I wrote a short overview/review of St.Clair Scents perfumes not long ago. As I continued to wear Frost, it just asked for more. When a fragrance keeps calling me, I answer. With love.
“So, what exactly are you writing about?”a friend asked me directly. “With so many great perfumes coming up in a year, what’s all that niche buzz?” And more: “If my sales lady at the XY store knows all about the newest perfumes, why would I need you?” and “Niche? That sounds so snobbish to me!” I love questions, there’s no wrong question. This conversation greatly helped me with QandA’s for my blog: here are some of the A’s:
The word niche is becoming very present: niche perfume brands have grown in number and in the past few years, their constant growth lessening the market share of mainstream brands, has risen rapidly: 60% since 2005. Which, of course, means that mainstream brands made less money. When you think about billions of the Euro’s worth of a pie, oh yes! – niche is cutting seriously in it.
When did all this niche jazz start? Actually, you may say that niche perfumes existed long before mass production: kings and queens had their olfactory signatures, their own specially designed formulas. Nowadays, you don’t have to be royalty to have your very own special perfume. I think that niche is a counter action to mass, the result of the growing population of olfactory connoisseurs after the economic shock of 2008. and focus on individuality. As with, for example, wine, chocolate or coffee, consumers are now increasingly keen to learn about composition and provenance, fair trade included.
The Fragrance Foundation (TFF, NY) once categorized fragrances as “niche” or “mainstream” based on the number of doors they were supported in (that is, the number of retail outlets stocking a specific scent or brand). This would generally mean that the majority of scents you find in large retail franchises and department stores are classed as mainstream or “designer” scents, such as those launched by fashion houses.
The Fragrance Foundation now categorizes Niche Fragrances as Indie Fragrances, the smaller, successful, entrepreneurial brands not supported by a large company. The Foundation defines an Indie brand as “one that has been on the market for at least two years and is distributed in 1 to 25 doors.”
Niche perfumes provide an interesting and special kind of scent that is difficult to find, using higher concentrations of perfume extracts. Yes, they usually come with a high(er) price but nevertheless, perfume lovers find great value in every drop. You also might say that the purpose of niche perfumes is to tell a story and evoke memories through scents.
Basic niche brands principles:
– They have own perfumer in charge of the fragrances of the house, just like it used to be.
– A selective approach to the distribution of products: no mainstream retail stores.
– No advertising, apart from chosen magazine articles and interviews with prominent media. Independent bloggers are welcome. For them, a good reputation is the best way to promote their perfumes.
One step further…
Niche, indie or artisan? I don’t want to confuse you, but here comes more terminology:
Niche: everything that is not a designer. Niche originally implied something different than what you find at department stores, but the term has become less meaningful as the niche market has exploded.
Indie: niche, but are smaller, independently owned brands.
Artisan: A subset of indie that refers to brands that produce artisan-made products – artisan means handmade, in-house. The best artisan products are original and creative, and they contain a piece of the creator, a touch of the artist’s hand. Creators matter.
Niche people often argue that boutique perfumes offer the consumer the opportunity to reward oneself with a scent that is both uncommon and individual. Many might reason that niche equates to quality; in that greater attention to detail has been given to the construction of the perfume, and that components are of the highest caliber. Many prefer to pay more for the privilege of not smelling like someone’s ex-husband or mother-in-law… Also, they want to know the person behind their perfume, the artist of scents, the composer. Last but not least: the point is to express yourself.
The designer brands also have an edge. What they lack in terms of exclusivity, they make up for in price and mass appeal – the consumer buying into the lifestyle that these designer brands represent. More and more designer brands are creating their own niche brands. In some of their high-end boutiques, you can also use the services of a personal fragrance adviser.
What’s In It For You?
As consumers, we win. Not only do we have full access to our designer scents in any and every mall, but niche perfumes, thanks to the internet, are now becoming more accessible.
Salespeople are getting more and more perfume-educated. To sell. Designer brands provide them with precise how-to instructions, which is great. But what advisers like me do is something different. Personal. Holistic.
I believe that your fragrance is an expression of who you are, your personality, your feelings, passions, emotions and how you present yourself to the world.
The Plum Girl
Photo: © Kornwa Dreamstime
The Golden City. Once you visit Prague, it is clear why it is called so.
Vltava. (I keep hearing the melody playing softly in my head as I look upon the city, Bedřich Smetana on my mind). And all the bridges of Vltava river in Prague, what a sight!
As I walk the streets of Prague Castle, I deeply inhale trying to define the scent of the city. It is wintertime, crispy cold and I feel trails of humidity coming from the great river of Vltava upwards to the hill, smell of snow and wet cobblestone pavement combined with mossy scent emanating from the gothic architecture surrounding me.
Prague, Praha, Prag: an amazing city with a rich history. Dating back to times of Charles IV – the Holy Roman Emperor, hosting Habsburg Monarchy, marked by the post-IIWW Communist Era and the Prague Spring. Even the revolution against one-party rule was performed softly, thus named the Velvet Revolution. The Prague Castle also hosts the office of the Czech president: my guide speaks with contempt about freshly elected Miloš Zerman, who enters his office at 11 AM. Allegedly, he said that no one sane starts to work at 7 AM, shocks the public with his statements about migrants and calls EU Parliament „a bunch of cowards“…I wonder what would Charles IV have said about this…
Among many famous citizens of Prague, Franz Kafka lived and worked here. When I approached the Franz Kafka Museum, the scent of freshly made gingerbread cookies and chocolate filled pancakes filled the air.
I am reminiscent of Kafka, thinking about his life story, trying to recall everything I know about him. There’s a thin line between genius and insanity…there’s a thin line. Feeling thankful that Max Brod did not burn all his work, as he was ordered to do by Kafka himself.
As you already know, drinking beer is inevitable here. Czechs are very proud of their fine beers and history of beer making:
Not only can you taste different brews, but I also discovered a whole line of beer-based cosmetics in a small shop featuring different handicrafts:
I stumbled upon Manufaktura, small shops with different lines of natural cosmetics, including Eau De Toilette Men & Bicycle: a refined citrus-wood fragrance with the notes of bergamot, mint, sage, and vetiver. The Men´s range exploits unique vegetable complex of natural extracts of traditional, mostly Czech. Beer cosmetics as well, of course: all the products contain the pure Czech beer, brewer´s yeast or hops extract and are accompanied by the delicious bitter-sweet aroma, rich with vitamin B.
One thing you cannot miss: Czech glass. Glass in the Czech Republic enjoys a great reputation and is famous in every continent. Crystal as well! Crystal everywhere! When you stroll through the winding streets of Prague, all the little stores dotted around display masses of beautiful vases, chalices, necklaces, plates, beverage sets, rings, pendants and several other products made from glass, and it is difficult to choose your perfect souvenir.
One of the most famous glass and crystal manufacturers is Moser, with a truly rich history. In 1873. Ludwig Moser was appointed court supplier of glass to emperor Franz Josef I, to start with. Even today, as I am told, there is no royal court which doesn’t own Moser glasses: hand-blown, hand-cut and polished, available with gilded decorations with 24 K gold. Pricey but exceptional!
Let’s not forget Swarowski. Almost everyone is familiar with Swarowski glass. With factories in forty countries across the globe and 25000 employees, this brand offers premium quality crystal products of unparalleled design. Not many people are aware though, that this company based in Austria actually originated in the Czech Rep. Daniel Swarovski, the founder, comes from the North of the Czech Republic, where he learned the glass-making craft.
Bohemia was my choice and I found this perfume bottle:
There are so many things to do and see in Prague, but I would definitely suggest you take a boat cruise on the Vltava.
Seeing Prague from the river Vltava is a unique experience and offers a way to see the many historical buildings and monuments from a different perspective. Drink a famous beer (or two…). Walk around the St. Vitius Cathedral, stroll the Old Town Square. Take a look at the Lennon Wall, walk over the Charles Bridge. Immerse yourself in its vivid nightlife. Have an Absinthe experience. I did, just because of the combination of grand wormwood, green anise, sweet fennel, and all the other herbs.
Eat a Trdelnik! Similar to a cinnamon roll, a Trdelnik is a dough that is wrapped around a pole, grilled, and then topped with sugar. It’s a delicious treat and it can be found all over Prague and it smells yummy. Street food is fun here! Visit a beer pub and bear in mind that food portions are enormous. This serves four, so they told us. My guess is that this serves eight grown-up people:
If you have enough time, I suggest visiting Krumlov as well. is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, with specific architecture dating from the 14th century, a wonderful small town with so much to see in.
As I entered the antiques shop on the main road in Krumlov, I nearly fainted. I found a treasure of these small wonders, each one different, pendants or just perfume bottles:
Sadly, the Astronomical Clock in Prague was dissembled for repair and it will remain so until August 31, 2018. That’s a good reason for me to return to Prague… For those who haven’t visited Prague yet, I highly recommend a stay in this great city. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl