Perfume Is Losing Its Air Of Mystery—And That Might Not Be A Bad Thing. Jennifer Goldstein Reports On The Rise Of D.I.Y. Scents, Customizable Blends, And Fragrance Layering
It began with a musk. At least I thought it was a musk. How was I to know? Fragrance makers have always been masters of intrigue. They peddle glamour and sex. They develop mysterious concoctions with exotic resins and flowers, cloak them in tales of romance and luxury, and sell them in beautiful bottles that sit on our vanities and make us feel chic and rich and interesting. This musk—my musk—was no different. I’ve been wearing it off and on since high school, and people often stop me to (correctly) guess its name.
That’s why my search began. I wanted a new fragrance that would make me feel special, something that amplified my persona. And I’m not the only one. “There’s a trend of people trying to find something different and seeking more individuality with their perfume,” says Pierre Aulas, a Paris-based fragrance consultant who works with companies like Thierry Mugler and Lanvin. “Over the past decade, everything in the perfume shop started to smell the same—florals, fruit, a few gourmands—and this acceleration is, in part, a response to that.”
There’s also been a psychological shift in society. Women today are nothing like they were in the 1960s, when Chanel advertised its most famous scent with the slogan “Every woman alive wants Chanel No. 5.” These days, we don’t want what she’s having; we expect everything to be customized, from the inseam of our jeans to the blend of our cold pressed juice. We’re more interested in the provenance of our products and more skeptical of the companies that make them, and 80 percent of consumers say it’s hard to know which brands to trust, according to a 2018 report presented by graduates of the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management program. Combine all that with the power of search engines and smartphones and it’s hard to buy anything without doing “research.”
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