Parisian Grafitti artist Francoise Neilly
In a “Letter from the Editor” dated May 26, 2011 Michelyn Camen shared some startling news gathered in a McCann Worldgroup study. According to the study, 53% of today’s youth ages 16-22 would rather go without their sense of smell than give up their technology. Then a year later, Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) revealed that the youth generation was important to the marketing and creation of new fragrances. “When you look at the combination of Justin Bieber Someday and Taylor Swift’s Wonderstruck, together they accounted for half of the U.S. growth in fragrance last season” (This quote is from Kathy Widmer, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Elizabeth Arden, June 12, 2012).
Thanks to online fragrance forums and the blogosphere, there is more information available about fragrance than ever before. Many members and posters (more than I actually ever imagined) are 18-25. I asked four young perfumistas to speak openly about their passion for perfume, olfaction, technology and their feelings about the ever growing number of celebrity scents.
Our panel consists of Kathryn McBarron (age 21, from Victoria Australia), Matthew Miller (age 20, from Pennsylvania), Joshua Ryan (age 21, from Florida) and Connor McDonald (age 21, from Colorado).
JR: What got you interested in fragrance, and when?
Kathryn: I was always intrigued by the perfume counters in the department stores for as long as I can remember. In my senior years at high school, I tried to wear perfume every day. When I left home, the desire to collect my own perfumes really began. I started off collecting Britney Spears fragrances (my idol at the time), this grew into a need to discover what else was out there. In the last four years, I have grown from a novice to a full-blown perfume enthusiast and now perfume is an obsession rather than a hobby.
Matthew: My interest in fragrance, or scent itself completely stems from the olfactory memory that it builds.
The way something actually smells, this comes secondary to my own personal tastes. It MUST move me!
Joshua: I have always had several fragrances, but did not become a collector until July, 2011. Beyonce’s fragrances are the brand/line that opened my eyes to the world of fragrance, and, incidentally, my significant other is a Beyonce fan!
Connor: I’ve always lead with my nose. As a kid, I would identify the coats of my parent's holiday party guests by their smell, and identified my aunt’s lost dog with a quick whiff. Beyond my peculiar fascination with smell; my first fragrance was a bottle of Him by GAP, scavenged from the trash can of my older brother when I was about 10. However my real passion for fragrance developed as I entered high school and doesn't show much evidence of stopping.
JR: Do your (non-virtual) friends share your interest in fragrance?
Kathryn: I have yet to meet someone that shares the same perfume interest as myself; however I am to blame for some of my friends’, relatives’ and boyfriend's 'larger than usual' perfume collections. In my circle, many ask me for fragrance advice quite often, and enjoy placing their wrists under my nose to see if I can guess their perfume correctly. My boyfriend is perhaps the only one that seems to have 'caught on' to the perfume craze. In retrospect, it has brought us closer together. It is nice to have at least one person in your life that shares your excitement.
Matthew: My (non-virtual) friends, most times, have a very limited knowledge of perfumery and fragrance. They may share with me what their favorites are, but otherwise have little else to say on the subject.
Joshua: Specifically, friends outside of the internet? Their love for fragrance is very limited. I would have to say: no.
Connor: A few of my friends really see how much I enjoy it, often noticing how my posture changes when I speak on the subject. These are the ones that ask what I'm wearing and for recommendations. However, most just listen and nod, while I watch my words fly right over their heads!
JR: How do you learn about fragrances?
Kathryn: All my prior knowledge comes from a lot of reading. I regularly check online perfume databases if I want to know anything about new releases, scent pyramids or everyday people's opinions (which I highly value). Perfume blogs are also very helpful, and have filled in many blank spaces with their insightful knowledge, facts and opinions. Still learning, most of my knowledge stems from my own personal sniffing experiences mixed with other's reviews and credited information. Keeping an open mind is my key to understanding the perfume world. The realization that perfume is indeed an art form leaves this world open for interpretation.
Matthew: Mostly through research on different fragrance databases, websites and blogs such as Cafleurebon.
Joshua: I learn through many wonderful sources, for example: perfume blogs, fragrance forums, & database sites dedicated just to fragrances and people who love them.
Connor: I am from Cleveland, Ohio and attending school in Boulder, Colorado. I have limited access to much of the fragrance world. Aside from DSH Perfumes (in town); blog posts, samples, bottles and on line magazines like Cafleurebon, help to broaden my knowledge and vocabulary. But I still have A LOT to learn…and to smell.
JR: What are your favorite fragrances, right now?
Kathryn: I am such a floozy when it comes to staying true to my top five fragrances. If you asked me tomorrow, I may have a different answer. Today my favorites are (in no particular order):
Britney Spears Believe
Annick Goutal Passion EDP
Estee Lauder Sensuous Noir
Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose-Gardenia
Burberry Weekend for Women
Matthew: Top five?! Alright, here we go…
Thierry Mugler Angel
YSL Body Kouros
Givenchy Xeryus Rouge
Joshua: I own a few fragrances shy of 150. My favorites are always changing, however as of right now my top 5 would be:
Thierry Mugler Alien
Thierry Mugler Womanity
Thierry Mugler Angel Eau de Toilette 2011
L’Artisan Parfumeur Seville a l’Aube by Bertrand Duchaufour (not yet available at retail, young and resourceful)
Connor: I'd have to say:
-HERMES Hermessence Poivre Samarcande (by Jean Claude Ellena)
-Le Labo Rose 31
–Bois d’Orange by Pierre Bourdon for Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle
(I struggled with whether to also add Platinum Egoiste by CHANEL)
JR: If you had to make a choice, would you choose smell or technology…and why?
Kathryn: Only recently I have been anti-technology. I refuse to buy any of the latest anything starting with I-something. It seems I’m becoming ‘old-fashioned’, as I near my 22nd birthday. I keep my perfume tastes current, if anything. I would most certainly choose my sense of smell. My sense of smell inspires me greatly, and without it I doubt I would enjoy perfume, food, strolling through gardens or life itself. I would also hate to not be able to smell the people around me either. Not knowing that you or the person next to you reeks of bad body odor is a frightening thought!
Matthew: On one hand, without scent we would have nothing to talk about on our fragrance websites. On the other hand, without our fragrance websites and various fragrance technologies would we even have anything to talk about? To me, this is an oxymoron because under the pretense of "the fragrance community" neither can exist without the other. Now in the natural world: Would I give up technology to be able to smell? Probably, but it's entirely situational and depends, based on how you apply the question.
Joshua: I would choose smell over a smartphone any day of the week. But when it comes down to it, I wouldn't know a fraction of what I know about fragrances without technology. I would definitely go with technology over smell.
Connor: The decision is quite easy for me. Smell fascinates me. From its ability to transport me, to its artistry in perfume, to the sheer mystery of the mechanism and spectrum available, I find it quite necessary. It's hard to explain but, it's at the top of the list for things that make me happy. I feel like a kid again, exploring with my nose.
JR: How do YOU feel about celebrity scents? Are there any you like? If so, which ones? Or (if you DON'T like them or the whole "idea")…please tell us why not.
Kathryn: I don't consider myself a 'perfume snob', so therefore there are no personal restrictions when it comes to testing celebrity scents. There are some that I like, and also some that I own. From time to time I'll wear Britney Spears’ Curious, and her Hidden Fantasy, Believe and Circus Fantasy. Occasionally, I enjoy Elizabeth Taylor's Diamonds & Rubies, Kate Moss Vintage Muse and Kimora Lee Simmons Seductive Goddess. The only thing that bothers me about celebrity endorsed fragrance is their tendency to be sweet fruity and/or gourmand scents. In retrospect, they play it too safe. I'd love to see Britney Spears or even Beyonce release a chypre or a heavy oriental. As a 22 year old, I personally find candied scents hard to wear, so I wouldn't mind a more mature and risky approach. Maybe Elizabeth Arden could give it a whirl?
Matthew: I feel that if given a proper budget and a decent perfumer a celebrity scent can hold up along many other "brand" fragrances. Sure! I'm a big fan of Justin Bieber’s Someday (a rich airy floral with juicy musk undertones), a couple of the Britney line (Curious and especially Fantasy), Madonna’s new scent and many of Salvador Dali's offerings. I've said this before and I'll say it again: please do NOT judge a creation by the name slapped on it or by the shape, color or texture of the bottle. Forget about the color of the juice too while you're at it. If you are not able to see past branding, as a fragrance enthusiast, then I would suggest a different hobby.
Joshua: I am by no means a fragrance snob, but I do know what quality unique and innovative fragrances consist of, especially as I get into more expensive designer and niche scents. Celebrity fragrances are quick money makers to make these companies wealthy. While maybe 2 out of 10 releases might be decent, I have no intentions of adding very many more celebrity fragrances to my collection. In my opinion, most are not worth the price. I could go into further detail; however, I think you get the idea.
Connor: Personally, I don't like them. It's not that making money or celebrity endorsement is wrong in my eyes. It's just that fragrance and the art of perfumery mean so much to me as an art-form, that the thought of bastardizing that expression for PURE profit seems criminal (Justin Bieber's Someday has raised a ton of money for charity but marketing, again, does its magic). Especially to an uneducated public, that knows little of just how much a marketing ploy the whole process is. I know that sounds harsh, but fragrance has an almost sacred place in my mind.
–John Reasinger, Editor
-Michelyn Camen Art Direction
Writer' Note: I would like to thank all of our panel participants for their time and dedication to this project. Although their articulate answers may not be typical of the average young person buying fragrance, it shows promise that we "elders" can confidently pass the torch to these young perfumistas who have the potential to become "future" bloggers and writers.
Special acknowledgment to Editor-in-Chief Michelyn Camen for her help pulling the article together, never doubting that the "kids are alright.”