Why the perfume industry stinks
Published 17/08/2010 | 10:29
Bryony Gordon explains why she can't make sense of the scent business.
Do you know what I can’t stand, aside from slow people, Starbucks coffee, Hugh Grant, cereal and cats? The perfume industry. It reeks of desperation. It’s responsible for thousands of teenagers smelling like even cheaper versions of Jordan, Rachel Stevens and Britney Spears.
It is, in part, the reason that Paris Hilton continues to labour under the illusion that she is somehow important and influential, allowing her as it has to launch her 10th fragrance this week. It even let Peter Andre put his name to a perfume.
Who buys this stuff? Lots of people, whom we must presume have terrible colds all year. The perfume industry is worth an estimated £640 million in the UK alone, and these “celebrity” scents are apparently a licence to print money.
But I find the industry as a whole utterly extraordinary. Walk into any department store, and you will see that there is a perfume for almost every human being in the country. When I was a teenager, and wearing fragrance seemed as grown-up as buying a house or getting married, there can’t have been any more than 10 to choose from. We veered from Issey Miyake to Jean Paul Gaultier to CKOne (a unisex perfume! In 1995, the world had never known the like).
But now there are hundreds of ridiculously shaped bottles, eau de this and that, with hints of blah-di-blah, and I can’t work out how the perfume industry manages to sustain itself during an economic crisis.
In my mind, I have a picture of all the unused bottles on bathroom shelves across the country, gifts from unimaginative relatives or lovers, the contents of which could sink a ship.
The latest perfume to assault our senses is called “Womanity”. I saw an advert for it on the side of a bus, and the awfulness of that word was such that I almost had a breakdown on the street. What does “Womanity” mean, exactly?
Let’s ask its creator, Thierry Mugler. “At the heart of it is what one woman learns from another. Womanity is that bond: giving, complicity, a tacit affinity.” Well, that’s cleared that one up, then.
More importantly, what does Womanity smell like? According to the bumf, it is “mordant and magnetic”, with notes of fig and caviar. Which prompts the question: what woman in her right mind would want to smell of fish?
We had a bottle in the office this week. It made one colleague worry that his wife would think he had been hanging out in a tart’s boudoir.
Smell being entirely subjective, you might like it. What offends me most about Womanity, though, is not its scent, but the fact that someone, probably several someones, was paid to come up with this moniker. And that people will probably buy it.
Envy, Egoiste, Obsession….. these are all silly cologne names that fail to describe anything other than the ridiculous nature of the fashion industry. I bet it’s only a matter of time before we see an aftershave called Misogyny or Hypocrisy, or a scent called Megalomaniac.
In fact, Paris Hilton’s people might want to think about that last one for their next launch.