Scent Sleuth: Holiday Fragrance Mania

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The fragrance elves were busy last year, resulting in the launch of 170 women’s and 70 men’s fragrances. Long gone are the months of developing that one creative statement to become a classic. Success instead becomes a twist, a flanker or a limited edition.

Throughout the holiday season, counters were brimming over with the latest introductions based on a famous designer or personality. How many of them were actually new and exciting? In reviewing launches for 2006, there are sequels to all of the designer fragrances. The trend seemed to have been started by Escada introducing a new spring or fall launch each year. This created a problem for consumers who fell in love with a fragrance but couldn’t find it a year later. It had been discontinued to make way for the next year’s launches.

In the end, fragrance has followed fashion.

The industry works on the idea that consumers demand something new each year, something exciting, something different to keep them from becoming bored, and so must present classics in a different way. It is hard to create a new classic, so now there are sequels to the original classics. These sequels are called “flanker” fragrances and examples include Chanel Light, Coco and Coco Mademoiselle. If a name resonates with consumers at the counter, then by all means use it and give it a new defining adjective such as DKNY’s Be Delicious and Red Delicious. In other words, ride the coattails of the success of the classic.

Celebrity fragrances continue to target the mass market consumer and designers tend to launch in the prestige arena. Do we see some trends evolving, especially noticeable during the holiday buying season?

Annie Buzantian, one of Firmenich’s top perfumers and the creator of some of the most successful fragrance launches of the decade, says that this has obviously been the year of the chypre. However, the innovative twist has been with a definite gourmand note added to the chypre construction, according to Buzantian, and fragrances such as Euphoria, Lovely and Coco Mademoiselle have done extremely well utilizing this note.

“The woody category is freshened and given a twist with citrus or mandarin driven by Light Blue by Lauren. The floral category is still a mainstay being led by Pleasures and Beautiful,” she said.

The aqueous green floral category, launched with the introduction of Pleasures in 1996, still is going strong. Pleasures, relying on its strong identity at the counter, has expanded into a brand with Pleasures Exotic, Pleasures Intense and Pleasures Floral. If the consumer liked the original, why wouldn’t she try a twist?

There have been some big successes in the past few years including Thierry Mugler’s Angel. This fragrance was considered to be an unusual niche success in that it combined a heady, spicy, woody floral note with a very sweet vanilla amber oriental base. This grandfathered the vanillic orientals. Many offshoots occurred such as Jean Paul Gaultier (original), Anna Sui, Burberry Brit and Armani Mania. This category remains strong and continues to make statements with new entries such as Britney Spears’ Fantasy and Ralph Lauren Hot.

We see twists off of the Floriental, a new category which is an imbalance off of the classic citrus vanilla amber and moss accord such as Obsession Night, Angel Garden of Stars Collection and Cartier’s Delices de Cartier.

One of the most successful mass market chypre launches was Lovely, by Sarah Jessica Parker, with a captivating woody floral twist. Clement Gavarry and Lauren LeGuernec of IFF collaborated to create this very feminine, modern interpretation of the classic chypre. Lovely has sharp, fresh clarity laced with floral woods and spices and rich mosses. It has great identity and staying power. Lovely has a fragrance memorability and its sales at the counter will confirm that this Christmas.

The fragrance goes with the Lovely concept, but melds into a long-lasting sultriness. A flanker fragrance followed in a new silk media for the skin that had an entirely different musky fragrance in it, called Lovely Liquid Satin. The addition of musk notes and a silky emollient gives these fragrances a new twist.

Martha Basanta, marketing director at drom fragrances, sees the rose note reinvented for a future direction—perhaps an edible gourmand twist on the rose as exhibited in Rose Angel by Thierry Mugler, a very spicy, woody rose. Basanta also sees the iced rose, the fruity rose and the violet twisted rose for new direction.

Fashion trends, media trends, perfume trends—our fast-paced society is always demanding the new. Have we spoiled our consumers? Who makes the trends? Is it the fashion goods house, the marketer, the small independent entrepreneur? Or is it the creative perfumer at the bench of the fragrance supply house coming up with a new shift in an accord or adding a new raw material. The answer is they all are interrelated. They all feed off one another.

This fragrance mania will continue as long as marketers strive to keep their bottom lines increasing while maintaining or improving their market share. They will put the demands on the fragrance supply house and challenge them to deliver new scents.

A future column will cover how the perfumers meet these challenges and how time and energy are portioned out in the customer-supplier relationship.

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