The fragrance industry is lucky. Aside from the fact that the olfactory sense itself conjures such powerful emotions and memories, the consumer is more engaged and more curious than ever. There’s a greater appreciation of the craftsmanship and depth of art that goes into creating a perfume. Frederic Malle brought the perfumer to the foreground and we can’t ever go back. Never before have perfume consumers known so much about what goes into a blend.

Fragrance fans are increasingly cynical of big brands with hyper gloss and...

Fragrance fans are increasingly cynical of big brands with hyper gloss and no focus on the blend. Photo: © Matej Kastelic /

With this greater confidence we’re now seeing a consumer that eschews the signature scent, instead focusing on the construction of a ‘scent wardrobe’ – to suit their mood or the occasion. Using perfume as a tool, whether for romantic armoury or professional persona, they now have an assortment of fragrances and use them tactically for different situations.

By building up this wardrobe they are building up their nose, and this is pushing consumers towards a combination of classical and conceptual scents, as well as those that lie between. Brands like Keiko Mecheri, Vilhelm and of course Serge Lutens cater for these networking noses. The scent becomes a co-conspirator or non-verbal confidante.

With discernment comes the critique and fragrance fans are increasingly cynical of big brands with hyper gloss and no focus on the blend. Also a red flag are playboy brands going to town on marketing a concept, appropriating the language of art to flog a fairly dull fragrance line.

Where it gets exciting, for us the punters, is when we can fall down an Alice in Wonderland style rabbit hole and get lost in the fragrance. Stores such as Les Senteurs, Bloom and Liberty, but also Nose in Paris and Perfumer H in London (Lyn Harris’s new venture) allow just that: a miraculously scented fall into new beginnings, promises, prospective identities and elaborate alter-egos.

By selecting brands that encompass the conceptual and the classical, always with an underscore of fabulous quality, the consumer can roam freely and idiosyncratically to find something that captures their soul, or if nothing else takes them somewhere beautiful.

This consumer trend offers fantastic opportunities for fragrance brands, both in terms of potential sales figures and in terms of engagement with the brand and the scent itself. But it will take bravery on behalf of the brand both in terms of their media deployment i.e. non-traditional, disruptive, surprising, and in terms of their branding and voice - this consumer is discerning and when it comes to fragrance they don’t want to feel sold to.

This means brands should spend time reflecting on how a consumer can ‘fall-into’ or discover (for themselves) their product and maybe their marketing should feel as ephemeral and as nuanced as the fragrance itself.