This week, I take a peek at the fragrance space and the reason whimsical and unusual fragrances are starting to trend. Scroll down to use Glossy+ Comments, allowing the Glossy+ community to join discussions around industry topics.
When David Seth Moltz, co-founder of D.S. & Durga, debuted the limited-edition Pistachio fragrance in Feb. 2021, he did not set out to disrupt the industry status quo. Pistachio, which retails for $280 for 100 milliliters, became a breakout hit regardless.
Only 100 bottles of Pistachio were created as the ninth scent in the brand’s collection of limited-edition drops, dubbed Studio Juices. D.S. & Durga’s two shops — one in Williamsburg and one in Soho — carried only five bottles each. Another 90 were available online. People took to social media to document their attempts to get their hands on a bottle, after learning about the launch only through D.S. & Durga’s Instagram and word-of-mouth. In the end, Pistachio sold out in two hours.
Moltz said he’s still searching for an answer to what created the Pistachio frenzy. In his words, D.S. & Durga creates things that are either “cool, fun, weird or fancy.”
“Maybe it speaks to our times,” he said. “We just came out of a pandemic, and people want to have fun. We don’t take ourselves too seriously as a brand. There’s a lot of humor behind it. So maybe this is [people] just going even further in that direction.”
Since then, D.S. & Durga added Pistachio as a permanent fragrance in January. It is now sold online through retailers like Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, as well as Liberty of London and Mecca in Australia. Other fragrance brands have jumped on the pistachio train, including Kayali with its Yum Pistachio Gelato debut on March 21 and Hermès with its Un Jardin à Cythère perfume launch on March 1. The latter features notes of pistachio.
The popularity of D.S. & Durga’s unconventional fragrance reflects a growing niche trend for quirky and irreverent fragrances inspired by the likes of pistachios, libraries, paper and other atypical inspirations for fine and luxury scents. Much like perfume’s cousin the candle, which has undergone its own cheeky evolution with scents inspired by pasta water and vaginas, perfumes are stepping into the unorthodox. And with the added boost from social media, such as PerfumeTok, there is an additional consumer drive for individuality and uniqueness.
According to NPD Group data for the fourth quarter of 2022, U.S. prestige beauty industry sales revenue grew 15% year-over-year to reach $27.1 billion in 2022, with fragrance increasing by 11%. Inter Parfums reported a strong fourth quarter in its most recent earnings, while Estée Lauder Companies secured its ownership over Tom Ford Beauty and its hefty fragrance business. Gourmand fragrances have always existed in the fragrance world, but scents like vanilla or that evoke dessert are particularly popular with Gen Z.
For its part, Diptyque launched L’eau Papier on March 16. Directly inspired by ink on paper, it includes fragrance notes like steamed rice accord. L’eau Papier was made in honor of Diptyque’s founders, who first began as artists using ink and paper.
“Our fragrances have always fit into a niche classification because they weren’t mass fragrances with a ton of marketing behind them. We stayed true to this idea of narrating a story, particularly the stories from our founders,” said Eduardo Valadez, director of marketing for Diptyque.
Though Diptyque may be selling a fragrance that smells like paper, the marketing around it only loosely relates. Online marketing materials and the brand’s window dressings at boutiques focus on the artistry of Diptyque origin and the possibilities for scent wearers to write, or draw, their narratives.
“This [fragrance] wasn’t about a raw material per se; the task was how to narrate this idea of paper — the birth of the brand — in a fragrance,” said Valadez.
Independent and niche fragrance houses have steadily gained attention and sales traction for several years, sometimes overshadowing more traditional, commercial-focused fashion brand fragrances. According to market research conference Osservatorio Fragranze, independent brands accounted for 47% of industry sales in 2017. Furthermore, 43% of exhibiting independent brands at the annual Pitti Fragranze conference in 2018 were expecting annual revenue growth of more than 5%.
But even independent fragrance houses, like Creed and Parfum de Marly, have not been as playful as to feature pistachios and paper as inspiration or ingredients. Creed and Parfum de Marly scents often evoke traditional scent accords like florals, musks and citruses.
Seventeen-year-old Byredo notably created Bibliothèque as a limited-edition perfume in 2017 based on its best-selling library-inspired Bibliothèque candle. That perfume also became a hit and was added as a permanent fragrance in March 2018. Puig acquired Byredo in 2022 for a rumored $1.07 billion.
There’s a strong possibility of more quirky and unusual fragrances entering the mainstream, with D.S. & Durga following up on its Pistachio hit with its newest launch, Steamed Rainbow on March 1. Steamed Rainbow is meant to smell exactly like what it says, with scents of green cedar, orange and indigo grass among others.
“[Pistachio] was my comfort level of leaning into sweet things because I was never making them before,” said Moltz. “But now I’ve fully given up. I’ve been making crazy sweet things since the end of last year because you have to give the people what they want.”
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