Originally Posted by Ekove
This is an interesting topic that pops up frequently on this board. I do not want to claim that my opinion has more merit that that of others, but I do feel there are many points people who post these threads keep missing:What is wrong with generalizing?
Stereotypes and generalizing are hardly criticized in todays society, and that is due to a lack of understanding, or rather ignorance of how the human brain works. This not only applies to fragrances, but any topic you can think of from politics, religion, racism (or rather what is racist), hobbies, or pretty much anything.
The human brain likes to categories information, that is why we generalize. Nothing is ever absolute and if you do think so, you are ignorant, however you're just as ignorant if you're going to argue against generalizing by saying it should not be used because it is not always correct. Generalization reflects how we categorical judge information. In this case, niche being considered generally better than designers, and that is true as I will explain later. Sure, maybe some people here think 95% of niche is better than designer, but I'm sure most people realize it's more like 70% vs 30% or so.So why is niche better?
Let me define what I think Niche is; it simply means (to me) that the fragrance are more exclusive than designer and this is determined by these 3 main factors:
1. Niche has limited distribution/supply; sadly not many examples of that that I can think of today, except for frederic malle perhaps.
2. Niche is more unique and more risky, thus less people show interest in them. Only certain noses can appreciate them or are willing to take a risk in wearing them. Again, today this is more of a 50-50 thing, you've got creeds and bonds which are quite safe. And Serge Lutens/Amouage which do take some confidence and knowledge to appreciate.
3. Niche is more expensive. Really the only criteria some niche brands have to meet to achieve exclusivity, or the illusion of it.
So what are the expectations of Niche? they're more unique, more personal or risky, done better, well blended and of higher quality among other things. Do all Niche brands meet these criteria? of course not. And they don't really have to meet all of them either. Tom Ford is an example of a Niche brand I would consider not to be of high quality or complexity, but they make up for that by being very personal (due to simplicity) and very well blended. On the other hand, if you look at Amouage Gold and Chanel no5, you'll see the smell almost identical so no uniqueness there. Amouage makes up for that by the superb, very noticeable quality.
What are the expectations, or the objectives of a designer brand on the other hand;
1. Low price: Achieved by lower quality ingredients, perfume concentration and so on. Moreover, fragrance are more often reformulated than they are in niche, and without a good excuse since they use more synthetic materials than hard to find natural ingredients. And by no means I'm saying natural always smells better, or designer lacks natural/niche is always natural. Just speaking generally
2. Maximize profit: Making safe fragrance that are done many times before. Adding very little new and not bumping up quality to make up for that. There are exceptions as well, Chanel No.5 is high quality for example, YSL is a house that takes risk, and so on. Also, making countless flankers of best sellers that are completely forgettable. Sorry but flankers do on your resume and you know they're not expected to be that good or else they would not be limited. Of course there are important exceptions like pure malt, NR Musc EdP and so on.My conclusion:
Niche is generally better than designer for reasons stated above. I don't know what the distinction between designer and niche came into existence. As a term, niche is just a word that means exclusivity and practically has little to do with how the fragrance smells. It's just there are expectations with that word that are usually met, at least are more met by considered niche fragrances than they are by designer fragrance. While Niche are becoming less exclusive and less risky lately, designers are still at a much worse state. Serge Lutens, Frederic Malle and Amouage continue to release master pieces, while Bond no.9 and creed hold niche stats for price alone. But compare that to the great designer houses: Chanel just released a completely boring, safe, done so many times before, but all around pleasant fragrance. YSL is not taking many risks with their new L' Homme line. And Guerlain, as much as it's brought over and over and over again in these discussions, have not released a classic for decades, get over the past please.
Also, while I do not understand your Ropion analogy. He created a few good/great designer fragrances, many forgettable ones, and a Niche
masterpiece? how does that give any credit to designer fragrances? The nose behind them could be a master, but his skills are not shown due to the criteria he has to meet.
Anyway, I'll wrap this up by saying, yes people can be biased towards one opinion or another, one brand or another. Sometimes just for the price of the feeling of exclusivity the brand gives them in the case of Niche, people do not like being in the majority, they like to be anti-conformists. And every now and then, some anti-anti-conformists, who feel anti conformists are now the majority, will pop up and say look at guerlains master pieces, look at all the lies and synthetic boring crap creeds releases. Niche brands use bullcrap marketing just like designers do, with all the exclusivity, uniqueness, high quality claims that they do not necessarily meet. That still does not disprove the solid generalization that niche is better than designer fragrance in most cases. I'm of course saying this of 1. The present 2. in totality - Bleu de Chanel is not a bad fragrance, I'd give it a solid B- on it's own, but it has been done dozens of times before in the designer world, and thus it's certainly worse than say Ambre Sultan, which is a niche fragrance I'd give a B-