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  1. #1

    Default Why designer fragrances?

    I want to preface this by stating this is not a criticism against frags released by designers, but more an inquiry into the idea of fragrances branded and marketed by fashion designers. It is something I've been musing about for some time.

    Why are fashion designers and fashion design houses more or less "the establishment" of personal fragrance? Fashion designers design the clothing that they sell, but they are not perfumers. They do not invent the formula with their own hands, the way they draw their own clothing designs, and may even hand stitch prototypes themselves. They have to hire someone else to create fragrances for them, which they then sign with their own names.

    So I wonder why do I want this fragrance that has the signature of a clothing designer on it? I don't wear designer clothes. Even if I had an unlimited funds I wouldn't buy designer clothes - I'd be shopping on Saville Row.

    To mythologize it a bit, it seems like once upon a time one went to a tailor for clothing and to a perfumer for fragrance. The rise of the so-called niche houses would then really not be something new but the return to something closer to how it used to be: fragrances from those who specialize in fragrance.

    Of course many designers do have good taste in fragrances even if they do not create fragrances themselves. Perhaps it is Coco Chanel's fault. She hired the best perfumers and did not stint on quality when she put her name on fragrances. Thus, one of the most successful perfume houses of the last century is a clothing manufacturer.

    It almost seems like designer fragrance is a form of celebrity fragrance. They have sufficient fame and brand equity to sell products unrelated to their core business, products which they themselves are incapable of designing. So we have an interesting situation where the fragrance market is dominated by non-specialists: by the makers of clothing, leather goods, and jewelers.

    By far, most of the fragrances I have purchased over the years have been from designers, and through most of those years marketing and image were always very influential in those purchasing decisions. Some might argue that the marketing concept, branding, and even the bottle design is an important part of the pleasure of fragrance.

    When I discovered Basenotes and finally decided to try Guerlain (for example)I was very conscious of finally trying fragrance from a specialist perfumer rather than a designer. Which isn't to say that some specialist houses don't market the same way designers do, just that I haven't seen enough myself to actually be influenced by it. So buying from specialists does have a bit of a different vibe for me than buying from designers. Sniffing a fragrance without the context of a lot of marketing hoopla is like only listening to a song for the first time rather than seeing a music video. I'm not being told what I am supposed to feel about this thing, I have to figure it out and find an emotional place for it myself.

    Any thoughts on the subject(s)?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    I love your thoughts on this Carlos. I do think that many marketing departments have their fingers on the pulse of the desirous and lemming consumerist public in general. People can be huge brand whores, for the sake of hipness, personal acceptance in a group, individuality, personal taste and perhaps that the name may actually carry a product very worthy of buying.

    I do believe that our society is fully blinded by consumption of all kinds---we're addicited to it, whether a brand name is attached to it or not. What would we do if we had to farm our own food and make our own clothes? Perfume would probably go way on the backburner of priorities.

    People in our society have money, including poor people. Everyone has a need for dignity and self importance. Brand names sometimes help the collective need for the sense of importance. The proverbial gold tooth or owning an expensive car while everything else in the person's life falters.

    Name brands, especially the "rich" sounding ones---Dior, Dolce and Gabbana, Hermes, JPG, Chanel---ad infinitum-----offer a reference point to someone's personal identity, by the choice they made buying that name brand, using it in conversation, feeling like, they too have some essance of the richness, the designer name offers. Perhaps others will envy them for wearing such a high quality of fragrance or clothes with that name associated with it.

    In short----------HYPE!

    Sorry I ranted---I could go on and on, but.....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
    Last edited by JickyMan; 30th January 2008 at 05:25 AM.
    Your nostrils, which will dilate immesurably in unspeakable contentment, in motionless ecstasy, will ask nothing better for space, for they will be full of fragrance, as if perfumes and incense; for they will be glutted with complete happiness, like angels who dwell in the peace and magnificence of pleasent heaven.
    (From Maldoror by Comte de Lautreamont)

  3. #3

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    Eloquently put. It it like lacking identity, we wallpaper ourselves with brand endorsements like racecars and say, "This is me."

    I've been tempted to take up study of French again partly so I could finally read Maldoror untranslated. Great quote.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    i think what has ultimately happened is that fragrance was made to be mainstream by designers taking over the business of fragrance. Historically speaking, the only people who owned perfume and fragrant oils were royalty and upper class because only they could afford them. Later, fragrance became a norm for females, but was maybe not considered masculine unless a man was to have it splashed on as either aftershave or what was splashed on their necks at barbershops. Designers have brought fragrance to the masses. Where once fragrance was seen as too expensive, it is now accessible. I also think that when designers like calvin klein, kenneth cole, etc started advertising clothing on billboards and tv, people wanted to feel like they were a part of that designer mentality....like they themselves were upper crust if they wore that perfume...

    I think you make a very good argument, and i agree with you, but i think why people would rather buy fragrance from designers is accessibility. One can easily purchase ralph lauren, kenneth cole, gucci, prada, etc and be able to tell people when asked what "great designer" is making their fragrance, hopefully eliciting a response. I mean can you imagine this with most people--"so what is that you are wearing, it smells great?" "well, Bill, im wearing spezie by lorenzo villoressi on my wrists and muschino by santa maria novella on my chest" .....and bill's response would be "what the f@%k are you talking about" ha ha....this scenario would have been differnt had fragrance wearer simply said "oh thats polo, you like it?"

    Its a shame, but most people are more in love with a name brand than the actual product. Furthermore, i honestly believe that by offering fragrances to the masses, designers have also played it extremely safe and conventional in their fragrance making. Where niche scents tend to be more daring, essentric, and personal, designer frags tend to be very nice, innofensive, meak offerings.

    Or....it could be that niche is so expensive, but i like to believe all those shenanigans i wrote just before this sentence!

  5. #5

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    Thanks Carlos. Maldoror is an awesome book that I read in the late 80's and have been re-reading it again. I'd love to be able to read it in French!. He's the ultimate dark soul libertine. Great points as well JD.

    This one was great---- I mean can you imagine this with most people--"so what is that you are wearing, it smells great?" "well, Bill, im wearing spezie by lorenzo villoressi on my wrists and muschino by santa maria novella on my chest" .....and bill's response would be "what the f@%k are you talking about" ha ha....this scenario would have been differnt had fragrance wearer simply said "oh thats polo, you like it?"
    Last edited by JickyMan; 30th January 2008 at 05:31 AM.
    Your nostrils, which will dilate immesurably in unspeakable contentment, in motionless ecstasy, will ask nothing better for space, for they will be full of fragrance, as if perfumes and incense; for they will be glutted with complete happiness, like angels who dwell in the peace and magnificence of pleasent heaven.
    (From Maldoror by Comte de Lautreamont)

  6. #6

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    I buy designer fragrances because they are pretty much what i am limited to out here. Not many niche or whatever you call it retailers.

    You're also buying the image of the company and their advertising campaign. I'd by lying if i said these didn't affect me. I love perfume ads.

  7. #7
    Dimitrios's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    Hi Carlos ...
    Interesting .... hmmm .. slightly vague in describing it thoroughly , but I get your point .
    Ok My simplified opinions & answers to your q's , and I am not being smart .
    You ask >>Why designer fragrances? .. "cause they smell good "
    >> Why are fashion designers and fashion design houses more or less "the establishment" of personal fragrance? .... "Smart Business Practice" ,, advertising , marketing , etc etc ... The almighty Dollar !!
    >> So I wonder why do I want this fragrance that has the signature of a clothing designer on it? you want it ... cause it smells good

    Breifly ... I beleive some of the best fragrances (( now considered classics by us )) designed by the best noses back in the late 70's & 80's would have suffered & died had the creators of them not bowed down to the almighty emperors !! ..
    Im not bothered at all with designer names on fragrances .. as long as "they smell good" is all that really matters .

    Now Carlos Im curious .... which Guerlain are you comparing to what designer ?
    .............................. >>> Can you open up your wardrobe sometime soon ?
    Would add a better perspective to this thread .
    cheers .
    D

  8. #8

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    I've been impressed by far more designer offerings than niche...and i've tested plenty of niche.

    In the end, it all comes down to what my nose prefers.
    Are you not entertained??? Is this not why you are here??

  9. #9

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    Quote Originally Posted by jdnba View Post
    i think what has ultimately happened is that fragrance was made to be mainstream by designers taking over the business of fragrance. Historically speaking, the only people who owned perfume and fragrant oils were royalty and upper class because only they could afford them.!
    That's a very good point, I hadn't thought of that. When did the middle class start wearing fragrance? 1950's and 60's boom times, along with the rise of mass-market fashion? Hmm...

    Quote Originally Posted by Dimitrios View Post
    Hi Carlos ...
    Interesting .... hmmm .. slightly vague in describing it thoroughly , but I get your point .
    [/B]
    Yeah, I don't have a firm thesis or conclusion, just musings.
    Last edited by Carlos; 30th January 2008 at 05:27 PM.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    I don't know. After being able to try some niche scents I don't label niche as much better than designer scents necessarily. I like what my nose likes. I am careful about celebrity frags but some of them are good too.
    Also, in some countries the same scent can be hard to find and expensive and more "like niche" while in others it is over used and cheap and mass marketed.
    When niche means more expensive and less lasting, I don't like it either. There are many designer scents that are affordable and smell very good.
    Discontinued Paloma Picasso frags - are they designer, celebrity or niche?
    I do have my images of different producers and don't expect much from say Hugo Boss, but I try to not overapply various categories and labels peventing me from trying the scents and buying the ones I like and can afford.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    Quote Originally Posted by Boal View Post
    I don't know. After being able to try some niche scents I don't label niche as much better than designer scents necessarily. I like what my nose likes. I am careful about celebrity frags but some of them are good too.
    Also, in some countries the same scent can be hard to find and expensive and more "like niche" while in others it is over used and cheap and mass marketed.
    When niche means more expensive and less lasting, I don't like it either. There are many designer scents that are affordable and smell very good.
    Discontinued Paloma Picasso frags - are they designer, celebrity or niche?
    I do have my images of different producers and don't expect much from say Hugo Boss, but I try to not overapply various categories and labels peventing me from trying the scents and buying the ones I like and can afford.
    yeah...i think this goes along with my argument. They are more affordable, readily available, and they do smell good. I agree that i have tried many niche and many mainstreams and 8 times out of ten, i prefer mainstream....but like i said, the designers tend to play it safe; mainstream is more subdued. I really believe that niche houses bring some great offerings, but they also get carried away sometimes....but they also offer non-conformist frags that most people would never even think about and thats exactly why some get into them....to smell completely different....i mean hell, i have started to realize that i enjoy linear, barbrshop frags as much as anything....i could be completely different by acting like an old soul and sticking to bay rhum, pinaud and musk....and i am still considering it. Though i have a varried collection, i would one day hope to narrow my focus and start finding simple, beautiful frags....like for instance, i would give my right arm for a frag that is cheap but smells of sweet almond oil....and is actually good, but thats a different conversation all together.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    It's just grown that way historically, and first in France. It began with perfume houses. Then fashion houses began to sell perfumes under their label (Eau de Lanvin, etc.). They didn't engage in making them, but it was soon found out that a good perfume was a safe way for profits. There are also synergetic marketing effects between fashion and perfume (& cosmetics!). To this day, there seems to be a slightly different situation in England. Designer fragrances - that seems to be an American termaltogether. It's sometimes used in Europe too, but not commonly. You may have noticed that an expert like L. Turin hardly differentiates between Guerlain and Chanel, or Arden. And when it comes to price control, shelf buying, and other tactical matters - there is really no difference between the giants, and we may well expect Quest, Symrise, Givaudan, and their perfumers behind many of those beautiful juices. C. Burr sometimes juxtaposes designers and niche companies. I find that surprising for somebody who started out as an economist. Good and bad perfumes are produced everywhere, of course - small and mini brands included.
    Last edited by narcus; 31st January 2008 at 04:07 PM.
    'Il mondo dei profumi č un universo senza limiti: una fraganza puo rievocare sensazioni, luoghi, persone o ancora condurre in uno spazio di nuove dimensioni emozionali' L. V.

  13. #13
    Dimitrios's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    Carlos ,, This thread is really informative but I am still curious .... because you mentioned it .
    Which Guerlain did you try ?
    Last edited by Dimitrios; 31st January 2008 at 12:53 AM. Reason: grammar

  14. #14

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    Quote Originally Posted by Carlos View Post
    I want to preface this by stating this is not a criticism against frags released by designers, but more an inquiry into the idea of fragrances branded and marketed by fashion designers. It is something I've been musing about for some time.

    Why are fashion designers and fashion design houses more or less "the establishment" of personal fragrance? Fashion designers design the clothing that they sell, but they are not perfumers. They do not invent the formula with their own hands, the way they draw their own clothing designs, and may even hand stitch prototypes themselves. They have to hire someone else to create fragrances for them, which they then sign with their own names.

    So I wonder why do I want this fragrance that has the signature of a clothing designer on it? I don't wear designer clothes. Even if I had an unlimited funds I wouldn't buy designer clothes - I'd be shopping on Saville Row.

    To mythologize it a bit, it seems like once upon a time one went to a tailor for clothing and to a perfumer for fragrance. The rise of the so-called niche houses would then really not be something new but the return to something closer to how it used to be: fragrances from those who specialize in fragrance.

    Of course many designers do have good taste in fragrances even if they do not create fragrances themselves. Perhaps it is Coco Chanel's fault. She hired the best perfumers and did not stint on quality when she put her name on fragrances. Thus, one of the most successful perfume houses of the last century is a clothing manufacturer.

    It almost seems like designer fragrance is a form of celebrity fragrance. They have sufficient fame and brand equity to sell products unrelated to their core business, products which they themselves are incapable of designing. So we have an interesting situation where the fragrance market is dominated by non-specialists: by the makers of clothing, leather goods, and jewelers.

    By far, most of the fragrances I have purchased over the years have been from designers, and through most of those years marketing and image were always very influential in those purchasing decisions. Some might argue that the marketing concept, branding, and even the bottle design is an important part of the pleasure of fragrance.

    When I discovered Basenotes and finally decided to try Guerlain (for example)I was very conscious of finally trying fragrance from a specialist perfumer rather than a designer. Which isn't to say that some specialist houses don't market the same way designers do, just that I haven't seen enough myself to actually be influenced by it. So buying from specialists does have a bit of a different vibe for me than buying from designers. Sniffing a fragrance without the context of a lot of marketing hoopla is like only listening to a song for the first time rather than seeing a music video. I'm not being told what I am supposed to feel about this thing, I have to figure it out and find an emotional place for it myself.

    Any thoughts on the subject(s)?

    your post makes no sense, if you were really so up on "buying from specialists" you would in fact buy designer clothing. they are clothing design "specialists". but instead you said you would shop at Saville Row, where bespoke clothing is created for you. So either you assume that you have better taste in clothing that designers (making you a designer for yourself) or you agree that you have worse taste and would just clothe yourself the way you choose for the heck of it. Bespoke tailors are alot like fashion designers anyways, I mean they do stock their shops with the latest fashions in terms of fabric colours textures etc and suggest the latest cuts and styles - do you see where im going here ? no matter what logic path you take you are still contradicting yourself. but no biggie...

    I do agree with what you said about buying from specialists, I would rather a rolex than a gucci watch at the same price point... but you really have to agree that someone like gianni versace or armani are definatley experts in what they do!

    My opinion on the designer frags is that designer frags and "real" frags are actually two different entities. You have to look at it that way. Designer frags ARE a designer clothing element. They are hip, they are commonly worn, they are talked about as the "new big thing". A designer frag really is more like a Tommy Hilfiger Tshirt circa 1998 than a bottle of Tabac Blond despite the fact that they both seem to belong in the perfume category ! There is of course some crossover as there have been great designer frags - I am talking about of course the ends of the continuum.

    But in the defense of the designers - just because they dont actually design it doesn't mean they can't sit down with a perfumer and co-design it in terms of vision and idea. Theres nothing wrong with that. Sometimes a persons vision and idea can be genius despite the fact that they cant actually execute mixing the right amount of vanilla (ethyl maltol) smell with rose smell (geraniol 5-x benzylphalmide) *fake chemicals obviously!*

    corporate profits seeking definatley gets in the way of the construction of good fragrances coming from fashion houses as consumers have become use to a price point, and the companies have to work with that. theyre also greedy bastards!

  15. #15

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    OK. Let's keep it simple.

    So then what would be some examples of "niche" fragrances that you think smell definitely DIFFERENT, SUPERIOR, MORE COMPLEX, etc than the common, boring, mainstream designer fragrances?

    I do agree that the latest trend of "candy trendy"/celebrity fragrances is pretty annoying. But I am yet to find a fragrance that smells more divine to my nose than Chanel No 5. Chanel is quite mass marketed nowadayds and it is a designer.

    I tried Lutens and Montales, I looked for that spark and "specialness" in them - but alas, I found no good things to say about them. Lutens smell cheap, rough and agressive to me, as in "trying too hard", whereas Montales seem weak, barely there - undistinguishable and forgettable.

    But then again, I am no expert. It could be marketing destroying my brain but I am yet to find such a refined, "up there" smell as the ones I perceive from most Chanels.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    - Fashion has four seasons, but there is only one Chanel No. 5 !
    - Where is the olfactory match to free navels and nose piercing ?
    - How are
    jewelers' perfumes different from designers' ? Some of them are major players.

    Developments in perfume are not manageable as is the shape of your shoes next winter. Innovations in perfumery are often technical innovations these days, and these do not happen in cycles. And have men picked up on ladies wear from 1910-20 the way they discovered Tabac Blond or Mitsouko during the past five years or more? No, fashion and perfumery aren't necessarily twins! Both represent luxury, and express (will buy us) joy of life, a rather narcissistic one. That's mainly what links the two together, I think. I only belong to that majority who just feels a need for Cuir de Russie or Knize Ten. I want no tie or socks to go with that.
    Last edited by narcus; 31st January 2008 at 04:14 PM.
    'Il mondo dei profumi č un universo senza limiti: una fraganza puo rievocare sensazioni, luoghi, persone o ancora condurre in uno spazio di nuove dimensioni emozionali' L. V.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    Quote Originally Posted by syracusa View Post
    OK. Let's keep it simple.

    So then what would be some examples of "niche" fragrances that you think smell definitely DIFFERENT, SUPERIOR, MORE COMPLEX, etc than the common, boring, mainstream designer fragrances?

    I do agree that the latest trend of "candy trendy"/celebrity fragrances is pretty annoying. But I am yet to find a fragrance that smells more divine to my nose than Chanel No 5. Chanel is quite mass marketed nowadayds and it is a designer.

    I tried Lutens and Montales, I looked for that spark and "specialness" in them - but alas, I found no good things to say about them. Lutens smell cheap, rough and agressive to me, as in "trying too hard", whereas Montales seem weak, barely there - undistinguishable and forgettable.

    But then again, I am no expert. It could be marketing destroying my brain but I am yet to find such a refined, "up there" smell as the ones I perceive from most Chanels.
    as you said up there, Chanel no.5 is from a different time, when the separation was not as great. In fact, Niche market has actually sprung up to replace the barely extant "hi end designer" market. This post is truly talking about frags lets say... possibly 80's more 90's and definatley 00 onward

  18. #18

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    The common factor linking clothes (fashion), jewels and perfumes is a style, an allure, an image, a visual concept.
    That's what designers sell: they don't just sell clothes, they even decide if you'll find in the crappiest shop of ugly thins yellow lemon or grass green t-shirts for summer etc... and jewels and also perfumes are complement to this image they promote. Even if people won't buy the original clothes they will buy anyway the original scents or accessories (after all can you keep away a woman from the latest pair of decolleté from Manolo? ) and houses like Dior, Givenchy etc, know it well since theyr major revenues come from beauty and accessories.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    I agree with Dimitrios and Knightowl. I wear what smells good to me. I leave what doesn't smell good to me for someone else.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    I agree with the above posters who buy what they like - from designers like YSL and Chanel, luxury accessory companies like Dunhill, Hermes and Bvlgari through dedicated cosmetic companies like Guerlain to fragrance only companies like Creed and Malle, the main criteria is the quality of the juice.

    The designer / niche dichotomy, to me, is arbitrary and not particularly helpful, other than to be a vague indication of likely price and availability. I'd much prefer the QPR (quality to price ratio) concept we use in wine.

    Within that construct, I've realised a few generalisable trends in my taste

    - in niche I like Creed and Malle, and don't see myself wearing Lutens and L'Artisan. I'm yet to be convinced that any of the micro-niches discussed lately are must buys. Thus, I have resolved to build my Creed collection first.
    - in designer, I mostly like older ones. Very few new releases are inspiring me, but one or two designer releases a year are every bit as good as niche (recently, Rive Gauche, Dior Homme, TDH are a few examples)
    - I'm as big a snob as anyone here, and I'm happy to confess to a bias against the more common designers - Armani, Boss, K Cole, etc, in that respect I'm selecting out the more "exclusive" designers

    That said, I understand the concept of what you are trying to get at - products made by dedicated specialist companies.

    I would never buy a watch from a fashion house, preferring a true watch maker like Jaeger Le Coultre or IWC.

    Similarly, I don't have much time for designer shoes from Gucci, Ferragamo et al, I stick to Churchs and RM Williams (great australian boot company in case you were wondering).

    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

  21. #21
    smeller
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    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    According to Wikipedia, Serge Lutens is "a French photographer, filmmaker, hair stylist, perfumer and FASHION DESIGNER".

    The article makes clear that perfume never was his major focus until recent years.

    As I found out, he first got his fame in fashion circles as a recognized make-up and hair stylist.

    He seems to have a large spectrum of interests. Is it possible to be a top expert in all these areas? I mean, is he a Da Vinci of fashion? I'm skeptical. It could be a big hype.

    So, what makes him "niche", besides the price and lack of availability of his scents? After all, he is a fashion designer also, and I doubt he is such an expert in the art of perfume making (at least, not superior to the perfumers of YSL, Chanel, Gucci, Hermes, and so on). Are Terre de Hermes and Egoiste amateur works if compared to Lutens creations? I'm curious.

  22. #22

    Default Re: Why designer fragrances?

    I own quite a few bottles from various fashions houses. I do seek out what I like while trying NOT to purchase things that are popular within my region. It's almost amusing now when I walk up to a fragrance counter and the SA says, Everyone is wearing this you have to smell it..and I laugh and tell them if everyone is wearing it I definately do not want it. Thanks to these forums I am able to find some fragrances that I enjoy that are not available in my region. My mailman must wonder what all the Priority mail packages are though. From the various designer brands available I think in my region "D&G Light Blue" is the most overused fragrance.

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