Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Question of Niche

What does it mean to be NICHE?

This question arises over and over again and is sincerely posed most often by people who are deciding whether they want to make the move to niche. They like perfume, and notice that the world of perfume is much larger than what one would gather from flipping through fashion magazines, but that larger universe—beyond Chanel, Guerlain, Givenchy, Estée Lauder, and all of the other mega-houses which advertise in Vogue—remains intangible and elusive. What are these other, lesser-known houses held in great esteem by perfumistas everywhere? What, precisely, is it that makes them niche?

Many people have offered answers to this question which focus upon extrinsic factors. Often people simply assume that niche perfumes are more expensive than non-niche perfumes, and so this is presumably part of the reason why they seem to be protected by a halo-like aura of reverence. The idea that a perfume is good because it is expensive is yet another example of the heartfelt desire on the part of nearly everyone everywhere to retain at least a vestige of a belief in meritocracy. If it costs a lot, it must be good. Certainly, this may generally be true about perfumes, as of many other things.

On average, a meal which costs $10 is not as good as a meal which costs $100. There are rare exceptions, of course, for example, a recent plate of fish and chips which I happened upon on a cool fall day, and which I am prepared to assert achieved a near transcendental level of deliciousness. Perhaps I was merely hungry, or perhaps the meal really was great, despite its modest cost.

Similarly, the chances that a $20 bottle of perfume purchased at CVS is going to be really good seems rather slim, and not without reason. The reality is that when you sniff a wide range of $20 perfumes you find that, as a matter of fact, they tend to smell cheap. There are rare, felicitous exceptions to the rule, but more often than not, the quality of a cheap perfume will reflect to some extent its price.

Is the converse true? If you sniff a wide range of $100 or $200 perfumes, are you likely to find that they are excellent? I think that there is certainly a higher probability that a $100 perfume is going to be better than the vast majority of $20 perfumes. Whether or not one happens to like a particular composition, it is often quite clear that the materials of which it is made are of high quality. Even at the lower levels, there really is a patent difference in quality between the ingredients of, say, a Coty perfume and a Coty prestige perfume. Compare even a Coty prestige perfume to a triple-digit dollar perfume, and the difference will likely be even more stark. If someone cannot tell the difference, then that usually means that the person does not have that much experience in evaluating perfumes.

A related question which arose in a different forum was whether those who claim (such as the authors of The Holey[sic] Book sometimes do) that low-brow, inexpensive perfumes are excellent might be neglecting the quality of components and focusing solely on the structure and proportion of the various notes. One good example to reflect upon in connection with this issue might be Salvador Dali Laguna, a perfume which does seem interesting and even unique, but which degrades over time to the point where it ceases to be pleasurable to wear after a few hours. The perfume was created by Marc Buxton, and I think that in most cases where he has constructed a perfume for a niche house such as Comme des Garçons, as opposed to a seriously low-brow juice factory such as Salvador Dali (most of the offerings of which are available online for around $20 a bottle), one will not encounter the same unpleasantness. In the case of a considerably more expensive, "niche" Buxton composition, the perfume fades away without falling apart, and this would seem to have something to do with the quality of the components.

Clearly there is a reason why some perfumes regularly sell for so little money, and it's not because the houses which produce them are doing charitable works in giving away their products for free. No, the truth is that the perfumes which are sold consistently at low price points are the same ones which are cheap to produce. They are so cheap to produce, in fact, that there is still a profit margin on a bottle even when sold at online discount emporia for a fraction of the MSRP. But I digress...

In discussing the case of Marc Buxton's Salvador Dali versus his Comme des Garçons perfumes, I referred to the latter as a niche house. What, then, to return to our initial question, is a niche house?

Well, it's not just a house which produces expensive perfumes, because plenty of mainstream houses with gigantic advertising budgets have those gigantic advertising budgets precisely because they charge much more for their perfumes than it costs to produce them. Producing expensive perfumes is clearly not a sufficient condition for being a niche perfumer, but is it necessary? I think not, for there are clear examples of what I term "budget niche" houses, meaning houses with a niche orientation but which offer wares at quite affordable prices. In fact, my view is that focusing upon cost merely obscures the issue and distracts attention from the intrinsic differences between niche and non-niche houses.

Again, some have proposed that accessibility and availability are the key to being niche. Niche houses are generally small and local, without the means to project a global image in the way that mainstream houses do, through massive advertising campaigns. But is this “local” quality—or the fact that the perfumes of a house may be difficult to come by, or that it is difficult to communicate with the house—is any of this relevant to what makes a house niche?

I'm inclined in this case as well to deny that any of these extrinsic factors is really the solution to the niche vs. non-niche conundrum. If we were to say that niche houses are those which are small and inaccessible, then this would imply that if they suddenly took on a sophisticated marketing team capable of projecting an effective global image, then they would cease to be niche. Again, does a niche house which in its early years “does not do samples” cease to be niche upon finally getting its act together (perhaps after reading sherapop's manifesto, Against Petitesse in Modern Perfumery) to produce an excellent sample program permitting perfumistas all over the world to partake of their wares without having to turn to the ebay hawks who scoop up free samples and sell them for profit? I think not.

No, the popular answers to the question What is niche? may have a superficial appeal, but to get to the root of this matter we must dig a bit deeper. What distinguishes niche from non-niche houses inheres, I maintain, is the central intention of the niche perfumers themselves. If they are producing perfumes because they are artists and therefore are compelled in expressing themselves to produce perfumes, then I'd say that they are niche. If they are producing perfumes primarily in order to earn money, then I'd say that they are more business persons than artists and do not qualify as niche.

Now, when I recently proposed this answer, one savvy interlocutor rejected it, on the grounds that I seemed to be suggesting that non-niche houses cannot produce great perfumes, and that great perfume artists cannot work for non-niche houses, both of which seem patently false. Although I appreciate these rebuttals, I do not believe that they are fatal to my view. For in locating the essence of “niche”-ity in the intention of the perfumers, I am not suggesting that any person has pure intentions one way or the other. In other words, I concede that even the most artistic of perfumers is constrained by financial considerations. The necessity of dealing with all of the mundanities of life makes it the case that each and every perfumer, including those whom I regard as niche, has some financial interests at stake. After all, if they did not, then why not sit at home and stir up new perfume recipes never to be shared?

Not so fast, sherapop. Could it not be the case that perfumers wish to share their wares for other reasons having nothing to do with the money which they will earn through doing so? It seems clear that some of the more famous perfumers working today have earned a ton of money, so they probably do not have any financial need to continue doing so. Take someone like Sophia Grojsman. This is a woman who is a perfumer through and through. That is who she is. She does not create perfumes in order to line her coffers but because she obviously loves to create perfumes.

In a feature at Fragrantica, I recall that Grojsman referred to her perfumes as her children. In other words, like all great artists, she gives birth to creations which then lead lives independent from that of their creator. Grojsman is opposed to reformulation, but once she has created a perfume for a house, it becomes theirs, so there is nothing to be done when the management of a non-niche house (= with a primary business intention) decides that there are ways to make more profit out of a perfume successfully launched, say, by diluting it or reformulating it so as to cut production costs while marketing it under the original name. I have discussed this topic at length in Reflections on Reformulation.

To return to the question of niche, what I want to suggest is that niche really does inhere in the intention of the primary actors at the house. If the house is concerned above all with profit, and not with perfumic creation or beauty, then it is non-niche. This does not mean that there are no artists working for such houses. No, what it means is that they do not have the final say on what is done with the perfumes which they create under the aegis of the house.

In the houses which I regard as indisputably niche, including Tauer Perfumes, Keiko Mecheri, Mona Di Oro (may she rest in peace), Ineke, and many others as well, the mission of the house is perfume, not profit. Yes, they need to make money, but this is a means to producing more beautiful creations.

I am not denying that such houses may metamorphose over time. Take L'Artisan Parfumeur, for example. L'Artisan used to be considered the quintessential niche house, and they may have been one of the first to focus on distinguishing themselves from the mass market houses. However, my impression is that they have moved farther from the niche category as they have become a more successful business. The house itself does not seem so niche to me anymore, though certainly they enlist great artists to produce new perfumes.

All of this is to agree with one wise perfumista who, in responding to my post focusing on intention, said that he thinks that the distinction between niche and non-niche is not all that important, in the end. What he cares about, and what we all should care about, as consumers, is finding perfumes which give us what we're looking for. In fact, many people are not even looking for great art in perfume. They just want to smell good, and for them this goal can be achieved using mass market or in some cases even low-brow drugstore juice. Mainstream houses are aware of the fact that many consumers of perfume are uninterested in perfume as an art. That is why mainstream houses avail themselves of marketing data and may commission the production of perfumes which are created only in order to capture the wallet share of a broad swath of likely consumers.

Others perfume users, we perfumistas, are looking for more, and our quest for great perfumes is an ongoing adventure. Perfumistas will be happy with a beautiful, breathtaking, unforgettable perfume whether it was produced under the aegis of a mega-conglomerate corporation or in a quaint corner of Switzerland by one man with a small lab and a garden. They will sniff critically and be wary of so-called niche houses which charge astronomical prices for their wares as yet another marketing ploy. Price may be a rough indicator of quality, but it can also be hype, pure and simple.

Caveat Emptor!


  1. While an artistic intention may be enough to signal a niche-ish perfume, as one who once was an artist myself, and who has known many true artists, there comes a point where the artist in question begins to reflect upon the time spent devoted to his endeavors, and begins to wonder if he does not have as much right to get paid as much for his time as say a plumber, or any other worker who puts sincere effort into his work. At the same time, as artists become more well know, and their works become more recognized and in demand, we the consumers of their efforts are rarely surprised to see the prices of such works rise. Like any other worker, artists tend to view any increase in income through the same eyes as any worker. So I think it is unfair to judge an artist's authenticity by the fact that it's price often rises beyond what others who might also hope to be artists themselves might be able to afford.

    At the same time, I do think there's the recognized concept of an artist "selling out", which is normally thought to mean compromising one's artistic muse in the name of profits.

    But what shall we say when the distribution system is by it's very nature assumed to exist within a commercial context ?

    Perhaps one might say that niche is simply in the eye of the consumer, but if so, what about highly knowedgable consumers who will tell you that they judge a perfume solely by what it smells like ? Given a reasonable criterion like that, what should we then label as niche ? Does niche need to distinguish its self simply by quality, or rather by some other ill-defined uniqueness of concept ?

    I guess what I am getting at is should a highly knowledgeable consumer, when given a blind set of fragrances to smell, be expected to pick out niche by it's smell alone ? Is there some sort of olfactory quality that sets niche apart ?

    If it's not the smell itself, then what is it ?

    If we are talking of art, but somehow not the perceivable quality of the art itself, then what exactly are we talking about ?

    As someone once said about music : "If it sounds good, it is good." But is there something about niche that has a right to extend beyond that ?

    To be honest, I would tend to say that it's good or at least interesting stuff that most folks in the mainstream don't know about. But if that's the case, does the concept of niche have a lot to do with my own perceptions ?

    I have a sneaking suspicion that it might.

  2. Dear Bob,

    First off, Welcome to the salon! As usual, you raise so many excellent points that it's difficult to know where to begin. I'll just dive in...

    I did not mean to suggest that artists should somehow be considered less of artists if they bother themselves with the ugly mundanities of money. But, as you rightly observe, there is a sense of "selling out" beyond which the artist can be said to be coopted and thus becomes more of a businessperson than an artist. That is not, however, to say, I hasten to add, that business people are never creative--some of them are great innovators, and their success reflects not a single-minded obsession with the acquisition of wealth but their ability to capitalize on a new opportunity, which requires an artistic vision of sorts.

    In other words, I do not wish to suggest that I think that profit is somehow evil. I do not. But I do think that focusing *solely* on profit can pervert the work of an artist, and that is when he or she becomes essentially a hack. A nose for hire, in this case, who may have no real interest in producing something beautiful, unique, or great, but puts out a new perfume on commission according to someone else's (the company's) specs. That is, in essence, in my view, the gist of what has become the flanker industry. (I'll be posting something on that topic soon...)

    I think that "niche" is generally considered an honorific term among perfumistas, a sort of badge of honor, as it were, to indicate that the offerings of the house warrant our attention. When we sniff a bit closer, we are sometimes disappointed. But I do think that when a house is run by a perfumer who really and truly wants to produce wonderful perfumes rather than simply get rich quick, there is a higher probability that the perfumes of that house will be, at the very least, interesting. Maybe I wouldn't want to wear some or even all of them, but they often have an integrity, an identity, what is often missing from the mass-produced, drawn-from-the-vast-vat-of-generic-juice launches put out by some of the mega-conglomerate-governed houses.

    These days, lots of houses which began as independent have been swallowed up by LVMH, Estée Lauder, Coty, or Elizabeth Arden, and many other new "houses" are but subsidiaries of companies such as Parlux or Interperfumes. It therefore becomes a distinction, in this milieu, simply not to have been "swallowed up" in this way. This is not to say that a house such as Calvin Klein has lost its integrity since being subsumed by Coty, but it is to say that the hold-outs, such as Hermès, which resisted a take-over by LVMH, are becoming more and more rare.

    Now, Hermès is a maker of many kinds of products, probably the least profitable of which is perfume (judging by the cost of their other luxury goods). According to my initial account of niche-ity, it might seem that Hermès could not possible be niche, but that house produces perfumes which are an excellent example of what I sometimes refer to as "niche quality". There is an integrity to their line of perfumes which marks them off as distinct, I think, from the products of many other houses. Even though I myself may not be smitten with certain of their offerings (for example, the Jardin series), I do recognize a quality and consistency in them which sets them apart from much of what is on the market today.

    So, although I myself reject the criterion of "accessibility" or "visibility", which you seem to embrace, I do agree with you that subjective perception is partly—or even largely—in play in considering the appropriate application of the term 'niche'. The term is obviously vague, and many people will not apply it to houses such as Fragonard and Molinard and Berdoues and Laurence Dumont, and other "maman et papa"-type houses in France, EVEN THOUGH they are independent.

  3. I do think this question is something that has no real answer, other than the term "quality" has some bearing on the matter. By that I mean quality in both it's meanings.

    The first meaning being that the scent is of high quality. Cheap smelling stuff would not seem to be niche.

    The second meaning being that it "has a certain quality". By that I mean a certain distinctiveness.

    Notice that both these qualifiers have to do with the actual smell of the products themselves, and little to do with any of the external trappings or marketing (popular or more restricted) of the thing.

    But is it fair to leave the externals out ? A number of folks are interested in the Slumberhouse line ( I'm sitting now just a few miles from where it's made, and both my sister and I have had some tiny bits of involvement with the fellow's operation) and I would certainly call his products niche, if only because of how far out of the mainstream the operation itself happens to be. Some of the products are generally agreed to be of high and interesting quality, while others are "distinctive" and daring to the point of being questionably wearable.

    Here we have art, quality and distinctiveness combined with a currently-primitive one man distribution network.

    So there is the smell, plus what I see to be some distinctive externals too.

    Hermes has some works which you are willing to call "niche quality" but I'm not sure people would label the specific work itself niche. Something about the nature of the external elements, I suspect ?

    And yet if the very same product was produced by a different maker, folks might easily call it niche.

    So I suspect niche does have to do with something beyond the smell itself...something to do with the nature of the externals.

  4. Point well taken, Bob! Yes, those *are* external factors. My initial attempt at an account was dismissing the "external" factors of accessibility and cost, but you are offering other examples of external factors which do play a role in whether or not people apply the term 'niche' to a particular case.

    I was using the artist's mind as the relevant "internal" factor, but you are pointing out that consumers are the ones who apply the term 'niche'. It's true, for one thing, that we do not have access to perfumers' minds and so cannot know their genuine intentions. We can only infer their intentions from what they do. And it's also true that when people apply this honorific label, they themselves are referring to the quality of the product: does it smell "niche"? Obviously, I do that when I describe Hermès perfumes as being of "niche" quality, meaning to pay that house a compliment.

    Some people might allow the term 'niche' to be applied to the Hermessence line, which, in addition to being expensive, is somewhat difficult to come by. Hermès has forbidden ebay from re-selling decants and samples, a measure which I would applaud, if only Hermès would finally provide a decent sample service. Whenever I have decided that I'm willing to invest in the 15ml four-piece Hermessence "taster", they seem to have only three or four of the perfumes available in that format—and not the ones that I happen to be interested in. As for procuring samples from the company directly? It appears to be hit or miss. Maybe they'll send them; maybe they won't. They definitely will not sell them, as I have offered to pay for a complete set of the Hermessence samples and was told that it is not possible to purchase them. What to do? Buy several full bottles at $250 a shot?

    Anyway, to return to the ostensible topic of discussion, yes, I am aware that most people don't refer to anything made by Hermès as niche, though many people do rave about that house.

    The example you offer of Slumberhouse has me puzzled. Are you saying that there are some people who don't refer to that house as niche? Or are you saying that it's more than the small operation; it's also the nature of the perfumes they produce? Are you saying that if Slumberhouse produced shoddy products you would abstain from applying the term 'niche' to them? I myself refer to small houses like that as niche. Which is not to say that I think that they all produce good perfume. But I do think that they are at least trying to produce good perfume. Otherwise, what's the point? There are plenty of easier ways to make money, after all.

    Some of the small, obscure houses I refer to as "budget" niche, meaning that they produce perfumes in the "niche" spirit (again, whatever that is supposed to mean...) but at remarkably low prices, sometimes well below mass-market prices. Such “budget niche” houses sometimes encounter the old “fifty-cent whore” problem or, in less colorful terms, self-undermining devaluation.

    There are perfumistas, after all, who will dismiss such houses out of hand on the grounds that they cannot be serious perfumers if they sell their wares for so little money. This I find unfortunate. I suppose that it's the flipside of the denial that perfumers might be “de vrais artistes” for caring at least to some degree about the remuneration which they can expect to receive for their efforts.

  5. Who knows ? Perhaps a house simply has to be small to be niche.

    One thing I would say about "the externals" is that the term carries the implication that the consumer has put an extra measure of personal effort into obtaining the product. Granted price may enter into the equation, but distribution or availability issues seem to play a role as well.

    What I'm getting at is that most people would probably agree that they would have a hard time finding a niche perfume at their local mass-market perfume outlet. Non-mass market outlets are, by definition, not always available to the masses, and even these sorts of outlets may not carry certain products. While most of these products are available, and their makers would love to sell them to us (should they have some on hand, that is )it does seem that often the consumer has to have some special insider knowledge of it's existence in the first place, and then follow up by making an informed search for the stuff.

    Whether these factors produce an intended air of exclusivity, or are simply the nature of the beast is hard to say, but I think they combine together to lend a certain air of exclusivity to the term niche.

    So what does the dictionary say ?

    niche product - A product that is made and marketed for use in a small and specialized but profitable market.

    Niche - a specialized market.

    Niche - a distinct segment of a market.

    Ecological niche - The status of an organism within its environment and community.

    Niche - the position or function of an organism in a community of plants and animals.

    So yes, there is the implication of a certain sub-set, and a specific position within a larger community of things.

  6. Very Interesting, Bob, to bring in the dictionary meanings of 'niche'. Those definitions incline me to think that the first niche perfumers (L'Artisan Parfumeur, according to some, and certainly they are the most well-known of any of those which may have existed contemporaneously) set out to cater to a particular market. That would seem to imply that they saw a "market niche", as business people say, which presented an opportunity: to produce fine fragrances at a higher level than was generally available, say, at department stores.

    While thinking about this whole issue today, it occurred to me that part of the confusion about niche arises out of the very fact that the internet (virtually nonexistent to shoppers only twenty years ago) has completely transformed the accessibility of everything. So, for example, I have tested and own quite a few niche fragrances, the vast majority of which I did not acquire at the house's physical headquarters. Today it is very simple to let your fingers do the walking through the internet, without having even to leave your study, much less travel to a far away place to obtain “exclusive” perfumes.

    So, in the pre-internet world, it would have made a lot more sense to talk about accessibility as a necessary condition to niche-ity. It doesn't make so much sense today, I think. Today, in the globalized economy, a house which fails to make its products accessible demonstrates not its exclusivity but its incompetence and will likely go out of business. Why? Because shoppers, too, have become accustomed to ready accessibility of any- and everything. They are not willing to make the extra effort in some cases even to enter a physical store, much less travel to another city.

    There are enough “niche” houses which are perfectly accessible over the internet that even the most discerning perfume consumer has a wide range of choices available without having to make arrangements to compensate for some less competent house's failure to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the internet. Part of the accessibility is, after all, simple knowledge of a house's very existence and that is readily available on the internet, even if it means that you may have to telephone the house to place an order for what you read about online.

    Confusion has been further sowed by the "mass market" production of "niche"-esque perfumes. One good example would be the Estée Lauder Private Collection. Those perfumes costs much more than the standard EL fare. Are they niche? Are they really ten times better than the regular Estée Lauder? I'm not convinced. Certainly the house wishes for them to be perceived in that way, which is presumably why they can command such high prices, despite the fact that the consumers of their standard perfumes are used to paying a fraction of the cost of the Private Collection offerings. What justifies the difference in cost?

    The suggestion, of course, is that the materials and composition are incredibly exquisite and "special", hence "Private", and that they actually therefore cost that much more to produce. Is it true? Again, I'm not so sure. Those who masterminded the EL Private Collection and its analogues at other houses (and some would no doubt include the Hermessence collection in that same group) obviously wish for people to believe that those "special" perfumes are worth paying that much more money for. But is it just hype, in the end? And if it's hype at mass market houses, why is it not considered hype at smaller houses as well?

  7. There are several books out on the contemporary nature of the "luxury market", all of which make the point that the term "luxury" with it's attendant high prices has been transformed from something that once had an assumed air of exclusiveness about it into simply another segment of the world of mass-marketing hype. If something is hip or exclusive, that's seen as a potential selling point and everyone from top to bottom wants to jump on the bandwagon.

    As far as I'm concerned, availability still plays a role in the idea of luxury or niche. While it's true that the internet has brought about a certain ease of acess, I tend to think it's still all relitive. Big producers are going to have a bigger in-your-face web footprint, while consumers will still have to make an extra effort to 1) inform and educate themselves about the product in the first place, and 2) then search the thing out. Maybe this only takes a few clicks these days, when in the past it would take some real shoe-leather, but the psychology is still the same I suspect. Some things are relentlessly presented before us for our consumption, while other products wait off in some little niche for us to search them out.

    I guess what I mean is that there are the trappings of luxury and exclusiveness, and a certain language of exclusivness ( "Private", "Special") but what sort of meaning do those terms really have if the only thing that apparently sets them apart anymore is a high price ?

    Having said that, I think we have to consider products that once truly were "special", in the sense that they once had limited production and availability, and a consumer had to have a certain special knowledge, and devote a measure of personal energy into finding the thing. What if that same product later becomes highly marketed to the point where every Tom Dick and Harry finds themselves unable to avoid hearing about it ? Is the product still "niche" or simply a good high-quality product that everyone commonly knows about ?

    If a product enters that realm of public consciousness and availability, what if it is mindfully marketed at a price that few are able to afford ? Is that enough to set it apart in ways that qualify as "niche" or is it simply another well-known product that's apparently only for rich people ?

    I still tend to think that the term "niche" has something to do with the consumer's level knowledge, and the level of extra effort it takes to seek out the product. So in a sense, niche may have to do with not only the product itself, but with the "special" nature of the consumers' involvement as well.

  8. Interesting points, Bob. Yes, maybe the high-price wares peddled by otherwise mass-market houses are really only pseudo-niche, and there really is a category of houses which one must make an effort to learn about. Hmmm... yes, that makes a lot of sense to me. Those of us who are members of "fragrance communities" are, after all, exposed to houses by word-of-mouth, as a result of the efforts of others who really did have to undertake some sort of fact-finding mission in order to discover niche houses' existence.

    Why, after all, do I receive emails from L'Artisan Parfumeur, Juliette has a gun, Ineke, et al., if not because I interacted with people who had found out about those houses somehow. That pursuit and transfer of knowledge might suffice to draw the distinction between niche and non-niche, even if I did not have to do much work to get any specific information about any particular house.

    Actually, come to think of it, I have read many reviews and spent a lot of time at fragrance websites. So, in the end, I must concede that you are right!

  9. Hi Sherapop!
    Wonderful website you have here!!

    My sentiments on niche are the following:
    - I perceive 'niche' as a marketing instrument for perfume labels that think it well suited for their business development to go for the niche proposition.

    That can be a nose that likes to develop his or her own label, in add on to their income for the mainstream designs, but do not care for large investments in new bottle designs for each perfume and do not want to invest in large marketing campagnes.

    I do not consider niche perfumes better or worse than mainstream, expert or el cheapo houses. I think the quality of the ingredients and the complexity of the formula construction are at the best equal to mainstream, but certainly not better. I compare my niche perfumes to my other category perfumes and I find the niche formula construction often more simple, less ingredients, more linear.

    The comparison in terms of a higher concentration of natural essential oils I do not agree upon either, I have some very synthetic constructions among my niche perfumes, that sometimes get even more synthetic in the drydown.

    I dare to say that at least 6 of my el cheapo Avon perfumes are even better in quality and complexity than my niche perfumes.

    I do however think that a perfume, no matter what category, can catch your heart. If that happens, then that's just that.

    My best to you Sherapop!

  10. Dearest Action,

    Welcome to the salon! Needless to say, I am delighted and excited that you have stopped by to share your perfumic wisdom with us. I'll never forget the time you sent me a truly subversive note regarding niche, basically standing up against the entire weight of haute perfumista opinion. It is refreshing to encounter your ideas here once again!

    It's difficult to argue with someone as learned as you are about perfumes, with a collection so vast that I'm unable even to count the rows, much less the perfumes! But I'll do my best. (-;

    Basically what I find in your thoughts is a genuine skepticism, almost cynicism, about niche. But it's not a glib, facile cynicism by any means. You are a perfumista who has sniffed thousands of perfumes and have arrived at your own view of the niche scene, based on your experience, not what the others may say.

    I applaud such obstinate contrarianism—how, after all, could I, sherapop, not? And I do believe that there are many houses which reflect some of the trends you've mentioned, including linearity and simplicity of composition. Perhaps the reductio ad absurdum logical limit of this trend has been the bottling of single aromachemicals as perfume.

    But I see this trend also in houses which appear to produce perfumes in a modular manner. They seem to take small, well-constructed parts of perfumes and put them together in different permutations, similar to the way in which a child creates a building using Lego blocks. I think that this is a different attitude and approach to the creation of perfumes than was dominant, say, a century ago.

    It used to be the case that perfumers would spend years on a single creation. Today, perhaps as a result of the general Twitterization of Western civilization, this is no longer the case. We perfumistas ourselves demand variety, and many of the niche houses are happy to oblige. But which came first, the flurry of flankers and quickly composed perfumes, or our desire to sniff them? That is the question. Perhaps the process, now well underway, is mutually self-perpetuating. In any case, it's difficult to imagine this proliferative production of perfumes coming to a screeching halt anytime soon.

    It seems to me that you're right that, in some cases, a niche operation arises out of a couple of good ideas: they already have a bottle and the label design, and a small group of good perfumes. In my view, what happens next is that they quickly create new variations and modulations using their house's building blocks. I don't want to say that all niche houses operate in this way, but those which put out dozens of new perfumes in a very short period of time could hardly be doing anything else, given the reality of human finitude.

    You may be interested to know that you have what appears to be an ally in self-proclaimed “mainstream maniac” Redneck Perfumisto, who boldly suggested in a recent comment on one of his posts at Il Mondo di Odore that some niche perfumes may be “training wheels” for classics!

    I think that I may be slightly less cynical about the question of niche than you are, since I do believe that there are a few hold outs, who really are creating perfumes out of their pure, unadulterated love of creating perfumes. However, I am equally convinced that other so-called niche houses are using that label, as you say, as a promotional strategy.

    I don't want to name any names here, because my description of “modular perfuming” should elicit examples in readers' minds without any further help from me. And they may well disagree about the houses which appear to be operating in this way. Or they may not even care. In the end, as you say, when we fall in love with a perfume, everything else—including how it was made and why—becomes irrelevant!

    Action, thank you so much for dropping by to share your pearls of wisdom with us. I hope that you'll be able to visit here often.

    fragrantly yours,


  11. P.S. Here's a link where you can read Redneck Perfumisto's words directly:


  12. Hi sweetheart!
    Thank you so much for your many compliments! You are a wise perfumista yourself!!
    I would love to respond on your comment about me being cynical where niche perfumes are concerned. I am actually not cynical and not even critical. I do however feel the need to defend mainstream, el cheapo houses for being punished that they are:
    - widely available
    - better priced
    - being worn by 'many' people

    In my opinion perfumistas like ourselves develop a certain dislike to 'common perfumery' and actually BELIEVE that to be recognized in the liquid itself. To prove my point I even started a game 'Vials undercover' where I dared some perfumistas to try a perfume 'blind' and let me know the favoites in a row of 10 for example. I was very glad to see that the 'el cheapo' were chosen ABOVE the higher priced!! After revealing the actual name, some were actually shocked and changed their opinion!!!

    So my opinion is that we actually do not smell the liquid itself, but what we THINK we should smell. I try to get more attention for this dynamic, instead of adding to the praise of what I believe to be smart market branding.

    So just to make sure I get the message right:
    - I do love niche very much
    - I have a lot of niche
    - I do not think them better than other categories
    - I do not like that they are expensive
    - I do not think that the reason is the quality
    - I do not think that it is the complexity
    - I am glad that niche perfumes exist
    - I do not like the comparison to niche, like it is the most desirable category of perfume and that other perfumes are worth less
    - I am not cynical about the dynamic, I only do not comply to it.


  13. Dear Action,

    Thank you so much for these clarifications. It seems that we may have a slight linguistic disagreement over the use of the word 'cynical'. In my lexicon, cynicism and skepticism are good things. But let's not quibble over words.

    I love that you did a "Vials Undercover" blind review test and appear to have validated a suspicion of mine, that people are influenced in their reviews by knowledge of the house, perfumer, and cost. I have long suspected that these factors influence our reception of perfumes, even though, in theory, they should not. I wish that I could evaluate every perfume without knowledge of its provenance and cost, but it would be prohibitively difficult to work out the logistics.

    It would also be nice to approach each perfume in a critical vacuum, without knowing what others have said. This becomes more and more difficult though, as reviews proliferate across the internet. I do make an effort to avoid reading what may be said about a particular perfume in the Turin & Sanchez volume until after I've written my own review. The reason for that measure is, perversely enough, because I am afraid that I will be overly vehement in my denunciation of a perfume which they love or overly enthusiastic in my praise of one which they hate!

    I believe that you have succeeded through "Vials Undercover" in confirming my suspicion that our prior expectations do in fact affect our reception of a perfume. So, for example, if we know that a perfume was created by a great nose, then we are inclined to make a more assiduous effort to understand it, rather than swiftly dismissing it as inferior.

    My favorite part of the “Vials Undercover” story is that some perfumistas modified their opinions after the original testing upon learning the identities of the perfumes! This seems to show that some people really do want to believe that you get what you pay for, and they are even willing to consider that they made errors in preferring less expensive perfumes over more exclusive and expensive niche offerings.

    There are other ways in which our expectations may affect our evaluations, as well. I often wonder whether I am not kinder to inexpensive perfumes because I figure that “for the price” they are pretty good. I also may be more demanding of expensive perfumes, which sometimes seem like a rip-off. If I can think of a “cheap-o” which is just as good as—or even better than—an expensive perfume, then I may be harsher in my criticism, on the grounds that I feel that there is no good reason for the difference in price.

    So, in the end, I am probably closer to you than to the perfumistas who cling almost religiously to the belief that niche is necessarily superior to mainstream or even bargain bin perfumes!

    Thank you again for sharing your insights and experience, Action!

  14. OK, 1 oneliner for you dear friend Sherapop :)

    *disclaimer up front: I own niche and el cheapo and love them eaqualy: I have no preference nor snobisme of any kind.*

    *and waves to my long 'lost' friend Action :)*hi!* Groetjes van Guus ;) xxx

    I agree wholeheartedly that there are *sorry nicheheads* houses in the niche market that are just as dull, plain, synthetic and badly constructed as there are in mainstream. There are a few I think are just as "common" as they could get, clearly targeted at people just popping there heads up from the department store into the niche side of things, targeted at the masses I might say. To me that is not niche. Even if it is marketed as such.

    But then...

    1) In a lot of mainstream perfume I tend to feel the alcohol smells different. The heart of the perfume opens much later and the alcohol keeps bugging me as I can not 'reach' the notes.
    Am I alone in this feeling?

    2) variety: in mainstream and niche there are things "en vogue" that I would gladly walk away from when it is 'no my thing'. But in niche I have the feeling of having more choices, more different built ups in a perfume, more notes and compositions that mainstream not seem to use. To me that enrichment was an eyeopener and the key to my heart.

    3) I must disagree on quality of ingredients. Since I lay my hands on the house Nobile 1942 I am convinced that the way the ingredients are prepared and the perfume is constructed does matter greatly. There are el cheapo's as good as they get, but this house blew me away. And for price they are very well priced per ml. Some mainstream are more expensive per ml. So the border on price is not always clear. (4)Like with the highly praised Candy perfume witch in my eyes is very expensive.

    Alas: that was my long oneliner :P

    Wish you all a good night, and please do not bite my head off ;)

    xxx Guusje

  15. And thank you sooo much for your extensive elaboration! I LOVE LOVE the way your write!
    AMAZINGLY on the mark!!

  16. I'm delighted to share your opinions of niche fragrances Sherapop! You brought up many interesting points, but your mention of Salvador Dali perfumes really highlights my issues with trying to find joy in cheap widely available perfumes. The aesthetic of Salvador Dali perfumes may be very tacky, but I find the bottles attractive, so I have continued testing their range despite being met with scrubber after scrubber. I was surprised Laguna has so many positive reviews, and tried to like it after testing it a few times, but each time I couldn't find anything likeable about it, nor could I imagine anyone around me appreciating it on me. I have a bottle of Eau de Dali thanks to sniffing a sample once, and I discovered second sniff I detest it. if anybody wants it, I would be happy to get rid of it.I am a true perfumista, like all of you, and have sprayed myself with enough things that I have felt perhaps 1,000 regrets, and I have to say that I smell more artistic intention in niche houses and Hermes in general, even if I have smelled far more unpleasant/mediocre/dull/overpriced niche than great niche perfumes. I have also smelled far more mediocre/awful mainstream and drugstore than great mainstream and drugstore perfumes. In the end my favorites have been almost exclusively among the niche (and some vintages)--Ingredients of quality or not they have fewer plasticky overtones and strange unpleasant tones that I find in most perfumes, or more smoothness. And in niche I can find beautiful florals, a category that mainstream and drugstore experience would have convinced me I couldn't wear. Sure, I love Prada Infusion d'Iris, but whenever I visit a department store I find it's mostly sweet "Oriental" perfumes I find that I can enjoy, which have wide appeal anyway, and as they will often work on me and are reliably available in some quantity despite the takeover of air refreshener-type D&G Light Blue/Eau d'Issey commercial bombs. There are plenty of independent "niche" or at least quasi-niche perfumers coming out and doing their own thing, and there are so many who've already been reviewed and made themselves available to our perfumista niche--some at a lower price range--Parfums Brecourt, TokyoMilk, Opus Oils, Ava Luxe, etc. In the end niche could be whether the company is releasing a fragrance with or without regards to whether the company members would actually be willing to wear it themselves, or just released to release something new...As you said, there is a high profit margin for Avon perfumes, perhaps just as high as with Amouage? I am not sure, but among niche perfumers there are plenty who are either getting by modestly or barely making it--a passion-driven ethical business is much more attractive, and will be worthy of some admiration at least (and hopefully they would produce at least one perfume that would smell good, and at least conceivably be worth what they charge)

    Kudos to perfumery based on creative urges, perfumes that don't smell tired and trendy nd dreck, perfumes thats someone with an trained nose might consider wearing, and enjoy wearing for more than 5-10 minutes--or at least not want to scrub off immediately!

  17. PS

    About undercover vials, I have played a few times and love this game! However, one should be careful not to test too many perfumes at once or this can lead to confusion. One time I played and didn't like any of the vials, but praised the one that smelled OK just cause I felt like it was rude to be like "they're all terrible!"...once I played with a different set of vials with at least one pleasant perfume in the lot, but I also had to be subjected again to Secretions Magnifique by ELDO, enough said. And once when I played with dear Action I ended up buying a full bottle of a perfume that I enjoyed wearing once out of three wears, and have really wanted to swap/sell for almost a year now. Smelling the samples one time is unreliable, as my mind changes many times about my own collection--I am a fickle and picky without a doubt. I think the best way to play Mystery Vials would be testing a small set for a long period of time--and then after A YEAR the tester learns the identities. If she/he changes his/her mind then, well....

  18. Greetings Guusje, and welcome to the salon! It's GREAT to have you here! Thank you so much for bringing up all of these intriguing issues, which have not been touched upon by anyone above.

    I love your expression “sorry niche heads” houses! What an apt turn of phrase! You are pointing to a distinction within the greater category of self-proclaimed niche houses between those which deserve to be called niche, and those which are really pseudo-niche or low-quality juice factories in disguise. Bob Johnson suggested above that niche has something to do with the effort we consumers have to go to in order to find the house. But it sounds as though you may disagree.

    Would you say that the “sorry niche heads” houses you're talking about are frauds or poseurs? Or what would you say? What if they are trying to make great perfume, but they just don't know what they are doing? Is that a different sort of case? Or do you think that there is no distinction between the “sorry niche heads” houses which are basically con jobs and the small houses which really do try to make good perfume, but they just don't, for some reason. In other words, I'm interested in knowing whether you think that it is conceptually possible for a small, self-proclaimed niche house to be truly niche, even though their perfume is no better than low-brow juice.

    Now to your numbered points (post the others in the next comment, since there is a character limit):

    1) Are there different quality or grades of alcohol or other solvents used by bona fide niche houses (that is, not the “sorry niche heads” houses, but those which do produce excellent perfume? That's a good question, and I'm afraid that I have no idea. Does anyone else know?

    I can share my limited, subjective experience with some sorts of mass market fragrances, the solvents of which appear to assault my central nervous system. Some people call “scrubbers” those which are aesthetically repugnant. I personally reserve that term for perfumes which must be removed from my cells, else catastrophe may ensue. Some perfumes, and they have always been mass market, really do make me feel anxious and ill at ease, occasionally nauseous and sometimes they induce headaches as well. Interestingly, enough I have not had such an experience with a niche perfume, with one exception: ELDO Sécrétions Magnifiques, which I tested accidentally in a mystery sample group. It really made me feel ill and nauseous. After that experience, I even developed a Pavlovian aversion to mystery sampling!

    Anyway, the point is: I have not encountered what I believe is cheap solvent-induced sickness from niche perfumes, in general. In the exceptional case of SM, I believe that the sickness was induced by the composition itself, not the solvents. In the cases of the mass market frags which I simply cannot wear because they make me feel so uncomfortable, my distinct impression is that the solvents are to blame. But I do not really know for sure, since I'm not a perfumer.

    You are describing a slightly different scenario, where the cheap alcohol/solvent somehow prevents you from fully apprehending the composition of the perfume. That does sound similar to my experience with some houses, for example, Jacomo, which always seems sort of vague and cloudy to me. What do you think about Jacomo perfumes? Would that be an example of what you are talking about?

  19. Reply to Guusje, cont.d:

    2) You applaud the range of variety available in niche, which is not found in mass-market offerings. I wonder, though, whether there are not the same dynamics operating in the two realms. Consider some of the more trendy niche ideas: oudh and fig both leap to my mind. Every house now seems to have multiple oudh offerings, just as every mainstream house has its sweet patchouli or post-Angel frags. Are these cases really any different? Aren't the houses all clamoring for our wallet share by putting out these trendy perfumes?

    What I find in the range of variety of niche offerings is that there really is a limit to the eccentricity which I can wrap my nose around while still consider a perfume to be wearable. I don't care how original SM is. It's irrelevant to me, because it is simply repulsive and therefore unwearable. Still, I don't want to say that such perfumes should not be made, though I do hope that no one will wear them around me!

    What I have learned from my journeys through niche houses is above all this: blind buys in the niche are a very bad idea, precisely because the perfumes are not produced through appeal to “the average consumer's” preferences, as mass market fragrances often are. When I dislike a niche perfume, it's usually because I dislike the composition. The problem lies not with the solvents but with the perfume itself.

    In contrast, to give a couple of mass market examples, Bath & Body Works and Victoria's Secret tend to make more or less wearable fragrances. They are not the highest quality, no, but they also are not trying to be revolutionary. My hunch is that they probably do a lot of testing before launching their products, which also minimizes the dreaded poisonous solvent problem. For those reasons, blind buys of the fragrances produced by such companies, and I'd add Proctor & Gamble as a third example, are usually pretty safe. No, you're unlikely to fall in love with their perfumes, but, on the other hand, it is equally unlikely that you will loathe them, and they also, generally speaking, won't make you physiologically ill.

    3) You offer Nobile 1942 as an example of a niche house which struck you as exceptionally good in virtue of the quality of ingredients. I have not tried that house, but I have some experience with a couple of other houses which hit me in the same way. They just seem SO much better than mainstream to me. There is a palpable, sniffable difference in quality. So, I do agree with you, but I also think that the number of niche houses which fall into that category is very limited. Many niche houses do not produce appreciably better perfume than mass market houses, try though they may. But there are a few, and for those it seems worth it to pay the extra money for that level of quality.

    It seems to me that all members of the category of self-proclaimed niche houses benefit greatly through association with those few special cases of, let us say, über-niche houses. So everyone and his mother claims to be niche, even though only a fraction of the niche houses produce juice that is leaps and bounds better than mainstream. That's how the label “niche” can be used as hype. I've tested a few houses which charge a lot for their perfumes, presumably because they are exclusive and better than mainstream, when in reality the juice seems low-brow and the compositions boring. Those would be your “sorry niche heads” houses.

    Guusjes, thank you again so much for stopping by and joining the conversation. It's so wonderful to have interlocutors like you participating! Please drop by again soon—and often!

  20. Oh my goodness, it's a veritable embarras de perfumista richesses:

    Welcome Kastehelmi! I am so happy to read you here at the salon!

    Like Guusje, you seem to have found a perceptible distinction between a few good niche houses and all the rest. We all seem to be agreeing that there are a lot of wannabe niche houses which don't deliver on the promise of their name—or, in some cases, price tag. But you have found a few winners, which is obviously why you have stayed in the perfumista game. Imagine if there were no great perfumes out there anywhere, and we were doomed to sniff our ways through a universe of mediocrity. I dare say that we would find others ways to spend our time!

    I have noticed over the years (well, since 2009!) that you and I have similar sensitivities to certain perfume components, and we also have overlapping tastes. I wonder whether what matters ultimately in our reception of perfumes is physiological. I have a post below, “The Myth of the Skin Chemistry Myth,” in which I purport to show that, far being irrelevant, skin chemistry is actually decisive. My suspicion is that some people have either more sensory nerve endings, or the ones they have are significantly more sensitive than those of average people.

    That would explain why perfumes which make me miserable are sometimes best sellers. How else to explain such a phenomenon? There are perfumes which you could not pay me any amount of money to wear, though plenty of people are fully prepared to drop a pretty penny to pick them up. I'm starting to wonder whether these perceptions of distinctions in quality of solvents, etc., may have a lot to do with our biology. This is why I can use reviews by you—and other people who react similarly to me in their receptions to certain aspects of perfumes—in ruling out certain blind buys. Plastic notes, for example, can easily ruin a perfume for me, where for others they add an element of intrigue. I really don't think that one can be right or wrong about these things, although I should say that I personally believe that people who are anosmic or hyposmic to the chemicals commonly included in perfumes should probably recuse themselves from reviewing. Taking seriously such a person's opinions about perfumes seems to me like asking a colorblind person to review a painting, or a person who is hard of hearing to evaluate a piece of music. Well, now I seem to be moving to a whole different topic. I'll post something on that one soon. (-;

    To return to the ostensible topic of this discussion: yes, I do agree with you that there are some surprising finds out there, including what I refer to as "budget niche", examples of which you offer above. And I applaud your beautiful conclusion!

    Thank you again so much for dropping in and sharing your ideas with us! Hope to read you here again soon, my dear Kastehelmi!

  21. Kastehelmi: I just saw your ps! We were writing about ELDO SM simultaneously! How's that for synchronicity! (-;

    Those are great suggestions about the undercover or mystery vial trials. Yes, I have noticed that, even with fully disclosed vials, there is sometimes a big difference between the honeymoon and the marriage--as in many other areas...

    A very long engagement could help in all of these cases!(-;

  22. Hi Kastehelmi,
    How are you doing? I haven't seen you around on Fragrantica so much either! I am unbelievably busy with work this year, so really glad Sherapop pointed her blog to me, so now we have a new forum to discuss our vision on perfume!!

    Niche really seems a sensitive issue though.. I really wonder why. I don't see that much attacking and defending concerning the vintage category, or have I missed that entirely?

    Concerning vials undercover, in that case, if your opinion is so changeable, something like vials undercover doesn't seem to be working for you as a testing method I think. Testing 1 year before buying, how do you solve that issue in the store? Big chance within that year the perfume you are testing is already discontinued! ;-)

    As for myself I tend to like / love many many perfumes of all categories and strengths. That was not the case is the past however. I really disliked green perfumes and musk perfumes too. Now I really learned to love them very much! Also I had a dislike for light perfumes, but now I love them equal to the strong ones! I also found out that when I swapped a bottle away, in 5 of the 10 cases I regretted it afterwards, because I learned to love it in time. So in my own perfume development more and more perfumes get 'included'. It's funny how it works, from not understanding at all why someone would buy a certain liquid to getting the point later in time!

    Greetings to you all!!

  23. Hi again :)

    Sherapop: I was simply referring to the people who look down on mainstream, the people who would not touch it with a 10 foot pole ;) The once's that only buy niche, including the not-so-niche-in my eyes-houses.

    Do I think they are frauds? No. Just good marketing machines. And they present the build up of the perfume in laymen terms. Aimed at the taste and knowledge of the masses.

    I will take JHAG as an example. The perfume opens like a little train: note for note it gets "there", like little ducks in a row the notes present them self's. And the notes are "out there", very distinct, not to miss, recognizable. To my nose the fume shrieks. There is no sophistication, no little mysteries, no surprises. The fume does not make you wonder nor makes you want to sniff it over and over again: it all presents itself on a silver platter. And it does not whisper.

    I love the whisper of a perfume. The little calling to your soul. The hunger it creates and the unknown void is seems to fill.

    So, no: no fraud. Just not my style. And not my preference in what I want, need and look for in a perfume.

    Are they wrong to do so? Well, the numbers proof them right.
    In the end it is all about the buck. Even for the tiniest of houses. No clients, no money, no production, no income...
    But then you come into ethics and principals, ideals and reality. And those can be very tricky in this this world.

    I will return later to reply more xxx

  24. Testing one two three...

    I went on a massive mini-rant diatribe that took me over an hour to compose, when I pushed publish it went back to this screen and my post was NOT visible...and as you can guessed I did not copy it! *sighs*

    Trying to see if THIS makes it through before I make any more silly mistakes!!

  25. Sherapop, what can I say? If only we could know who is anosmic/hyposmic to what, it would be so easy to just write off misleading reviews or perfume suggestions. It's so funny--not only should we not ask a colorblind person to review a colorful painting, I wouldn't ask a country-music lover who loves country music rather exclusively what he thinks of a new experimental jazz ensembles rendition of a tune by Thelonious Monk. It would be so fab if you would present your "Myth of Skin Chemistry Myth" in a way that could get the same audience as Turin-Sanchez--maybe somehow in a video format on TED? PS Your Secretions Magnifiques review poses a great question for the perfumers out there. No matter what the intentions were, some people think it smells like a simple and agreable Floral Aquatic. One of the best examples for proof yet of your skin chemistry argument!

    Dear Action,

    Hey there! To answer a few of your questions, I don't get so defensive about vintage because even though a few of my absolute favorite perfumes in the world are vintage, my experience with vintages is just a tiny tiny fraction of what I have smelled. As far as those I love, they are very very special, and have something that most, if not all niches don't. Yet who would I be arguing with? And over what? I would take a day off work for sure to go protest IFRA regulations if there were any chance that oakmoss could be allowed again, as well as other great perfumery materials. The debate between vintage perfumery and modern perfumery is even messier and seems more pointless than the whole "what is niche?" debate which always has someone ready to call lovers of niche perfumes gulliable, snob/elitist, or impressed by names alone. I am none of the above--maybe a bit perfume-snob, in a cynical way, but I always sniff, and will test anything. Most intelligent people can agree that there were great perfumes produced decades ago that are no longer available, and that it's a shame. And even those who don't love old old vintages often agree that most of what is found in department stores as well as drugstores today is a cheap attempt at robbing people in the name of perfume (or at least "not great")...I love to argue about vintages when there is something worth arguing about, that I have some valuable opinion/experience to contribute. If it's a discussion about money and wide availability, vintage loses big-time!
    I will probably never own Amour Amour by Jean Patou, or a bottle of Diorella from the '70s unless I fork over much much more than I pay on average for any perfume--and that's if I am lucky, and manage to find it.

    For mystery vials, 1 year is a long time, you are right! If I fall in love with something that will be out-of-production in a year I will be very unlucky indeed. It hasn't happened yet, usually I fall in love with perfumes that have already been released a few years ago, are likely to still be available somewhere, or are long out of production---:"(((
    I have a limited budget anyway, everytime I like something I can't buy it. I already have way more than enough perfumes, I just keep testing for fun and obsession. I do/have learn/ed to love some that I didn't before, and my tastes will shift throughout my life, surely. But the most common problem with testing is finding that there is something I really really dislike about a perfume that I didn't notice the first or second time, or maybe my olfactory environment/mood wasn't clear enough to allow me to be thorough and attentive in testing. I will give some perfumes that I have written off another chance if persuaded that there is any point in it, but most of the time my nose knows the first time, or at least after 3 times. Unfortunately my purchase history has been way more impulsive and mindless, but it's all part of the maturing/learning process! Happy New Year, Big Vintage *NICHE* Hugs! Let's remember, there had to be a vintage niche--nobody talks too much about that :P

  26. *not every time I like something can I buy it, I meant!

  27. FOUR TIMES NOW this site has taken my posts and they do not ever come up?

    I give up!

  28. My Dear Gypsy Parfumista: Many apologies for the troubles you have experienced here at the salon. Please do not give up! We are waiting anxiously to read your words on the question of niche!

    I implore you, please, in order to avoid any further frustration and loss, write your text in a word document before attempting to post here. There is a character limit, but you can divide your thesis into several posts, if need be.

    I think that I can speak for everyone here--it's turning into veritable fragrance family reunion!--when I say that *we* *cannot* *wait* to read you! You might even crash the server with the traffic! So, please, do save your thoughts in a word document, just in case... (-:

  29. Dearest Action,

    Although your reply was primarily directed to Kastehelmi, I would like to jump in with a bolstering remark on your post regarding how your horizons have expanded over the years. I especially love your example of green perfume aversion, from which I continue to suffer after the Omnia green and Isabella Rossellini Manifesto, and just about every other green perfume I've ever sniffed: yes, you are right. I now have a "green perfume block". Will it ever be lifted? Right now, it might seem impossible, but I can think of a couple of examples which are similar to the evolutionary process you have described in your own ability to appreciate a broader and broader range of perfumes, some of which you formerly disliked or perhaps even abhorred.

    One is SJP Covet. The first time I tried it, it just seemed like a confusing mess. I really did not like it at all. The second time I tried it, I really warmed up to it, and by the third time, believe it or not, I wrote the following gushing love letter-cum-review (now posted in a dark corner of the internet where duct tape and torches rule the day or, rather, night...):

    Covet Sarah Jessica Parker by Sarah Jessica Parker
    It took me quite some time to appreciate SJP COVET, which to my nose is a "mystery, wrapped in a riddle, inside an enigma" perfume. When I first purchased a bottle (scent unsniffed) a couple of years ago, I was very disappointed and confused. After a single wearing, I relegated the beautiful bottle filled with a strange peridot-colored liquid to the "Mistakes Were Made" shelf of my armoire.

    Months later, when I decided to give this perfume a second chance, I was pleasantly surprised. There was something resiny and complex and enticing about this unorthodox composition. Greens and chocolate and honeysuckle and lavender and lemon and amber? What? Well, yes, somehow they work together very well in this perfume, which in addition to containing better-quality components than are typical for celebrity scents, is also unique. I know of no other perfume similar to SJP COVET.

    Today, on a 91F afternoon with relatively low humidity, I am happy to be able to report that COVET is holding up extraordinarily well and may be even more appealing than I found it to be during the winter. But I should say that it changes radically with all sorts of environmental factors, and therefore defies objective description. Different notes become salient under different conditions. How to convey the beauty of COVET? I think that this is a clear case where words cannot do justice to the perfume. I find it quite compelling and yet too weird too describe. I might say that the chocolate is dominant, but then that sentence would be rendered false (and me, therefore, a liar!) a few seconds later. The notes of COVET wax and wane and undulate in a manner that could only be modeled using a very complex differential equation. Around every corner is a new twist throughout the course of COVET's reasonably lengthy life on my skin.

    Like the perfume, the bottle, too, is unique; smooth and hefty with an odd shape I've not seen before. Even the color of the liquid—perodot–is rare in perfumery and unique in my collection. Happily the color has not degraded or faded since I acquired my bottle two years ago. But the best part of all is that the juice inside continues to smell really great.

  30. Reply to Action cont'd.

    Okay, so what's the point? The point is, that had I swiftly swapped my bottle away after the first unhappy testing, I would never, ever have returned to Covet again, and it would have been permanently etched in my mind as a disaster!

    Another example: Caron Montaigne. In the case of Montaigne, I overapplied the first time I tried the perfume, and I really disliked it. However, because of my prior experience with other Caron perfumes, and my knowledge that many of their compositions are very dense, I gave Montaigne a second chance. To my great happiness and surprise, I found, with a very light application, that I loved it!

    What I'd like to suggest with these examples, is that maybe, you Action, have managed to make your way out of the proverbial Platonic Cave of perfumic darkness, while many of us (certainly I) continue to be tricked by shadows on the wall of the Cave!

  31. Kastehelmi and Action:

    I think that your exchanges on vintage vs. niche (why people get all exercised about the latter, but not the former) are incredibly fascinating. I'm already scheming on some future salon entries. One series of inquiries which will be posted early in 2012 is:

    The Tower of Babel in the World of Perfume

    Vintage, Reformulation, Skin Chemistry, and Selective Hyposmia/Anosmia are all chapters of that topic which we'll be discussing here at the salon.

    I have lots of controversial remarks to make (no surprise there, I'm sure...) about vintage. But I'll hold them until I open up the Tower of Babel discussion.

    Before we move on, however, we need to read Gypsy Parfumista on the Question of Niche! Gypsy, are you out there?

    Happy New Year to Everyone!

  32. Ladies & gentleman!
    Love your reactions to the several discussions we are having here! LOL!!
    Talk about hard core perfumistas sharing their passion!
    GREAT blog Sherapop!

    It has been quite a discovery myself that I seem to love more and more perfumes as time passes. One of the reasons (amongst others) that I stopped swapping. I ended regretting quite some swaps, and if I am not able to love one right now, probably in the future I will.

    I am now also enjoying more the ones I have, since it is enough to last me about 10 life times! And of course I buy a new one quite often, but most of the time it is a sister to something I already have in 5 differing styles.

    And indeed I do think as time passes, the perfumes evolve to thinner and quicker constructions. I am so looking forward to when I am an old lady and have my vintages and discontinued gems and nowhere to be bought in that type of quality anymore!

    What will the perfume market be in 2040 for example? I will probably still have my backup Palazzo, Kastehelmi was so kind to swap with me, and maybe in a few years, she was wishing she never gave that beauty up for swap!

    So that is where I stand lately, keep everyting you have like 'money on the bank' and enjoy the treasure for all the years to come. Every item that I cannot use up myself will go to my son and since he already loved perfumes from 1 year old, he will adore them later for sure!


  33. And of course HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!!!!!

  34. What a wonderful discussion and debate! Loving this...

    First of all, thank you Shera Pop for asking me to drop by. THIS has the feeling of a real

    SALON. A place where ideas are brought forth, discussed pasionately and articulately yet

    there always exists an air of friendship and camaraderie. Great job!! Secondly, it is so

    great to see Kastehelmi, Guusjes and Action here. Hello, my perfumed sisters! It is also

    wonderful to read the comments of one Bob Johnson-great to meet you! I am so glad you

    brought up dictionary definitions...a very wise woman (and one of my mentors) always told

    me: "If you want EXACT NATURE, pull the dictionary!".

    The Illustrated Oxford English Dictionary defines Niche as: 1. a shallow recess (esp. in a

    wall) to contain a statue, etc. OR 2. a comfortable or suitable position in life or


    Granted both of these are definitions for the word "nich", and not "neesh" as we parfumistas

    use it, but I do think we are onto something here. I, myself am one of those people who tend

    to like to think "outside the box" and have a great disdain for labels and only use them

    when I absolutely have to; to elucidate, describe or stratify types of perfumes. Here are

    some of the cardinal points on my Perfume Compass-

  35. Niche-Perfumes made by companies that make ONLY perfume (and ancillary products). This is their NICHE! *winks* Such Houses include: Atelier, Etat Libre d'Orange, CREED, Bond No.9, smell bent, L'Artisan, and yes...Guerlain. To me this is not a word that describes quality, artistic vision, price point or exclusivity. It just means that it is their sole type of product. More about that later...

    Luxe-Perfumes made from the highest quality raw materials (usually in small batches) that

    usually have a rather large price tag. Not necessarily exclusive, either; other than the price. Higher quality ingredients tend to make a higher quality perfume (but not always). EX: Amouage, Byredo and Atelier Flou, Chantecaille and By Kilian come to mind.

    Designer-Perfumes made by a company that produces other products; such as shoes, leather goods, clothing, cosmetics or handbags. We all know Calvin Klein, BVLGARI, Hugo Boss, Diesel, COACH, Kenneth Cole...and, yes HERMES. This also includes brands like Illamasqua, MAC and the like.

    Mass Market-This is almost as dicey to define as Niche is. Perfumes made in large amounts

    with wide distribution, more often than not from cheaper ingredients and synthetic aromachemicals. Mass Market (for me) include what is easily available in department stores, drug stores (chemists), bargain bin stores and the gray market discounters. There is a lot of overlap here; as some designer, celebuscents, and many of the "el cheapo" variety are here (though many of the "el cheapo" perfumes of today were, at one time, considered designer or even Niche). See what I mean?

    Celebuscents-Perfumes made by, for or bearing the name of a celebrity or famous person. Many of these could be considered "mass market" as they are widely available. Examples: Usher, Brittany Spears, 50 Cent, Tim McGraw, Alan Cumming; however, there are a few "nichesque" celebrity scents like Tom of Finland, Rossy de Palma and Tilda Swinton Like This; not to metion Gres' trio of Hommage a Marlene Dietrich perfumes.

    Direct Market-Perfumes made by companies that sell only through catalogs, representatives and phone or internet sales. Avon (and subsidiaries), Yves Rocher and Oriflame produce some really great perfumes (but many other types of products) but are often looked down upon by many parfumistas.

    Specialty-these are Houses that could (and should) be described as niche (as they only make fragrances) yet tend to be favored by those who have a special interest. These include, but are not limited to: Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, Opus Oils, V'Tae and Thymes.

    As you can see, I have many labels I use to describe types of scents and you can find blurred areas as well: mass market celebuscents, masstige, affordable niche and so on. One needs to remember that just because (as Action has already said) something is cheaply priced does not mean it is not "good" or high quality. Maybe a question & answer format would shed some light on this:

  36. Is Niche always better?
    Not necessarily. I find many scents that are not niche or expensive to be just as good, if not better than, so called niche or luxe perfumes. I appreciate many fine niche scents, but Niche scents are not the be all and end all for me.

    Is Niche more exclusive?
    By price: yes...usually, though there are exceptions like "Smell Bent".
    By availability: no. The idea of regional or market exclusivity went the way of the dodo with the advent of internet marketing on the worldwide web. Now anyone with a credit card and a modem can get anything they want and can afford from anywhere in the world.

    Is Niche always more artistic?
    Not always but usually. When all a company makes is fragrance, they tend to do it with just a bit more care as far as raw materials, how they are blended and overall aesthetics. For example Serge Lutens-very artistic, some are rather exclusive, costly and definitely NICHE.

    What about Natural Perfumers, are they niche too?
    If (by my definition) all they make is perfume then: yes. DSH, Lord's Jester and Escentual Alchemy, Perfumes by Nature, Divine Life-they all only make perfumes. Are they more costly? Usually, they are, as they forego any synthetics and aromachemicals and raw natural ingredients are always more costly. If we define Niche in terms of art, cost and quality I believe we are deluding ourselves. Take, for instance, the oft maligned creation of ELdO Secretions Magnifiques. Is it art? Well, now we have to define art! A wise man once said (when asked to define pornography) "I'll know it when I see it". The same is true of "art". Art is the creative expression of an artist (to me). Not so much the finished product; but the inspiration and journey there. So is SM art? Most definitely! Just because some people loathe and/or are sickened by it does NOT negate its value as true art. Is it costly? Not really when compared to 375 dollar AMOUAGE scents. Is it quality? Sure. Do I personally like it? I must confess, I do! Is it Niche? Absolutely...all ELdO makes are perfumes! *winks*

    What about Jil Sander, Pierre Balmain? Are THEY Niche?
    By definition NO. Are they of superior quality? Indded they are! Balmain is a company that makes very expensive clothing yet their scents are moderately priced and very elegant and have superior sillage and longevity. The same is true with Jil Sander. Caron (a company making fragrances and nothing else since 1911) IS Niche, as they specialize in perfumes and were once very chic and exclusive but not as much today, and are more affordable than some designer and mass marketed scents.

  37. Using a term like Niche to describe only the quality or magnificence of a perfume takes into very murky waters, as you can see. HERMES has created a nichey line of perfume called Hermessence. Very expensive, very artfully done, good quality (even though strength of these is an issue for some). Not niche. By Kilian...Are they niche? Absolutely, but they are also Luxe as they cost a lot, have exquiste presentation (locking velvet or silk lined boxes, refillable crystal bottles, etc), and are made with the highest details to quality and strength. Yves Rocher has made (in the past) many extremely exquisite and artful fragrances and they fetch BIG BUCKS on auction sites...but they are not niche, per se.

    In my experience, a gigantic price tag does not always mean an exquiste perfume, unfortunately. Neither then, does a cheap price tag necessarily mean a bad one. I found a set of four tobacco based perfumes (by a cigar company) at a discount store for $20. Are they niche? No. Are they good? Yes they are, and two of them are fantastic! One I actually like more than CREED's Tabarome!!! So you see, using the word Niche to mean quality is a misnomer. Using the word to allude to exclusivity (other than price) is just silly. Using it to define artistic intent or vision is to short change many well done scents that are out there and available to many. I think we should agree to disagree. Perfume (and tastes in) are as subjective as our reviews of them. We will never all agree on what Niche is, but maybe we could all loosely agree to a definition (that is what we are all going on about isn't it?) close to one in the dictionary.

    Niche is a specialized "recess", and as far as perfumes go: if that is all you make then you are niche. Comfortable (as defined above) or suitable is (and always will be) a matter of taste. I can understand (I guess) the whole "I only wear Niche" mind set, but do not agree with it. If that is all you wear, fine. I believe if you limit your options, you limit yourself. Some niche scents are awesome, some...not so much. I think we should use terms like "artfully done", "well made", "exquisite quality" and "To die for" myself these state facts and opinions more plainly than a bland word like "Niche" which has, in my opinion, become just another status symbol. I have been guilty (while playing the Mystery Scent game with a dear friend) of asking "Oooh is this Niche?". Most of the time...it wasn't. But it was damn fine juice! There are some scents (like MALLE's Angeliques Sous La Pluie) I would love to have; but not BECAUSE they are niche. Because it is awesome, well done and beautiful (to me). When we say Is it Niche? Is what we really mean Is it expensive? If so, just say that!

    I want to thank everyone who posted and hope that my rather lengthy and splintered diatribe did not offend anyone here. I love a heated debate as much (if not more than) most and splitting proverbial hairs; but after all the pontification, articulation and mental masturbation what we all really want to know is: Hey, is it good? The two are not mutually exclusive, trust me!

    Happy New Year everybody and I look forward to reading more on this and checking out more of your posts my dear Shera Pop!

  38. Leave it to our beloved Gypsy Parfumista to sweep down from the heavens on this bright New Year's Day to clarify every facet of our entire discussion to this point! Gypsy, Thank you so much! Your discussion—or, rather, essay—is so wonderful! I'm rendered nearly speechless, and I'm sure that all of you know that, when it comes to sherapop, that's no mean feat! (-;

    Nearly speechless. A couple of follow-up quibbles, although I agree with the substance of nearly everything you say. Guerlain (and you, as a gentleman perfumista are excused for not knowing this, if you don't) makes a huge amount of lipstick, face cream, Meteorites face powder (the scent of which they double-dipped on by producing both Meteorites perfume, and the opening of Insolence...). So, strictly speaking, by your definition (which I embrace, by the way), Guerlain is not niche. Since the tragic takeover of that house by LVMH, I don't even think that they are luxe anymore. The crimes committed to once masterful classics can only have been perpetrated by chemists and accountants, it seems to me. And many of their reformulated perfumes are easily available from discounters at prices as low as what we sometimes pay for el-cheapos. Yes, they are riding out the wave of their name, but as far as I'm concerned, an epitaph is in order.

    Your insightful comments on ELDO SM have reminded me of yet another entry in The Tower of Babel: the many uses of perfume (art vs. function).

    That's it, though. Gypsy Parfumista, I would like to thank you so much for sharing your perfumic erudition and wisdom with us! It is a joy to read your beautiful prose, and I look forward to your contributions to the next entry at the salon: The Tower of Babel!

    I also hope that you and everyone else will consider responding to the previous salon posts, which I wrote from August to November 2011, but only moved to this location in December. I did not move the comments written by others elsewhere, but once I have some more comments here, my plan is to resurrect some of those topics in follow-up posts which take into account the contributions from all those who shared their perspectives, both here and elsewhere.


    p.s. I am not by any means closing off this discussion—although I probably will post The Tower of Babel tomorrow... (-;

  39. Guusje, darling! I somehow neglected to reply to your follow-up post. I wanted especially to comment on your adorable account of JHAG perfumes as little choo-choo trains, with their notes as little ducks all in a row. Very nice metaphorical descriptions of the aesthetics of that house, it seems to me. The compositions are simple, but the materials seem to be of high quality, and I think that the people who love that house embrace that specific aesthetic. I myself love a couple of their perfumes but am somewhat neutral toward others.

    I am, however, a big fan of houses with a consistent aesthetic vision. I like them probably in part because I feel that I can confidently say that I understand what they are doing. It doesn't necessarily mean that I like all or even any of the perfumes of the house. What it means is that I have certain expectations about their future perfumes which tend to be borne out based on their past perfumes.

    Rather than being literally all over the map, with a chaotic collection united by nothing (beyond perhaps the bottle and price range), such houses cater specifically to a *niche* (our key word, once again!) of consumers who are looking precisely for what they have to offer.

    Another example might be the house of Serge Lutens, the perfumes of which are generally pretty intense, in my experience. That house offers a certain sort of perfume which is not going to appeal to everyone. I'd say that people who are drawn to the aesthetic of L'Artisan Parfumeur are probably not going to like Serge Lutens so much, and vice versa. (Please correct me, if I'm wrong!) Or, perhaps more accurately, one will choose to don the perfumes of a certain house in circumstances where the perfumes of some other equally good but very different house would be inappropriate. So, again, the notion of niche seems relevant here: some houses are catering to certain subsets of all perfume consumers, and even to certain perfume functions for a given wearer. I do not wear citrus colognes on the days when oriental elixirs are what the weather and my mood and other circumstances demand. And, conversely, on a day where a citrus cologne is the perfect perfume solution, donning a thick oriental elixir instead might be a complete disaster!

    All of this, too, is a part of the answer to the question of niche, it seems to me. Thank you, Guusjes, for bringing up JHAG as an example of a niche house which you have figured out, though it isn't right for you.

  40. Getting back to the Niche concept....

    I feel quite confident that Slumberhouse is a niche firm...if you can call it a firm. Josh, the fellow who makes the stuff is a youngish guy from street culture, which sets him apart, and he lives right in my own state. I've also exchanged a number of charming e-mails with him, and my sister and I helped him get a local outlet in Portland for the holidays.

    So the guy's stuff fulfills the "small production" criterion. Although he clearly does not fit our normal concept of a nose, it's clear that he takes his work very seriously so his work certainly fulfills the "one man's vision" criterion.

    On top of all this, there's actually quite a buzz going around about his creations. So there's a certain "in the know/special knowledge" aspect to his things which in my book, may also be somewhat of a niche criterion. Although he hopes to make sales, it still takes a certain special effort both to know about and to obtain his product.

    Of course it may be that much of the interest is just snobbish hype and puffery, but it's fair to say that Josh is not behind any of it, which may also signal a certain particular quality of hype ?

    Have I even mentioned whether his things are good or bad ? Not yet, but as I said in an earlier post, perhaps the concept of niche also has something to do with the nature of the consumers mental involvement in the product.

    One thing is sure : there is a lot of curiosity about his creations, which are often erratically available. So again, we have the nature of the consumer's involvement to consider.

    Is his stuff good ? Some knowledgeable people seem to think so. And there is some challenging oddness to some of his things as well.

    To take things one possibly radical step further, I suspect he's never heard of IFRA, and could care less about their regulations, which might also put a certain new, and possibly influential twist on the niche concept. As Summervillemetroman said in a review, his things may be the first example of an "outsider-art" type movement in the world of perfume.

    While one could write his things off as mere curiosities, I suspect it would not be fair to do that either, as a number of knowledgeable folks have purchased his works and consider them legitimate.

    Products like this are the most extreme example of niche to my mind, and perhaps provide a certain useful reference point to work backwards from ?

  41. Welcome back, Bob, and Happy New Year! I am so glad that you were able to navigate your course back to the niche debate and remind us what the question was in the first place!

    Since you last dropped by, I have been thinking a lot about some of the people I met on my perfume pilgrimage of sorts to Grasse. It occurred to me that they are in some ways very similar to Josh of Slumberhouse. For one thing, they are very small production and local, and you pretty much have to go to Grasse to buy their perfumes. For another thing, they seem to be out there making perfume in spite of the relatively recent (and massive) capitalization of perfumery. There is a sort “craftsman” aspect to what they do. Some of them make perfumes right there on the premises, in the back rooms of their shops.

    It is true that some of their perfumes are intentional knock-offs—one nice fellow showed me a shelf of his Chanel-esque creations—but some of them are probably closer to what Josh does. The original perfumes which they create in small batches never gain any recognition among the media-driven perfume community. Are they any less niche?

    As I mentioned in an earlier reply to you, there are many perfumistas who would deny that Fragonard, Gallimard, Molinard, et al., are niche perfumeries. I recall that in The Holey [sic] Book, Turin dismissed them rather derogatorily as the houses “with names ending in -ard”, and he then “decreed” in his characteristic way that the only Molinard perfume worth writing about was Habanita—although the Royal[ties] Coup[le] did review a few of the Fragonard perfumes as well. Interestingly enough, they seemed to take Yves Rocher more seriously than Gallimard, a house which has existed since before the birth of Franz Schubert!

    My question is: how does Slumberhouse differ from these small Grasse-based houses? I know that you want to press the consumer's effort, but in this case, I flew to Paris, took a train to Nice, boarded a bus to Eze and then walked to Grasse! What do you think?

  42. Yes, you did go to great lengths to get to those places, but if you had had the good fortune to live there,it would have been no effort at all. So when we are talking about effort, perhaps to some degree we mean intellectual effort ?

    To be honest, I'm not really knowledgeable enough about the fragrance world to know how Josh and his operation differs from other small independent perfumers. But I do suspect there is some difference where he is concerned. I believe the small places in Grasse have mindfully selected that location because they hope to associate themselves as closely with the established perfume industry as a possible. Whereas through my correspondence with Josh, I get the sense this is not really what he strives to do at all.

    Plus I suspect the Grasse perfumers hope to represent themselves as coming from within a certain prior traditional interest in perfume. If they could come up with some great grand-uncle who was a perfumer, it's probably the first thing they would want to mention, whereas I don't think Josh is even on any of the forums or blogs. He seems to come from street culture instead. I absolutely know the part of Portland he lives in, and it's an area noted for it's unique street scene. Plus it's Portland, for crying out loud, where everything is sort of off-kilter.

    One thing he told me was that he feels he does his best work when he's in a space where he thinks no one will ever smell what he's working on, which I suspect is the exact opposite of the way most perfumers have to operate.

    So it's hard to say how he fits into things. I'm not sure he wants to fit in, to tell the truth.

    Again, his work could be written off as just a novelty, but knowledgeable people seem to feel his things are of interest, and I suspect that's what makes any form of art legitimate.

  43. Hello, Bob! Thanks so much for these suggestions of possible differences between Josh and the local, small-production perfumers located in Grasse.

    Yes, I agree that they probably do make a point of mentioning their heritage. As does Creed, of course, which many people would say is a niche perfumer. Actually this reminds me of several other ostensibly similar houses: Floris, Penhaligon, Krigler, et al., with long histories of perfume-making. In fact, my understanding is that most perfumers in France are the progeny of perfumers. That was certainly the history of Guerlain until only recently...

    Hmmmm.... I cannot help but wonder what Josh has been doing on the public relations front, especially since I saw that his perfumes are being reviewed at the German Parfumo--in German! Clearly the word has got out. My question is: How?

    Another example which may be similar is Michael Storer, who also appears to have something of a following despite his relative obscurity vis-à-vis larger-scale houses (whether niche or mainstream)... Although I should add that his website seems to be down right now. I wonder what the survival rate of these small houses is... It must be very, very tough out there.

  44. I can tell you that Josh has nothing going in the way of publicity aside from his website, which is fairly bare-bones to say the least. He's hooked up with Indiescents, but they do little other than list his things along with the other things they sell.

    So I suspect how the word has gotten out is via user comments on Basenotes and Fragrantia, and other sorts of modern "grapevine" ways of gaining recognition. Rather than any sort of advertizing campaign. Which is how other small makers today seem to get noticed as well ?

    I mean, he does not even have printed bottles or labels or any boxes at all for that matter, but just writes the names on them, graffiti style, with a silver Sharpie. Which kind of reflects his own particular heritage.

    So yes, not an established way of going at things at all. And who knows how long he will keep at it. But as with any young person, when you start seeing some real money coming from something that's you passion, I suspect we'll see him at it for a while.

  45. Hello, Bob! Yes, the very fact that we are discussing Slumberhouse illustrates how interest can be generated by word of mouth or, in the computer age, through various cyberforums.

    I myself am now very interested in trying Slumberhouse, though I only recently learned of its existence and am aware that it is one among probably hundreds of such operations. But I have heard about this one from people whom I regard as knowledgeable about perfume, so I'll have to give some of Josh's wares a sniff! It will be interesting to see how his packaging evolves as word continues to spread...

    I suppose that heritage/lineage snobs, who regard true perfumers as those who studied for years with the masters, would be skeptical that someone such as Josh could actually produce a great perfume "juste comme cela"...

    Just as desire and ambition do not alone an accomplished musician make, it does seem as though some kind of perfumery background would at least be helpful in avoiding common mistakes--of which we have all smelled quite a few....

  46. My opinion about NICHE:


    I will gladly discuss with you later on...


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