i will no longer be updating this blog. i made it to a year, but i just struggle to find the time to write reviews. thanks to everyone who has viewed and commented.
When people ask you what you do for a living, and you tell them that you sell perfume, they always seem to say “oh! I wear _____(fill in the blank yourself), what do you think of that?” Another thing people seem to say is “oh, you must smell like a tart’s handbag when you get home!” um, thanks? Or they stick their arm under your nose and demand to know what they smell of (I think that if I could remember every single one of these fragrances, I would be working for a Perfume company somewhere as an evaluator).
My Mum’s hairdresser is a good customer, she always smells fantastic regardless of what she wears. Except for one fragrance, which happens to be her favourite – DKNY Be Delicious. She asked me what I thought. I told her I don’t like it because it smells too watery and like melons (read: it smells like calone, the “freshmaker”!), and I dislike melon. She took it personally and got upset about it. Ever since, I’ve had to try to find a “nice” thing to say about pretty much every fragrance we sell. As the age old adage proclaims – if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
“Coco Mademoiselle? Well it’s certainly popular!” in reality, it’s not to my tastes in the slightest. I want to say “If you are going to wear a Chanel, make it No19!”
“Is Katie Price Stunning a good perfume? Absolutely, if the your understanding of “perfume” is to make you smell of cheap lollywater!”
The tester bottles of Harajuku Lovers are confusing for people that just don’t read sizes. They are sold as 10ml and 30ml bottles of the fragrance (so you can get the slightly scary doll), but the testers are 100ml bottles, and not one person that buys the HL fragrances can understand that the 30ml isn’t the 100ml because of the size of the box. And very often, you do feel as though you are banging your head on a brick wall.
Testers are quite often a different size to what we have on sale. It is obviously cheaper for everyone involved if they send out 100ml bottles of the fragrance as a tester, than to send out 4 lots of 30mls which will be sprayed through quickly. Or in the case of Harajuku lovers, 10 x 10ml bottles.
“Alien? Bloody smells it as well!”
“Paul Smith Rose? What does that smell like?”
Two actual quotes from customers. And because of these I’ve stopped telling people what the names of perfumes are while they sniff, until I have their opinion.
The answer to that question lies with customers that comes in to buy whatever is on offer. As a rule, it’s the 30ml or 100ml size that goes onto a price promo. People would like to know what they are getting for their money – I can understand that. Yet, this is how the conversation inevitably proceeds…
C: “How much is that one?”
C: “How big is the bottle?”
M: “That one is a 30ml bottle”
C: “No. How BIG is the bottle?”
M: “Oh, sorry madam.” *makes a gesture on the box to demonstrate how large the bottle is inside – it’s shrink wrapped, after all!* “about this big”
C: “Well, that’s small. What else have you got?”
M: “The 30ml in Paris is on offer at the moment. It’s £19.54 (or so, I don’t actually know how much offhand!)”
C: “How big is that bottle?”
M: “30ml *makes gesture again* about so tall.”
C: “Oh, that’s better. I’ll take one of those.”
It’s the same size. Different shape. And still it apparently makes a difference.
How many perfume launches there are a year? Hundreds.
I’m surprised if there isn’t at least one a month in our store. Customers always want to know “what’s new?” and “what’s popular?”.
These 2 questions have generally got the same answer, because (as a rule) if something is new, it becomes popular. Then they want to know if it’s been popular (usually “yes, it has!”), and sometimes you get asked “what do you think?”. To be honest, most of the time I don’t like the new fragrances. Especially the Men’s launches. I am bored to tears of fresh (sport) fragrances. And every other launch is fresh. So I often have to either lie through my teeth and say I like it, OR find one good thing to say about it – one note that I like, or the longevity or something like that. So I have developed a bit of a routine when it comes to new launches. I always sniff them before they go out onto release and think about what I like about it, so when someone asks, I always have that honest answer. An example is “Joop? It’s good for a night out!” but what I really think is “Joop? It smells of the drunk chavvy blokes on the night bus!” and I’d put a lot of people off – a sale is a sale, and fortunately not everyone is going to buy Dior Homme.
As a rule, new releases get a promotional spot in store. The company that puts out the fragrance seem to spend more money supplying us with T-shirts, display materials, advertising and sometimes gift with purchase (forever more referred to as GWP) so that the launch of the fragrance is a success than is ever spent on the creation of the fragrance. Maybe 3 launches out of 10 they will supply us with samples of the fragrance to help promote it.
A recent, massively succesful launch is Diesel’s Only The Brave. It was launched in time for Fathers day and smells incredibly commercial – a typically fresh opening with a warm drydown – and as a result, the customers say “thats amazing!” or “that smells really good!”. It’s been the most successful launch for our company since their previous Fuel for Life launch and has remained shockingly popular since that initial launch. L’Oreal, the brand behind the Diesel license, are incredibly aggressive marketers, they raised awareness of the Diesel brand the sales period before they launched OTB by putting FFL on a GWP promotion, and then assaulted the screens with adverts for OTB as soon as it launched.
P&G also seem to have a consistent launch plan – for the first month of launch it’s just advertised as new, the second month a free mini shower gel or body lotion, eventually moving on to towels, bags and the usual GWP fare.
On top of the aggressive marketing, the GWPs and so on, the company might send an incentive to make sure you try to sell it, usually it means entry into a prize draw for a handbag or something like that. The only incentive I’ve ever gone mad for was a Chanel one. The prize draw was for a trip to London Chanel HQ for training, then a presentation on Les Exclusifs at the boutique. I was gutted that I didn’t win it.
Other launches are ‘silent’. There is very little money spent on advertising, no promotional site, and rely on the SA loving and ‘remembering’ the fragrance – and believe me, it’s easy to forget. 15 new launches at the beginning of the Christmas quarter is making it hard to keep up.
A Scent by Issey Miyake is the latest feminine launch from Issey Miyake, whose last main successful fragrance launched 17 years ago. Over on the ‘A Scent’ website, you can watch a video interview with Daphné Bugey, who mentions that she chose to use a ‘forgotten’ ingredient, that has been extracted with a new modern technique.
A Scent opens with a light citrus note, possibly from the listed Verbena, and a whole lot of green. Green has been a theme of this years feminine launches, with Cristalle Eau Verte and Versace Versense, as well as Miss Dior Cherie L’Eau, and Bvlgari Green Jade all spearheading the trend throughout the year.
Galbanum quickly takes the lead and heads centre stage. This Galbanum is dry, soft, slightly moss like and grassy. The inclusion of Galbanum in a fragrance is very interesting as it seemed to have fallen out of favour with the perfume buying public, and although mentioned in many notes pyramids recently it hasn’t really been as potent as here. Good examples of Galbanum in fragrance are Chanel’s No19, Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit and Estée Lauder’s Private Collection.
Although not particularly harsh, it is softened by light floral accents, with super clean Jasmine beside the Galbanum. There isn’t much of a drydown to speak of, but the fragrance is transparent throughout and not as thick as many green scents have been. A Scent is very different to what the perfume market is used to (fruity-floral) and has been very polarising with customers. Maybe Issey Miyake will be at the front of the new trend in fragrance, as he was with L’Eau D’Issey.
Top: Verbena, Fresh Notes
Middle: Galbanum, Hyacinth
Base: Jasmine, Woods
Paul Smith Man, not to be confused with Paul Smith Men (which was the first fragrance released), is the latest release from Paul Smith. The London based designer is famous for his stripy motif. The advertising was shot by Sir Smith himself, and the bottle is a basic black bottle reminiscent of Jil Sander and Comme des Garcons Luxe Patchouli.
Man opens with a tiny hint of Bergamot-citrus, but is mostly dominated by Anise & Iris – the Iris is carroty, rooty and dry, and persists throughout the life of the fragrance. It feels that it is very ‘Paul Smith’ in style, and reminds me of Men and London.
Behind the Iris is a sweet and light Patchouli note, as well as a warm-dry, resinous-smokeless Incense and Violet (which is the whole plant – leaf and flower, rather than just ‘part’ of it), all appear and do not overpower. The “Spicy Accord” mentioned reminds me of Kenzo Power, with Cardamom and other notes giving a slightly sweet edge to the Violet.
The drydown is Tonka heavy, and the Iris remains present to the bitter end.
Paul Smith Man, although not wildly original (fans of Fahrenheit would probably like this), is still a departure from most mainstream releases and very pleasing, with good longevity and moderate sillage.
Top: Yuzu, Bergamot, Anise
Middle: Incense, Patchouli, Spicy Accord
Base: Orris, Violet, Tonka Bean
Dirty is apparently inspired by the phenomenon of an “Italian shower”, otherwise known as using deodorant instead washing. It explains why the fragrance smells so clean. The picture is actually of the matching body spray, but I thought it was too entertaining not to use.
A highly mentholated Mint and Lemon are the top notes. Surprisingly minty-fresh, it’s the Spearmint smell of Wrigley’s chewing gum, except toned down a lot. Also present is the same Oakmoss dustiness as Eau Sauvage.
It warms into an aromatic, light Lavender with herbal notes and the mint still present. It’s not toothpasty, as you would expect from the top, but it’s a fantastic solid Lavender fougere without any aquatic notes. On a card, it is more anisic than it is on skin, and could fool you into thinking it was a replacement for Yohji Homme.
The soft quiet Sandalwood drydown is acres more complex than the synthetics you normally smell in mainstream designer fragrances. It reminds me of warm bark. The problem I have with Dirty is that it doesn’t smell unclean or dirty. I want my fragrances dirty, not the man!
Notes: Spearmint, Tarragon, Sandalwood, Lavender, Neroli, Thyme, Oakmoss
Challenge is Lacoste’s most recent release, fronted by Hayden Christensen, best known as the second worst thing about the Star Wars prequels (Jar Jar Binks takes the crown). The bottle is coated with a soft rubbery material, and is meant to go back to Lacoste’s roots as a tennis accessories brand – and apparently Christensen plays tennis. Tenuous.
Challenge opens with a citrus, herbal, green ‘smell’. It doesn’t smell particularly like any of citrus fruit I can think of, and the aromatic notes are quite disappointing too – Challenge doesn’t really grab attention. It does however remind me of a shower gel, rather than a fragrance.
As the heart appears, there is something vaguely sweaty or dirty behind a quiet and slightly peppery Ginger note. As usual, the Violet here isn’t floral, but rather Violet Leaf, which smells sharp and synthetic. It smells like YSL L’Homme, but missing a magical something. Challenge is made more tolerable by a surprising Pine needle note throughout the heart, and the wonderful drydown which is soft, creamy and woodsy – and actually smells very good! The problem is that the journey to the base is quite difficult, and then the base doesn’t last long enough on skin to justify it.
Top: Lemon, Bergamot, Orange
Middle: Ginger, Juniper, Lavender, Violet Blossom
Base: Teakwood, Ebonywood