I’m in the middle of reading one of the most riveting books I’ve ever come across; Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Lustre by Dana Thomas. The book traces the roots of luxury and delves deep into the multi-billion pound industry. It is an absolute eye-opener. One of the chapters looks at the fragrance industry; a shadow of its former self and while the big names in perfume won’t go on record (it’s a small, rarified world), they’re pretty much in agreement that the art of fragrancing has been sacrificed to the art of marketing. Mass market fragrances are the result of focus groups, safe, please-all ingredients and heavy celebrity endorsements. Costs are pared back to the absolute minimum, from outer packaging to bottles, but mainly cheaper juice is where higher profits are made. Even luxury brands are said to water down good fragrances and use cheaper ingredients, making a mockery of the very word ‘luxury’.
There is nothing wrong with producing smells that people like and can afford but true perfumistas wring their hands at a dying industry. I don’t ‘get’ perfume so much myself.. I either like it or I don’t, regardless of price or content and I think I can safely say I have not once been able to arrange the famous ‘top, middle and bottom’ notes into anything meaningful in my nose. However, there are those that can and do. Perfumistas are absolutely passionate about olfactory pleasures so I am sure the opening of a second Les Senteurs in the West End of London will be happy news.
Les Senteurs is a proper ‘perfumery’; they sell quality fragrances, artisanal perfumes and their knowledge is legendary. It is a place for true aficionados to revel in the art of perfume. Perfume archivist, James Craven, is one of the few people in the world who can give a meaningful quote and description of perfume…I used to rely on him for adding gravitas and bringing life to fragrance features..and clearly remember him describing a perfume as ‘embracing’ with such a hearty roll of r’s that I felt wrapped in his words. That is like gold to a journalist struggling to describe a fragrance she or he has never smelled.
So, whether you are a perfume novice or a long standing perfumista, it’s definitely worth a visit. Les Senteurs are also running evening events for those wanting to discover more about the art of fragrance – Shaken and Stirred (on Feb 14th 2012) looks at the world’s most sensual fragrances, their ingredients and histories – and yes, there is a cocktail or two! Also, the Vintage Sessions look at fragrance through the decades and the next one is in January. These are held in the Scent Salon, downstairs.
Les Senteurs is at 2, Seymour Place, London W1. 020 7183 5842. www.lessenteurs.com