Against Niggardliness in Modern Perfumery. Plaint 1.

    Against Niggardliness in Modern Perfumery. Plaint 1.

    post #1 of 6
    Thread Starter 
    The Solution is *Not* Dilution

    Here in the United States, we live in a bigger is better culture, where muffins have grown to the size of loaves of bread, and the girths of those who eat them have expanded proportionately as well. I recently read that British visitors to this not-so-fair land gain an average of 8 lbs during their stay, and this is not without reason. The true clash of civilizations may ultimately be grounded only in this: the concept (or lack thereof) of portion control.

    Over the years, large drink cups in the United States have increased in volume from 16oz to 24oz to 32oz, and now some stores offer even 48oz and 64oz soft drinks (where's the nearest restroom, pray tell?!), packing enough calories to cover half the day's meals, though they are usually purchased to accompany thousand-calorie snacks. Even Starbucks, once the gated-community preserve of yuppies, now offers its iced coffees and teas in an über-venti size (32oz), in a diaphanous effort to woo over some of the Dunkin' Donuts clientele.

    This general fill it up, and up, and up cultural phenomenon may explain in part the tendency toward producing larger volume bottles of perfume than were available to consumers in the past, but there is more to it than that, for in addition to the jugs, there are just as many travel size formats in circulation. The very existence of roller balls is significant, but their near ubiquity means even more.

    Once upon a time, a tiny dot of perfume behind each ear and one at the décolleté sufficed to perfume one's self for the entire day. Not so anymore. Today, we have portableperfumes to carry in our bags so that we can touch up our scent in the way that we might reapply lipstick or powder half way through the day. Do we now wear more perfume than the fair ladies and debonaire gents of centuries past? I think not. No, the same amount of perfume has been spread much thinner, diluted to produce the need to reapply. Whence the concept of the roller ball, which would have made no sense to a person already properly perfumed, as in earlier times.

    When we speak of good longevity, those words are relative. Many fragrances put out today are so evanescent that even a few hours of staying power starts to seem like excellence. The glaring exceptions to this rule are perfumes made of new synthetic materials: going far, far beyond fat solubility, these appear to be closer to plastics, which seem to form polymers with the fibers in our clothing and possibly cling to our cells as well. On ne sait jamais. I find such science fiction-like longevity rather scary, if the truth be told. What I lament is the rarer and rarer type of classical longevity, that which is conferred by an ample concentration of natural materials in a well-made perfume.

    There are houses, thankfully, which still produce parfum-strength parfum and eau de parfum-strength eau de parfum, and eau de toilette-strength eau de toilette. But for every niche house which does, there is another one which bottles cologne as edp! The truth may sometimes hurt, but here it is anyway: those of you who are guilty of dilution are not fooling anyone, and least of all me.

    If profit is what you seek through this not-so-clever ploy, I exhort you to double the strength of your wares, and you'll immediately receive a just recompense for your efforts, as it will be possible to shrink the packaging by 50%. Surely a 50 ml bottle costs less to produce than a 100 ml bottle, hence affording a net profita reward of sorts, if you willfor giving us back perfume-strength perfume.

    It is not entirely clear who is at fault in the rampant practice of dilution taking place at mainstream houses. They tend to have many employees, with work therefore delegated narrowly, so that the person who makes the dreaded dilution decision may hand it down anonymously to everyone else. Mistakes were made in some cases, such as the 1oz parfum spray of Badgley Mischka which I recently acquired in the hopes of at last seeing the beatific light cast by that composition upon certain select sniffers. Far from providing the means to achieve the throes of olfactory ecstasy reported by some, the alleged parfum spray turned out to be weaker than the eau de parfum. Things that make you say Hmmm....

    To my chagrin, rather than scoring a great deal on a large volume of extrait, I had been tricked once again. But instead of the all-too-familiar reformulation bait-and-switch, this time I was lured into buying eau de toilette at an elevated price because it had been bottled and labeled as full-strength perfume. Was there conscious deceit involved? If I called the company, would they send me the perfume?

    Honestly, I am not at all sure that these houses even know what pure perfume means anymore. That expression itself was always misleadingsuggesting, as it did, that when we purchased full-strength perfume it was 100%, rather than closer to 20%. Therein lies, perhaps, the explanation of why producers of mass-market perfumes decided that they could play fast and loose, call anything whatever they wanted and get away with it.

    After all, they use the same name for reformulations of once-classic perfumes with scandalous impunity. Small wonder, then, that the producers of perfumes have come to believe that they can call anything they want anything they like, reasoning along the lines of the colorful example offered by the ancient Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus as an argument in favor of the moral permissibility of incest: it is permissible to touch your grandmother's big toe with your little finger, and everything else differs only by degree. But I digress...

    Yes, it appears that some houses are now counting water and alcohol among the notes of their perfume, so when they bottle dilute solutions as eau de parfum, they are able to do so in good conscience and with no duplicity whatsoever. In such cases, and Badgley Mischka may be one, increasing the concentration of one of these "notes"either water or alcohol or perhaps another solventwill, paradoxically enough, transform an eau de parfum into a parfum! Then, if some savvy soul dares to complain about the change in proportions of these notes, it is possible to wave one's hands about while vaguely alluding in a tone of moral indignation to the draconian new perfume industry regulations codified in law.

    Ponzi and Madoff salute you diluters, they really do.

    (End of Plaint 1)
    post #2 of 6
    As I've said before, we are the problem. It's our desire to have - and wear - many 'fumes that has multiplied the number being offered from a small depatment store counter a generation ago to whole stores now. Along with the desire to own 20 or so scents is the need to pay less for each. Joy might be your perfect well made, high intensity, long lasting perfume. Have you spent $400 for a bottle?
    post #3 of 6
    Thread Starter 
    Hello, ECaruthers, and thanks for your comments!

    I wonder what the order of explanation is, actually. Do we want to have dozens (or hundreds) of perfumes because new launches are proliferating like rabbits? Or are new launches proliferating like rabbits (consider, for example, the flanker folie...), because we want to have so many perfumes?

    The notion of a "signature scent" seems to be receding into history. For a few years my signature scent was Oscar de la Renta. It was the only perfume I wore. I loved it and did not feel complete without it. Times have really changed--or at least I have. First, I never wear Oscar anymore, and second, I now feel that different occasions call for different perfumes.

    But your points are well taken. In fact, I have yet to spend $400 for a bottle of perfume. If memory serves, my 2.5 oz bottle of Joy edp (which I find way too civet-heavy to wear, actually) cost less than $100. I have tested several (not all...) of the Amouage offerings and so far have found nothing worth the price they are asking. Still, I am happy that Amouage-produced samples are available, so that it is possible to test them out rather than making an infelicitous blind buy. I am more interested in learning about perfumes than in possessing them.
    post #4 of 6
    My own theory is that our time and culture values variety and new experience more than most other things. Or call it an opinion - I'm not a social scientist & maybe don't know enough to have a theory. But I think the producers both feed our desire for novelty and also cultivate it. And some parts of perfume culture maintain classics more than most parts of our culture.

    My first year seriously smelling I probably did spend $400. But it was 20 bargain-priced bottles from TJ Maxx, not one expensive bottle of something great. So when I say, "We are the problem," I really do mean myself. But, like you, I'm currently more interested in learning. I guess I'm still taking the survey course.
    post #5 of 6
    Thread Starter 
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ECaruthers;bt5452

    My own theory is that our time and culture values variety and new experience more than most other things. Or call it an opinion - I'm not a social scientist & maybe don't know enough to have a theory. But I think the producers both feed our desire for novelty and also cultivate it. And some parts of perfume culture maintain classics more than most parts of our culture.

    Sounds like a true theory to me, ECaruthers! There's certainly plenty of evidence all around us--look at the explosions in areas of wine and gourmet cuisine, to take just two examples!

    I am very interested in this general topic, as a matter of fact. I wonder, for example, whether perfume appreciation is more like art and music appreciation (where variety is almost by definition a good thing) or more like relationships (where people have different ideas about promiscuity). If the latter comparison is apt, then one might think of a signature scent as analogous to monogamy. But this is a huge topic, which I'd love to write about at some point...

    Thanks again for your thoughts!
    post #6 of 6
    Thread Starter 
    (posted twice)
    class="

    8/21/11 at 3:01pm

    sherapop said:



    The Solution is *Not* Dilution

    Here in the United States, we live in a bigger is better culture, where muffins have grown to the size of loaves of bread, and the girths of those who eat them have expanded proportionately as well. I recently read that British visitors to this not-so-fair land gain an average of 8 lbs during their stay, and this is not without reason. The true clash of civilizations may ultimately be grounded only in this: the concept (or lack thereof) of portion control.

    Over the years, large drink cups in the United States have increased in volume from 16oz to 24oz to 32oz, and now some stores offer even 48oz and 64oz soft drinks (where's the nearest restroom, pray tell?!), packing enough calories to cover half the day's meals, though they are usually purchased to accompany thousand-calorie snacks. Even Starbucks, once the gated-community preserve of yuppies, now offers its iced coffees and teas in an über-venti size (32oz), in a diaphanous effort to woo over some of the Dunkin' Donuts clientele.

    This general fill it up, and up, and up cultural phenomenon may explain in part the tendency toward producing larger volume bottles of perfume than were available to consumers in the past, but there is more to it than that, for in addition to the jugs, there are just as many travel size formats in circulation. The very existence of roller balls is significant, but their near ubiquity means even more.

    Once upon a time, a tiny dot of perfume behind each ear and one at the décolleté sufficed to perfume one's self for the entire day. Not so anymore. Today, we have portableperfumes to carry in our bags so that we can touch up our scent in the way that we might reapply lipstick or powder half way through the day. Do we now wear more perfume than the fair ladies and debonaire gents of centuries past? I think not. No, the same amount of perfume has been spread much thinner, diluted to produce the need to reapply. Whence the concept of the roller ball, which would have made no sense to a person already properly perfumed, as in earlier times.

    When we speak of good longevity, those words are relative. Many fragrances put out today are so evanescent that even a few hours of staying power starts to seem like excellence. The glaring exceptions to this rule are perfumes made of new synthetic materials: going far, far beyond fat solubility, these appear to be closer to plastics, which seem to form polymers with the fibers in our clothing and possibly cling to our cells as well. On ne sait jamais. I find such science fiction-like longevity rather scary, if the truth be told. What I lament is the rarer and rarer type of classical longevity, that which is conferred by an ample concentration of natural materials in a well-made perfume.

    There are houses, thankfully, which still produce parfum-strength parfum and eau de parfum-strength eau de parfum, and eau de toilette-strength eau de toilette. But for every niche house which does, there is another one which bottles cologne as edp! The truth may sometimes hurt, but here it is anyway: those of you who are guilty of dilution are not fooling anyone, and least of all me.

    If profit is what you seek through this not-so-clever ploy, I exhort you to double the strength of your wares, and you'll immediately receive a just recompense for your efforts, as it will be possible to shrink the packaging by 50%. Surely a 50 ml bottle costs less to produce than a 100 ml bottle, hence affording a net profita reward of sorts, if you willfor giving us back perfume-strength perfume.

    It is not entirely clear who is at fault in the rampant practice of dilution taking place at mainstream houses. They tend to have many employees, with work therefore delegated narrowly, so that the person who makes the dreaded dilution decision may hand it down anonymously to everyone else. Mistakes were made in some cases, such as the 1oz parfum spray of Badgley Mischka which I recently acquired in the hopes of at last seeing the beatific light cast by that composition upon certain select sniffers. Far from providing the means to achieve the throes of olfactory ecstasy reported by some, the alleged parfum spray turned out to be weaker than the eau de parfum. Things that make you say Hmmm....

    To my chagrin, rather than scoring a great deal on a large volume of extrait, I had been tricked once again. But instead of the all-too-familiar reformulation bait-and-switch, this time I was lured into buying eau de toilette at an elevated price because it had been bottled and labeled as full-strength perfume. Was there conscious deceit involved? If I called the company, would they send me the perfume?

    Honestly, I am not at all sure that these houses even know what pure perfume means anymore. That expression itself was always misleadingsuggesting, as it did, that when we purchased full-strength perfume it was 100%, rather than closer to 20%. Therein lies, perhaps, the explanation of why producers of mass-market perfumes decided that they could play fast and loose, call anything whatever they wanted and get away with it.

    After all, they use the same name for reformulations of once-classic perfumes with scandalous impunity. Small wonder, then, that the producers of perfumes have come to believe that they can call anything they want anything they like, reasoning along the lines of the colorful example offered by the ancient Greek philosopher Sextus Empiricus as an argument in favor of the moral permissibility of incest: it is permissible to touch your grandmother's big toe with your little finger, and everything else differs only by degree. But I digress...

    Yes, it appears that some houses are now counting water and alcohol among the notes of their perfume, so when they bottle dilute solutions as eau de parfum, they are able to do so in good conscience and with no duplicity whatsoever. In such cases, and Badgley Mischka may be one, increasing the concentration of one of these "notes"either water or alcohol or perhaps another solventwill, paradoxically enough, transform an eau de parfum into a parfum! Then, if some savvy soul dares to complain about the change in proportions of these notes, it is possible to wave one's hands about while vaguely alluding in a tone of moral indignation to the draconian new perfume industry regulations codified in law.

    Ponzi and Madoff salute you diluters, they really do.

    (End of Plaint 1)

    8/22/11 at 4:08am

    ECaruthers said:



    As I've said before, we are the problem. It's our desire to have - and wear - many 'fumes that has multiplied the number being offered from a small depatment store counter a generation ago to whole stores now. Along with the desire to own 20 or so scents is the need to pay less for each. Joy might be your perfect well made, high intensity, long lasting perfume. Have you spent $400 for a bottle?

    8/22/11 at 6:38am

    sherapop said:



    Hello, ECaruthers, and thanks for your comments!

    I wonder what the order of explanation is, actually. Do we want to have dozens (or hundreds) of perfumes because new launches are proliferating like rabbits? Or are new launches proliferating like rabbits (consider, for example, the flanker folie...), because we want to have so many perfumes?

    The notion of a "signature scent" seems to be receding into history. For a few years my signature scent was Oscar de la Renta. It was the only perfume I wore. I loved it and did not feel complete without it. Times have really changed--or at least I have. First, I never wear Oscar anymore, and second, I now feel that different occasions call for different perfumes.

    But your points are well taken. In fact, I have yet to spend $400 for a bottle of perfume. If memory serves, my 2.5 oz bottle of Joy edp (which I find way too civet-heavy to wear, actually) cost less than $100. I have tested several (not all...) of the Amouage offerings and so far have found nothing worth the price they are asking. Still, I am happy that Amouage-produced samples are available, so that it is possible to test them out rather than making an infelicitous blind buy. I am more interested in learning about perfumes than in possessing them.

    8/22/11 at 8:32pm

    ECaruthers said:



    My own theory is that our time and culture values variety and new experience more than most other things. Or call it an opinion - I'm not a social scientist & maybe don't know enough to have a theory. But I think the producers both feed our desire for novelty and also cultivate it. And some parts of perfume culture maintain classics more than most parts of our culture.

    My first year seriously smelling I probably did spend $400. But it was 20 bargain-priced bottles from TJ Maxx, not one expensive bottle of something great. So when I say, "We are the problem," I really do mean myself. But, like you, I'm currently more interested in learning. I guess I'm still taking the survey course.

    8/24/11 at 10:53am

    sherapop said:



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ECaruthers;bt5452

    My own theory is that our time and culture values variety and new experience more than most other things. Or call it an opinion - I'm not a social scientist & maybe don't know enough to have a theory. But I think the producers both feed our desire for novelty and also cultivate it. And some parts of perfume culture maintain classics more than most parts of our culture.

    Sounds like a true theory to me, ECaruthers! There's certainly plenty of evidence all around us--look at the explosions in areas of wine and gourmet cuisine, to take just two examples!

    I am very interested in this general topic, as a matter of fact. I wonder, for example, whether perfume appreciation is more like art and music appreciation (where variety is almost by definition a good thing) or more like relationships (where people have different ideas about promiscuity). If the latter comparison is apt, then one might think of a signature scent as analogous to monogamy. But this is a huge topic, which I'd love to write about at some point...

    Thanks again for your thoughts!

    8/24/11 at 10:54am

    sherapop said:



    (posted twice)





Loving perfume on the Internet since 2000