Our choice of perfume is very much a reflection of our personality and, as the great perfume houses well know, we are influenced by the packaging, the shape and decoration of the bottle, as well as the fragrance. But most of us would insist that it is the latter that influences our choice, as smell has the ability to bring alive memories and evoke images more intensely than other senses. Marilyn Monroe's famous remark in the 60s that she slept in nothing but Chanel No 5 did nothing but enhance the success and longevity of the perfume. It is a market that taps into our subconscious perhaps more than we would like to admit.
Maybe it is for this reason that it is not just big business but a very secret business. Perfume houses go to great lengths to ensure the formula of their latest unique scent is kept under wraps for fear of imitation. Hardly surprising, as any new perfume is the outcome of meticulous work by the Master perfumers and their 'nose', while the finest perfume houses grow their own vast fields of flowers and herbs to ensure only the purest scents are captured inside those stunning bottles. Their secret is to overcome the test of time, to anticipate fashion trends and produce a scent that is as unique as it is appealing. It is a world cloaked in a veil of mystery that can only make it all the more appealing and seductive.
Exclusivity is very much part of this mysterious world and who wouldn't want their individuality heightened by the knowledge that their particular perfume is one in a million! Khalid bin Hamad bin Hamoud Al Bu Said, 35 years old, a member of Oman's ruling family and creator of Amouage, is banking on it. Retailing at 1,870 US dollars for 50mls of eau de toilette, Amouage comes in a gold-plated flask that is modelled on the traditional Omani mosque and packaged in sterling silver. With only 50,000 bottles produced a year, it's not quite as difficult to get hold of as the Gianni Vive Sulman perfume, but it certainly comes with the guarantee that not everyone will be wearing it.
However, the great French classics still seem to retain their popularity, in spite of the numerous, new and exciting scents that come on to the market each month and nowhere has a greater magnetism for the perfume shopper than the 'parfumeries' of Paris. Whether you choose to visit the salons of Christian Dior and Nina Ricci in Avenue Montaigne, or the exclusive Rue Faubourg-St Honoré where Gucci, Cartier, Lancôme, Guy Laroche, Courréges, Pierre Cardin, Ted Lapidus, Hermes and Yves St Laurent perfume houses can be found, this still has to be the perfume centre of the world. Galleries LaFayette, in Boulevard Hausman, houses the world's largest beauty and perfume department, should you want to find a wide selection of perfumes all under the same roof.
With thousands of perfumes to choose from, the key to finding a fragrance that reflects your personal favourite scents is to know your perfume family. According to the 'Comité Francais du Parfum' there are seven 'families' of fragrance, all of which can be sub-divided into specific styles.
- Hesperidia, where the predominant note is citrus fruit
- Floral, such as rose or jasmine
- Fougère, the predominant note is aromatic, such as lavender or rosemary
- Chypres, the predominant note is bergamot and patchouli
- Woody, sandalwood or cedar
- Oriental, the predominant note is sweet, such as vanilla
- Green leather, the predominant note is dry e.g. tobacco, smoked wood with floral tones
Every perfume is defined by its top note (first impression); the middle note (which unfolds a few moments after applying the perfume to your skin) and the base note (the lasting impression). Once you have evaluated in which main category your preferential scents lie, you are equipped to take on the best of the perfume houses and ready to broaden your choice of favourite perfumes.
Up to the Minute Fragrances!
Lancôme: Famous fragrances include Trésor, Climat, Magie Moire, Magie, O De Lancôme, Poème and Trophée for men. Latest - Miracle
Christian Dior: Famous fragrances include Miss Dior, Diorissimo, Dune, and Dolce Vita. Latest - J'adore
Gucci: Famous fragrances include Eau de Gucci, Envy, No 3 and Accenti. Latest - Rush
Guerlain: Famous fragrances include Jicky, Eau de Guerlain, Jardins de Begatelle, Mitsouko, Shalimar, Samsara and Champs Elysees. Latest - Mahora
Rochas: Famous fragrances include Femme, Madame Rochas, Tocade and Byzance. Latest - Lumière
Givenchy: Famous perfumes include: Ysatis, Amarige, Givenchy III and Organza Indécence. Latest - Extravagance
Jean Patou: Famous fragrances include Joy, Joy 1000 and Sublime. Latest - Patou Forever
Chanel: Famous fragrances include Chanel No 5, Chanel No 19 and Chanel Coco. Latest - Allure
Jean Paul Gaultier: Famous fragrances include Jean Paul Gaultier. Latest - Fragile
Giorgio Armani: Famous fragrances include Acqua di Gio, Emporio Armani, Elle. Latest - Mania
Hermes: Famous fragrances include Caleche, 24 Faubourg. Latest - Hiris
Issey Miyake: Famous fragrances L'eau d'Issey. Latest - Feu d'Issey
Calvin Klein: Famous fragrances include Obsession, Eternity, Escape and Contradiction. Latest - Truth
Carolina Herrera: Famous fragrances include Flore, Aquaflore and Herrera. Latest - 212
Ralph Lauren: Famous fragrances include Lauren, Safari, Polo Sport. Latest - Romance
Yves St Laurent: Famous fragrances include Rive Gauche, Opium, Yvresse, Paris. Latest - In Love Again
Nina Ricci: Famous fragrances include L'air du Temps. Latest - Deci Dela
Houbigant: Famous fragrances include Ciao, Raffinée, Chantilly. Latest - relaunch of Quelques Fleurs
Perfumes launched in October 2000
Lancôme - Miracle
Isabella Rosselini - Manifesto
Estée Lauder - Intuition
Guerlain - Mahora
Kenzo - Flower
Nino Cerruti - Cerruti Image
Calvin Klein - Truth
Jo Malone - Fragrance Combining Sets
Shu Uermura - Parfum Allie (mix 'n match of 10 scents)
Boucheron - Boucheron
Libertine - created by British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood - Lancaster Group, Coty Inc.