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Fragrance’s new bold choices

Marcus Jaye
05 August 2022

The fragrance industry has had a tough couple of years. The pandemic dented our need and desire for fragrance, while, in many cases, literally taking away our sense of smell.

The category was in decline even before the pandemic and was one of the hardest hit with consumers reduced the usage of beauty products deemed non-essential.

Now, feeling like ancient history, fragrance is back IRL and people are being a lot more bold in terms of perfume choices, not necessarily choosing what they have always worn.

The pandemic was like a restart button, deleting people’s scent history and fragrance companies and brands are further harnessing this desire by entertaining customers in store (and using the internet to educate and inspires consumers) such as allowing the blending and layering of fragrances.

Nicola Pozzani, Creative Director at Mavive Group, owner of The Merchant of Venice and many other fragrance licenses says: “People are getting more knowledgeable and conscious about what they buy. The desire to embark on an emotional journey is still the same. Maybe bigger than before actually.”

Pozzani says the trend has been driven by a desire for more variety with the advent of niche fragrances and the influence of the Middle Eastern market. Dubai-based Huda Beauty is carrying out a post-pandemic push for its Kayali range of fragrances, which are designed to be layered. Co-founder Mona Kattan recently told that when the brand first launched in 2018 the concept of layering and fragrance ritual was slow to catch on, but has now captured consumers' imagination.

“Dubai is like a perfume lovers’ playground,” she explained on a recent trip to London to meet Kayali’s brand partners and to promote the brand more widely. “There are fragrances on every corner in Dubai; it’s a big part of the rituals and the heritage. People use it as part of their self-love rituals and even as part of their identities and culture.

“In the West, and I do think it is changing, fragrance was always an after-thought and it wasn’t done with intention. That is a big part of what I’m trying to achieve with Kayali – that you should wear your fragrances with intention because they are so powerful.”


Kayali from Dubai-based Huda Beauty

Pozzani's The Merchant of Venice has launched a new concept called ‘Accordi di Profumo’, an innovative collection of eight ‘Nature-Conscious’ Eau de Parfum, of exceptional olfactory quality, created in an exclusive partnership with Givaudan, a leading fragrance manufacturer.

The sustainable and responsibly sourced ingredients of the eight fragrances are equally divided into the four main olfactory families, each characterised by an evocative colour: green for the fresh citrusy Bergamotto Italia and Arancia Brasile, pink for the delicate floral Tuberosa India and Neroli Marocco, orange for the warm ambery Tonka Venezuela and Zafferano Iran, and finally, brown for the deep woody Patchouli Indonesia and Sandalo Australia. The boxes are made of biodegradable paper obtained from algae. The olfactory purity offers the concept of layering, to create a made-to-measure perfume directly on the skin, with its own unique nuances and facets.

“The Merchant of Venice celebrates iconic perfumery materials which were popular during the Serenissima times when these would come from the Middle and Far East,” says Pozzani. “Our (in-store) Brand Ambassadors are story tellers who celebrate Venetian Perfumery Art through uncompromising passion and knowledge of the culture which informs our luxury products. From interesting historical facts all the way to layering fragrances they share they embody the spirit of Venetian perfumery,” he says.

Illustrating and giving consumers permission to layer also increases sales opportunities. Recent data from the NPD, an American market research company, Fragrance Consumer Study, found 74% of fragrance purchasers bought in-store, where there is a greater ability for hands-on testing and sampling and 70% of fragrance consumers are willing to pay more for a higher-concentration, longer-lasting fragrance. The report also found that fragrance is outperforming other segments, with Q3 (2021) revenues not only up year-on-year but also increased by a whopping 38% versus pre-pandemic 2019.

Dariush Alavi, Editor, & Author, Le Snob: Perfume, a guide to the world of fine fragrance, says, “People are trying to be more adventurous, I’d say it’s because they are trying to create a very definite boundary between current times and the difficulties of the last two years. 

“During the various lockdowns, many people didn’t wear a lot of perfume, they scented their homes with fairly neutral-smelling candles, they tried to make the environment around them as serene as possible. Now, serenity has been thrown out of the window, and some people want scents that will help them assert their presence a bit more. A perfume that says: 'I may have been hidden away for the last few years, but I’m back now, and I want the world to know’,” he says.

Alavi believes there is a wider sense that people want to use the opportunity to break out of old routines and that people are questioning why they always kept doing the same things they did, day-in, day-out, whether it was their jobs, their relationships and even their clothes and perfumes. “It’s as though the pandemic was a giant reset button,” he says.

“I hope brands use the current situation as an opportunity for a reset as well. It’s time they started releasing more polarising pieces of work, because they’re the ones that stick in people’s minds and stand the test of time.”

Mintel’s The Future of Fragrance Market Report 2022 says live selling gives fragrance brands a means to connect with and educate consumers, while providing entertainment, creating emotional stories and increasing sales. The report states: “further integration of wellness-centric elements, such as functional benefits, will attract consumers who are eager to care for their emotional, cognitive, and physical health. Tapping into wellness trends and focusing on value for money could be potential areas for innovation in fragrance, helping people create bespoke scents and promoting eco, natural and ‘free from’ merits.”

Fragrance helps lift and enhance moods, it can also bring back memories of happier times. People want to make new, positive memories and fragrance is a potential outlet for that. Memories are mostly made out of the home.

The vast majority of fragrance is still bought in-store. The opportunity to entice footfall into stores and hold shoppers’ attention will see marketing budget spent in this area. Today, people want more than fancy packaging or well-lit counters. Linking fragrance to wellness, self-care and sustainability will be the way forward for many brands and will also help consumers struggling with the cost of living to justify the price tags.

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