Fragrance might have the power to transport us to another time and place, but sniffing out a scent that you love can be a complicated affair. With well over a thousand new fragrances hitting the market globally each year, there’s undoubtedly no shortage of supply. Yet despite the impressive abundance of perfumes out there, from gender-neutral scents to boutique concoctions created by niche fragrance houses, hunting for a new signature scent takes research, time and patience.
While many top-selling scents remain the same year after year – around the globe Dior J’Adore, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle and Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb frequently feature in the bestselling lists – the world of fragrance is slowly changing. Gimmicky celebrity scents of yesteryear are a dying breed, while boutique perfumes that hope to tell a story with scent are booming.
As a result, the way we shop and relate to fragrance is quickly changing too. Instead of running the department store gauntlet of sales assistants spritzing us with a plethora of products, we’re spending more time researching and in turn, are shopping armed with knowledge and recommendations. WORLD’s in-house nose, Benny Castles, agrees. He says with knowledge comes a better position to make the right fragrance purchase for yourself. “Our clients are so much more passionate and interested in what they are buying, which makes for a more engaging shopping experience.”
Castles believes boutique fragrance houses – like those imported by WORLD – are excelling because they’re prepared to think outside the box. “Across the niche industry there continues to be creative risk takers and developers who are thinking about pushing new boundaries, as well as taking from the past and reinterpreting with a modernity.” When the WORLD team look for a new fragrance to stock in-store, Castles says they look at the reasons why a brand exists – something that fragrance consumers are starting to think more and more about too. “If there’s an emotive reason, and not just a commercial one, we take interest. Do these products add value to our lives? Do they provide inspiration and an emotive response?”
Along with a more bespoke approach, Castles believes the fragrance world is also experiencing a return to scents with an anything-but-demure presence. “The strength and character of fragrance is continuing to grow, without the over-the-top bouquets we experienced in the 1980s,” he explains. Light, barely there scents are making way for bold, head-turning perfumes. “I think we will see a return to really being able to smell one another. People understand that scent is the ultimate accessory and can wear like a fabulous dress or sharp suit; let your personality be visible, or in this case smellable.”
FORGET THE HYPE
Breathtaking imagery promoting fragrance might be key to getting us through department store doors for that first spritz, but one of the first things you can do when hunting for a scent is forget the Mad Men-esque advertising that often comes hand in hand with fragrance. A spritz of cologne won’t turn your other half into the hunky model in the advertisement, or transform you into a glamorous Hollywood star, explains Castles. “Fragrance is personal,” he says. “It needs to be thought about and invested in emotionally. Something that smells fabulous on you, may not smell perfect on another person, so we must think about how we want to represent ourselves through scent,” he says.
Forgetting outdated notions of ‘for him’ and ‘for her’ can help when hunting for the perfect fragrance too. “There is no reason to restrict your opportunities; the more open-minded you are, the more personal your purchase will be,” Castles believes. While he says the definitions of male and female fragrances can help us discover scents that we like, the concept of gendered fragrance is a contemporary one that’s tied up in how scent is marketed, and has little to do with actual scent creation. “Food or art appreciation isn’t based on your gender, so there’s no need to concern your purchasing with these restrictions. Enjoy what you enjoy and wear what you love.” And most of all, go with your gut feeling. “Our nose is far smarter and more agile than we really understand. Trust your instinct and be sure the scent creates something special in your mind and in your mood.”