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  1. #1

    Default Article: London: The new perfume capital.

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    I am a Jasmine Award winning fragrance critic, amateur perfumer, Basenotes contributor and regular columnist for Esprit Magazine. My perfume guide, Le Snob: Perfume, is published by Hardie Grant. Click on its title for more info.

    For giveaways, reviews of new perfume releases and thoughts on all sorts of scent-related matters, please visit Persolaise.com or find me on Twitter or Facebook.

    Many thanks.

  2. #2

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    Loved loved this article There are some "perfume snobs" who feel that the proliferation of blogs and discussions on perfume by "non_Experts" is potentially not good for the world of perfume and that only experts should write about scent...I say that is ridiculous...it takes awareness on all levels to attain the level of interest that is happening in the world of perfume and it takes all types of people to make this happen...To think as mentioned in a recent article by Grant Osborne, New York Museum of Art and Design is opening a Center of Olfactory Art. Thats indeed a first.

    I amappreciative of everyone who adores scent and for people like you who write about perfume because they love it. A really nicely written piece.

    best,
    m. smith
    perfumeandinkblog.com
    Last edited by msmith139; 27th December 2010 at 09:27 PM.

  3. #3
    awesomeness's Avatar
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    One more reason to visit again ... very soon.

  4. #4

  5. #5

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    Amazing article Persolaise. It seems that London is living the best moment of perfumery, specially niche, at this time. So it seems that it's nice moment to go shopping at the stores and have a chance of trying great and hard to find niche fragrances right now. How i wish that something like this happened here, but don't see it happening so soon

  6. #6

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    Great article. One more reason (as if I needed it) to love London!

  7. #7

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    Fantastic article, Persolaise. Thank you very much for your article which facilitates my "warming up" to London.

    I have recently moved to London and I must confess, sometimes I have hard time. Yet again, going out for sniffing tours makes it a bit easier.

    Happy new year to you all!

  8. #8

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    London is no doubt a shopping capital with lots of great places to smell perfumes. I would, however, take exception to your opening three paragraphs about Paris.

    "There are no multi-brand niche perfume stores in Paris"

    This is largely true. There are reasons for this however. Paris is a smaller city than London. Most of the single-brand boutiques (Malle, Artisan Parfumeur, Etat libre d'orange, Patricia de Nicolaï, The Different Company, Guerlain...) can be found in one or two specific areas, within walking distance from one another. As a result, customers have no difficulty spending a few hours to compare various niche fragrances. The only exceptions are the big department stores (Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, Le Bon Marché) which have extensive choices of niche perfumes all in one place.

    "[T]hey don't adopt the non-partisan approach that many perfume-shoppers seem to prefer"

    I would dispute the claim that French perfume shoppers prefer such a "non-partisan" approach. In the niche market in Paris, there is the feeling that the client does more than smell a perfume in a niche house. The whole experience is enhanced by the particular relationship one has with the house and its concept. This is for example true of Frédéric Malle boutiques, where you meet with knowledgeable personnel who discuss fragrances freely. In fact, this quality of service is not incompatible with a "non-partisan" approach: it was a Frédéric Malle SA who invited me to try Chanel's Sycomore when he heard I specifically liked vetiver fragrances.

    "I'm reliably informed by several sources that a couple of 'independent' shops did try their luck a few years ago, but success wasn't forthcoming and they were forced to close down"

    I've heard the same. This goes to show that the "multi-niche" store approach is not an appropriate business model for Paris. This is partly for the reasons given above (proximity of "single-niche" boutiques + specific client-house relationship). It's probably also because foreign visitors to Paris expect to visit each specific house in the "perfume capital" and, like the locals, seldom went to the "multi-niche" stores.

    Multi-niche stores can be found in many provincial cities in France. In Paris, the market tendency goes in the opposite direction. Guerlain, for instance, can be found in Sephora and Marionnaud stores throughout France; but in Paris, all Guerlain perfumes are exclusive to Guerlain boutiques and stands. This is a conscious choice also made by most niche houses, and seems to correspond to both local and international demand. It could therefore be argued that the multi-niche store model is most appropriate for cities that do not have a fully developed fragrance culture, not the other way round...

  9. #9

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    Nice article. Good to see that London is becoming a destination for the fragrance lover. Also, would agree with encrenoire75's response about Paris. I think that Paris is a unique city for the perfume lover. The experience is far more than just the perfume. And there are, indeed, multi-brand niche stores in France. One of my favorites is the wonderful Santa Rosa in Toulouse. Very small, but very well stocked with all things niche. Wonderful and knowledgeable staff, too. I wish I could get to all of these places and go exploring!

  10. #10

    Default Re: Article: London: The new perfume capital.

    Great article! Makes you want to go to London too. I agree with encrenoire, you don't need multiniche stores in Paris, because you can find so many single-brand stores all over. Why buy a Serge Lutens or PdN elsewhere when you can go to the original store? Plus, the Printemps/Lafayette combination is quite impressive. And regular perfume stores like Marionnaud put the Sephoras this side of the ocean to shame.

    While I have not explored the London perfumery scene, it seems that the one area where it has an edge over Paris is Arabic perfumery (as far as I know, Paris only has an Arabic oud store).

    cacio

  11. #11

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    Encrenoire75 makes some good points -- that niche-only stores don't necessarily need to exist in Paris because Paris mainstream department stores carry niche brands. At Le Bon Marché, they carry Serge Lutens, By Kilian, Penhaligons, The Different Company and numerous other niche brands that you'd rarely (if ever) see in a general U.S. or London department store.

    There's also Colette, which carries a very nice line-up of niche fragrances, with Comme des Garcons, Chanel and IUNX just down the street. It's worth keeping in mind that the little stand-alone boutiques in Paris are numerous, and aren't as scattered about as they might be in New York or London, as Encrenoire75, TricsMan and Cacio noted.

    I found fragrance shopping in Paris to be a wealth of over-stimulation, with so much available that it was impossible to take it all in (and I was there for several days with the intention of doing just that). Yes, London is doing much better lately, with a lot more niche availability than in the past, but I'd certainly hesitate to rip the crown away from Paris and do a victory dance at this point.

  12. #12

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    Thanks very much indeed to all of you for your comments and particularly to Encrenoire75, Tricsman, Cacio and Nathan214 for generating a very interesting discussion. Would it be fair to say that the perfume vibes in London and Paris are very different from each other?

  13. #13

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    Thank you Persolaise, TricsMac, cacio and Nathan214 for your responses to my comment. To answer your question, Persolaise, I'm not familiar enough with London perfume shopping since 2007 (when you started perceiving a change) to know exactly what its "perfume vibe" is like now. I'm a thirty-something Parisian who lived all his childhood and early adulthood in a reasonably big UK provincial city and whose perfume culture originally came from family presents (Guerlain's Vétiver in the original formulation was a particularly marking recurring present from my mother).

    What I'd say is that London is probably one of Europe's true shopping capitals. There's more money in London, more business tourism, and, as you say in your articles, "in many ways, London belongs to youth" (in particular, trendy professional young people with style and money to spend on it). So I'm not surprised the perfume business model there would tend to concentrate on grouping as many luxury fragrances as possible under one roof in the multi-niche model.

    Paris is a city foreigners go to mostly for specific shopping or tourism purposes. Parisians themselves have quite an in-grained perfume culture on which luxury companies are building. Frédéric Malle, for instance, went from one to three Paris boutiques in a few years (only international boutique: New York). I believe Patricia de Nicolaï similarly expanded its Paris retail network. Also, if you look at the LVMH annual report (<http://www.lvmh.com/images/comfi/LVMH_DF_2009_UK.pdf>) you'll see that more than half their EU retail network is in France (page 5), and that almost half their EU perfume/cosmetics revenue is also French based (p. 13). Guerlain (same page) recently opened a twelfth boutique in Paris and considers its strongest priority markets to be France and China.

    I guess my (tentative) conclusion from all this would be to say that the emergence of a perfume culture in London is probably a form of catching-up, and possibly centered on a very special international urban center not representative of the UK as a whole. Provincial England probably relies more on high-street chain distribution than provincial France (TricsMan mentioned a multi-niche boutique in Toulouse, and I've had experience in Lille and Strasbourg; you can also see a long and lively discussion on finding rare perfumes in French provincial cities here: <http://www.auparfum.com/?ma-ville-mes-parfums#forum13001>).

    And it must be hoped that the trend you've noted in London will last. As you highlight, the risk in London is that, insofar as it is youth-driven, "it goes through periodic rejections of what’s come before". To consolidate the trend, this London "perfume vibe" will have to expand to all generations and into provincial UK.
    Last edited by encrenoire75; 2nd January 2011 at 11:38 AM.

  14. #14

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    Very interesting and well written article. Thanks!

    In Xmas, I talked to friend who is the owner of a small niche brand perfume based in Austria. He told me something quite interesting about his experience in the UK. He contacted that several of the high street department stores and a few internet shops last year. All these companies are friendly, and asked for samples. Then, they disappeared, seldom did they give him any feedback. He called and wrote to follow, if he is lucky, he may get a reply saying they love the concept, the products, but unfortunately, they only sell named brands. He feels that in fact, the UK market is the most closed-mind compare with Germany, France and Switzerland.

    I don't know about Paris, but i think Frankfurt do have quite a lot of independent perfume shops with some really special perfumes on offer. Where in London can I find niche perfume shops? Next time i go, i will try to visit. Love to visit these little independent stores. The atmosphere is so different, and the owner is usually very very knowledgable. Much better than going to a high-street perfume shop!

  15. #15

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    Encrenoire75, thanks for your reply.

    I don't think there's any question of Paris' power on the global perfume scene - although I gather Rio is giving it a good run for its money - but as you say, London IS catching up, and that's something thrilling to observe.

    Happy, the incident you describe is certainly very interesting, although I suspect that sort of thing happens all the time, everywhere.

    To answer your question, the main London-based niche perfumeries are Les Senteurs, Avery Fine Perfumery and Roja Dove's Haute Parfumerie in Harrods.

  16. #16

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    I just joined basenotes, but I've been active on mua for years. This was a very interesting read! Lovely article. I love to travel and enjoy buying fragrance to remember each trip, but it's been years since my last trip to Europe, and I'm so eager to go back. In the meantime I've looked far and wide in The States for fragrance boutiques which are not easily found in the US. When I come across one mentioned on the fragrance board besides Scent Bar--which is, of course, amazing--I'm so thrilled! Places like Essenza (Seattle), Mignonette (Providence), Kuhl-Linscomb (Houston), The Crushed Violet (Lexington), Scents of Charleston (Charleston), Rochellis (Gaithersburg) are all on my to-try or have-tried-and-love list. Does anyone here have any more recommendations of little perfume shops in the US that carry niche fragrances?

  17. #17
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    Great little article, which I'm embarrassed to say I only just got around to reading!

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