Friday, January 23, 2015

Penhaligon's & L'Artisan Perfumeur: Niche Fragrance Brands Bought by Puig

I have tired of saying it: we're experiencing the end of niche. Niche was a marketing tool to grow companies and then sell them to the highest bidder. The sale of Editions de Frederic Malle and Le Labo last autumn to the Lauder Group is followed by the sale of British traditional house Penhaligon's (established in 1870 as they boast) and of French artsie proto-niche (well, at least when it was founded by Jean Laporte in the late 1970s) L'Artisan Parfumeur to the Spanish group of Puig.

Jenner Studio photo via archdaily

Puig is at least no LVMH....They do nevertheless cater to a more mainstream perfume portfolio: Carolina Herrera, Prada, Paco Rabanne, Valentino....but also Comme des Garcons, which is anything but conventional in their fragrances.

Two years ago I was complaining on L'Artisan Parfumeur losing the grip on niche. In fact actively seeking to distance itself from the Jean Laporte, Olivia Giacobetti, Anne Flipo and Jean Ellena past. They were commissioning hundreds (or so it seemed, at least) new fragrances on Bertrand Duchaufour and seemed to branch out. Now it's evident even to the most well-meaning why that was.

Penhaligon's (funnily enough employing the same indie perfumeur, the Mitsotakis of niche apparently) was following a similar trajectory, a markedly different business model than its small shop cutesy of its long past.

All the same it's another tombstone on niche perfumery. How much longer will Serge Lutens withhold after having bought his rights for handling his name from the Japanese giant Shiseido?

The current market is "niched out"

' Though Roschi considers the current market as “niched out” and saturated with brands like Le Labo, for those aiming to follow in his footsteps, he advises getting as much experience as possible before taking the plunge and attempting to create a new brand. “You have to have expertise and know the market. Work in it, get interested in it, meet people in it. I wouldn’t bet two cents on someone who wants to build a perfume brand with no experience.” '

A great quote from an article on Edouard Roschi of Le Labo (snatched up by the Estee Lauder Group last autumn, alongside Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle) which appears on Business of Fashion. (And while you're there, do read the Gucci Revival article on bringing back the sexy in its design)

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: How Much Will the Niche Market Bear?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Serge Lutens La Religieuse: new fragrance

The divide between darkness and light, between sanctity and profanity, between spirituality and carnality, and the overtones of a Catholic upbringing with its clash of good & evil have for long haunted the imagination of the master, mr.Serge Lutens himself. The contrast of white on black is another of the recurring themes in the canon of Lutens perfumes composed by perfumer Christopher Seldrake. (Just remember the furore about the white skin of his imaginary heroine when Serge Noire was luanched).

La Religieuse ("the nun") is the latest Lutensian scent opus, a new unisex fragrance launching on January 30th 2015, focusing on the contrast between white jasmine (the flower of carnality and the South), incense (the religious reference par excellence) and the skin-compatible animalic notes of civet and musk. The monastic name isn't that hard to pin down, it being the title of a famous 18th century epistolary novel by Denis Diderot, posthumously published (and itself a reflection of Lettres Portugaises). In it, the fictional nun in question finds the life in the convent insufferable and pleads with the Marquis, a friend of the French author, to deliver her from her vows.
Can the fragrance be a social commentary in our modern age when religion is again exerting a powerful grip on impressionable minds?

The new Lutens perfume, La Religieuse, is part of the export line, encased in the familiar oblong bottles of the house and tinted an ecclesiastical purple.

Uniting only favorite notes of mine and a concept simpatico to the Lutensian universe, if it proves half as wearable as L'Orpheline I'm sold.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Serge Lutens fragrance news & reviews

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Ancient Fragrant Lore: The Scents of the Bible (part 5)

The most intriguing aspect of reading the Bible in search of aromatics is how the spices and sweet unguents are used to denote both sanctity and the pleasure of the bodily senses.

"All your garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made you glad"—Psalm 45:8

Dieric the Elder Bouts, Christ in the House of Simon the Pharisee, 1440s (wikimedia commons)

The sacrificial woman who comes to the Savior with an alabaster jar with pure spikenard oil which was extremely costly at the time in a pre-figuration of the embalming rites. She is Mary of Bethany (Matthew 26: 6-13) who pours the fragrant oil on Jesus's feet. There is also the unnamed "sinner in the city" who comes into the house of Simon the Pharisee and washes Jesus' feet with her tears and wipes them with her hair and pours fragrant oil on him. However for centuries the Catholic Church conflated this penitent sinner (a whore? an adulteress?) and the disciple sister of Martha and Lazarus, with another Mary, Mary Magdalene, who is, not coincidentally, the patron saint of apothecaries and perfume makers. Perhaps the connection is that Magdalene is one of the "myrrhophores" depicted in a Syrian fresco dating from the 3rd century AD, the women who bring myrrh resin to embalm Jesus's body and finding the sepulchre open and devoid of its rightful inhabitant, thus being the first witness to the Anastasis.

Please read my historical research into the Scents of the Bible (biblical fragrances) on this link on Fragrantica. (You're welcome to comment here or there).

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Annick Goutal Re-Issues Another Discontinued Fragrance

The discontinuation of fragrances right and left is par for the course with most perfume brands these days, due to several reasons. Allergy restrictions changing, slow sellers, revamping of packaging and positioning, change of distribution patterns or a combination of all of the above account for withdrawing several scents which then gain a cult status (such as Yohji by the designer Yamamoto or the entire Helmut Lang range which was recently re-issued). Perhaps the very action of discontinuing a perfume is responsible for giving it covetability (an exercise in masochism) or perhaps it always had been unfairly unsung and got its due too late.

Some of them are nevertheless increasingly re-issued, such as is the case with L'Artisan Parfumeur who re-issued L'Eau du Caporal, Tea for Two and Oeillet Sauvage last season. Annick Goutal had her own share of discontinuations a couple of seasons ago when they revamped the line and packaging.

Camille Goutal, daughter of Annick and current art director of Parfums Annick Goutal

One of them, the bright airy and sunny Eau du Ciel, a fairy of a scent from 1985 developed by Isabelle Doyen with Annick. Fit for days when the skies are blue and cloudless (or a sliver of hope when those same skies are overcast) Eau du Ciel is re-introduced in the newer packaging. The romantic, delicate notes of neroli, violet leaves, and orange blossom are  a slice of heaven, underscored by a little powdery iris and rosewood.

As usual, some discrepancy with the older bottles one has in their collection will be  discussed online for sure, but the company doesn't proclaim a change in the formula. On the contrary, they re-introduce it to celebrate 30 years of the company. Available as 100ml of Eau de Toilette.

Could Eau de Camille be next?

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