July 27, 2008

A World of Summer Heat and Perfume

This long heat wave combined with high humidity and intermittent intense electrical storms in NYC makes it seem to me like we are all engaged in playing an extreme form of city/weather sports. I think of enduring the weather and the conditions it causes in the city to be exactly like a skill or even an athletic contest.

It takes a lot of patience and calm, and certainly the wearing of appropriate clothing and footwear to get through the baking streets for any length of time. Even so, many are still super-humanly striding around in extremely high heels and platform shoes and tight clothing, with a cheerful stoicism that is on the level of performance art. Protection from the broiling sun or the driving monsoon-like downpours is essential, so it's a must to carry a parasol/umbrella around at all times.

Wearing perfume on such days becomes one of the small pleasures that get you through it gracefully. Even with all the air conditioning, if you are outside at all it becomes necessary to have a shower more than once a day. But this gives an expanded opportunity to use light body sprays and scented soaps and bath products.

The Roget and Gallet bath line are meant for days like this. The Evelyn and Crabtree, or Caswell Massey old fashioned simple scents of lavender, almond or rose can help bring out a sense of Yankee industry and self possession in the morning.

In the evening, I like to turn the dial in the opposite direction, to something heavier or more complicated.

My current rotation of evening perfumes is Poivre de Piquant by L'Artisan, (which develops beautifully, I love the combination of sharpness and softness), Cuir de Oranger by Miller Harris, some of the Etros, such as the Patchouly, and Etro Vetiver (vetiver is so great in the heat, as the Indians know so well), and also  L'Artisan's Dzonga and Timbuktu.

Speaking of summer heat, there was a presentation at Symrise on the Russian perfume market put on by Sniffapalooza which surprised me.  I was shocked to hear that though the winters are famously long and cold in Russia, the summers are very hot, often with many 100 degree days. So the summer there is kind of like NYC in this past heat wave, along with the very short, if sweet, spring and fall seasons.

Symrise has been doing extensive marketing research in Russia, since it is a big and expanding market for fragrance and cosmetics. Their results were that the Russian market currently prefers a traditional femininity, with lots of makeup, dressiness, and status branding, but with a wild card thrown in of a strong love for the natural environment, which is seen as the antidote to stress and pollution.

Russians have historically been most drawn to strongly floral fragrances, but Symrise has also found a preference for an ideal of freshness during the high heat of the summers, and for fruity fragrances, especially the berry scents. "Orientals" or "incense" types are not liked very much, which also surprised me. I imagined those types would be exactly what Russia would be all about. No leathers or woods or spices, and little liking for citrus or gourmand notes like chocolate, either.

This seems similar to the tastes of other parts of the world where femininity is still preferred in its more traditional cast, such as Latin America and Asia. Symrise had a number of men's and women's accords relating to the four extreme seasonal shifts, because Russians like to mark the seasons very definitely and to change their perfumes according to them even more than we do. I found most of the samples much too fruity and sweet for my taste, but there were a couple that stood out by being much softer and tending towards the maybe dangerous woods and balsamic notes, which might not sell so well there right now, at least according to the marketing research.

I wonder if as the world becomes more connected through media, that a global style might not take hold everywhere. Personally I feel that tastes in perfume and fashion around the world actually will begin to converge into an international taste, somewhere around the French and artisan niche brands for perfumes. But that is just my intuition, rather than information supported by marketing research. For me, the problem with creating scents from marketing research can be the too many cooks syndrome, or a corporate taste for averaging that will not result in exciting anybody in particular.

I was surprised to learn that in Asia perfumes are not really liked (the source of so many perfume raw materials and traditions). People sometimes collect expensive bottles more for the packaging and the psychological idea of the product than for use of the perfume itself.  They also, like the Russians, especially in China and Japan (according to an article I read in the New York Times) like "clean" scents. They also have much stronger aromas associated with food than Americans have had, and so maybe don't look to perfumes for olfactory stimulation or associations.

All the markets outside of America and Europe are expanding for fragrance and cosmetics, even as ours has gone somewhat flat, or even cutting back a bit on the luxe side.

Especially Russia and Asia have some catching up to do in regard to indulging personally with luxury goods, so of course they are being closely watched as many new opportunities arise to catch the interest of these emerging markets.

Above photo by Bisovsky.

1 comment:

chayaruchama said...

I find your seminar fascinating.
[I'd wished I could have attended with you !]

I can just envision you with a parasol !
But leave stilettos to the martyrs, darling.

As long as they don't oppress, I can enjoy most scents in this swelter.