Shopping for perfume used to be all about hitting the department stores and sampling countless smell strips. Often this was done under the polite supervision of an enthusiastic sales associate who was rarely in my experience very knowledgeable. Having someone in close proximity, quite focused on helping you pinpoint and describe your impressions can be, well … a little off-putting. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way. Being scrutinized by a stranger while trying to fully engage in a sensory experience is weird and distracting.
Making a perfume purchase after just sniffing in a store or at Sephora has another serious drawback. It doesn’t take into account that perfume changes (in most cases A LOT) over the course of a day. Sniffing a perfume-doused piece of paper only gives you a sense of that initial scent, before it dries down. Unless you plan on camping out for the day at Neiman Marcos or Bloomingdales, it’s impossible to get an accurate impression when shopping at a department store.
The times they are achangin. While many perfume lovers still prefer shopping in brick and mortar stores, there are loads of new and fun ways to get your perfume fix. They’re worth trying especially if you find the in-store process intimidating or you simply don’t have the time to get to one. Read on to learn some of the hottest fragrance shopping developments…
Thanks to technology and the growing niche perfume trend, there is a way around this perfume shopping awkwardness. This plus the reality that today’s consumers are simultaneously more informed, more impatient, less brand loyal, less invested in “stuff” and more invested in “ideas” has created the perfect storm for change.
Many niche perfume brands get this and are targeting online shoppers in fun new ways. Since no one can actually smell their fragrances, these companies have had to think outside the box to find ways to express what their perfumes are all about. Phlur, a brand that launched in 2015, allows you to explore each of their eight scents through an individualized Spotify soundtrack. For $18 they send three 2 ml bottles to you with no shipping charge and you have 30 days to apply that to a full bottle out of the selection. After trying their online shopping experience I have say they’ve got their act together. Learn more about Phlur from my review here.
Another one that has been hugely successful is fashion brand Maison Margiela’s Replica series of perfumes. It created an instantly buzz when it launched by using visual memories to capture its customers. Each fragrance in their Replica series has specific sensorial memory and an image attached to it. Flower Market is on my top ten list of current favs with Beach Walk one of my summer staples. Jazz Club is another one that has done phenomenally well. While it’s outside my fragrance wheelhouse, I can see why its product description of “Deep leather armchairs. Cocktails and cigars. Light reflecting on a piano” might sound totally addicting to others.
California-based fragrance brand Pinrose also offers a unique approach to the fragrance shopping experience. For shoppers who literally don’t know where to start they offer a scent quiz which is designed to discover your subconscious scent style. The Pinrose approach is to use an interactive quiz to help match you with your perfect fragrance instead of focusing on notes and fragrance families.
Using a series of 11 pairs of images, shapes and colors, Pinrose instructs you to select the one you are instantly and instinctively drawn towards. Their 10 plus fragrances each have catchy names like Wild Child, Secret Genius, Garden Gangster and so on. After making your selections, you arrive at the big reveal which shows which are their scents match your scent style. The latest from Pinrose is an Intention Scenting gift set which pairs 9 of their perfume rollerballs with Intention Cards and an Intention Scenting guide. You can read more about the Pinrose shopping experience here.
Another online tool worth checking out is The Perfume Society’s Virtual Fragrance Advisor. After entering the name of your favorite fragrance including the time of day and time of year you wear it (for me it was all day, all year – which is an option) they pop out a list of 6 fragrances similar to the one you already wear and love. The iconic Michael Edward’s Fragrances of the World website also will steer you towards 3 potential new favorites. The suggestions are based upon new fragrance releases that are most similar in style, scent and fragrance family to your current fav. Even if you’re someone who doesn’t care about the latest releases if you knew that one of them spells YOU all over it, you might be tempted to give it a whiff. Am I right? Click here to see your potential best matches.
Sephora has also jumped on board with an in-store fragrance finder called Fragrance IQ. If you’ve never seen one, take a look:
I’ve used theirs a couple of times. Once was while visiting family at a Sephora in Santa Barbara right after it started appearing in stores a few years ago and then later back in New York. It’s clearly geared for anyone and everyone who either doesn’t want to track down a salesperson or just wants to play around. All of their recommendations are those that they carry in their stores so it’s not the best for me at least. Which isn’t to discount that it might be extremely helpful for someone. a teenager possibly, to lead them in the right direction.
I visited brick and mortar shop Perfumarie located in New York City last year right after their opening. It was at a fun-filled Sniffapalooza event and Perfumarie was one of the stops on the agenda for the week-end. Located in SoHo, Parfumarie specializes in blind perfume testing. The way it works is that the store is lined with 32 identical fragrance spouts, each containing a different scent and with no hint of brand, price or packaging. You test the fragrances in numerical order, select your favorite and then get a sample vial. It’s all about immersing yourself in fragrance with no preconceptions.
I think it’s brilliant. How often have you purchased a perfume just because the bottle was gorgeous or the brand was one that you loved? 🙋
DNA testing is being used increasingly creative ways. It’s already being explored by the cosmetics industry to create bespoke and personalized products. Companies like Vinome is even using DNA testing to help people navigate their way to find their ideal bottle of vino. Is it that much of a stretch to imagine that DNA testing will be used to help find custom curated perfume?
What do you think of these new ways of shopping for perfume? Have you ever looked beyond the department store to purchase fragrance?
Until the next time,