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Your Own Personal Sniffapalooza

By Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor | May 19, 2014

Karen Dubin talks fragrance trends with

What does one who has a serious passion for fragrance do in the Big Apple? Forge a career in the beauty industry, of course. Karen Dubin, founder/CEO, Sniffapalooza (, New York City

, took time to chat with about the latest cutting-edge juice and packaging in stores now.

Happi: What are the top trends for both women’s and men’s fragrances so far in 2014 and why?


KD: I'm seeing a lot of the boozy notes: cognac, whiskey, absinthe. I particularly like Krigler Parfumerie's Cognac and Lubin did this really nicely a few years ago with their Gin Fizz. By Kilian's new Apple Brandy is another great interpretation. And interestingly, perusing liquor store windows, I've noticed spirits bottles influenced by perfume flacons. Artfully-designed vodka and tequila bottles that are beautiful enough to be displayed on your vanity table!

Going hand-in-hand with the alcohol-inspired trend is tobacco, which is not only used as an accord in fragrance but in food, too... I recently read about tobacco-flavored cupcakes! Tobacco works really well with leather, which gives it a nice smoky quality, and tobacco flower is turning up in both women's and men's scents. Cherry almond and classic “pipe” aromas can remind us of a grandfather or other positive male from our lives, and many people find this familiar smell comforting. Tom Ford Private Blend's Tobacco Vanille is a stellar example of a shared scent that both genders enjoy.

Gourmands show no sign of slowing down, and seem to be on the way to becoming a staple in the fragrance market. Chocolate, caramel, vanilla, nuts, sugar, coffee and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg continue to be wildly popular notes in fragrance for both genders. Chef Roble Ali (of Bravo's Chef Roble reality TV series) collaborated with Firmenich perfumer Frankl Voelkl to translate two of his recipes into a new fragrance, Clique by Roble. The recipes are a spicy citrus cocktail and Roble's signature dessert, French Toast Crunch. Consumers can practically taste their fragrance!

My feeling about why boozy, tobacco shop and foodie/gourmand fragrances continue to be bestsellers is simple psychology: because these smells are easily relatable. They hark back to aromas in our daily lives, and we understand and trust them. It's comforting to recognize something familiar that is crystal clear to us, especially in this confusing world of all kinds of complicated sensory overload. The smell of baking cookies can be indulgent, but it is also easily acceptable as representing something positive that we'd like to have around us. A whiskey accord is something most people have smelled and recognize, and it has an air of danger to it because drinking it can put you in an altered state where you might misbehave. But dabbing it behind you ears is perfectly safe! You still can get the thrill of the vice... but without the possibly harmful (or embarrassing) after-effects.

The garden and florals are huge for Spring—it seems rose is everywhere! And every Spring it makes me glad to see this return to classics and the true jewels that have been the foundation of great perfumery for centuries. Is it the first buds of the new season bursting forth, that we have so been longing for after bleak wintry days? The romantic promise of the wedding season? It's definitely the idyllic yearning for a fresh start... and what easier way to feel it than spritzing on a new floral-infused scent? For me, and many of my fragrance-loving kindred spirits in Sniffapalooza, this has become a ritualistic tradition!

We're not talking about an old fashioned, powdery Victorian rose... but a bright peppery rose. Marni recently launched Marni Rose, a flanker to the original Marni scent, Chloe premiered Chloe Rose and Balenciaga gave a twist to their original Florabotanica with the new Rosabotanica. Iris [Prada] continues to be strong, and jasmine, orange blossom, water lily and white florals are also gracing the perfume counters. Ellie Saab's L'Eau Couture is a green floral tapestry of bergamot, magnolia, orange blossom and almond, and Jean Patou's twist on a classic is the new Joy Forever, blending rose, jasmine, bergamot and iris. Thinking a bit outside the traditional flower box, Nuwa from Roja Parfums mixes rose, bergamot, and iris with crisp (and unexpected) vetiver.

Bright, happy packaging continues to be strong! Tory Burch's glowing orange and gold trim, Marni's cheery polka dots, and Bond No. 9's bright fuchsia surreal roses on Central Park South are some that make an upbeat and fun statement. Rosabotanica's creative combining of stripes and florals mimics what's happening in fashion right now with mixing prints, and is a brilliant way to reflect what we're seeing in magazines and on the street. I think shopping for fragrance has become a multi-sensory experience—besides smelling wonderful, consumers want the packaging to visually reflect a mood as well.

Happi: What are shoppers looking for, as seen with recent experience, in their fine fragrance products?

KD: Consumers are looking for portability; smaller bottles, rollerballs and solid concretes that they can easily throw into a purse or pack for travelling. With airline rules limiting the amount of liquids allowable, this is really important. They are also looking for long-lasting fragrances—no one wants a scent that fades quickly and must be frequently reapplied.
Happi:  Are there certain ingredients that are popular right now in fine fragrance?

KD: We have a new consumer today—informed, educated and passionate! They love information, and there are more ways than ever for them to get it. They want to know about the perfumer's inspiration and the ingredients, and this background story connects them to the product in a strong way. And they are adventurous; they want to try new combinations that don't replicate what they already have in their collection.
Tart red fruits like blackberry, cassis, blackcurrant and raspberry are interesting ways to add tartness and a spicy edge, while still keeping it sweet. They are a nice change from citrus, which is often used to freshen or add fruit to an accord. The Vagabond Prince's Enchanted Forest is a potent mix of blackcurrant and pine that perfectly illustrates this trend.

Woods, violet leaf, bergamot, patchouli, vetiver and tea notes are all happening, too, in a big way. These are notes that traditionally were found in men's fragrances and now are liberally used in women's scents. Sandalwood, agarwood, gaiac wood and cedarwood continue to thrive, and are being used more and more in women's fragrances, which I love— wood is no longer just for men! Consumers are looking for unique fragrances, and their newfound boldness has brought a blurring of the lines between masculine and feminine fragrances. Thirty percent of women wear men's fragrances, and that percentage is growing steadily. Le Labo's Rose 31 is a rose and cumin scent that appeals to both men and women, and Bellegance Perfume's Midnight Promise is a woody gourmand that was created with women in mind, but the resinous mix of cinnamon, red mandarin, red Moroccan rose, vetiver, patchouli, sandalwood, cedarwood, vanilla, incense, amber and musk have made it popular with men who are buying it for themselves.

Happi: What are the future trends to look out for in fine fragrance into later in 2014 and why?

KD: I think we're going to see a continuation of creative ways to use scent, and consumers love the surprise of adding scent to their lives in unexpected ways. Scented nail polish, scented hair mists and scent-infused jewelry are just the start, and I've seen research on scented clothing. Advanced technology for ambient scenting will now make it possible for us to have a cohesively scented life, 24 hours a day!

Classic fragrance houses are having a big revival, such as Guerlain, Caron, Houbigant, Dior, Robert Piguet, Chanel—there is definitely a return to perfumery as an art... which is the philosophy that I built Sniffapalooza on. We celebrate fragrance as an art, and consider perfumers to be artists. It's nice to see this as a widely accepted concept and the appreciation of perfumery as the true art form that it is. And accompanying this is historical information about the brand, used in marketing to teach the consumer the story and the legacy of the art form.

And very interestingly, there is a trend of current generations of some of the great fragrance houses coming back to the fold to forge their own paths in the family craft, and I think we will see more of this. Pauline Rochas, granddaughter of the founder of the Rochas fashion and fragrance houses, grew up surrounded by iconic scents like Femme and Byzance. She trained as a photographer in the beauty industry and became enamored with scent as a sensual expression. Her first creation, aptly named Le Premier Parfum, is a mix of ylang ylang and woody notes intended to have aphrodisiac qualities.

Valentine Pozzo di Borgo, great-great granddaughter of the founder of Guerlain, worked in marketing of luxury products and wanted to evolve to use her own personal study and experience to develop a lifestyle brand of soaps, candles and interior sprays. Her newest launch is a fine fragrance line inspired by family members and named for their birthdays. 

Gian Luca Perris' family had managed the Houbigant brand for two generations, and he had been immersed in fragrance since birth, so creating his own brand was something he always knew he'd achieve. He and his sister premiered Perris Monaco, a collection of five Orientals that use rare raw materials and exquisite Oriental-influenced packaging. Their Taif Rose lovingly portrays a majestic, spicy, woody rose, which manages to capitalize on several trends at once.

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