Friday, March 30, 2012

Flankers, Twitter, and the Fall of Western Civilization

Emilio Pucci Vivara (2007)

It has become redundant to the point of banality to observe how much the world has changed since the advent of the internet. The way we write (cut and paste), the way we socialize (Facebook, email, text messaging and Twitter), and even the way we think (in bullet-pointed lists) have all been changed irrevocably by the military-industrial complex's only bona fide gift to humanity: the personal computer. Sure, computers were designed in order be able to direct weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles to home in on their unsuspecting targets in lands far away, but that did not prevent them from being used for less nocent purposes as well, for which we have capitalism, too, to thank.

Old fogies lament the imminent disappearance of the book, while young people revel in the vast array of new outlets for their creative energies made possible by computer technology. But everyone, young and old alike, has been changed by the computer age. Remember those stalwart figures (with stock holdings in the ill-fated USPS?) who claimed that they would never use e-mail? Where are they now? Well, if they're still alive, you can be sure that they are receiving and paying bills online, in addition to clicking on greeting card links and either reading or deleting all of those lame forwarded jokes preceded by lengthy headers.

Similarly, people who were saddened by the disappearance of, first, LPs (long-playing record albums), then, cassette tapes, and now CDs (compact discs) have simply failed to grasp the abundant wonderfulness of being able to store thousands of different musical works on an ipod. The days of scratched and broken records are now forever gone.

Movies, too, have undergone a radical transformation. First, there were only movie reels screened at theaters. Then, long, long ago, the battle between Betamax and VHS tapes was won by the latter, only to be subsequently replaced by DVDs (digital video discs). Today, visual media are being transmitted more and more through wireless streaming onto screens the size of walls in our humble abodes.

This latest development completely erases any remaining vestige of allure which once upon a time motivated us to get dressed and leave the comfort of our couch to journey out into the night in order to sit in a multiplex cinema and listen to rude people talk and smokers cough while trying to watch a movie which usually, being first-run, was not worth watching anyway.

Whether one likes the feel of books or the gleam of an LP, one can scarcely deny that the capacity to carry one's entire library of media with oneself all over the world on a hand-held device constitutes an advance of sorts. So many of these materials—texts, music, and video images—are immediately accessible for free, that there is not even that much need to own such things anymore. Of course, we all need our hand-held devices of preference, whether netbook, i-pad, Kindle, Nook, i-pod, i-phone, or (most likely) some union of the above. But even all of them together would not exceed the volume capacity of a small drawer.

Certainly the people who inhabit tiny studio apartments in Manhattan have been aided by the near obsolescence of the physical book, the physical music track, and the physical movie. Yes, it has finally become possible to realize their sad quest to live a domestic life including family and pets within a space spanning 300 sq ft.

What could be wrong with any of this?

One aspect of this twenty-first-century world which seems to me to be undergoing a devolution rather than an improvement is the value of text. Everyone today is a writer: it is a part of being a person in society at this point. People today interact using written words with great frequency across many different platforms.

Perhaps we should be glad that literacy is becoming more and more a requirement of personhood as computers spread from First to Third World countries. Humanity, it might seem, on the whole, is being elevated by the computer age, which requires us to be able to exercise our written language capacity in situations which formerly called for spoken words. In fact, today even illiterate persons can capture their version of history for posterity by speaking into the microphone of a computer equipped with Dragon software. The question, however, remains: Will anyone ever read the text thus transcribed?

Yes, the downside of all of this prodigious production of text is a veritable bloating of the verbal universe. There are so many words being written by so many people that it has become exceedingly difficult to sift the wheat from the chaff. We have begun to resort to and indeed depend upon social media measures of popularity in determining which among this quasi-infinitude of texts merit our attention.

Part of this transformation has involved an unabashed egocentrism, involving people asking one another to “like” them on Facebook or to “follow” them on Twitter. Regrettably, persons whose calling it might have been in the twentieth century to be a writer, may now find themselves spending vastly more time on public relations and marketing activities than on writing itself. Would-be writers may thereby sabotage themselves by focusing too obsessively upon how to prove that they are not merely one among millions of bloggers but actual writers. By expending their energy and the best hours of their day on self-promotion, they may end by becoming precisely what they aimed to avoid.

One always hopes, of course, that the cream will rise naturally to the top, but what if no one can find the tiny dots of cream floating atop this vast ocean of verbiage? The problem for writers today is that they are no longer competing so much with writers as with companies who use the very same media for peddling their wares.

Yes, the “social media” originally intended to help people “connect” with one another, and soon thereafter touted by some as a boon for humanity, have been progressively capitalized, and are being used more and more by companies and organizations with profit-making agendas. If you click “like” for any product or store, your Facebook friends will shortly thereafter learn about this fact, for it will appear as an advertisement on their profile.

Worse, when you go to a site which has been “liked” by your friends, their names will be used as an advertisement at that site to you and all of their other friends (who are only one friend removed and therefore likely to be similar to you), whether they had any idea that this was going to happen or not.

People are probably beginning to catch on to how their seemingly innocent clicking of “like” to enter a contest for a free give-away leads directly to their open-ended—indeed, infinite (barring future legislation...)—endorsement of the company and its products. Still, many seem not to be very bothered by any of this at all. It's all a big, fun, “FB Friend”-ly, “like”-able (and not dis-”like”able) connected world! Pass the Prozac (or one of its SSRI [selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor] successors and/or add-ons), log on, and tune out from physical reality while you track the number of “likes” you received on your Facebook comments on other virtual people's comments since the last time you logged on.

Better yet, carry your wireless mobile device with you wherever you go and Twitter to your fawning followers throughout the day so that they will feel connected with you as you peruse the aisles at the grocery store, stop for a bite to eat, or wait fuming in a traffic jam. Boredom and loneliness are clearly things of the past, thanks to Facebook and Twitter, which keep us connected potentially 24/7 to anyone who regards us as worthy of their followership. (I, of course, would never have as a follower anyone willing to follow me.)

Do I detect a slight look of consternation in the reader's eyes? What in the world does any of this have to do with perfume? you may well be wondering. Quite a lot, it will emerge very soon.

Facebook and Twitter may seem on their surface to be harmless and free, but they have hidden costs, as we shall shortly see. Some of these costs are already fairly well known. The misfortunes which have befallen some persons imprudent enough to publish on the internet information of a personal or confidential nature (thought to be shared only among select Facebook Friends, perhaps in a closed group turned open by a careless administrator) have been used as cautionary tales to those who would trash their boss or their former roommates on the very public world wide web.

I am interested in a different sort of effect, one which heretofore appears not to have been recognized by anyone else. I openly aver that the question which I would like to present for your consideration today, my fellow fragrant travelers, may seem initially preposterous. Nonetheless, I am confident that, on reflection, you will come ultimately to agree that, like Prozac and the other SSRIs, social media, too, may have unforeseen and untoward consequences, specifically, in the case of Twitter, for the world of perfumery.

Does Twitter Cause Flankers?

I am aware that this question has probably not flittered through any of your minds before. What in the world does Twitter have to do with flankers? inquiring minds may well want to know. And I do not deny the manifest reasonableness of the question, because few, if any, people have to date taken note of the Twitter-Flanker connection which I propose here to illuminate.

Many perfumistas have lamented the massive explosion of perfume flankers launched in the twenty-first century. Is it a mere coincidence that Twitter, too, has grown exponentially over the course of the very same few years? I think not.

Flankers and limited-edition releases (often of the same perfume or a tweaked version in a newly decorated bottle) are creatures of the twenty-first century. Michael Edwards, author of Fragrances of the World—which, by the way, is actually a genuine guide to perfume—reports these dramatic changes over the past two decades: there were “1200 new launches in 2011, compared with 372 launches in 2001 and just 76 in 1991.”

The 28th edition of Fragrances of the World, to appear in 2012

According to Edwards, “In 1991, no one had really heard of limited-edition scents or ‘flankers’, while in 2001 there were 32 limited editions and 52 flankers. Those numbers have now sky-rocketed to 236 limited-edition scents and 197 flankers in 2011.”

Part of the disparity in the numbers can be explained by the increased tendency toward simultaneous multiple launches, which have become more and more common over the course of the past decade. Consider the Dolce & Gabbana Anthology simultaneous release of five new perfumes in 2009: 

D&G Anthology (2009)

The original five perfumes launched in 2009 were: Le Bateleur 1, L'Impératrice 3, L'Amoureux 6,  La Roue de la Fortune 10, and La Lune 19. These were then followed up upon by new members to the series, La Force 11 (also in 2009), La Tempérance 14 (2011), Le Fou 21 (2011), and L'Empéreur 4 (2012). Are any of these perfumes flankers? Not in the strict sense, but they are created in the same spirit: quick and easy releases in readily identifiable bottles which capitalize on the success of earlier releases and all of those which look the same. The cryptic digit labeling system of these perfumes suggests that new series members bearing the numbers 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 20 may be imminent!

In any case, the data seems beyond dispute: flankers and serial releases are a twenty-first-century phenomenon. Twitter, having been created only in 2006, is undeniably a full-fledged twenty-first-century phenomenon. Correlation or causality? I ask most sincerely. And I am persuaded that the reader will come over to my side having once ruminated upon the essential nature of a Tweet.

A Tweet is a tiny, 140-character-maximum-length message. What does it convey? It conveys news. Something new has happened in the world to someone (the Tweeter or Twit) somewhere, who decides to report this event in a Tweet to his or her followers.

Perhaps he bought a new car, or she a pair of shoes. Perhaps a happy couple is meeting to dine at a new restaurant or to attend an art exposition and one or both of them wish to share this news with their friends. The keyword common to every single Tweet ever Twittered by any Twitterer (or Twit) is: NEW.

Now, we have considered above how companies have elbowed their way into the social media landscape to become our “friends” and fearless leaders (when we “follow” them) through a variety of machinations usually involving special offers and/or discounts, also known as “bribes”.

But these companies do not buy new cars and shoes or eat at new restaurants or attend art exhibitions. No, companies,  no matter how well they may masquerade themselves as our friends, in reality, have only one thing to tweet: they have something new which they would like you to buy.

It may be difficult to face the music, but the truth is that perfume companies are no exception to this general rule. The launch of a new product, and in the case of perfume houses, a new perfume, is the content of a meaningful Tweet, from the perspective of the company itself, a profit-seeking organization.

I see in my mind's eye the readers in my midst in the grip of an “ah-ha” moment. Yes, my fellow fragrant travelers, I contend that Twitter is indeed, against all appearances and expectations, the ultimate cause of what may be best described as Flanker Madness. Make no mistake: Twitter has single-handedly generated such a rapid proliferation of perfume launches that the vast majority of perfumes being produced at this point in history are either flankers or quasi-flankers, most of which are hastily composed and poured into the bottles of their predecessors in order to able to announce, in a Tweet, to the followers of the house, that there is news.

Does the Success of Twitter Spell Disaster for Perfumery?

The Flanker folie has ramified beyond the realm of mainstream houses to infect niche houses as well. Hence the ever-more frequent specter of launches by niche houses of entire series of new perfumes. No, they are not flankers in the strict sense of the word, but they do appear to be produced under a new principle guiding perfumers today which has eclipsed the former telos of beauty and art. This new guiding principle is, stated succinctly: “Safety in numbers”.

The examples of these multi-launches are too numerous to enumerate, and I should clarify that I am quite fond of a few select creations of many different houses, but the vast majority of niche launches have about as much value as one should expect something to have which was created in one-tenth of the time that perfumers used to take in creating a single new perfume.

Some of the most prolific houses established in the twenty-first century, Montale, Bond no. 9, Keiko Mecheri, Boadicea the Victorious, to name a few from an ever-expanding group of multi-launchers, now boast perfume lists whose numbers approach the triple-digit mark.

Fine, you may say: what's wrong with that? In order to illustrate the problem here, let us pause to reflect for a moment on what has happened to text in the twenty-first century. In the case of the text explosion occasioned by the advent of the internet, the value of each individual text is diminished by its relative obscurity vis-à-vis all of the rest, and all the more because writers themselves are spending less time on their craft and more on public relations.

I contend that, in the case of perfumery, too, the bloating of the perfume universe with meaningless flankers and the use of social media to increase sales and thereby dictate taste (because most consumers tend to wear what they buy, and once they buy a perfume, they don't need another) has a similar effect.

The veritable explosion of new launches, both mainstream and niche, virtually guarantees that quality will suffer, for perfumers themselves, like writers, are fighting to survive in a world which rewards quick and frequent releases. This means that perfumers, too, are being changed by the need to alter their behavior in response to the demands placed upon them by the capitalized social media.

As perfumes become more and more subjected to the selection processes shaping the market through social media measures, perfumers, too, may find themselves preoccupied more and more with public relations and self-promotion than with the art of perfume. What is worse, it is very difficult to see how this vicious spiral, now well underway, might ever be called to a halt. Perfume houses large and small, mainstream and niche, have heeded the cry “Tweet or die” in their endeavor to survive in the ever-more competitive company-colonized social-media market today.

What appears to have emerged out of all of this chaos is, regrettably, a now fairly well-established Lego perfumery movement, as I have come to label the phenomenon. Lego perfumery involves the piecing together of new perfumes using pre-constructed units or modules, what are, in effect, accord building blocks. Will Lego perfumery prevail in the age of Twitter, and finally render obsolete the painstaking process of composing a classic perfume from scratch over a period of years by an olfactory artist? This is my concern.

So there you have it, my identification and indictment of the primary culprit behind the current crisis in perfumery, which appears to be careering ever more recklessly toward triviality, having yet even to establish itself in the eyes of the masses as a legitimate art in the first place. I rest my case, and call upon you, my fellow fragrant travelers, to illuminate the errors in my argument, if any, as I am unable to discern them myself.

Pray tell: where have I gone astray?


  1. Hiya sherapop, it is so easy to get caught up in the moment, everything you say is true but I would contend that we have the capacity to do something about it, the future is in our hands.
    And this may be circuitous but stay with me.

    I'm watching football, Australian Rules, I've played the game from an early age as well as Cricket and Soccer, because of my cultural indoctrination from the early years I can talk about these sports for hours, the minute examination of how clubs run and the thought processes of the people involved. Like every could have been I see myself in those young men competing in billion dollar sporting industries, I am one of them at heart.

    I have however been raised in a family where sports and arts were regarded as equally important but there were differences in how people engaged in the different spheres. My experience of sports is that people give of themselves in unpaid positions, they organise training, become presidents, secretaries and treasurers, they believe in the merit of participation of sharing and community they most importantly organise children to give them an opportunity to enjoy the sport thay love. It doesn't matter how good they are as long as they participate, and this gives them a basis for understanding that they can build on for their entire lives and so it continues for generations. I have done as my grandfather, and mother did, as my brothers have done, we have volunteered and taught; albeit badly.

    The diffeence with the arts is as simple as they want to have very little do do with teaching children and if they are willing they either need to be paid or they would only do it if there was a concept of charity involved. I have writers, painters and musicians of very high quality in the family, I have known poets and dancers, all of them lovely people that hold all the best causes, and they all complain of the Australian culture that doesn't value them more.

    The lesson is that if we truly love something we do it for nothing, we do it so other people can share in it's beauty and share our joy.

    Just as it is true that not all of us can go to the opera, or the ballet and come away in raptures so it is also true that not all of us can see the beauty in the great perfumes and as perfumery is an art so there will be more variation in ideas of merit, sport at least has a scoreboard, a determined winner or loser.

    In my view we are at the start of a perfumed golden age, there is plenty of dross out there, plenty of formulaic rubbish, but we have a chance too make a difference, to talk and to share. If we meet someone that smells gorgeous; tell them. Strike up conversations that show we are interested and expect nothing in return. Even if it's to talk about how our world smells, always remember that the greatest power we have is that of our own example. If we are engaged, discerning and we share then so will others.
    It may be the only thing that we can teach is discernment, for the time being all we have to contend with is quantity, someone will work out that quality counts as well. Every year there is a Grand Final, a World Series, and were not in it. We all sing in shower and pretend that we are stars, we have all danced like there is no one watching.

    Communicate in a way that works for you, Twitter if you must, but I prefer the personal touch, I talk to people I know, offer them samples or do whatever your comfortable with.

    1. Dear dacha,

      Welcome back to the salon—it's always a pleasure to read your insights!

      Thank you for pointing out that these communities in which we participate are OUR communities, so they become ultimately what we make of them and have all and only the significance which we impart to them.

      I agree that there are clear signs that people are becoming more involved in the once completely obscure world of perfumery. We have huge online communities of perfumistas convening to discuss the object of their love, and this has got to have a positive effect on the industry, even as the flanker explosion continues to work in the opposite direction by promoting the purchase of meaningless, vat-produced chemical soups by mainstream perfume users.

      I also appreciate your perspective on how we find ourselves in these subcultures and make our own personal world in relation to them. So, yes, I agree that we are not helpless slaves to the economic forces propelling the flanker folie and the infection of social media by companies. It's up to us, you are right, in the end, to be masters of our own destiny! The private sphere is a cherished space impenetrable by outside forces—unless we grant them admission... So we can work to enrich our perfume communities in just the ways you say: by focusing on the real reasons why we have come together, to share our perspectives on and appreciation of perfume and thereby enrich everyone's experience of it.

      Thank you for casting a hopeful light on what may seem on its face to be a rather dismal state of affairs!

  2. Valid points as always. Drawn to possible extremes (possible, not possibly) but I what I kept from your article is:
    1. Format is the new medium
    2. Newer is the new new
    3. A circle of friends (virtual or real, important or not that's for each one of us to define, depending on our use of social media) becomes a marketing tool

    The format of perfume does not seem to change in the near future. The pursuit of newer has lead to the flanker explosion but they are targeting mass audiences who probably would never think of using more than one bottle at the same time. At the same time this pursuit has lead to the perfume blog explosion, it has lead me to find this blog among many others and choose to read it. Of course there are many "serious" blogs which in their pursuit of their next post treat flankers as real releases. I do not follow these blogs.

    And the last point I would like to make is that twiter is a big success in the US only. Its use in Europe is a lot less prominent and I think it has to do with the Americans having a lower fear of exposure. I find twiter boring, extremely time consuming and defocusing. I do not believe that twiter is the future of marketing. Eventually all this blabber will calm down and hopefully we will have a few more people who will have discovered that perfume can communicate ideas, flankers will have names that will be too big to fit on the bottle and we will be happy again. Not!

    1. Dear Christos,

      Welcome back! I am so glad that you dropped by to point out some problems with my doom-and-gloom prognosis on the future of perfumery.

      You point out that the same forces which have led to flanker madness have also led to the equally new phenomenon of online perfume communities, and I must concede, on reflection, that you are right. Although many perfumistas were interested in perfume back in the twentieth century, the possibility of interacting with equally obsessed perfume lovers was basically nonexistent until not too long ago. So in tandem with the exponential increase in new perfume releases has been the salubrious creation of these communities in which we are now able to participate.

      I have to say that I know very few people in my immediate physical surroundings who appreciate perfume in the way in which many of us who have blogs and contribute to community websites do. Honestly, I have provided links a couple of times to "outsiders" and have received total silence in response! In our happy little subculture, it seems that perfume is very important, but in the bigger world, it is not.

      Which is not to say that people do not consume perfume. They do, but many of them do so in the way in which they consume personal hygiene products (a.k.a. "toiletries). So from their perspective, one or two perfumes is completely sufficient for their needs, just as no one really has a huge collection of deodorant. There are no doubt outliers such as myself about some of these products. I recall one time when my father was visiting, he asked, "Do you really need to have seven different toothpastes?" (-; But the vast majority of people have one toothpaste, one deodorant and, yes, one perfume or cologne.

      Anyway, so, yes: the silver lining on the cloud is that if perfume were not a lucrative business, then there would be no advertising to support online perfume communities such as Parfumo and Fragrantica. But the more online presence there is, the more perfumistas are created, at the same time that companies clamor for wallet share by producing new launches with a dizzying frequency. So I think that what you are reminding us of here is that it's a package deal: we get the good, but we have to tolerate the bad because without at least some of the bad, the circumstances for the good would not exist.

    2. Reply to Christos, cont'd.

      This leads to another of your points: will things die down eventually? That is an excellent question, and I think that I may be less optimistic than you. I'll probably develop the Lego perfumery idea more thoroughly and post that as a follow-up, but let me here observe that I do think that we've fallen to some extent into a vicious vortex, because niche perfumers are modifying their behavior in response to the mainstream moves. Example: Keiko Mecheri is launching a set of “Bespoke” perfumes, redefining that word for some reason to mean “special”. But they aren't special, if they are launched in a group, are they? And if they are intended for consumers in general, then they are not really bespoke at all.

      Even Andy Tauer, who is my idea of the quintessential perfumer, launched the Pentachords, again, a set. As you say, “new is the new new.” So I guess that I do not see (and I may simply be myopic) how this trend can be reversed, now that “the horse is out of the barn,” so to speak. My concern is that we perfumistas are feeding all of this frenzy, among other ways, by ordering sample sets. I myself now shun decanters and purchase niche samples only directly from houses or licensed purveyors of their perfumes. But many perfumistas spend most if not all of their wallet share on decanted perfumes and samples, rather than helping niche perfumers to stay afloat by directing perfume profits their way.

      The more perfumistas become obsessed with testing new niche perfumes, the more perfumers are compelled to produce them in order to stay in business. This leads to the discontinuation of good perfumes, superseded by whatever happens to be new, and the trivialization of what is being produced EVEN by niche perfumers, as they are bound to become jaded by all of this at some point.

      I certainly hope that you are right and I am wrong, but I cannot see what would call a halt to this seemingly inexorable march, which has been exacerbated by the pseudo-niche launches being put out by many mainstream houses as well. Consider for example the Estée Lauder Private Collection or the Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire, to name only two of many possible examples.

      Your final note on Twitter is very well taken, and in fact a source of relief. I am happy that Twitter has not taken off in Europe. I have always thought that Twitter is a recipe for ADD (attention deficit disorder)—constant disruptions making it impossible to concentrate and focus on one thing, because tweets blipping in disrupt the stream of one's thought. So I agree with you about that.

      However, my understanding is that there are something like 300 million Twits at this point in history. Again, there is a sort of self-propelling mechanism involved. The more people do it, the more people will do it. Same with Facebook, of course, which I initially shunned as puerile and akin to popularity contests in high school. Now I use Facebook for communicating with my perfume friends (all of whom are virtual), but I generally do not use Facebook for other purposes (I have an account only under my perfume name, sherapop) and consider it to be largely a waste of time, as many other people have of course observed.

      So what does the future hold in store for perfumery? I hope that you are right and that all of this blabber, as you put it so aptly, will quiet down at some point. But honestly, I do not see how this might happen. In the meantime, I think that I'll take refuge in dacha's approach, above, and make of my perfumed life what I want it to be, in spite of all of the nonsense I see.

      Your blog, Memory of Scent, for example, is a source of value to me, and I, like you, have no interest in reading people's gushing praise of flankers. In general, I avoid all blogs (of which there are many) which laud every single perfume launched as a God send. Are they kidding?

      Thank you so much, Christos, for applying your incisive intellect to these matters and sharing your ideas with us.

  3. Being the eternal optimist (when I have nothing else to resort to) I will say that I entered the perfume community searching for a bottle of discontinued Donna Karan Men. I realised that there are people who take perfume as seriously as I would like to take it. Who I am as a perfume lover was shaped by the perfume community and perfume blogs. Of course the choices I made are mine. Some of the people exposed to this sea of perfume and perfume related information will choices that will lead to exciting things.

    As far as the flanker boom (and niche and independent release boom) it is obviously a bubble and like all bubbles it will collapse. The reason even independent perfumers succumb to the temptation of releasing series of scents is because we have reached this dangerous point were we are discussing whether perfumery is an art form. The series trend is an attempt to make a cohesive statement, to create a sort of taxonomy inside a line, to justify aesthetic choices as a logical, structured development. I will not comment on the pseudo-bespoke category which was expected after the pseudo-niche Dolce & Gabana line.

    Twiter is another manifestation of a very dangerous trend: not only we must talk a lot but we must also say things others will like. I remember an infuriated twiter user who felt a grave injustice was inflicted upon him because Klout had changed its ranking system. He twited "I had worked hard to get my klout score high only to see it drop again". I was shocked by this statement, wondering am I stupid or can't he just see in what distorted reality he lives? What he twited was less important than the impact it had so he gad to devise a strategy to increase the degree of infiltration to other twiters. The problem is that this norm of conformity does not start with twiter but it stems from society. Pre-election polls, apart from the obvious "who are you going to vote for?" questions also contain the question "who do you consider most likely to win?", a question as important and conclusive as "which numbers do you think are going to win the lotto?". This question however is used to manipulate public opinion and turn choice into popularity contest. Twiter is the biggest popularity contest in the history of mankind.

    1. It's a bubble; bubbles pop. Oh, good you have a theory, and it's even plausible. You have provided rational grounds for hope! Thank you, Christos!

      Maybe I'm worried about the LVMH, EL, Coty, and P&G take-overs of everything? And what happens if those behemoths form an über-behemoth? Does that concern you at all?

      Maybe I'm succumbing to angst for no reason whatsoever. Think of music, for example, one of my favorite analogies. Yes, there's plenty of bad pop music, and it is obviously driven by some of the same powerful corporate forces, but that doesn't prevent true musicians from exercising their art. So perhaps there will always be true perfumers, too? I don't know. I cannot decide whether perfumery is doomed because perfume itself is consumed.

      What do you think?

  4. I do not think that perfume is consumed because it is a basic need and a very primitive one. Of course I worry about LVMH and company. It seems we live in a "fin de millénaire" era, something that has never been described before and we are going to see a lot of changes. Even if LVMH takes over the world the multitude of independent perfumers will be there to make a difference. Of course we live in a world of monopolies but it seems that this is a deep end that we have to go through to get to other side. To use the music analogy, who would have thought a few decades ago that there would be hits without a record contract? And there have been. Internet was created for specific reasons but it has become a creature of its own creating exceptions to the rules. They are still exceptions but the point is that they are very unpredictable exceptions.

    I do not mean to sound like everything is rosy. On the contrary. I just believe that some of what we consider evils today will be tomorrow's saviours.

    1. Good Morning, Christos!

      Perfume is "consumed" in the sense that one buys a bottle and eventually drains it. This necessitates the re-purchase of either the same product or a replacement if one is to continue perfuming oneself. This is not the case for music, which is inexhaustible: you buy a music track (CD, download, album, or whatever) and it is yours forever.

      But your remarks have made me think more closely about the perfume market, and now I'm thinking that it is much closer to the wine market. In fact, if I think of perfumery on analogy to wine-making, then I see that your optimism is not at all ill-founded and in fact you may be right.

      The fact that fine wine makers may scale the heights does not prevent average people from buying and consuming cheap wine. Nor do effects at the lower strata (box and jug wine promotions, etc.) affect the artists at the top. In recent years, the quality of all “cheap” wine seems to have improved as consumers have become more and more sophisticated, with many of them emerging as self-styled connoisseurs.

      This would suggest that haute parfumerie, too, will survive as an art. There will always be hoards of people at the lower echelons buying and using whatever vat-produced juice is being foisted upon them. But there may well be a trickle-down effect from the fact that niche perfumeries are being sustained by an ever-expanding subculture of perfumistas coming together at various venues (blogs and community websites). So now that I think about it, I see that my worry may have been for naught.

      As you say, perfume is “a basic need and a primitive one,” so it's not as though people are going to stop perfuming themselves. The question remains: what will they use? As in the case of wine, it seems as though the baseline expectations of even unsophisticated consumers may be raised by the increased attention being paid to perfume by not only companies but also perfumistas. We write reviews, and they are read by more and more people each day as they discover the existence of online resources previously unavailable.

      People used be wholly dependent for their perfume knowledge on whatever sales associates told them at department stores. Today, however, it's quite clear that many consumers are more sophisticated than the sales associates attempting to sell their store's wares.

      Hmmm.... now that I think of all of this, I'm wondering what I was worried about. Oh, right, the corporate take-overs. Independent perfumers may still find it more and more difficult to make a go of it given the vast marketing resources available to larger companies. But it does seem that we can have some effect by supporting small niche houses when they produce high-quality, excellent perfumes and spreading the word by reviewing those perfumes.

      Thank you, Christos, for illuminating the errors in my thought and providing rational grounds for hope! (-;

  5. I didn't mean to correct though! It is just that even in the darkest hour I try to focus on whatever glimpse of light I can get :-)

    But I do think that music is consumed. It is intangible. Digital formats are downloaded and stored in mobile devices, computers and hard discs. But do you really believe that buyers meticulously back up their purchased music so that it lasts forever? I seriously doubt this.


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