Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Perfume Journalism Achieves a New Nadir? The New York Times Strikes Again...

Many Mini Bacon Cheeseburgers

Perfume features are so rare at the New York Times that I found myself astounded to receive two email alerts within a two-week span. Last week's "news" was a market spot for a new fragrance and body product line at Target. This week? It must be the most poorly written, aimless, contentless, and utterly unedited piece of nothingness in the entire history of the New York Times. The critical thinker and blogger sherapop exhorts all salonistas to read for themselves the article incomprehensibly titled "Fragrance Foundation Awards: Glory and Aromatherapy":

The fashion editor Carine Roitfeld scanned the lobby at Alice Tully Hall on Monday evening. She was there for the annual Fragrance Foundation Awards (formerly nicknamed the FiFi awards), and it was cocktail hour, before the ceremony. Ms. Roitfeld was mostly left to herself.
“I don’t recognize a lot of people, and they don’t recognize me, either,” she said.
Compare this to the scene two weeks ago when the Council of Fashion Designers of America held its annual awards ceremony in this same space: it was packed with photographers, designers, editors and celebrities like Rihanna and Solange Knowles. Ms. Roitfeld would have been mobbed then. And though the fashion world and fragrance world overlap plenty, this was a bit easier to navigate.
“You have a little room here,” said the model Coco Rocha, wearing a Zac Posen organza bustier gown and, she said, id [sic] her own fragrance (“The name of it?” she said. “We’re not sure yet.”)
Indeed, there was plenty of jostling to find out who, well, smelled best.
“Everyone smells good at both,” said Marisa Tomei, comparing it to a Hollywood event. “Maybe it’s a little more unique here?”
Outside Alice Tully, a swath of the city had all eyes on the United States World Cup match (a victory over Ghana), being played during the cocktail hour. But this was a John Demsey crowd in a Clint Dempsey world. (For the uninitiated, Mr. Demsey is the group president of Estée Lauder Companies).
A little after 7 p.m., attendees shuffled into the Alice Tully theater for the ceremony. Victoria’s Secret and Ralph Lauren Fragrances were the big winners, with three awards among them (Ralph Lauren and L’Oréal for Polo Red, Victoria’s Secret for Victoria by Victoria Secret and a men’s cologne).
The actor Michael C. Hall, the model Hilary Rhoda and the actress Angie Harmon were among those who presented different awards. Their duties were not complicated. They each announced the name of the category and the winner (“It is my honor to introduce the finalists for interior scent collection of the year,” Ms. Tomei said, quite convincingly) while a faceless female voice actually rattled off the nominees, many of which included difficult-to-pronounce French perfumes.
Dana Carvey hosted the proceedings (his second year in a row). He relied on some familiar routines — it only took a few minutes before he broke into Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush impressions. And even he admitted it was a little odd that he was here.
“I must be so exotic to this audience,” Mr. Carvey said after the show. ““Like, ‘Who is this guy?’ Half the crowd, English must be their second language.”
As the show ended, dozens of guests made their way to a sidewalk plaza for mini bacon cheeseburgers, an open bar and a cigarette break. There was actually lots of smoking, concealing plenty of carefully selected fragrances. “Very European, huh?” Mr. Carvey said.
If there was one star everyone wanted to meet at the end of the awards, it was Gwendoline Christie, also known as Brienne of Tarth from “Game of Thrones.” A throng of well-wishers waited patiently in line to get a photo taken with her and congratulate her on a gritty performance from the season finale, which was shown the night before. But one guest, who had gray hair and wore dark sunglasses, had just one question for the actress, who loomed over every person in the room.
“I’m sorry, but how tall are you?” she asked.
“I’m 6-foot-3, but I’m wearing five-inch heels tonight, so,” Ms. Christie said, smiling.
The guest walked away nodding her head.

Well, I'll second that!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Trickle Down or Wash Out? Niche Perfumery Takes a Hit--From the New York Times!

I subscribe to "Perfume News" from the New York Times, which seldom arrives, and on the rare occasion when it does, usually turns out to be a press release about a new mass market fragrance or line which somehow made it past the gatekeepers who presumably determine what does and does not constitute news. It's not that surprising, really, given that the perfume industry is an intrinsically hype-ridden zone. The "critics" (I mean the ones who earn money for writing about perfume...) are shills; the perfumers are often hacks. Big corporations--above all, LVMH, Procter & Gamble, Estée Lauder, and Coty Prestige--continue to gobble up small houses and are, needless to say, profit driven. What's new in any of that?

Yesterday's NYT Perfume News, "Trickle Down Fragrances: Mass-Market Perfumes Developed by High-Price Noses," was remarkable in that it not only shilled for a new perfume line, the Sonia Kashuk Collection for Target, but also directly attacked the niche perfumery enterprise, claiming that comparable perfumes can be had for a fraction of the cost:

Perfume lovers can now buy a deeply scented bottle of a new eau de toilette, blended with natural oils of sandalwood and jasmine absolute sambac, both imported from India, formulated by the French-trained perfumer who has worked on scents from luxurious niche brands like Atelier Cologne, which last year introduced a pair of fragrances in sleek glass bottles infused with either gold or silver, retailing at $195.
That earthy scent, called Red Promisia, costs $19.99 and is sold only at Target.

Am I the only person to question, first, whether this is news and, second, whether any of it is true? Let's consider four more specific questions, since comments were not allowed on this "news feature" at the New York Times:

  1. Isn't Indian sandalwood in short supply? Isn't that part of the reason why Guerlain Samsara was reformulated?
  2. Isn't jasmine absolute restricted by the IFRA? Isn't that another part of the reason why Guerlain Samsara was reformulated?
  3. I am admittedly not the biggest fan of Atelier Cologne, but don't their $195 bottles hold a full 200ml? 
  4. Finally, who is Rachel Helder, and for whom does she really work?