Fine Fragrance Update

November 9, 2005

The fragrance industry is at the forefront of big changes led by technological innovations such as aromachology and customization

The months between Labor Day and Thanksgiving are traditionally the time when the fragrance industry struts its stuff. In preparation for the huge holiday selling season, fragrance manufacturers spend this time launching and promoting their newest scents.

This fall is no different with major launches from all the major fragrance houses including Estée Lauder, Giorgio Armani, Prescriptives, Calvin Klein and the Gap. If history is any indication, some of these new launches will thrive and become fragrance classics while others will not fare as well and will disappear from shelves after just a few seasons. As the fight for shelf space and consumer approval heats up, fragrance manufacturers are trying to put a new spin on their fragrances by promoting them with stronger marketing concepts. Whether that concept is an aromachological benefit or a strong fragrance story, fragrance companies are hoping they result in big sales for their scents.

There is no doubt about it: fragrance is big business. In 1999, total U.S. prestige fragrance sales rose 2% to $2.9 billion. Of that total, men’s fragrance sales accounted for $961 million, down 1%, and women’s fragrance comprised $1.9 billion, up 6%.

These figures represent a reversal in trends seen in the fragrance industry during the past several years. For the first time since 1996, the growth in women’s fragrance sales has outpaced men’s growth. Industry observers claim this trend is due to a slowdown in men’s fragrance launches in recent years. During the late 1990s, there was an influx of men’s fragrance blockbusters such as Calvin Klein Obsession and Tommy Hilfiger; now more fragrance houses are focusing their resources on women’s scents. Also, women are opting for fragrance wardrobes, alternating between a range of fragrances instead of remaining loyal to one scent.

“Women are not very faithful or loyal to one fragrance,” said Carole Nicolas, executive marketing director, Beauty Prestige International. “They are looking for newness and are influenced by media and advertising, so they can go quickly from one fragrance to another.”

The rise of aromachology, scents that are said to alter mood or promote well-being, has added to this fickleness. Women can now wear a fragrance that energizes or relaxes them or one that is ideal for bedtime. Also, the wide range of orientals, florientals, moderns and citrus-based scents give women an even wider variety of choices. Many women purchase a scent for the office, another for relaxing at home and a third for special nights out on the town. Furthermore, some companies are offering technology that allows women to create their own signature scents.

These new technologies are changing the face of the fragrance industry. “We are at the early stages of seeing these new technologies come into play,” said Annette Green, president, The Fragrance Foundation. “We’re really getting ready to go and the potential is tremendous.”

Functional Fragrance
The rise of aromatherapy in bath and body products has not gone unnoticed by fragrance manufacturers. In fact, most of the major fragrance houses, including Prescriptives, Lancôme and Calvin Klein, have created fine fragrances boasting the ability to affect the wearer’s mood or mental state and speak to lifestyle trends. “Fragrance companies are choosing ingredients that help induce certain states of mind,” said industry consultant Pamela Vaile. “We saw it in incense and other home fragrances and now it’s moving into fine fragrance.”

Shiseido has been a trailblazer in this segment, first with its Relaxing scent and later with an Energizing fragrance. These two scents claimed to have the ability to either revive or calm their wearers. The spirit of Zen, the ancient belief in the correlation between inner harmony and outer peace, has been captured in Shiseido’s latest foray into aromachology. The company’s new fragrance, Zen, encourages a balance with time and nature and invites the wearer to open her heart and free her mind. The new scent is a remake of its hugely successful Zen scent which was first launched in 1964. “Zen recognizes the connection of all things to instill harmony in and out,” said Debbie Diamond, vice president, Shiseido public relations. “This scent brings peace and awareness to the heart.”

Zen represents a breakthrough in aromachology technology with the inclusion of mood enhancing ingredients such as modified Valerian and Eastern Kyara wood. Zen was developed to capture the purifying and balancing essence of the Zen philosophy, and at the same time evokes a prestige fragrance image. “We wanted to show the connection between fragrance and people’s well-being to capture the spirit of Zen,” said Isao Isejima, chairman and chief executive officer of Shiseido Cosmetics America.

Shiseido’s aromachology research indicates that the Zen fragrance imparts a feeling of well-being and peace of mind. In experiments designed to measure stress levels, a whiff of the modified valerian oil used in Zen led to decreased levels of stress hormones present in saliva, according to Shiseido executives. Scientific brain wave testing indicated that the kyara wood scent increased alpha wave output, signifying an enhanced state of mind.

Created by Nathalie Lorson of International Flavors and Fragrances, Zen features top notes of gentian, hyacinth and modified valerian for stress relief effects and middle notes of eastern mousouchiku and hair cup moss for a Japanese-oriented sense of silent purity harmonized with the scent of flowers, including violet and iris. Base notes feature a blend of ryokuyu kyara, which brings purity of heart and musk, which enhances a sense of warmth, according to Ms. Lorson.

The SKUs include a 100ml EDP ($48), a 50ml EDP spray ($38), a 100ml EDP spray ($54), a 10ml perfumed essence ($30) and a limited edition 50ml perfume for $150. The collection also includes an incense set with 18 sticks of incense and a ceramic tray.

Estée Lauder’s Prescriptives brand is also exploring the aromachology trend with its fall launch, Potion. Billed as an “enlightened new fragrance,” Potion emanates a lightness of being, counterbalancing today’s frenetic lifestyle of day-traders, dot.coms and overnight trends, according to Prescriptives executives. It is an illuminating floral that awakens and transforms the emotions and lifts the mind, spirit and mood. The scent contains three accords. Shimmering water imparts a youthful vitality with the freshness of watermelon, mandarin and dewy apple. Water hyacinth, lotus flower and watercress bring a watery effervescence to the scent. The luscious floral accord captures the textural fluidity of flower petals with the unique scent of lily of the valley, white freesia and water lily. Finally, the skin potion accord balances the essence of skin with a fresh air nuance. Creamy white dianthus flower adds a soft femininity and a glowing aura to the background.

In addition to a 1.7-oz. spray ($45), Potion is also available in 6.7-oz. sparkling body moisture cream ($32), 5-oz. sparkling body oil ($30) and a holiday candle ($32). The line is available this month nationwide.

Inspired by a new sensuality, Calvin Klein Cosmetics has designed a new fragrance that possesses the power to keep life simple, according to company executives. The scent, Truth, contains two distinct accords: lush and sensual. The lush accord contains bamboo, patchouli, vetyver, wet woods, white peony, white clover and sapling to capture the unique lushness and radiance of nature. The sensual accord contains bio vanilla, white amber, silk tree flower, acacia flower, woods and musk to create a warm, woody, sensual essence. These accords combine in the signature fragrance to allow it to offer a sensual sensory experience, according to company executives. The fragrance is available in a 0.5-oz. parfum for $150, a 1-oz. eau de parfum for $26, a 1.7-oz. eau de parfum for $2 and a 3.4-oz. eau de parfume for $56.

Additionally the Truth scent is available in a line of body luxuries. These products are enriched with a blend of vitamins and botanicals, nourishing the skin as they inspire the senses. This line includes a 6.7-oz. body lotion ($28), a 5-oz. body oil spray ($25) and a 0.85-oz. oil essence ($30) in a choice of five essences from the Truth fragrance: bamboo, citrus, sapling, lilac and vanilla. These may be worn individually or combined with other Truth products to create a personal fragrance.

The line includes “bath luxuries” for an invigorating soak in the tub as well as “bedtime luxuries” which are meant to be worn to bed. Truth bath luxuries contain only the lush accord to awaken the skin while indulging the senses and include a shower gel, bath grains and a lush soap. Conversely, the bedtime luxuries are scented with the warm, sensual accord to renew the spirit and create an aura of warmth and intimacy. This line includes a sensual bedtime fragrance, a votive trio and an incense kit.

While fragrance that is worn to bed may seem strange, industry watchers feel it could just be one of a slew of niches to be explored by perfume houses to increase sales. “There are so many me-toos out there,” Ms. Green said. “To be competitive, companies have to offer many types of fragrances.”

Make Your Own
While there is no doubt that the plethora of launches has given women a wide variety of fragrance options, some companies have gone a step further, giving their customers the means to act as amateur perfumers and create their own fragrances. Already such companies as Jo Malone, Fresh and Reflect.com have created the technology necessary for customized fragrances and industry observers expect more companies to soon offer this option.

In fact, the future of customizable fragrance is so bright, The Fragrance Foundation recently held its first “think tank” session devoted to fragrance customization. “We really opened a lot of people’s eyes about how (customizable fragrance) can be big business,” Ms. Green said. “A lot of people felt intimidated by it because it can be tough to service a lot of people personally but e-commerce and other internet related strategies really enable customization.”

Reflect.com, the internet company backed by Procter & Gamble, was founded on the premise of customized cosmetics and personal care products. Since its launch earlier this year, the site has offered women a way to create customized hair and skin care products as well as color cosmetics by answering a series of questions and responding to visual images on the internet. Company executives maintain that the computer screen is a prime vehicle for offering this service because of its wide, far-reaching scope.

This fall, Reflect.com expanded its customization service by launching a patent pending process that allows women to create their own signature scents on the internet. This process allows women to create scents that reflect their mood, style and inner beauty by selecting all aspects of their fragrance from its top notes all the way down to the heart.

Dubbing the personalized process “Hearts and Souls,” Reflect.com executives said the process is the culmination of years of perfume creation expertise and consumer research. The customization involves asking essential questions to clearly define the unique components of each woman’s ideal fragrance. The heart, the essence of the perfume, is identified. Once the heart is selected, the woman begins a more in-depth exploration to unveil the possible souls of her fragrance. Each selection is made through an interactive visual experience designed to capture both her imagination and her scent preference to create the perfect fragrance.

“Women enjoyed being part of the creation process and are delighted with the fragrances we created for them,” said Don Donovan, fragrance creator, Reflect.com. “Because we use the world’s finest and most expensive ingredients and have tapped into some of the world’s greatest perfumers, we have been able to refine our unique fragrance oils and the customization process to make each fragrance exquisite to wear.”

Once a woman creates her unique fragrance, she receives samples of three variations of the scent so she can smell the fragrances and decide which one is absolutely perfect for her. She then selects a final fragrance which she names. The final fragrance costs $40 with the $5 fee for the sample service credited against the final purchase.

Ms. Vaile said fragrance customization allows women to become entrepreneurs of their own fragrances and create their own destiny. “Women want their own scents,” said industry consultant Pamela Vaile. “They don’t want to smell common. They don’t want to smell like their boyfriend’s old girlfriend.”

Ms. Vaile said she envisions a time when there will be whole stores devoted to customized fragrance. These stores will be stocked with empty bottles waiting to be filled.

The Return of the Floral
Fragrance, like cosmetics in general, tend to mirror the fashion world. In the 1990s this meant minimalist, genderless scents that reflected the austere styles seen on the runways. Just as Calvin Klein’s signature black pantsuit was a fashion statement, simple, single-note fragrances such as the designer’s unisex CK One were big sellers.

Now that the 1990s are over, it seems that women are no longer afraid to look and smell like a woman. From the return of sexy, shimmery styles to the rise of Manolo Blahnik’s glamorous footwear, a decidedly feminine style is gaining in popularity. Of course, the fragrance industry is following suit.

“The 1980s were a very olfactive decade with scents such as Giorgio and Obsession that entered the room before their wearers,” Ms. Vaile said. “Then the 1990s saw a return to minimalism and fragrances explored fruits and flowers but didn’t really speak a fragrance message. But now we are seeing a resurgence of the floral, feminine fragrance.”

Estée Lauder’s latest scent, Intuition, which is rolling out across Europe, Asia and Latin America, contains a richly textured floralcy, according to company literature. Its notes include rose double delight, gardenia petals, Chinese rhododendron and freesia. The scent also contains amber, which has been revered for centuries for its magical and good luck properties and a skin-like sensuality, a velvety skin accord that is reminiscent of the scent of a modern woman. Lauder is calling Intuition the fragrance embodiment of the emotional elements of the modern woman.

The Intuition collection includes a parfum (15ml), eau de parfum (30ml, 50ml and 100ml), a fragrant body lotion (200 ml) and fragrant body wash (200ml).

Issey Miyake’s latest scent is being billed as a fresh floral containing top notes rose essence and bergamot and middle notes of gardenia. The scent, Le Feu d’Issey Light, is markedly different from the designer’s introduction of a few years ago, L’Eau d’Issey, a green floral.

L’Feu D’Issey Light complements L’Feu D’Issey in Issey Miyake’s interpretation of fire. L’Feu D’Issey is the strong and intense side of fire that symbolizes passion, warmth and energy; L’Feu D’Issey Light is the sparkling and luminous side of fire embodied in its spark, according the Ms. Nicolas, of Beauty Prestige International, the manufacturer of Issey Miyake’s fragrances.

Light is a sensuous, floral fragrance with top notes of rose and bergamot, middle notes of gardenia and base notes of milky amber and Gaïac wood. “Recent trends are turning around,” said Ms. Nicolas. “Before, women were looking for fresh, light fragrances. Now they are looking for more sensual fragrances, such as monoflorals.”

Just as the 1990s was the decade of minimalism, so was it a time of austerity. After the high times of the 1980s, people were no longer into showing their wealth. This too has changed and consumers want to indulge themselves with a little luxury. Just as the economic crash of the late 1980s led to austerity in the 1990s, the economic boomtimes of the late 1990s has led to high couture at the turn of the century.

Luxury houses such as Gucci and LVMH have been profiting from the willingness of dot.com millionaires to spend their earnings on high end luxury goods and, while not everyone can afford a $1000 handbag, even the more modestly wealthy consumers are looking for a piece of the action. Fragrance is a good way to do this because it is less costly than other luxury items.

“A fragrance gives consumers a symbol of the big luxury houses,” Ms. Vaile said. “It’s a good entry point into this luxurious world.”

LVMH has scheduled several launches this fall including Givenchy’s Hot Couture and Guerlain’s Metallica. Housed in a glass cylindrical bottle adorned with golden thread, Metallica fragrance retails for $175. This limited edition spicy, floral fragrance is based around a vanilla top note but also contains notes of ylang, orange blossom and carnation and a base of iris and tonka bean.

Guerlain spokesperson Jennifer Wolinentz said that limited edition fragrances give consumers a chance to buy a luxury product that has little chance of going mainstream. “The fragrance industry has become so saturated and so over-marketed that people are looking to buy into the luxury of the fragrance rather than the scents themselves. We have a very strong fragrance philosophy that has lasted since 1828 and people recognize the luxury in that.”

Bijan, the Beverly Hills-based fashion house, is also targeting the luxury market with its first eponymous scent in 12 years. While the company has licensed such scents as Jordan by Michael, it has not had its own scent since its Bijan fragrance won the FiFi award in 1988 for best packaging.

The latest scent, Bijan with a Twist, is a modern floriental with top notes of Italian bergamot and white mandarin flowers and middle notes of magnolia, violet leaf and osmanthus. Bulgarian rose, freesia and Egyptian jasmine make up the heart while sandalwood, amber crystals, vanilla and vetiver compose the finish.

“We did a focus group and by far the floriental was everybody’s favorite because it was so set apart from everybody else. It’s really different,” said Cynthia Miller, art and media director. “We really wanted something that was new. Women are looking for really new-smelling scents, especially in limited distribution.”

The fragrance’s packaging bolsters its luxurious image even further with movable gold bangles, each dipped in 14 karat gold surrounding the bottle, reminiscent of a popular children’s toy. Company executives said the bangles were placed around the bottle to represent a feeling of movement. “Bijan wanted to show how life has so many twists and turns,” said Danielle Pakzad, vice president of creative services. “It is so typical of Bijan to take a simple design and turn it into something that looks like a piece of jewelry.”

Bijan with a Twist will launch in February; however, the company is keeping it exclusive by introducing it in only 180 stores nationally.

Creating a Mania
After spending years dressing the rich and famous, fashion designer Giorgio Armani is hoping to wow consumers again with his latest women’s fragrance, Mania, a fresh amber incense fragrance. “I wanted to create something that would bring out emotion—sensuality, mystery and passion,” Mr. Armani said in a statement. “Mania is my symbol of seduction.” The scent is positioned as the fragrance equivalent of Armani’s signature black label collection.

Patricia Turk-Pacquelier, international general manager of Giorgio Armani Parfums in Paris, a part of L’Oréal’s fine fragrance division, said the scent is targeted at consumers older than wearers of Emporio Armani for Women and younger than Giorgio users. “This is truly an upscale fragrance for many women,” she said. “It’s simple outside and sophisticated inside which is also what we like about Armani as a designer.”

Created by Firmenich’s Jacque Cavallier, Mania features a head of bergamot, green notes and orangeflower and a spicy heart of incense burning on glowing embers with a touch of saffron and amber. The drydown is warmed with white musk and natural vanilla. The company is billing Mania as a fragrance that “follows a woman in the wondering of her dreams, the path of her questioning, the pleasure of her infatuations and the stirring of her soul.”

L’Oréal’s fine fragrance division has credited much of its success to Emporio Armani Parfums in recent years. Last year’s master launch, Emporio Armani for Her and Emporio Armani for Him, garnered praise from consumers and industry insiders alike.

“Mania comes at a fantastic moment,” remarked Ms. Turk-Pacquelier. “It continues the strong development of the brand.”

The Gap is also trying to strengthen its perfume division with the launch of its latest fragrance, Close. The intimate new scent is simple, crisp, fresh and distinctively feminine. “It’s the evolution of all Gap scents,” said Gap spokesperson Anna Longergan. “It’s sheer and sexy. We rarely call ourselves sexy but it’s designed for that moment when someone has just gotten out of the shower. It’s that second of ‘alone’ time.

“Everyone is crazy today,” she added. “People are running around and whatever you can do to give yourself back something is worth it.”

Close fuses notes of grapefruit, cassis flower, peony, magnolia and jasmine with the cool notes of icy flower.

“Fragrances can be different things on different people,” Ms. Longergan said. “This has a great appeal whether you are getting ready for work or for a night on the town.”

As more women look to build fragrance wardrobes, a concept first introduced by Ms. Green in the late 1970s, fragrance sales are sure to continue their uphill climb. “Women want more and there will be more,” Ms. Green said. “Women are going to work and they have very different parts of their lives. It’s more than enough reason to have different scents.”

But increasing sales won’t mean success for just any fragrance in the future. Soon a simple scent will not be enough, predicted Ms. Green. Fragrances will have to offer more to consumers, whether it be wellness benefits, mood- altering properties or a wonderful new story to stand apart from the competition. “Fragrances with the traditional story are at the most precarious place right now,” she said. “New introductions need something to help them fight through the crowd.”

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