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Fine Fragrance Finds Silver Lining

By: Karen A. Newman
Posted: February 2, 2009, from the February 2009 issue of GCI Magazine.
Annick Goutal

Annick Goutal, the Paris-based fragrance house, grew out of the passion of its founder and namesake, and the company and its artisanal fragrances have grown into an international brand with an amazing growth curve.

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From those earliest days, perfumes were crafted with an individual in mind. Today, a growing number of options exist for fragrance lovers to wear their own truly signature scents.

Affordable Bespoke

From independent U.K. fragrance house Pecksniff’s online and in-store offerings to Memoire Liquide, a recent addition to Henri Bendel and Studio at Fred Segal created by Robin Coe Hutshing and Jennifer Coe Bakewell, custom fragrance creation is catching on. At London’s Miller Harris, customers can choose to spend a day with perfumer and company founder Lyn Harris in her laboratory creating a custom fragrance. Phoebe Manners, also in London, offers both ready to wear and bespoke fragrances. The latter start at £800 for first service and £68 for refills. At Cartier in Paris, in-house perfumer Laurent creates made-to-measure scents, where a three-to-five year supply reportedly can cost in the realm of $75,000. It is safe to say there is an option at nearly every price point, with more entries taking the field all the time.

Sue Phillips is president of Scenterprises, a global fragrance consultancy focused on product development, sales and marketing initiatives, as well as strategic brand development. She also is the U.S. distributor of The Perfume Studio, a U.K.-based custom fragrance purveyor. She believes that, despite frequent designer and celebrity fragrance launches, consumers are individuals who want how they look and smell to say something about who they are. “They are seeking more of a role in what they want to purchase and what their shopping experience should be—as opposed to buying only what fragrance companies dictate,” says Phillips. “It allows customers to be emotionally involved with the product that they have created.”

Custom fragrances have been around as long as there has been a fragrance industry, but remain a small percentage of the fine fragrance market—due, in part, to their relatively high cost. Yet, says Phillips, there will always be a small audience that desires something very exclusive and unique where price is no object. For everyone else, companies such as The Perfume Studio continue to emerge to help enthusiasts create their own fragrance. “Affordable luxury is what consumers want—and, particularly in this economy, women still want to look, feel and smell their best,” says Phillips.

The Perfume Studio accommodates affordable luxury by producing events akin to wine-tasting workshops. Guests are taken on a “fragrance journey” by a fragrance expert, where they will experience 18 different perfume blends, all created by a master perfumer and designed to be worn in combination or alone.

Long-range Forecast