Despite the general consumer trend towards all things natural, synthetics will soon be cool again — at least, in the area of niche perfumery.
This was the sentiment expressed by some of the perfumers and retail buyers at the Tranoï Parfums show in New York earlier this week. Speaking on a panel Monday, Eric Weiser, owner of Brooklyn-based niche fragrance boutique Twisted Lily, said that customers now are curious about the unknown, and attracted to products that are futuristic-seeming in their packaging and formulations, even if that means forgoing natural ingredients. “They are more fascinated with fragrances that surpass what you traditionally think of,” said Weiser. “What does a solar eclipse smell like?”
Part of the naturals trend, he said, is the idea that customers know where their ingredients come from because they are invested in the story, noting the rise in popularity of the oud note, because of its rich heritage, as an example. “It’s exactly what customers look for when they look for farm-to-table cooking and handmade shoes,” said Weiser. “It has intrigue.” Anthony Qaiyum, president of Merz Apothecary in Chicago agreed that a good story will attract customers. “Having that sense of discovery…that’s the driving force,” said Qaiyum. Whether it’s synthetics or botanical extracts [as the next fragrance trend], the customer will determine.”
Weiser noted that the way synthetic ingredients are composed are just another story consumers are intrigued by, and predicted that soon more niche perfume lines will be touting their synthetic ingredients. He listed Malin + Goetz Synthesized Musk as an example. “They didn’t try to hide it,” he said of the scent’s primary fake musk ingredient.
One line that did just that is Aether Parfums, a French niche label that bowed in the U.S. at the Tranoï Parfums show. Aether scents are comprised entirely of manufactured synthetic ingredients. The line is marketed as “a tribute by its creators to synthetic molecules and the frenzy of chemistry.”
Another brand at Tranoï with a big story was Euphorium Brooklyn. Founder Stephen Dirkes founded his line of eau de parfums around three fictional founders, 19th-century characters of his own creation. Each scent has a backstory about how the founder came to create the scent, and which tinctures, oils and extracts he used to compose the fragrance. “It’s all about the story,” said Dirkes.
Perfumer Sherri Sebastian agreed. “Customers want to be part of the story.” Her line of plant-based scents and upscale body care, Provision, which she launched at Tranoï Parfums in New York, is about a “paradigm shift” in thinking,” she told WWD. A pillow spray designed to aid in falling asleep faster is called a dream extract. “When I thought about [the product] in terms of dreaming, I fell asleep faster than if I was thinking about [the word] sleep,” said Sebastian.
A nice story is all well and good, but Armand Hadida, Tranoï artistic director and founder of concept store L’Éclaireur, noted that innovation in marketing will be key to the future of fragrance, noting that samplers inside the pages of magazines and the hard sell at department stores are dated methods of selling perfume — it’s why he and son David Hadida brought Parfums to the Tranoï show in the first place, to get fine fragrance into more lifestyle concept and fashion stores. “It’s all about how you tell the story,” he said.