“A WOMAN WHO DOESN’T WEAR perfume has no future.” – Coco Chanel
Sicilian orange and bourbon vanilla. Peony and suede. Jasmine and sandalwood. Those six ingredients are respectively coupled in three of the nation’s best-selling fragrances: Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle (the leader of the pack); Jo Malone’s Peony & Blush Suede; and Sonia Kashuk’s Red Promisia.
But these offbeat members of the newest floral crop aren’t your grammy’s gaggy-sweet scents, nor are they strictly for summer. These are seductive, complex and unexpectedly … something. Of course they smell divine, but it’s a new kind of divinity, where a sugary rose is pricked by, say, a hint of black peppercorn.
From whence this trend? I spoke to the nation’s foremost beauty brainiac to find out. That would be Karen Grant, vice president and global beauty industry analyst at The NPD Group, a market research firm.
MLB: Karen, please explain the development of these new florals.
KG: There’s a new mentality around fragrance. In the last five years there’s been an evolution in how florals are being presented, mixed and changed. What’s been happening is the rise of artisanal scents by perfumers Jo Malone and Creed–simple scents mixed differently–and the influx of European scents and floral orientals.
Those two factors have played a major role in influencing the market, and these scents have been more widely distributed. So the public’s preferences and sensibilities are growing more sophisticated because they’re getting exposed to more in different ways: A Bond No. 9 fragrance that’s sold at Sephora makes it more accepted.
MLB: The emergence of brands that don’t have to play to the traditional–what twists are they throwing into the floral bouquet?
KG: Thyme, coriander, grapefruit, rosemary … It’s creating this new dynamic that underlies it. Florals can be woody orientals and harder to distinguish. Before, it was, “This is a citrus and this is a floral.” Today, it’s, “This is a floral but it has a hint of something else, it’s lemony but with a different undertone that isn’t citrus.” Now you have the freedom to experiment and be more playful, like Marc Jacobs‘ Daisy Dream. It’s like food. Asian fusion. You can put curry or ginger with honey or whatever and now your taste buds find hamburger a little too plain.
MLB: Like sprinkling ground espresso beans on vanilla ice cream?
KG: Right. Also, woody orientals have played a role in how we interpret florals. That came from Coco Chanel. The fact that Coco Mademoiselle is the number one scent in the United States tells you a lot. It’s soft but it’s not a floral.
MLB: It has floral elements. Chanel calls it a semi-oriental. The top notes are Sicilian orange and bergamot; the middle notes are May rose, grasse jasmine and iris; and the base notes are Indonesian patchouli, Haitian vetiver, bourbon vanilla and white musk.
KG: See, that’s shifted our reality to say, “Oh, I don’t only have to smell like this.” And scents like rose being just for women, that’s changed, too. It’s about being gender-neutral, a beautiful scent that can go on either sex.
MLB: Is this trend affecting mass market as well as prestige brands?
KG: Fragrances are a small part of the mass market business, except Victoria’s Secret and Sonia Kashuk. Sonia Kashuk is doing an outstanding job. Her fragrance and packaging is unique. With her, it’s not about the price but about offering something that’s a great value.
MLB: And the luxury brands?
KG: Those you find at department stores and Sephora are the biggest part of the fragrance market. Sales have been flat in the past, but they’ve doubled in volume in the last four years.
MLB: Sounds like the definition of what smells good is broadening.
KG: The best perfumes have aspirational elements. My Burberry makes a spicy feminine statement and creates a personal signature. Florals don’t need to be so soft and sugary anymore, just like women.
Every scent tells a different story. Besides the ones we discussed above, these, too, are la crème de la crème.
Annick Goutal Un Matin d’Orage ($95-$150) Like waking up in the south of France to a bowl of freshly cut oranges, lemons, ginger, gardenias and sunshine.
Kat Burki Private Collection Freesia & Pink Grapefruit ($48) It’s the Hamptons and you’re going out and it’s really humid but you’re gonna smell like a fresh, chic, skinny person who never ever sweats.
Laura Mercier Verbena Infusion ($55) You can be either woman in Manet’s “Le dejeuner sur l’herbe,” deep in a lush green French countryside, with touches of refreshing citrus, spearmint and white amber.
Lisa Hoffman Beauty Kerala Ashok Garden ($22-$65) If you were a rich expat living in Tangiers, this is what you’d smell like every day– ripe pears and apricots, violets, musky amber and exotic spices.
Terry de Gunzburg Fruit Défendu ($195) The bed linens are mussed and redolent of white musk and pink pepper, and your lover proffers a cold plate of fresh pineapple and mango.
Armani/Privé Rose d’Arabie Intense ($285) After an elaborate costume party with your man dressed as Lawrence of Arabia, mystery and carnality ensue at midnight in Venice on a heavy black velvet duvet scattered with patchouli and Damask roses.
Maison Martin Margiela Paris Replica Flower Market ($125) It’s a sunny afternoon in Paris, you’re strolling along a flower market and actually taking the time to experience rather than record each blossom, which is why you left your iPhone 6 Plus in the hotel safe.
Tom Ford Velvet Orchid ($122-$175) It’s Havana in the ʼ50s and you’re a sleek film noir femme fatale who likes only Cuban orchids or don’t bother. Underneath your fitted bespoke suit is irresistible skin warmed by sugar cane, rum, bergamot, mandarin, honey, vanilla, jasmine absolute, rose oil, fuchsia orchid, orange blossom, floral salt, magnolia, jonquil, hyacinth, balsam, labdanum, sandalwood and myrrh. Caràmba!
Gigi Anders is a frequent contributor to MyLittleBird.