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  1. #1

    Question Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    Do you think there is trend in modern perfumery towards oud & incense fragrances done in a traditional Middle Easter style? What do you think about it?

    I've noticed that in the last couple of years many niche and designer houses have released either individual or whole lines of oud/incense fragrances in a traditional Middle Eastern style. Some examples that come to mind:

    Creed - Royal Oud;
    Tom Ford - Oud Wood;
    By Killian - the Arabian Nights line;
    Jo Malone - Oud & Bergamot;
    Dior -La Collection Couturier Parfumeur Leather Oud.

    I am not listing Amouage, Ajmal and any other Middle Eastern houses because for they have traditions in making such fragrances.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    Here is an article (from yesterday) that deals with the same topic.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/fashion/20...arabian-scents

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    Quote Originally Posted by El Tiburon View Post
    Do you think there is trend in modern perfumery towards oud & incense fragrances done in a traditional Middle Easter style? What do you think about it?
    Yes for sure and it hasn't started to wane yet IMO. Not opposed to it at all.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    Yes there is.

    The perfume each house comes up with depicts the type of house they are. Bold and creative or mundane and mediocre.

    for swap/sale:





  5. #5

    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    I'm just surprised that Serge Lutens hasn't done it yet.

    Not that long ago, people here were saying oud would never catch on in mainstream perfumery. I wonder - do people still believe that?

    Given the "fumehead movement" that Katie Puckrik talks about in that Guardian article, the recent proliferation of newspaper and magazine articles about Goodsmellas and perfume trends, and the fact that even Jo Malone is now offering oud perfumes, it seems that the smartest thing for any company to do right now could be to come up with a mass-market friendly "oud" perfume at a mid-range price. YSL's repackaging of M7 and putting "Oud Absolu" on the bottle could be the start of that?

    Or do we still think that oud will remain the preserve of the more ardent perfume enthusiasts on boards like this?

  6. #6

    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    I love the complexity, uniqueness and quality of the Middle Eastern fragrances. I think mainstream consumers will embrace them by introducing the unfamiliar fragrance materials (oud, incense, myrh, frankincense) in the context of something familiar.

    If you take the perspective of a Western mainstream consumer, you would want a fragrance that smells like something else you like but is somehow different and unique. You wouldn't choose something totally unfamiliar or out there because you likely fear that others may find you odd or smelling bad - a judgment attributed to the unusualness of the scent. This trait of the Western mainstream consumers applies to all styles of perfumes, not only middle eastern. Take some of the Lutens' frags - they are not mainstream by any means and many people would find them "stinky" and weird.

    Apparently Tom Ford has done this successfully with Oud Wood. I understand it is one of the Private Collection bestsellers. Personally, I'm not a fan and I think Creed has introduced the oud note in a better context to be adopted mainstream.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    I love the complexity, uniqueness and quality of the Middle Eastern fragrances. I think mainstream consumers will embrace them by introducing the unfamiliar fragrance materials (oud, incense, myrh, frankincense) in the context of something familiar.

    If you take the perspective of a Western mainstream consumer, you would want a fragrance that smells like something else you like but is somehow different and unique. You wouldn't choose something totally unfamiliar or out there because you likely fear that others may find you odd or smelling bad - a judgment attributed to the unusualness of the scent. This trait of the Western mainstream consumers applies to all styles of perfumes, not only middle eastern. Take some of the Lutens' frags - they are not mainstream by any means and many people would find them "stinky" and weird.

    Apparently Tom Ford has done this successfully with Oud Wood. I understand it is one of the Private Collection bestsellers. Personally, I'm not a fan and I think Creed has introduced the oud note in a better context to be adopted mainstream.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    Quote Originally Posted by Kagey View Post
    I'm just surprised that Serge Lutens hasn't done it yet.
    Actually, he has. In a recent interview, he stated that he has already created an oud line but, due to IFRA restrictions, they're languishing in the vaults (whatever that means).

  9. #9

    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    Well if you look at current global consumption it's only in the Middle East and Far East (and to a lesser extent South America) that consumer confidence and spending is continuing to grow. It's only natural that European and American perfume houses would look to position themselves to catch some of that growth, if as a by-product they can create a new fashion in their traditional markets for ingredients like Oud which have been popular in the Middle East for centuries then they are going to jump on that bandwagon like crazy.

    Personally I think Royal Oud by Creed smells like a recently flooded basement full of mouldy carpet remnants but there are plenty of other European and American houses treating Oud much more successfully and in a way which is calculated to help their European/American clientele begin to appreciate Oud. The trend for Incense has been around in one form or another with a brief mid 1990's interlude since the 80's (though arguably the trend is even older still) and it's interesting to trace the way it has changed to suit developing tastes. Nowadays there's an increasing preference for more intense and spicey or medicinal smelling incense notes which capture something of the intensity of real Olibanum's smell and there's a concurrent trend towards more Champaca based incense with its more quiet, floral, Indian inspired character.
    Last edited by Hilaire; 11th June 2012 at 09:18 AM.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    I think these trends are partially driven by the discovery of good synthetics that smell very close to expensive raw materials. When Givaudan discovered Javanol, sandal wood fragrances went through a boom. The surge in oud fragrances may be driven by the discovery of a good oud synthetic.

    @Hilaire: I agree with your comment that the fragrance houses want to capture the middle east and far eat market. Maybe this is what By Kilian is after with their new Asian Tales line. Here's a question: if you were the creative director of a niche house with no budget limit and you were to create a fragrance or a line of fragrances targeted to the Asian market (China & Japan a the biggest markets), what would that fragrance(s) smell like? What materials would you use?

  11. #11

    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    Quote Originally Posted by El Tiburon View Post
    I think these trends are partially driven by the discovery of good synthetics that smell very close to expensive raw materials. When Givaudan discovered Javanol, sandal wood fragrances went through a boom. The surge in oud fragrances may be driven by the discovery of a good oud synthetic.
    I think I remember reading that YSL's creation of M7 coincided with the discovery of a good oud synthetic, but of course M7 was a failure, market-wise. Maybe timing has something to do with it also.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    Quote Originally Posted by El Tiburon View Post
    I think these trends are partially driven by the discovery of good synthetics that smell very close to expensive raw materials. When Givaudan discovered Javanol, sandal wood fragrances went through a boom. The surge in oud fragrances may be driven by the discovery of a good oud synthetic.

    @Hilaire: I agree with your comment that the fragrance houses want to capture the middle east and far eat market. Maybe this is what By Kilian is after with their new Asian Tales line. Here's a question: if you were the creative director of a niche house with no budget limit and you were to create a fragrance or a line of fragrances targeted to the Asian market (China & Japan a the biggest markets), what would that fragrance(s) smell like? What materials would you use?

    Well I think perfumes for the Chinese market would need to be different to those for the Japanese market. Though in ancient times Camphor was a big deal in perfumery in both countries.

    Camphor could serve the same role in a Chinese and Japanese orientated perfume line as say Oud does in Middle Eastern inspired perfumes. Though Agar/Oud was also a crucial ingredient in many ancient Chinese perfume recipes too.


    In China there has been a massive cultural interlude which has unfortunately divorced many people there from their traditional perfume culture so I think reviving ancient Chinese perfumery would not be all that successful in a mass market context (though I am sure there are plenty of wealthy well educated Chinese people who would buy perfumes directly inspired by ancient Chinese perfumery and would be willing to buy a high end or niche product) but you could hit some trad notes like Camphor and Patchouli and add in some more obviously familiar notes which modern Chinese people would readily associate with China like Peony, Cherry or Peach Blossom, with Ylang Ylang, Aglaia Odorata, Sandalwood, Musk and Kumquat or Wenshou Migan "Honey Citrus" when a Citrus note was needed.

    Japan has maintained its traditional perfume culture and has a much more well developed national market for perfumes which use typical Japanese ingredients, so I think European and American houses would want to look at what Shiseido, Kanebo, SK-II, Kao or Kose have been up to and take some inspiration from their classics.
    Last edited by Hilaire; 11th June 2012 at 11:06 AM.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    Quote Originally Posted by Hilaire View Post
    Well I think perfumes for the Chinese market would need to be different to those for the Japanese market. Though in ancient times Camphor was a big deal in perfumery in both countries.

    Camphor could serve the same role in a Chinese and Japanese orientated perfume line as say Oud does in Middle Eastern inspired perfumes. Though Agar/Oud was also a crucial ingredient in many ancient Chinese perfume recipes too.


    In China there has been a massive cultural interlude which has unfortunately divorced many people there from their traditional perfume culture so I think reviving ancient Chinese perfumery would not be all that successful in a mass market context (though I am sure there are plenty of wealthy well educated Chinese people who would buy perfumes directly inspired by ancient Chinese perfumery and would be willing to buy a high end or niche product) but you could hit some trad notes like Camphor and Patchouli and add in some more obviously familiar notes which modern Chinese people would readily associate with China like Peony, Cherry or Peach Blossom, with Ylang Ylang, Aglaia Odorata, Sandalwood, Musk and Kumquat or Wenshou Migan "Honey Citrus" when a Citrus note was needed.
    I agree with the comment about approaching the Chinese and Japanese market in a different way. In terms of consumerism and luxury culture (after all fragrance is luxury) the Chinese as a society are going where the Japanese were years ago. What I've read about Chinese luxury shopping habits is that what they buy is very much driven by whether it projects high social status. This is why Louis Vuitton monogram bags are a top seller - they are a very visible symbol of where you stand in society, how much money you have and who you are. European goods are much more desirable because they are foreign and perceived as rare and great status symbols.

    In addition to that, Chinese are fairly new to fashion and luxury (compared to other countries). So, they tend to lack the confidence of being too creative, unique or out there. I've heard of Chinese luxury shoppers going to a store with a magazine and picking out exactly the same outfit as shown there. They don't want to take the risk of mismatching their clothes and losing face. So, they go with the safe option - not a bad strategy even for many supposedly more sophisticated Western shoppers.

    The issue with perfume is that you can't flaunt it - it is not a visible status symbol. It is definitely recognizable but only to those who know it. Say you wear Tom Ford's Black Violet, for example, which towards the higher end price-wise. If you have never smelled it you wouldn't know it is Tom Ford's Black Violet and that whoever wears it probably spent $200+ to get it. You may think that it's an expensive perfume but to discern high quality scent from a low quality one you need some level of scent sophistication. Just like with art - you have to know what's good and bad art in order to discern. In their early stages of luxury exposure consumers don't have that ability to discern between something as subjective as scent. Case in point are the Western consumers who buy and wear perfume, which smells nice to the average person but mundane to a connoisseur.

    So, I guess a fragrance must have the following features to be successful in China:

    1. Must be tied to a European brand - it has been the obsession for quite some time now;
    2. Must be a popular scent, so that others can recognize it and thus show status better;
    3. Must have a good projection (the equivalent of the LV logo plastered on their bags);
    4. Must be safe - if it's too strange or unique, the wearer runs the risk of being perceived as "stinky" and losing face;
    5. Must appeal to Chinese sensibilities - this is where certain notes may come into play;
    6. Must be positioned as a European product worn by Chinese and Western celebrities.

    It would be really cool to get the perspective of someone who is Chinese or knows the culture really well. I might be totally off the point on any of this.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    Quote Originally Posted by El Tiburon View Post

    So, I guess a fragrance must have the following features to be successful in China:

    1. Must be tied to a European brand - it has been the obsession for quite some time now;
    2. Must be a popular scent, so that others can recognize it and thus show status better;
    3. Must have a good projection (the equivalent of the LV logo plastered on their bags);
    4. Must be safe - if it's too strange or unique, the wearer runs the risk of being perceived as "stinky" and losing face;
    5. Must appeal to Chinese sensibilities - this is where certain notes may come into play;
    6. Must be positioned as a European product worn by Chinese and Western celebrities.

    It would be really cool to get the perspective of someone who is Chinese or knows the culture really well. I might be totally off the point on any of this.


    Erm, I think it's unwise to make such broad assumptions about such an enormous market. The truth is that to make a success out of selling any product in China you don't even need to have major mass market appeal across the whole of China. European and American companies currently attempting to expand operations in China have worked it out that in order for them to in some cases double their current sales in traditional markets they need only appeal to a very narrow demographic in China because the sheer volume of that demographic by comparison is so huge.

    There are huge numbers of Chinese consumers with both disposable income and the same degree of design and brand awareness of their European and American counterparts. If you look at the invited audiences at all the major fashion weeks around the world, Paris, Milan and NY, you'll now see that a substantial portion of that audience is made up of Chinese buyers, journalists and other industry types.


    Assumptions about Chinese consumers that might have been reasonable 15 years ago are no longer all that useful now. If a European/American brand wanted to "crack" the Chinese market success would be measured in having achieved market share in what amounts to a handful of China's largest cities, and dreams of total market saturation would be considered pie in the sky for all but the most gigantic global brands.

    There are millions of consumers in China these days with sophisticated and developed tastes whose loyalty any brand would currently give their eye teeth for.

    It's really worth reminding ourselves exactly how huge China is, how rapid its economic and cultural expansion and change have been and keep in mind that easy generalisations are rarely very accurate when talking about China.

  15. #15

    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    I agree it is a big market but like you said the brands need to appeal to a very narrow demographic. Even though China is growing only a small percentage of the whole country can afford luxury goods and that group of people have a fairly homogenous taste.

    I didn't mean to present the Chinese as totally unsophisticated. They actually study luxury and fashion a lot more than many of their Western counterparts. Nevertheless, many Chinese are first generation luxury consumers. They still form their tastes and preferences. The Chinese market did not fully open to luxury goods until the 90s. With that in mind, the percentage of sophisticated consumers who have grown up with luxury brands and have fully adopted them is not that large. I think they preferences and buying habits of relatively new adopters and consumers who have lived with luxury goods for several generations are different.

    I agree about the brand loyalty of Chinese consumers. That loyalty tends to be to Western brands as they are seen as premium. High end Asian brands experience this problem of competing with the Western ones. It has nothing to do with quality and style, it's mostly a matter of perception.

    I don't mean to offend or degrade any particular culture; I'm trying to think impartially about markets.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    I feel that the 'cultural interlude' Hilaire mentioned may be less of a significance when it comes to dealing with the Chinese. Yes, there was a period of time where China had lost touch with its roots and also with the trends outside the country. But for perfumery, it is to my understanding that the Chinese never really had much of a culture, unlike say the Indians or Middle Easterners. If you look at the Chinese diaspora, there are few, if any, traces of traditional perfume-wearing. Yes, the Chinese do have a history of using perfumes, but not in the same way that may be relevant to the world now. So, Western perfumes are what the modern Chinese have taken to using, and the approach to China may not be drastically different from approaching any new Western market.

    And it is true that the Chinese will view perfumes differently from the Japanese, mainly because of cultural differences. 'Loud' perfumes seem to offend the sensibilities of the Japanese, but not the Chinese (in fact, perhaps the louder the better).

    I am Chinese, but not from China, so do take these comments with the appropriate dose of caution.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    Quote Originally Posted by Maque View Post

    And it is true that the Chinese will view perfumes differently from the Japanese, mainly because of cultural differences. 'Loud' perfumes seem to offend the sensibilities of the Japanese, but not the Chinese (in fact, perhaps the louder the better).
    Very interesting. How do you think Chinese view perfume? How is it different than the Japanese?

  18. #18

    Default Re: Perfume Trends: Oud/Incense & Middle Eastern Style

    Quote Originally Posted by El Tiburon View Post
    I agree with the comment about approaching the Chinese and Japanese market in a different way. In terms of consumerism and luxury culture (after all fragrance is luxury) the Chinese as a society are going where the Japanese were years ago. What I've read about Chinese luxury shopping habits is that what they buy is very much driven by whether it projects high social status. This is why Louis Vuitton monogram bags are a top seller - they are a very visible symbol of where you stand in society, how much money you have and who you are. European goods are much more desirable because they are foreign and perceived as rare and great status symbols.

    In addition to that, Chinese are fairly new to fashion and luxury (compared to other countries). So, they tend to lack the confidence of being too creative, unique or out there. I've heard of Chinese luxury shoppers going to a store with a magazine and picking out exactly the same outfit as shown there. They don't want to take the risk of mismatching their clothes and losing face. So, they go with the safe option - not a bad strategy even for many supposedly more sophisticated Western shoppers.

    The issue with perfume is that you can't flaunt it - it is not a visible status symbol. It is definitely recognizable but only to those who know it. Say you wear Tom Ford's Black Violet, for example, which towards the higher end price-wise. If you have never smelled it you wouldn't know it is Tom Ford's Black Violet and that whoever wears it probably spent $200+ to get it. You may think that it's an expensive perfume but to discern high quality scent from a low quality one you need some level of scent sophistication. Just like with art - you have to know what's good and bad art in order to discern. In their early stages of luxury exposure consumers don't have that ability to discern between something as subjective as scent. Case in point are the Western consumers who buy and wear perfume, which smells nice to the average person but mundane to a connoisseur.

    So, I guess a fragrance must have the following features to be successful in China:

    1. Must be tied to a European brand - it has been the obsession for quite some time now;
    2. Must be a popular scent, so that others can recognize it and thus show status better;
    3. Must have a good projection (the equivalent of the LV logo plastered on their bags);
    4. Must be safe - if it's too strange or unique, the wearer runs the risk of being perceived as "stinky" and losing face;
    5. Must appeal to Chinese sensibilities - this is where certain notes may come into play;
    6. Must be positioned as a European product worn by Chinese and Western celebrities.

    It would be really cool to get the perspective of someone who is Chinese or knows the culture really well. I might be totally off the point on any of this.
    Somebody call Creed.
    For those about to stink, I salute you!

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