Thursday, 26 June 2008

Designer V/S Niche

Since 'niche' or boutique fragrances have become more accessible via the internet, they are swiftly gathering favor with serious fragrance aficionados. More and more people are seeking exclusive releases that are created by small teams in artisanal studios, as opposed to the major designer brands that can be found in retail outlets the world over. 

'Niche' devotees argue that boutique perfumes offer the consumer the opportunity to reward oneself with a scent that is both uncommon and individual. Many would reason that 'niche' equates quality; in that greater attention to detail has been given to the construction of the perfume; and that components are of the highest calibre. Most would open their purses to pay top dollar for the privilege of not smelling like someone's ex, brother or aunt.
But the designer brands also have an edge. What they lack in terms of exclusivity, they make up for with mass appeal - the consumer buying into the lifestyle these designer brands represent. If you can't afford the Versace, Ralph Lauren or Boss lifestyle, you might as well smell like you can! With companies spending millions on advertising, global promotion and 'free gift' paraphernalia, the customer really can't lose.

The Fragrance Foundation (FiFi) once categorized fragrances 'niche' or 'mainstream' based on the number of 'doors' they were supported in (that is, the number of retail outlets stocking a specific scent or brand). Nowadays that definition is changing, so the term is less easy to determine. Quite possibly, production and distribution are key factors.
However, with the retail world getting smaller due to increased use of the internet, and as tastes shift toward the exclusive and the rare, I ask the question: at which point does niche actually become mainstream? At some stage, in time, the internet retail market will also become saturated with the L'Artisan's, the Trumper's and the Malle's. When does the line blur so much so, that it is no longer possible to determine which is which?

Whatever the case, as consumers, we are the winners here. We can enjoy the best of both worlds. Those that love the designer brands have an appreciation for their affordability, accessibility and general appeal. Many would turn their nose up at the creative (and somewhat avant-garde) offerings from the niche world. By the same token, with a certain degree of aloofness, many niche admirers state they could "never go back" to mainstream releases... but this is bollocks to me. Why would you want to deprive yourself of enjoying the offerings of 2/3rds of the global fragrance market?
The debate continues to rage and the industry remains divided. And I humbly call for balance

1 comment:

CX827 said...

well said in your article.