Breaking a spell that began with Marilyn Monroe saying that all she wore to bed was her Chanel No 5 in 1960, the death of the big budget, celebrity-led fragrance might be on the way. In its place there’s a move towards a smaller scale, more personalised take on perfume. An article in WWD focuses on the fact that pharmacies in the US had seen sales of celebrity endorsed fragrances flat lining over an eight-year period. An unnamed buyer for a pharmacy chain says of the decline: “Mass fragrance isn’t interesting to anyone any more … celebrity fragrance is nowhere.”
Instead, it’s about capturing a moment, as Kenzo’s recent campaign for Kenzo World proves. My Mutant Brain, the short film that accompanied the launch, is an almost four-minute long romp, featuring Margaret Qualley escaping the confines of a society party to do a wild dance of freedom across the art deco interiors of the Dorothy Chandler pavilion. It recalls Fatboy Slim’s Christopher Walken-starring video for Weapon Of Choice. Both are directed by Spike Jonze.
Jonze, the last word in a certain nervous hipster aesthetic (Her, Being John Malkovich), is key to the success of the advert in this new climate where our connection to perfume has changed.
“The new generation really looks at fragrances as a wardrobe, but not anymore as a personal signature,” says Fabrizio Freda, the chief executive of Estée Lauder, tells Bloomberg. The same article cites a rise in popularity of “artisanal scents”, smells that capture specific nostalgic moments such as the Proustian rush of an old fireplace or a familiar lipstick (both by Maison Margiela).
Shifting from smelling like a celebrity to smelling like a memory is massive. Designers Gosha Rubchinskiy and Jonathan Anderson are part of this trend, launching signature perfumes without a hard, celebrity-endorsed campaign and instead focusing on the micro, intellectual theme of relatable memories.
Anderson’s two fragrances, Loewe 001 Man and Loewe 002 woman, centre around the idea of the morning after. “It’s the first time you meet someone,” he says. “It’s not about sex, it can be about sex, but it’s more about that initial feeling of awkwardness. What does that tension smell like?” The designer adds that he wanted to create two scents with “sharable” notes. “Something that when one person wore one and someone wore the other, they could be mixed or worn together.”
Rubchinskiy, meanwhile, is set to release his first self-titled fragrance inspired by “the perfect summer weekend”. It will come in minimalist packaging accompanied by a book of personal photographs, which he describes as “one boy on a vacation, the beach, some landscapes, summer and skateboard and that’s it”. In a statement he described the perfume as “more like an art piece than a perfume.”
With the last spritz of celebrity perfume likely, this could be the way fragarances go: arty, personalised and alternative.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010