As we're sure you are all aware, today is one of the most revered and important days of the year... Happy National Fragrance Day! Okay, yes, that's not a real thing outside of some fragrance marketer's brain, but still, we're pretty psyched. It gives us an excuse to talk about one of our favorite topics: things that smell good.
To celebrate, we decided to talk about how to avoid one of the most annoying perfume pitfalls — cologne clones. Yep, that awkward moment when you're in the elevator, minding your own business — jamming out to those sick elevator-music beats — when you catch a whiff of the woman next to you, and she smells exactly like your own signature scent. Not really a crisis of epic proportions, but still, kind of annoying.
The problem with buying anything that some department-store counter guy aggressively spritzes at you is that there is a higher proportion of people getting bushwhacked with the same sales pitch. And, while there's nothing wrong with loving a scent that everyone else (and their mothers) loves, too, for those of us who like to feel like special little snowflakes with our beauty picks, it can be a drag.
The answer? Niche perfumes. These small-batch, off-the-beaten-path scents can feel truly personal and unique. But, the process of finding them is a bit of a treasure hunt — no one is spraying them in your face as you walk through a crowded department store. You have to seek them out.
"Finding a niche scent is a totally different process," says David Frossard, creative director of Frapin and co-owner of Liquides, a niche "perfume bar" in Paris' Haut-Marais district. "I like to say that commercial fragrances are working [like a] 'mirage' — they make you dream with Brad Pitt or Claudia Schiffer. The customer buys the fragrance to feel like those icons."
Niche fragrances, however, are about quality and creativity. "A niche fragrance requires the consumer to have a good understanding of his or her personality, of what he or she wants to smell like and want to express," he says. "You have to know who you are first and then take the time to discover the fragrance, the stories behind the fragrance, the ingredients and how the smell evolves with time and on the skin. Commercial fragrances are made to be standardized and to please more people. I have nothing against standardization — it’s fine for more non-emotional products — but when it comes to perfumes, creativity is what you have to look for!"
Frossard says that during this discovery stage, it's important to experience scents in person. If you have the chance, visit niche fragrance "meccas," like his Liquides boutique, Aedes de Venustas in NYC, or the aforementioned LuckyScent on the West Coast. If you're not near one of them, do some more digging online to find stores in your area that carry some of the more notable indie brands. Chances are, they'll also have a good selection of other lesser-known brands for you to explore.
To help get you started, we've rounded up 11 perfumes from some of our favorite fragrance brands and ateliers. These are the eaux that have captivated, enchanted, and entranced our noses — they might just do the same for you. Just don't go jumping into any elevators with us.