What are your favorite niche lines? What perfume houses would you recommend to someone who is new to fragrance?
Niche, artisanal, indie… These labels mean so much and so little, but let’s imagine that they mean a small fragrance house with a limited distribution (and yes, even though L’Artisan is now sold at Sephora, it’s still a niche fragrance house to me). I don’t think that niche connotes quality any more than does a designer label, especially when you factor in the luxurious prices. I also have a gripe or two about the explosion of overpriced lines that make inflated claims while selling juices that were picked from a reject pile on a perfumer’s desk. All of this aside, some of the most interesting launches today still take place in small houses, and I turn to niche when I want to find unusual compositions and memorable fragrances.
I credit Annick Goutal for making me want to explore the perfume world beyond the Macy’s counter. Even though I never grew to like Gardenia Passion, the first fragrance I had sampled, its surprisingly free form floral and bold character made a strong impression on me. It was different and less formal than Lancôme Trésor I wore at the time, and it prompted me to search further. Before long I was enchanted by the delicate vignette of L’Artisan Parfumeur La Chasse Aux Papillons, the elegant beauty of Guerlain Après l’Ondée and the radiance of Shiseido Féminité du Bois. But Annick Goutal remains the fragrance house I recommend to friends who want to explore something beyond department store best sellers. The fragrances are approachable, playful and well-crafted, and the collection is varied enough for everyone to find something to their liking.
Photography by Bois de Jasmin