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Sniffing Out Scent Clues to New Classics

Nancy C. Hayden

An expedition to the fragrance counter is always a challenge. It is hard to avoid being stalked in the department store by the myriad of sales girls showing you the latest intro or the best valued gift set at Christmas, Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day. The fragrance blotters provided at the counters have become a very savvy way to spray the testers to allow you to try the latest fragrance before saturating your skin. Samples are always at a premium, so one of the best ways to seek out scents is offered by Sephora. A very sophisticated computer screen allows you to do your research first, and then the fragrance finder allows you to view the best sellers and to tailor your selections according to your tastes.

Sephora’s “Women’s Fragrance Finder” categorizes fragrances by the predominance of notes—floral notes, oriental notes, woody notes and fresh notes (both green and citrus)—and even the variety of sub-categories and crossovers such as woody oriental, mossy woods and floral oriental, citrus fruity and green. Finding fragrances can be subjective, but searching for a fragrance using a tool such as this illuminates trends.

And what about the notes themselves? The notes of fragrance ingredients can often be compared with the notes of music. There are infinite combinations, but what new notes in launches are emerging to make a new fragrance classic? What does make a classic? It must have a memory factor, a signature and a marketing theme with an artsy package to tie in the theme.

The New Floral—The New Classic?

In 2009, the floral family dominated—more than half of the launches in 2009 were florals. Lola by March Jacobs added a bright grapefruit top note and piquant pink peppercorn to its full-bodied peony rose geranium. Lola, created by Givaudan perfumer Calice Becker, is a very classically feminine scent true to the Marc Jacobs style and laden with musk, tonka bean and vanilla—giving it long life on skin and skin aura.

The appropriately named Very Hollywood by Michael Kors is another heady tuberose floral that entered the market with a big splash. The fragrance almost feels retro in its full-bodied Turkish rose, lush tuberose gardenia, ylang-ylang and orange flower components. In name and scent, it connotes the feeling of a sexy Hollywood star. And before the most recent floral launches, Victor Rolf’s Flower Bomb had already made a big commotion at the counters with its heavy full-bodied rosy floral, befitting its name and certainly a very romantic evening perfume.

Dolce Gabana, too, offered various interpretations of the rose notes, making a big impression at the counter with its La Lune and Rose the One, which exudes the Damascene rose with a slight oriental twist. Rose Essentialle by Bulgari, launched in 2006 and created by International Flavors and Fragrance’s (IFF) Beatrice Piquet, has an interesting blackberry, violet leaf intro into an ottoman rose with mimosa and sambac jasmine. Warmth and sexiness comes from its sandalwood and patchouli.

A more recent simplistic floral launch, Stella McCartney’s flanker Stella Nude, which combines Moroccan rose and peony rose with violet, offers top notes of grapefruit and pink pepper to give it a contemporary feel. Its base notes of amber and vanilla add warmth.

IFF’s Sophia Grojsman’s signature of full rich fruity roses can be experienced in another big splash introduction—Parisienne by YSL. Her first creation for YSL was Paris. With IFF’s Sophie Labbé’s input, a fresh blackberry top note leads into the heart of Damascus rose and violet, which are woven with sandalwood, patchouli, vetivert and musk into a contemporary “vinyl” accord—one that evokes metal gloss and varnish Parisienne has the potential to become a classic if it is supported and pushed, and the dominance of various rose notes of these recent launches benefitted from new combinations that resulted in modern interpretations of the rich natural rose derivatives for more diffusion and freshness. Floral romance pervades, but new twists with peppercorn, lavender, watermelon, pomegranate and kiwi give fresh nuances to the rich comfort of rose.

An Oriental Twist

Launches of orientals have remained consistent, but new twists with floral spices on rich oriental bases definitely pique consumer interest. One new impact fragrance that has classic potential, Idole d’Armani is a blend of spices and florals to create sensual warmth and a wonderful wafting aura of intrigue. It has a melding quality and heart. If Armani continues to promote this well, it should expect to see good repeat sales.

Flora by Gucci is a floral oriental with wonderful skin exuberance. It has identity and lovely warmth and great feminine diffusion. Its future, too, is bright.

Looking Forward

Floral accounted for nearly 60% of the 2009 fragrance launches. What will be the leading notes in 2010? Will the economic mood push consumers to simplistic and purer fragrances? Will there be a return to clean and fresh, to the comfort of the classic formula types that have been given subtle twists with new ingredients? And how many of these fragrance launches will find their way into consumers’ collective hearts?

Perfumers are challenged more than ever with limited time lines to produce uniqueness, and perfume ingredient suppliers must continually provide new materials to provide the nuances that translate into memorable skin identity.

The fragrance segment of the beauty industry has helped to develop a fickle consumer who is always looking for something new. But there will always be classic fragrances, and consumers will return to the comfort and security of wearing them. Why? Because fragrance has the ability to uplift and make them feel good. It is up to brand owners and suppliers to continue and push the boundaries of the creativity that went into the identity, juice and packaging.

Nancy C. Hayden is a chemist and a pharmacist with more than 30 years in the fragrance industry. She worked as a nose for Jovan from the company’s beginnings and as fragrance director for Jovan Beecham until 1988. Currently, she is a consultant to the fragrance and cosmetics industries.

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