are recycled, re-appearing all over again. As long as they sell, it’s all good.

Some time ago a friend of mine (an owner of a niche perfume brand) posed a very interesting yet difficult question: what is the ideal number of fragrances to present by a newly established perfume house? I know that each brand looks at it differently but since I am not a brand (yet?) I’d like to answer this question from a consumer point of view. One perfume is definitely not a good way to start. Why? Because it’s going to be a hit or miss. Either someone will like it or not, it’s so simple. Also considering expo areas such as Esxence or Pitti, 1 perfume bottle on display won’t gather a huge crowd of people wanting to try it, that’s what I think. Starting with 2 fragrances gives you statistically 50% higher chance of success. However it’s not statistics but people who are going to buy your fragrance; they have their own likes and dislikes. I think 3 is a magic number to answer this question. 3 is the smallest number that offers some variety, allowing the brand to create fragrances of different profiles. Also aesthetically, 3 bottles seem to always look good on display.

But let’s go back to the topic of tastes and preferences for a moment. Ever since I jumped through the so-called rabbit hole I was always eager to try more and more new fragrances. This was good, I learned a lot and shaped my own likes in this process. However not that long ago I noticed that I’m not so excited anymore for giving a try to something from a brand that I completely didn’t know, be it an existing brand or a completely new one. There’s a solid explanation for that. Over the years I grew attached to some brands, engaged in a friendly relationship with their creators & perfumers. With every new launch from them I knew what I could expect… Well, not really. I knew what style and quality I could expect, not how it will smell like. Whereas unknown brand was a complete enigma, it could either bring the tears of joy or tears of regret. As humans the feeling of safety matters to us a lot – even if perfume is not really a danger to us, a safe choice is more likely to happen. At least in my case, I’m not the one who is living dangerously.

I also noticed that I tend to be mostly attracted to brands that are not in a rush. If they take their time between introducing one perfume and another that’s a signal to me that a perfumer is given the right amount of time to create a fragrance that he or she will be fully satisfied with. The result will be a high quality perfume that I will most likely enjoy. If you need examples, here are a few: Neela Vermeire Creations, Jul et Mad, Puredistance. These brands launch a new fragrance once a year or even more seldom. They can always count on me being interested in what they have to offer next. On the opposite side of the spectrum are the brands that know no restraint. Brands that every other month (sometimes even week) tell us they have something new up their sleeve. How am I supposed to believe in the quality and originality of their fragrances? Call me crazy but to me presenting many fragrances at a time is a bit like a perfume promiscuity. It’s like the brand was unsure what to start with so in the end they decide to throw everything at us in one go. That’s why I stay away from brands like Byredo or Clive Christian. The latter one added 26 fragrances to their portfolio in 2017!

bottles

The big problem of last 2-3 years in niche perfumery is that the tendency gradually goes from quality to quantity. Prices per 100 ml bottle are often elevated to 200 euro. At this point the perfume should deliver desirable longevity achieved thanks to the use of best aroma materials available. The case is that more and more niche offerings don’t live up to their expectations. I’m not taking about reformulation or replacing naturals with synthetics – that’s a topic for a separate debate. In some cases I’m also noticing a huge downfall of quality in fragrances from brands that in recent years were bought by cosmetic giants. At the same time they launch more than they used to.

As a final word I’d like to ask you something. If you decide to leave a comment under this post, please be considerate by doing so. What I’ve written above are thoughts that came to my mind as the answers to the questions that I was really asked by some people from the industry. They solely express my own point of view. You have a full right to agree with it or not. None of the things stated in this article were meant to hurt anyone’s feelings. I apologize to anyone who felt differently.

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14 thoughts on “When enough is enough?

  1. Jillie says:

    Well, dear Lucas, there isn’t a word here with which I don’t agree! And I was even thinking “3 is the magic number” (or 5 – odd numbers are always more aesthetically pleasing) when I saw that very phrase.

    It is great to know that there are still companies that one can trust to put quality above quantity. At the bottom of everything is the profit margin and perfume is a huge money-maker, so the big boys gobble up the smaller companies and then churn out vast vats of inferior fragrance – more is spent on advertising than is ever used on the actual juice. But as long as there are those who are willing to buy the latest bottle, that’s all that matters – they’ve made the sale. And they will continue to swamp the market and hike prices.

    But there are still those who are genuinely interested in their craft and they create little works of art that please you and me! Hopefully you will be one of them soon, and I look forward to smelling your masterpieces.

    • lucasai says:

      Hi Jillie, happy to hear that you agree with my opinions.
      It’s reassuring that you can still depend on the number of brands. I know you lost your hope too many Times when your favorite fragrances from 90’s or even earlier have been reformulated and smell nothing like they used to.
      About advertisment, it is right but mostly because a fragrance needs to have a famous ‘face’ and singers/actors cost serious money.

      Thank you! I’ll be sure to search for panelists among my reader when I will be creating my own scents.

  2. MMKinPA says:

    I am fairly new to perfume so there are many classics I haven’t learned, let alone the crazy number of new niche houses that seem to appear each year. Lately, every time I have sampled more than one fragrance from a new-to-me house, I have been disappointed – in the longevity or the creativity. I feel like I’d rather save my pennies for a full bottle of something from one of my favorite houses (or perfumers – I am definitely drawn to certain individual styles) rather than continuing to sample from every new niche house. I agree that 3 seems like a nice number from a visually aesthetic point of view as well as an olfactory range.

    • lucasai says:

      I see. So as a fairly new to this environment do you feel like you’d like to get deeper into this world? To try the classics, vintage stuff as well as new fragrances?
      Sorry to hear there’s so much disappointment there

      • MMKinPA says:

        I need to sample more classics, sniff some vintage. I recently tried a sampler from a new house that has released 19 perfumes since 2015 – I sampled 9 or 10 and didn’t really like any of them, especially considering the price point. Bummer – but it gives me something to swap!

  3. Hey Lucasz,
    Anything under three is cool by me as an opening gambit. If they do a spectacular first fragrance like Mugler, Bottega Veneta, Fendi or a couple of others that don’t spring to mind then even if I don’t like it I will definitely be interested in their next offering.
    Insta-Ranges like the recent Vuitton, YSL Tuxedo range, Dior’s newest bunch and the Bottega Veneta Prive line mean I try a couple that sound sort of me and basically ignore the rest.
    Portia x

  4. Undina says:

    I’m extremely sceptical about any new brands, and my first knee-jerk reaction usually is: did you really have to create one more brand in addition to hundreds currently evailable? Do you really have anything new to say in any of the aspects – I don’t even insist on the scent originally, but maybe interesting concept, beautiful packaging or intriguing backstory?
    I’m endlessly curious about new perfumes, so while at a store, I might sniff through 10-12 new perfumes from – how Portia perfectly called them – insta-range. But I’m less inclined to seek those out and try on skin.
    I cannot take seriously any modern brand or new line that has more than 3-4 perfumes for the debut.

    • lucasai says:

      I’m definitely not extremely sceptical about any new brands but these days I segregate them. There are some that appeal to me visually but then when I learn about the fragrances I realize that I smelled this and that long ago somewhere else, that there’s nothing clever, original about them.
      Nowadays there are way too many brands inspired by places/travels.
      For the same reason I was sceptical about Nishane, they started with 9-12? Can’t remember now. And I like some but not all.

  5. hajusuuri says:

    Excellent post, Lucas. I could go with 3 at launch but think back to how Elizabeth & James launched pairs at a time that appealed to a wide swathe of audience with different tastes. If I am not mistaken, the brand continued with this model, then added body products of the previous fragrances to retain the interest of their previous set AND introduce them to a new pair of perfumes. Another aspect to consider is distribution. Speaking from a U.S. consumer’s perspective, when non-U.S. brands launch with poor distribution to the U.S., several 3 at a pop perfume launches become overwhelming once available in the U.S. For brands in this situation, offering a sample set and/or a mini coffret diffuses the when too many is too much to handle syndrome.

    • lucasai says:

      Thanks sweetie! Have you been busy lately? I seem to see less of you around or is it just my imagination?
      I do love all brands that offer discovery sets and travel friendly sizes. I think my favorite would be Atelier Cologne with their 30ml petit flacon and Jul et Mad that has 20 ml sprays, although not all of their fragrances come in this format. But they have 5 ml splash of all then

  6. rickyrebarco says:

    I think the perfect number of new perfumes each year per niche brand is 3 or less. More than that and people get overwhelmed, at least I do. I find myself avoiding houses that put out so many perfumes each year. It’s too much, too many to sample, so I move on. The perfect number of issues for me is exemplified by Puredistance (pure genius in my opinion) and Carner Barcelona (another favorite house). Enough to keep you interested but not so much that you can’t keep up with the new offerings. We have an abundance of riches in the niche perfume category these days , which is great, but I tend to stick with the tried and true or new ones recommended by my favorite blogger, Lucas.

    • lucasai says:

      Ah I see! Personally I prefer when a brand starts with 3 and then in following years they add 1 by 1. But I have to agree that Carner is doing it quite well, introducing 3 at a time and they make a collection, they have a different cap etc.
      Happy to hear I’m someone’s favorite 🙂

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