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  1. #1

    Default Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    This is a response to comments made in the "GIT: A Reevaluation and a Thanks" thread.

    I decided to post it in a separate thread because it became a rather long essay instead of a response, and I didn't want my response to hijack the thread because it was after all a thread about GIT and my response isn't about GIT.

    Quote Originally Posted by zztopp
    If you take a bottom-up approach (i.e., lesser scents -> niche) when venturing into the world of fragrances, you incrementally begin to appreciate the steps up in quality of the composition . . .


    Probably the most oft-repeated misconception and misunderstanding on Basenotes and a dichotomy many just can’t seem to get away from in the obsessive compulsion to build up niche fragrances at the expense of designer fragrances. It’s as if niche fragrances can’t be left alone to fend for themselves without attacking their less prestigious brethren.

    Having tried a couple of thousand designer and niche fragrances over the years, and having spent a life-time smelling fragrances, thinking about and reading about fragrances, talking to people in the industry etc., I will state categorically that this statement quoted immediately above as a general statement is not only fundamentally wrong; it is fundamentally misinformed. You won't hear anyone who knows anything about the fragrance industry and its development in the last 150 years using this false dichotomy and that includes every author of every book I’ve ever read on fragrances. Of course, the niche people can say what they want and usually do, but the majority of people who write about the development of modern perfumery and those in the fragrance industry, including the great noses, understand clearly that the skills set developed by noses creating for the non-niche industry is where the true originality and quality of composition lies.

    When Frederic Malle commissioned noses to do his Editions de Parfums line, the majority of those noses, with the exception of Olivia Giacobetti, were people who had firmly established their credentials and creations in the world of designer fragrances. Dominique Ropion, the creator of Vétiver Extraordinaire, is touted as “one of the world’s greatest technicians”. Maurice Roucel is touted as having begun his career as a “chemist”; these are hardly your artisans who use rare, all-natural ingredients and move in the rarified world of royalty and yet they are the ones who produced two of the finest fragrances released in the last twenty years because of their non-aritisanal skills acquired in the world of designer aromachemistry, and, I might add, they created two of the most successful Malle fragrances. The Malle fragrances of Olivia Giacobetti, while beautiful in their rarefied and minimalist use of simple constituents just don’t do it for most people as fragrances one can wear especially if one is paying over $150.00 a bottle for them, and isn’t that the case with many niche fragrance; they’re beautiful, they’re made of quality ingredients, but they’re just a little too simple and don’t have the longevity and temporal development many of us want when we pay hundreds of dollars for a bottle. You can get away with two sprays when wearing Musc Ravageur or Vétiver Extraordinaire because these two noses know their aromachemistry and know how to produce fragrances with complex effects that evolve and last, which according to the doyen nose Bernard Chant, was and is the mandate of modern perfumery.

    Incidentally, from his highly technical skills, Ropion, “one of the world’s greatest technicians” produced a very distinctive, full-bodied and highly synthesized vetiver of extraordinary quality, complexity, and character and made it far more distinctive by the addition of a number synthetic aromachemicals such as Floralozone, Cashmeran, Muske-tone, Tonalide with which he is obviously familiar as he inhabits the world of complex, cutting edge aromachemical technology found in world of designer fragrances and because he currently works for IFF as its lead nose. IFF (International Flavors and Fragrances) is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of flavor and fragrance ingredients that actually markets a number of the aromachemicals used in Vétiver Extraordinaire or their equivalents. If you take zztopp’s favorite nose, Olivier Creed, by Creed’s own admission of the modus operandi of his fragrance creation and his preference for natural ingredients, his fragrance creation is outside the larger movements and discoveries of twentieth and twenty first century aromachemistry and this is why if he continues on like he has, he will continue to produce limited combinations and rather simple (granted in some cases beautiful) effects that have appalling longevity unless they are loaded up with yet another variation of ambergris, vanilla and musk in the base. I have dealt with this limitation in another post, so there’s really no need to revisit it. Here’s the post should anyone care to revisit it:

    http://community.basenotes.net/showt...ory+equivalent

    Let me illustrate my point another way. If you look a Dominique Ropion’s impressive list of creations, you will see that when Frederic Malle and even when Serge Lutens (Ropion created Iris Silver Mist for Lutens) chose him to create fragrances for them, he had basically only created fragrances for designers. Why wasn’t the world’s self-professed greatest nose, Olivier Creed, chosen for the job. Because those in the know know that the real skill set is in the world of fragrance creation occurs in the technologically advance world of aromachemical creation found in designer fragrances.

    Here is Ropion’s list so that you can see what I mean:

    Alexander McQueen MyQueen (2005, with Anne Flipo)
    Burberry Burberry London for women (2006)
    Cacharel Amor Amor (2003, with Laurent Bruyere)
    Cacharel Amor Amor Elixir Passion (2006, with Laurent Bruyere)
    Calvin Klein Euphoria (2005, with Loc Dong & Carlos Benaim)
    Caron Aimez Moi (1996)
    Christian Dior Pure Poison (2004, with Carlos Benaïm & Olivier Polge)
    Escada Casual Friday (1999)
    Escada Sentiment Pour Homme (2002, with Laurent Bruyere)
    Escada Sexy Graffiti (2002, with Laurent Bruyere)
    Frederic Malle Carnal Flowers (2005)
    Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie
    Frederic Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire (2002)
    Giorgio Armani Armani Code for women (2006, with Carlos Benaim & Olivier Polge)
    Givenchy Amarige (1991)
    Givenchy Very Irresistible for women (with Sophie Labbe & Carlos Benaim)
    Givenchy Very Irresistible Sensual (2005)
    Givenchy Ysatis (1984)
    Givenchy Ysatis Iris
    Jennifer Lopez Live (2005)
    Kenzo Jungle L'Elephant (1996)
    Kenzo Jungle Tigre
    Krizia Krazy (1991)
    Lalique Le Parfum (2005)
    Lancome Miracle Forever (2006, with Olivier Polge)
    Lancome Tresor Eau de Printemps Sheer (2006)
    Maxims de Paris (1984)
    Nam Long Miss Saigon
    Ralph Lauren Safari (1990, with others)
    Thierry Mugler Alien (2005, with Laurent Bruyere)
    Vivienne Westwood Anglomania (2005)
    Yardley Lace (1984)
    Yves Saint Laurent L'Homme Yves Saint Laurent (2006, with Anne Flipo & Pierre Wargnye)
    Yves Saint Laurent Paris Premieres Roses (2003, with Sophia Grojsman & Laurent Bruyere)

    [List courtesy of Now Smell This: A Blog about Perfume]

    In a recent thread, when someone commented that Ropion’s resumé looked rather thin before he made Vétiver Extraordinaire, I reminded that person that if Ropion had only made Ysatis, which he did for Givenchy, then that would have been enough.

    I’ll just quote what I said about that:

    Ysatis is considered by lead perfumers and those in the industry to be a thoroughly original modern interpretation of the traditional chypre accord that opened many possibilities for the further development of other fragrances [along novel lines]. In this sense, it's a benchmark fragrance in the history of fragrances of the twentieth century. It is this fragrance on which Ropion's reputation is primarily based. The trouble when you get into slanging matches about which house is better than which or which perfumer is better than another perfumer is that the focus is taken away from the fragrances. You have confined one of the most respected fragrances of the last 30 years to mediocrity on the bases of what? On the basis of a cursory look at a list of fragrances.


    There are many, many designer fragrances whose quality of composition far exceeds that of many niche designer composition, which given the propensity to use more natural ingredients tends to produce more simple compositions and effects in the niche fragrances. I am very careful here, as others are not in many cases, to make a distinction between the complexity of composition and the effects achieved by such complexity and the aesthetic value of the fragrances, which is after all a far more subjective/personal reality. I am also trying hard not to conflate my argument about the quality and complexity of composition over whether nature-derived smells are superior to synthetic aromachemically created smells not found in nature. Clearly, nature specific smells have certain advantages and certain disadvantages and aromachemistry has already closed the gap in large part in terms of advantages and certain has closed the gap entirely in terms of disadvantages.

    Creeds are a classic example of the point I am making. With Creeds there is many times a confusion of the quality of ingredients with quality of composition. Any one Creed fragrance might trump Nino Cerruti Pour Homme on the quality of its ingredients, but there is no Creed, in my considering opinion, that comes close to the quality, complexity, and artistry of Nino Cerruti Pour Homme's composition. There is a real and important difference in such a distinction. I also don’t buy the quality argument in and of itself. It’s a false and misleading argument as I show later when I discuss the false valorization of natural over synthetic.

    Furthermore, I would also argue, could argue in detail if need be, that there isn't a L'Artisan fragrance, in my considered opinion, that can hold a candle to the original 1976 Signoricci 2 formulation in terms of the quality of composition and the level of complexity and the sheer artistry of composition. I also happen to think that the 1976 formulation of Signoricci 2 is one of the most beautiful fragrance creations ever, but that’s a personal opinion I could only support by saying that’s what I feel, but I could definitely argue why and how in terms of the sheer genius and skill of its composition it exceeds anything L’Artisan has made hitherto. If L'Artisan were to put out such a fragrance today, and Signoricci 2 is very L’Artisan in its feel, everyone on the board would be agog over it. I can come up with many such instances and, in each instance, I'd be happy to explain why and how the designer fragrance in terms of the sheer quality of the artistry involved is a superior fragrance in that regard. Of course, this not always the case with all designer fragrances, clearly there are many poorly made designer fragrances, but to build an abstract hierarchy on the basis of "lesser" fragrances versus "niche" fragrances is patently misleading. “Lesser scents and niche”; worse than its unselfconscious, and maybe even unintentional, elitism is its reductionism.

    Now the astute observer, would have noticed and could say to me, hey, isn’t that what you are doing; aren’t you working within a dichotomy between designer and niche. I have two answers to that question:

    The first would go something like this, yes I am, and I wouldn’t argue that such a dichotomy doesn’t exist nor that it’s not a valuable taxonomic distinction, but I am also showing why designer fragrances are not by nature lesser fragrances in as non-reductionist a manner as I can. I am trying to make differentiations and distinctions and give reasons why I believe designer fragrances can and often are more complex in their quality of composition and in the complexity of their effects, not to mention the degree of their artistry, and I hope no one would accuse me of being reductive in doing so.

    I might cite my recent post on aldehydes as an example of the claim above:

    http://community.basenotes.net/showthread.php?t=187374

    By niche companies’ own definitions, they don’t use aldehydes, which could be construed as limitation on the quality and the complexity of effects they can achieve. I can’t see how designer fragrance are intrinsically “lesser” fragrances when compared to niche when they have some much more to offer if, of course, they manage to offer it successfully, which they don’t always do, but, by the same token many times do manage to do.

    The second response to the charge above would go something like this: I have always tried to show in all my posts that niche fragrances are not always what they claim to be and that, in fact, there is more overlap between them and the aromachemistry of designer fragrances than many allow or even admit to. I’ll let my posts speak for themselves on this point, but I will illustrate this claim with two examples. Shiseido’s creation by Christopher Sheldrake and Pierre Bourdon (creator of Kouros, Live Jazz, Iris Poudre among others) of Féminité du Bois under the direction of Serge Lutens, is cited by many Lutens fans as an precursor of Lutens fragrances in its niche like originality and purity of ingredients. It’s a foreshadowing of things to come: the partnership of Lutens and Sheldrake, the use of high quality ingredients, the originality of composition. Sorry, but with regards to the use of high quality natural ingredients alone, always a favorite among niche heads, 43% of Féminité du Bois's perfume oil volume is made up of one of the most commonly used and synthetically created, non-nature specific aromachemicals, Iso E Super®. So much for niche continuity; actually, score one for designer niche overlap. It wouldn’t surprised me at all if many of Serge Lutens’s fragrance contained similar synthetically derived or synthetically produced aromachemicals components; I haven’t found any claims to the contrary. Nor would it surprise me if Creeds do. In fact, I have argued in other posts that they do and they surely must, particularly with regards to ambergris.

    My second example is Diptyque’s most successful and most beautiful creation, and arguably Olivia Giacobetti’s best to date, and, furthermore, her most synthetic. It’s the fragrance Philosykos, which revolves around a fig note which cannot be isolated from nature but which has to be recreated synthetically by the marvels of aromachemistry. I explain this paradox in my review in the Basenotes directory in the following manner:

    Finally, don’t look for the white cedar (Thuja occidentalis) listed in Diptyque’s official description of this scent to make an appearance in the basenotes. White cedar is nothing like the Texas Cedar or Atlas Cedar notes that are used frequently in men’s fragrances as standard basenotes. White cedar, or cedar leaf oil as it is commonly known, can be pungent and balsamic, bitter, sharp and fresh, and even camphoraceous. It is a principle ingredient in Vicks Vap-O-Rub©. The white cedar is more than likely used to give complexity and amplitude to fig note effects in *Philosykos*, which achieves such effects so artlessly. Such an achievement is even more laudable when one remembers that there is no such thing as fig essential oil or even fig leaf oil. Fig leaves are abrasive and sticky and have a sappy, milky liquid in them that is an irritant, and they don't smell figgy at all. In fact, figs themselves don’t smell figgy. The tend to have a bland, barely detectable vegetal smell to them. It’s only in the preserving of figs in jams that the aroma we identify as a fig is brought out and intensified, and so it’s important to note that the complex fig note one smells in *Philosykos* is a marvel of aromachemical invention and Olivia Giacobetti’s art, and *Philosykos* is the paragon of such invention and art.

    While science and art are definitely behind the genesis of this paragon, the experience of *Philosykos* is the experience of Nature, of airy, fleeting summer fruit and vegetal greenness softened, mellowed, transfigured, purified, and made white by late afternoon Mediterranean wind and sun. It is the fig tree, its fruit, and its leaves magically transformed into breath.
    Olivia Giacobetti, I would argue is
    one of the greatest perfumers alive precisely because she is at ease in the world of natural and synthetic aromachemicals and can use them to great effect through her artistry, but then again so are all the great noses who create for niche houses. The quality lies not necessarily and only in the ingredients but in how they’re used, and for the highest manifestation of how those ingredients both natural and synthetic are used complexly, qualitatively, and in terms of artistry, we will always look to noses and not to artisans. The concept of the artisan is a quaint and for many a compelling one, but the great noses of the modern era are not artisans, they are a combination of technician, chemist, and artists. It’s what and how they create not for whom they create that matters.

    An interesting final point I hope: has anyone ever noticed that the posters who consistently post interesting, informative, differentiated, thoughtful, and informed posts are those who hold to no clear cut hierarchy between niche and designer? In fact most of these kind of posters, would, if hard pressed, refuse to say which they preferred and would mostly say that for them it was the individual fragrances and not the category that matters. What I have also noticed about such posters is that they are rarely dismissive of niche fragrances, even the ones they don’t like, and they are always the most interesting posters on the niche fragrances they do like. I have made this point countless times when arguing with Creed heads, who can’t manage to say anything about Creed that doesn’t sound like anything more than a publicity blurb for Creed and a clichéd one at that and who confirm my main point, time and time again, that if one really wants to know about and understand fragrances, I mean really wants to know and understand, one needs to keep an open mind and lose the clichéd dichotomies and the false hierarchies. They don’t even begin to address the marvel which is fragrance creation. My harshest criticism of this falsely dichotomous view is that it produces very little sense of wonder. Everything is too clear cut for that. You can’t have wonder in such a world.

    scentemental
    Last edited by scentemental; 1st October 2006 at 04:10 PM.

  2. #2
    zztopp's Avatar
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    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Nice post, but you only partly quote me to make your point; my original post also contained this golden nugget:

    "(ofcourse not all drugstore scents are crap - i am just speaking generally here). "

    It wasn't a blanket statement. Many designer scents are top tier and can be as good as or better than many Creeds, L'Artisans etc.
    -

  3. #3

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Quote Originally Posted by zztopp
    Nice post, but you only partly quote me to make your point; my original post also contained this golden nugget:

    "(ofcourse not all drugstore scents are crap - i am just speaking generally here). "

    It wasn't a blanket statement. Many designer scents are top tier and can be as good as or better than many Creeds, L'Artisans etc.
    I stand corrected on the omission zztopp, but your qualification mentions drugstore scents, not designer, which, your qualification notwithstanding, get subsumed into "lesser scents". After all your suggestion is to start from the bottom up in order to appreciate niche scents. It's not a bad suggestion per se, to start from the bottom up, and I not really interested in singleing you out as might seems the case. What I really interested in is in complicating the dichotomy, the whole idea of starting at the bottom and working your way up. Is there another way in which we can look at this dichotomy. That's what I am interested in. Your comments gave me the pretext to do that. It not really personal, and I appreciate the fact that you have a more nuanced view than I might otherwise have suggested above for the purposes of argument. In order to show you that I mean it when I say I am not interested in ad hominem attacks I have removed all personal references. Thanks for the spirit in which you posted your reply to my post.

    I am glad to hear that you don't hold too hard and fast to the dichotomy.

    Regards,

    scentmental
    Last edited by scentemental; 1st October 2006 at 06:21 AM.

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    zztopp's Avatar
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    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Sorry, my bad - I should have been more specific. As you can see, I own a fair amount of designers fragrances as well.
    -

  5. #5

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Indeed you have.

    I'd be interested to know which, if any of these designer fragrances, you hold in same regard you do your niche fragrances.



  6. #6
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    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Quote Originally Posted by scentemental
    Indeed you have.

    I'd be interested to know which, if any of these designer fragrances, you hold in same regard you do your niche fragrances.



    From my collection:

    Live Jazz
    Kouros
    All the Carons (I just found new appreciation for Pour Un Homme)

    I do admit that when re-starting my fragrance obsession last year, I was of the belief that niche automatically implied superior in most of the cases.

    However, over time I learned that it only implies a superior quality of ingredients - not necessarily the composition or the overall fragrance quality of the end result (a point made in your title post). This could probably be due to the fact that many of the industry noses create fragrances for both designer and niche houses (another point you make in your title post - but something which I had already realized by my own experiences a couple of months ago); after this realization, I tried to start a thread on a referendum on the industry noses, but didnt get many responses:

    http://community.basenotes.net/showt...highlight=nose
    Last edited by zztopp; 1st October 2006 at 06:45 AM.
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    As a bit of a snob - or at least someone who enjoys exclusivity and obscurity - my discovery of the idea of "niche" fragrances led me very much to want to find a signature frag from amongst the niches or at least a niche house to adopt. I spent a fair bit by my own measure, sampling dozens of frags both "niche" and "designer." Not thousands by any means. Alas, I found the Creeds were not for me, neither the L'Artisans which were very much in vogue. Serge Lutens' were often beautiful, but they were like romance novels or daydreams - opulent, ostentatious, and unwearable. And so on. Likewise as my nose matured I found and continue to find common department store frags to be unbearable. I find now that day to day, I wear Guerlain, sometimes Dior. The triumph of nice or pretty?

    I used to write editorials on wristwatches and the "niche" vs "designer" stratification reminds me of the "mechanical" vs. "quartz" arguments in the world of watch collecting.
    Last edited by Carlos; 1st October 2006 at 07:00 AM.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Great post and a great read. I don't know enough to offer my opinion, but that post got me thinking!

  9. #9

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    To simplify my stand greatly I´d say:

    Older designer and niche stuff, say pre 1990 actually differ very little. Devin and JHL are on par with GIT and Acier Aluminium IMO, really no big difference.

    After the Acqua di Gio-tsunami designer stuff has become less interesting for me personally. I´d automatically choose the latest L'Artisan over the latest Armani without having smellt either.

    However very recently new "niche" houses seem to pop up every day. These, which have no historical context and play the "natural" card so heavily I remain sceptical about. They have a lot to prove IMO, especially if you start out with the outrageous price tags that many of them do.


    ps. The fragrance I personally feel was the standout and most important of the 90's was delivered by a designer. Few niches have anything on A*Men by Mugler!

    MMM

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    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Excellent post Scentemental. I can't add anything to this thread that hasn't already been mentioned. From a personal standpoint, I can see why someone would appreciate many of Creed's older/vintage scents, as stated previously. But with all of the Creed hype that's been circulating the boards, it has somehow had a reverse psychological effect on me and I'm a bit predisposed to disliking the Creed house. However, I still try to keep an open mind and admit to enjoying Vintage Tabarome very much. It's a really good scent IMO regardless of whether it's by Creed or not. As for the loyal Creed cult/followers, I find many of them quite ironic...

    After reading dozens of the Creed reviews in the directory, I've found myself rather confused. Some claim that GIT is the best thing they've ever smelled in their life. Yet these same people gave bad ratings to fragrances such as Eternity, Chrome, and Terre d'Hermes (all of which I prefer to GIT). As for the dichotomy, I certainly agree that many Basenoters are very biased when it comes to the designer/niche subject. If you were to put Calvin Klein's name on the bottles of GIT, Millesime Imperial, and Himalaya (among others), I'm almost 100% sure that these very same fragrances would be described as being less complex, more linear, boring, synthetic, harsh, sharp, etc. But I guess that's the effect of marketing.

    Oh, and by the way, I completely agree that the 1976 formulation of Signorrici 2 is a masterpiece. The same applies to Cartier's original formulation of Santos. Thanks again for the samples, my friend.
    Last edited by teflondog; 1st October 2006 at 08:23 AM.

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    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Great post scentemental!

    Coming from a previous hobby of wine, I am familiar with this dichotomy. ?Screaming Eagle is better than Opus One, Le Pin better than Latour and Greenock Creek better than Grange, just because they are rare and niche, and the others are made by big houses. Of course not - as in wine, perfume comes down to the juice in the glass - sniff it, and judge it on its merits.

    I have tried, and tried, to convince myself that niche fragrances are better. Whilst I haven't smelt thousands, I would consider that I have smelt most of the significant offerings from Creed, L'Artisan, Lutens, Malle and Villoresi. I have found maybe 10 or so that I would buy. For the record, I own GIT, BdP, VE, my wife has Carnal Flower and Iris Poudre and we share Daim Blond and Chergui. IMO these are all great fragrances.

    But I love Dunhill 1934 and Edition, Chanel Egoiste, PMC and Antaeus, Guerlain Vetiver and Derby and Habit Rouge, Eau Sauvage, Santos... And not just "old" designer frags, recently I think Rive Gauche and Terre d'Hermes are great, and I'll buy Burberry London when it arrives in Australia. For females, Chanel and Guerlain have a library of faultless creations of beauty. I judge these all on their merits, and love them as much as the few niches I own.

    and again, chemical or natural, does it matter - judge on the juice. Admittedly many new designer frags have a chemical smell to them, but many niches are just plain weird, Throw them both out, and your still left with a huge pool of talent.

    Ged
    Top 10 (not in order): Dunhill 1934, Dunhill Edition, Terre d'Hermes, Rive Gauche, Habit Rouge, Guerlain Vetiver, Knize Ten, Bois du Portugal, Vintage Tabarome, Green Irish Tweed

    Summer Rotation: GIT, Aventus, Erolfa, Vetiver 1948, Guerlain Vetiver, Malle VE, Terre d'Hermes, Bvlgari PH, Bvlgari Acqua, Habit Rouge EDC and Sport, ADP Colonia Assoluta, Chanel PMC, Dunhill Edition, Eau Sauvage, TF Azure Lime

  12. #12

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    I remember when I started this hobby I was totally mystified by Creed. After reading so many worshipping posts here, I assumed that Creed was the the paradigm of quality and the pinnacle of class. Then I aquired samples of MI, GIT, and OV. And I was like, "blah". They aren't bad, they just weren't the leaps and bounds better that I had expected.

    Yes, they do smell natural. Very natural. And well blended. I will concede that. But honestly, sometimes it is blatant synthetics that make a fragrace interesting (ie Nemo, most CdGs, Bulgari Black, DZING!, etc.). If I want something that is guaranteed not to offend, I'll reach for a Creed, but I'd rather be wearing something more thought provoking.
    "It's not what you look like when you're doing what you're doing; it's what you're doing when you're doing what you look like you're doing."

  13. #13

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Brilliant post.

    As a relative newbie in the scent world, I still do hold a distinction between designer and niche scents, though it's not as if I hold one to any higher esteem than the other.

    I see a house like Creed as an artist who only draws in pencil and chalk, and I see some designers as artists who have, say, a 120-color pack of Prismacolor colored pencils at their disposal. On any given day, either can create a masterpiece. Sometimes, even with a limited pallete, true masterpieces can be created, and this is why I hold Creed in such high regard- they do so much with seemingly so little. Likewise, the artist with the full gamut can draw beautifully colored sunsets or convey images not possible with just a pencil and chalk.

    Either way, beautiful things can come about. The original post takes a strong critisism towards Creed for using similar basenote compositions across their range, however, I implore that each composition be looked at individually. I wouldn't criticize an artist for using the same shade of, say, red or blue amonst their paintings, but I would agree that their are times where those colors make much more sense or just "work" better than in other paintings.

    Maybe I'm naive, maybe I'm just too new in this hobby and haven't sampled enough scents, but when I'm frequently impressed by the Creeds I smell and much more infrequently impressed by the mass-market scents (excluding YSL's line...), then that says something. To me, it all boils down to how each individual scent affects me, and so far, "niche" scents seem to move me more than "designer" scents.

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    zztopp's Avatar
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    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Quote Originally Posted by teflondog
    But with all of the Creed hype that's been circulating the boards, it has somehow had a reverse psychological effect on me and I'm a bit predisposed to disliking the Creed house.
    Its great that threads like this discourage people from wearing Creed - I would rather that not many people wear Creed (which I think not many people do since, as I have stated before, Basenotes is the only fragrance site where Creed is discussed in detail...elsewhere, its mostly lutens, chanel, or L'Artisan)
    -

  15. #15
    foetidus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Quote Originally Posted by zztopp
    Its great that threads like this discourage people from wearing Creed - I would rather that not many people wear Creed (which I think not many people do since, as I have stated before, Basenotes is the only fragrance site where Creed is discussed in detail...elsewhere, its mostly lutens, chanel, or L'Artisan)
    To many people the discussion isn't about quality--it's about rarity. Niches get so much play here not because they ARE better, but because they are rarer, cost more, and therefore are PERCEIVED to be better. This desire for rarity becomes a dilemma of contradictions: the niche enthusiasts need people to know that they have taste, so they must sing the praises of their own niche choices and possibly dis the designer fragrances in subtle ways. But the primary reason for choosing niche is exclusivity, and therefore, they don't want others to WEAR their own niche choices because that would reduce the exclusivity. ...a sort of case of don't do as I say OR do, just recognize how great my taste is...

    As for me, I am attracted to a much higher percentage of designer fragrances than niche fragrances, but that is only as it should be. Niches--whether Creed or Lutens (or Hummer or Ferraris) are by their very purpose meant to appeal to fewer types of consumers than the mass market products. The designer fragrances are highly successful--they do what they were meant to do--appeal to a large number of people, and often I am one of that "people." With niches I find that I have little or no attraction for most of them (two out of how many creeds?), but the few I DO like, I come close to worshiping. Those are the ones that, in a very real sense, were made for me because I am one of a very few that that fragrance was specifically created for. Those niches are also the ones I find I have the least to say about because they are so personal to me.

    Great post, Scentemental.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Great post Scentemental ! A joy to read.
    The ever on going niche-designer threads, oh yes.... they will never dissapear, and , although they slightly bore me to death, being a regular BN visitor, maybe they shouldn't. It's a natural reaction of people to think that , the more expensive fragrances are, the better they are. I wish it was that simple.
    If that was the case, I'd only buy niche fragrances.
    I do believe that the original idea of " niche" ,creating an artistic fragrance, at all costs, as perfect as can be, remains an interesting idea, especially for the perfumer, who is an artist after all. In the end, however, I think the perfumer doesn't care if he's working for a niche company or a designer company , as long as they're paying his check, lol!
    There are really beautifull creations in the niche departement, but nowadays," niche" is the new marketing term, guy's.
    Nothing wrong with that, as long as the fragrances live up to the high amount of money people are paying for it. And that's ,unfortunately, not always the case.
    And while I enjoy both niche and designer fragrances , I realise that there are just good and bad fragrances. That's all.
    Last edited by eric; 1st October 2006 at 11:25 AM.

  17. #17
    Dependent pluran's Avatar
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    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Hell of a post, Scentemental.
    Last edited by pluran; 29th October 2010 at 05:17 AM.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Quote Originally Posted by scentemental
    Furthermore, I would also argue, could argue in detail if need be, that there isn't a L'Artisan Fragrance, in my considered opinion, that can hold a candle to the original 1976 Signoricci 2 formulation in terms of the quality of composition and the level of complexity and the sheer artistry of composition.
    Yes please, I would love to read that! I would also like to read (again) the differences between the old and new Signoricci. I think you have written such a piece earlier.

    Excellent post there scentemental, a great read.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    It was well in my 46th year when I first had the chance of smelling a niche frag. And -as I previously mentioned- was not impressed. Up to that spent a lot of time and money with designers, sometimes happily, sometimes disappointed.
    Then arrived lots of L'Artisan, Villoresis, and Aqua Mutu samples - not my world. The first one I like from this world -if there is such- is GIT. Very clean, very comforting. Not winner in longevity, sillage, but very good for what I use scents: makes peace between me and the world.
    Now I'm not eager to try Serge Lutens, CdG, others. Simply because I don't pursue dreams. Apart from my strongly limited cash, I try to be content with what I have. And have learnt that niche means nothing spectacular.
    So I'm glad I'm not among of the blamed, though I would see someone claiming that his actually is

  20. #20

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    I agree with MMM on many points.

    Personally, I only own 4 or 5 "niche" fragrances out of 80 or so. I don't so much consider fragrances niche because of the ingredients or price as much as the level of distribution, ease of accessability, and street presence.


    These would probably be:

    C&S #88
    Epicea
    Avignon
    Messe de Minuit
    Geir
    Piper Nigrum


    Now, I COULD, given my own qualifications for niche, add the host of discontinued designer fragrances in my wardrobe.


    For me, niche is more about exclusiveness. Its a "niche" market and I definitely feel Ungaro 1 and Iquitos belong in it.

    Its kind of a hijack of the thread, but I feel that you bring up interesting points about the ambiguity of "niche" scentemental. I mean, really, what is "niche" and why are we really obsessed with it, apart from really just wanting something on the far extreme from AdG?

  21. #21

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Another great post scentemental. :wave:

    These are the type of reflexions that get me hooked on this hobby.

    « L'odeur de rose, faible, grâce au vent léger d'été qui passe, se mêle aux parfums qu'elle a mis.»
    [ Paul Verlaine ]
    Wardrobe

  22. #22

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Outstand Scentemental...
    ...good to see you back in action - always the gentleman.
    This is one of the reasons I came on board years ago.
    I'm curious if the Serpent will weight in on this one.
    These types of post were welcome reading when I first
    joined however, I do not see them as much anymore
    nor the people who posted them.
    I wish their were a section, maybe for supporters as an
    incentive - of course, for these more informative discussions.
    CG

  23. #23

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Excellent post scentemental!

    The whole designer vs niche ideal is merely a class struggle - all based on exclusivity, rarity, costs, etc. Personally, the only reason I hold a distinction between designer/niche fragrances is to make financial decisions : P "Hmm, I can get 2 designers for the price of one niche..." You know what I mean. I'll have to admit, there's a certain allure that's attached to niche fragrances that I just can't shake loose. That doesn't mean they're ultimately better than designers, it's just like the idea of "old and traditional techniques" - even if it's all marketing. Usually, the niche houses that really attract my attention are those that have a style that would hardly, if ever, be found in a designer fragrance. For example, I like how Serge Lutens has a very middle eastern, spicy, smooth feel to their fragrances. And Montale's extensive use of oud/aoud/agarwood in their oud-line of fragrances. The funniest thing, however, is that for some niche houses, their status has actually fallen almost below that of designer houses. For example, I love L'Artisan but I really question if they're worth paying for because many of their fragrances have a serious problem with longevity and sillage. So in this example, I would, without a doubt, place Yves Saint Laurent above L'Artisan. Of course, this all boils down to personal taste..

    To be honest, 90%+ of the time when I reach for a fragrance, it's a designer. There are just SO MANY more designer fragrances to choose from than there are niche fragrances so it's usually a designer frag that would satisfy my 'scent hunger.'

  24. #24
    zztopp's Avatar
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    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Quote Originally Posted by myaccolades
    To be honest, 90%+ of the time when I reach for a fragrance, it's a designer. There are just SO MANY more designer fragrances to choose from than there are niche fragrances so it's usually a designer frag that would satisfy my 'scent hunger.'
    Check out the list of niche perfume houses at these two sites:

    http://www.aedes.com/brand.php?cat_id=1

    http://www.lusciouscargo.com/

    I wouldnt be surprised if the total number of niche houses is now equal to or more than the number of designer houses.
    -

  25. #25

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Quote Originally Posted by zztopp
    Check out the list of niche perfume houses at these two sites:

    http://www.aedes.com/brand.php?cat_id=1

    http://www.lusciouscargo.com/

    I wouldnt be surprised if the total number of niche houses is now equal to or more than the number of designer houses.

    Aedes and lusciouscargo are both vendors that specialize in carrying many niche houses though so they're a poor example of what's out there since they offer only one "end of the scale". It's analogous to me saying "Go look at the offerings at Walmart! WOW! So little niche.. etc. etc."

    The best example is just to look at the Basenotes Directory, imo.

  26. #26

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Well, I guess I have to unlearn everything I thought I learned after unlearning everything I might have learned before the last time I relearned everything, Great thread, from the OP and all of the participants, but now I have questions I never would have thought of an hour ago.

    I think I'm just going to go around smelling people and if I like the way they smell, I'll just ask them what they're wearing....hell of a lot easier than trying to figure you people out

  27. #27

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    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    well, I've always thought and keep thinking the designer fragrances are generally better than the niche ones.
    Kouros, Polo, Gentleman, Bogart, Azzaro, Guerlain Vetiver are there to prove it.
    I'm sorry, niche fans, but 85% of all niche I've tested are poor lasting or weird.
    Currently wearing: Spicebomb by Viktor & Rolf

  28. #28

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Quote Originally Posted by RCavs
    I'm sorry, niche fans, but 85% of all niche I've tested are poor lasting or weird.
    I agree. But not to the extent of 85%. You have to realize that many niche houses don't market to the general public but rather create fragrances that are unique - some houses pride themselves in making peculiar (yet good) fragrances like.... L'Artisan; they have a few unusual ones.

  29. #29

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Quote Originally Posted by MonkeyManMatt
    To simplify my stand greatly I´d say:

    Older designer and niche stuff, say pre 1990 actually differ very little. Devin and JHL are on par with GIT and Acier Aluminium IMO, really no big difference.

    After the Acqua di Gio-tsunami designer stuff has become less interesting for me personally. I´d automatically choose the latest L'Artisan over the latest Armani without having smellt either.

    However very recently new "niche" houses seem to pop up every day. These, which have no historical context and play the "natural" card so heavily I remain sceptical about. They have a lot to prove IMO, especially if you start out with the outrageous price tags that many of them do.


    ps. The fragrance I personally feel was the standout and most important of the 90's was delivered by a designer. Few niches have anything on A*Men by Mugler!

    MMM
    I 100% agree. I think that the consolidation of many designer houses, their brands being bought up by huge multinational corporations (the same disturbing trend that is occurring in all industries) has caused a focus-group-ification of fragrance. Big companies are inherently risk-averse, afraid of losing money on something that to many would be too unusual to wear. So they test and research, and then test some more, ultimately ending up with the Ford Taurus of fragrance - functional but not likely to quicken one's pulse. To my nose, nearly all the newer designer scents I have smelled seem to me to be bland, boring, straightforward - lavender, citrus, vanilla, tonka, cocoa, white musk, etc. Here we only have to think of nearly everything by Boss, Versace, Escada, and so on. Granted, there are some houses that still take some risks, but these are usually very high-end houses, with avant garde leanings.

    That brings me to my second point, which is that overall I agree with scentemental's post (who could really disagree with such a reasoned argument!?!). Take for example CdG. Are they designer or niche? They are a design house, yet their scents are, in many cases, pretty odd, a characteristic that many consider to be a hallmark of a niche fragrance. The oddness fits their image, so it works. By contrast, Allure proves that this would not work for all houses. It would be hard to see Chanel releasing something with "dust on a lightbulb" as a note, but this fits just fine with CdG.

    I guess my distinction between niche and designer (one, BTW, I never had before arriving at Basenotes) has faded and has been replaced by a distinction based on raw creativity. These days, in this post-consolidation era, I think niche companies have more room for raw creativity. This type of creativity is not for all (hence the common comment that niche scents are often "too weird" [see the above post]). I see no real differences in "quality," just degrees of freedom, and even there, only in a majority of cases, not all. Creed for example, tends to make scents that creatively, to my mind, fit better with designer scents than most other niche scents. Some desginer companies can have this freedom, others do not have that luxury.

    I personally prefer the ones with greater creative license, 1) because that's what I have found I like, and 2) because I think it's good for society in general to have as much wild creativity as possible. Certainly not everyone has to agree with this. I don't even agree with it every day. Some days I want something simple and straightforward, non-controversial. Plenty of people like to listen to Britney and Paris Hilton's music. I prefer Zappa and Wayne Krantz. I like it because it's more interesting to me, off the beaten path, cuts new ground, and also because it's not something everyone everywhere will be listening to. Same for frags. Like MMM and scentemental said, the older desginer frags were creative, on a par with today's niche, and in many cases exceeding them. I argue that's because the business of fragrance wasn't as dominated by huge multinationals, so they took more chances and made frags that more often challenged conventions.

    Finally, the whole natural components issue to me is a crock. First, synthetic doesn't always mean never found in nature. It can also mean derived synthetically rather than naturally, but in the end it is the exact same chemical, just derived in two different ways. Very ofen the synthetically derived version is not only cheaper and more efficiently derived, but safer and less damaging to the environment as well. Second, just because something is synthetic - and even if it is never found in nature - that doesn't mean it smells bad, and it certainly doesn't mean it's necessarily harmful or bad for people or the environment. (In fact, I think the musk deer, civet cats, and catoreum beavers would be quite happy to know we use synthetics.)

  30. #30

    Default Re: Designer or Niche: A Reevaluation (very long post)

    Quote Originally Posted by robyogi
    Take for example CdG. Are they designer or niche? They are a design house, yet their scents are, in many cases, pretty odd, a characteristic that many consider to be a hallmark of a niche fragrance. The oddness fits their image, so it works. By contrast, Allure proves that this would not work for all houses. It would be hard to see Chanel releasing something with "dust on a lightbulb" as a note, but this fits just fine with CdG.
    Yeah, compare CdG Man 2 to Gucci PH. To my nose, the there's not much difference. Gucci PH can be readily purchased for $25 for 50 ml whereas CdG Man 2 can't be found for under $60. Are the subtleties worth the added price? Not for me. Same thing with GIT vs Cool Water. To me, niche houses are all about subtlety where designers are about smoothing over those subtleties with commercial appeal.
    "I exist for myself, and for those to whom my unquenchable thirst for freedom gives everything, but also for everyone, since insofar as I am able to love - I love everyone. Of noble hearts, I am the noblest - and the most generous of those that yearn to give love in return. - I am a human being, I love death and I love life."

    Egon Schiele - Self-Potrait


    My classics: Dior Homme EdT, YSL Rive Gauche PH, Helmut Lang Cuiron, L'Occitane Neroli (vintage), Davidoff Zino, L'Occitane Eau des Baux

    http://www.basenotes.net/wardrobe/2976

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