scent shopping in the digital age

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Though it’s impossible to replace the real live experience of sniffing out scents in a boutique, digital tools can make that process more fun, and perhaps even more efficient. There have been so many new developments in olfactive e-commerce, most obviously, robust sampling programs offered by individual brands or fragrance boutiques. Check out an old list of some brand-specific sampling programs. Here ‘s a breakdown of what we’ve seen so far.

Most Promising

Nose – boutique and website based in Paris
Monday – Saturday: 10:30AM to 7:30PM
20 rue Bachaumont, 75002
M° Sentier or Etienne Marcel

Nose stands out because of their wide range of niche fragrance brands and discovery tool. The site and shop use a diagnostic that analyzes fragrances you already wear to identify your favorite scent families and suggest similar scents. Unfortunately, at the moment, the tool only allows for up to 5 scents to analyze. For someone with a larger scent library, it’s not as helpful as it could be.

Luckyscent – scent bar and online boutique
7405 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles CA 90036
Monday-Saturday 11-7
Sunday 12-5

Luckyscent has by far the widest range of niche fragrance brands and are constantly introducing new products. Their scent descriptions are thorough and they have lots of reviews, although, over the years, I’ve noticed many of them disappearing. Perhaps this is part of shifting stock. That’s one trouble here. Luck Scent has great stock, but you can’t smell everything in store with the limited space in their tiny boutique. They send great email updates and have a fun sampling program. For $3-5 per scent, you can select and buy samples to be shipped to you. At Scent Bar, you can peruse solo, with friends, or get expert help from the staff.

The Fragrance Lab at Selfridges

Part of Selfridges’ Beauty Project, until June 27, 2014, the lab offers a unique ipad diagnostic and exploration experience that includes a bottle of perfume for £65. Selfridges perfume collection is focused more on commercial than niche fragrances. When you buy a ticket, you are fitted with the perfect original scent for you. For the fun of conversing with lab coats in a fog-filled room, until and 50ml bottle of a signature smell, it seems worth it. Buy a ticket here

Jury’s Still Out

Over the past few years, other notable boutiques have joined the perfume party, such as Bergamot, Pinrose, and Scentsa. Several apps have also appeared but need considerable more development to be truly user-friendly.

Iperfumer is an app that simply does not work. What’s more, their perfume database is predictably limited to the fragrances they create.

Perfumance looks really good right off the bat, but they have a strange database of a couple of scents per brand. For example, Frédéric Malle, Byredo, and Heeley are represented by a few seemingly random scents in the larger collection.

Sephora has an in-store app, Scentsa, but alas, is also focused on commercial fragrance.

Pinrose follows a subscription sales model with their own original collection. The program enables shopper to learn about their own unique fragrances through a synesthetic tool – seeing or tasting smells – to explore the best fragrance for her or her.

Bergamot is another company that follows a subscription model, sending you 3 different scents each month to discover. It’s a great concept, focused on niche fragrances. It’s perfect for those getting into niche fragrance for the first time. More experienced fragrance hunters will likely want to see the collection expand dramatically.

Scentbird takes inspiration from the success of Warby Parker. You get fragrances in the actual bottle, try for a few days, and keep it if you like it, return it if you don’t. Neat concept, and a fun, personality-cased discovery method. At present, the company’s offering is limited to commercial fragrances.

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neon sunshowers

Newcomer to the world of niche fragrance, Dana El Masri is lighting up with her mutlisensory creations. Her line Jazmin Saraï translates music into olfactory compositions. Each fragrance invites you to smell the music that inspired it.

Imagine a scent that captures the beauty and spunk of of MIA. Jazmin SaraïNeon Graffiti (2004) shimmies and slides along the nostrils in time with Sunshowers. It pops top notes of electric citrus and mango, moving slowly through an herbaceous, tropical green before eliding into a soft beach bonfire made up of cedar incense. Where the opening notes are effortlessly youthful, the dry down has the gentle woodsiness of Miller et Bertaux‘s bobo chic fragrance, A Quiet Morning. Once you get your hands on this bright scent, perfect for summertime, you’ll want to blast MIA on repeat.

deconstructing perfume

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The Art of Scent exhibit at New York’s Museum of Art and Design is a foray into how perfumes are born. It is a minimalist yet visually striking exhibit that surveys a brief history of Western perfumery through key fragrances. The twelve fragrances showcased are all scents that were available on the market at some point. Beginning with Guerlain’s Jicky (1889) and ending with Margiela’s Untitled (2010)ach scent represents a particular trend in fragrance.

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The first room is an open airy space with twelve yonic wells installed in the wall that emit a motion-sensitive gust of perfumed air. It is a surprisingly gentle way to experience each scent. There are timed privalite displays in the place of plaques to explain the historical significance and composition of each fragrance.

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The second room is even more hands on with a long glass table and chairs where visitors can sit and experience a more potent version of the twelve fragrances by dipping scent strips into small vials of the actual perfume in liquid form. At opposite ends of the table there are two options for contributing feedback on the exhibit that is projected in a real-time word cloud on a wall. One is an ipad that captures word associations for each individual experience of the fragrances. The other is a white notebook in which guests may record their personal associations with scent. The wall installation takes visitors through the process of building a fragrance through different modifications. The walls deliver a card for each of the five “mods” of Lancome’s popular fragrance Trésor (1990).

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The Art of Scent evokes the wonderfully subjective and ephemeral nature of fragrance in an immersive experience that speaks to all of the five senses. If only there was more of an aural component other than video recordings of interviews. Nonetheless, the exhibit promises an exciting future for multisensorial art made possible by cutting-edge technology.

 

The Art of Scent is at the Museum of Art and Design, 11, Columbus Circle, NY, NY 10019 until February 24, 2013

New Fall Fragrances

Botanically inspired Ineke Perfumes has just released two new fragrances for your perfume library.

Sweet William is fresh yet softly spicy scent. It evokes a walk though an apple orchard from the Anthropologie Floral Curiosities line is available now at Anthropologie.com. Click here for a limited-time giveaway.

Forget everything you thought you knew about gardenia scents. Ineke’s Letter H for Hothouse Flower is grand dame instead of granny.  It is the perfect accompaniment to either a chic pencil skirt or an evening dress. The latest addition to the alphabet series is a rare earthy gardenia fragrance now available at Ineke.com with free shipping on orders placed before September 30th.

scent accessories for the modern lad and lass

You can now enjoy a new take on the old classic: solid perfume in pencil form. We wish they could also write in scented ink. Available for around $10 at Anthropologie. Is there an eraser available if the scent is unappealing?

Le Métier de Beauté, NYC craft maquilleur, has gone where no cufflink has ever gone before. They have designed three types of scent-embedded cufflinks. The fragrance names are more abstract than the concept though. Who could choose from “bold,” “classic,” and “modern,” without actually smelling them? At a cool $3,500, we’d like to give them a test drive before committing. Smells like something every dandy nowadays must have.

South African strip club Mavericks knows their clients’ needs intimately. The club is selling three fragrances as part of a line called “Alibis” which are designed to mask that incomparable lap-dance and booze accord that makes girlfriends and wives so angry. The fragrances are only available for sale at the club itself. SNL did an ad parody in the 90s about a shoe treatment that gives shoes business trip realness. The salt-like powder was the husband’s alibi, covering up his tropical beach getaway with his mistress by pretending to be on a Chicago winter business trip. Life imitates art.