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The Fragrance-Fashion Connection

Posted: October 3, 2013

In "The Parallel Trajectories of Apparel and Beauty, Part II: The Allure of Luxury Fashion in Fragrances," an analyst insight post from Euromonitor International's beauty and personal care analyst Nicole Tyrimou and apparel and footwear analyst Ashma Kunde, the market research company continues to examine the evolving relationship between fashion and beauty, this time specifically through the lens of fragrance.

They write, "The global fragrances industry is being propelled ahead, primarily on account of Brazil, which is set to account for a third of overall growth over 2012-2017. However, Brazilian consumers’ strong preference for mass fragrances is eroding premium brands’ share of the overall category. In light of this price competition, premium brands have been looking for an edge.

"While some premium players are using smaller packaging and body mists to lower their average ticket prices, others are seeking to justify their high prices through bespoke formulations. However, most interestingly, we have observed fashion alignment in branding emerging as a key competitive advantage.

"This is not such an unexpected development as fashion brands dominate the fragrance rankings across the world, including in the emerging regions. In fact, 14 of the top 30 global fragrance brands come from fashion houses. In premium it’s even higher, with nine of the top 10 best-selling fragrances globally in 2012 coming from fashion houses. The main reasons for fashion brands’ love affair with fragrances are their ability to evoke emotions and stories, their artisanal nature and of course their accessibility to the consumer.

To best exemplify fashion’s power in fragrances one must look at the golden beauty industry in China, where fragrances is still one of the smallest categories, with less than 6% of skin care’s sales in 2012. However, despite cultural barriers, China is expected to be one of the top five fastest-growing markets for premium fragrances both in percentage and in absolute terms over 2012-2017, showcasing how the category is evolving. This is partly due to Chinese consumers’ fascination with fashion brands, with nine of the 10 best-selling premium fragrances coming from either Chanel or Christian Dior in 2012.

"With Generations Y and Z becoming increasingly crucial, fashion is proving to be a useful marketing tool in capturing the attention of these demographics. LVMH’s Guerlain, despite having no fashion division, launched La Petit Robe Noir in 2012. In its bid to target a younger demographic, the brand chose to associate itself with the bastion of fashion, the iconic little black dress, and has met with great success.

"Likewise, British perfumer Jo Malone, similarly bearing no direct links with fashion, chose an unconventional way to link its fragrances with the industry through the launch of its latest creation, Peony & Blush Suede Cologne. While fabric scents have traditionally been a popular element in fragrance formulation, their profile has been boosted of late by an increasing number of launches specifically named after them, from Jo Malone’s latest scent to Yves Saint Laurent’s Noble Leather.

Even fashion houses themselves are using links to clothing to promote their fragrances, with Gucci’s latest Made to Measure for men being a prime example. The fragrance references the brand’s bespoke tailoring service which was launched in 2011, and was also fronted by James Franco. This launch runs in the same vein as that of Gucci Premiere, which drew inspiration from the brand’s couture line. This type of intrinsic linking highlights how fragrances have emerged as a tool for fashion houses wishing to create a more holistic lifestyle brand.

"The relationship between fashion and fragrance has been manifesting itself in more than marketing associations.

"From an apparel perspective, while designer fashion brands use fragrances as an accessible means for consumers to buy into their brand, the reverse has also become evident, with mass-market brands using fragrances to add a bit of luxury to their product offering.

"British high street brand Reiss launched a fragrance in September in a bid to evoke a more luxury feel to its name. Managing director David Reiss likened the sensory response of a bespoke fragrance to that of beautiful garment fabrication. The fragrances will not just be sold at the brand’s boutiques but also at premium department store Selfridges, further highlighting the product’s aspirational image.

"Some mass apparel brands have already made their mark in fragrances. For example, Abercrombie & Fitch offers a selection of fragrances which are completely in sync with the brand's heavily perfumed stores. Lingerie market leader Victoria's Secret has also found success in fragrances by transferring its ultra-feminine image to its products. Victoria’s Secret continues to be one of the top 10 fragrance brands in the U.S., with sales of nearly US$200 million in 2012.

"The strength of scent in branding as well as for evoking emotions is becoming increasingly visible, with apparel brands employing olfactory branding as a means of generating footfall, as well as completing the brand experience. From high street brands like H&M to high fashion houses like Bottega Veneta and Calvin Klein, retailers are placing nearly as much importance on the scent of their stores as their location.

"The success of both luxury and certain mass apparel brands in fragrances emphasizes the importance of image and branding in this category as it is the one beauty area where storytelling is of utmost importance. With its ability to evoke emotions and complete a look, fragrance appeals to a consumer’s personality in the same way as a fashion accessory. Its position as an ‘affordable luxury’ and the intriguing creative process behind its formulation will continue to fashion and high street brands alike to expand in the category.

"On the other side, the fragrance industry is expected to continue to draw inspiration from fashion, whether by using fabric scents in formulations, branding products in tandem with fashion lines or promoting a fragrance ‘wardrobe’ to consumers," Tyrimou and Kunde conclude.