Denise Hamilton, columnist for the LA Times, has written a pair of articles about the growing abundance of indie perfume businesses in recent years. One part of the story gives an overview of the topic, and the other part gives a brief profile of five Bay Area indies, including myself. Thanks, Denise, for including me!
I’ve read quite a bit of discussion lately about the definitions of niche, indie, and artisan perfume brands. As more and more brands enter the market, we seem to look for more specific words to describe what we do as small brands.
Niche: The word niche seems to be used these days for everything that is not designer. Niche originally implied something different than what you find at department stores, but the term has become less meaningful as the niche market has exploded.
Indie: The word indie describes brands that are niche but are smaller, independently owned brands. These days even indie companies can be fairly large though, at least compared to the very small owner/perfumer indie companies.
Artisan: This word seems to engender the most disagreement. Artisan is a subset of indie that refers to brands that produce artisan-made products. Most people define artisan to be products that are handmade in-house. Many indie companies have their scents batched and bottled in labs rather than doing it by hand, and that takes them out of the strict definition of artisan if you subscribe to the idea that artisan means handmade rather than factory produced. Being artisan is not a guarantee of quality, but the best artisan products are original and creative, and they contain a piece of the creator because they are personal. Being artisan in the strict sense means that quantity will be limited because the products are not mass produced.
Finding your way as an artisan brand can be hard, trying to grow while still doing everything by hand. Wholesaling means larger quantity and less profit per item, which is hard to fit into the artisan model that requires so much time and hand labor. The internet helps artisan businesses thrive because we can reach customers directly without the middle-men, and that gives us a way to compete even though our base costs are higher than for factory-made items. (Base costs for artisan brands are higher not just because of increased labor, but because ingredients and packaging are much more expensive when purchased in smaller quantities as we must do.)
I don’t have the answers, but I’m taking things day by day and trying to steer in the direction that my heart says is right for me. Currently, I’m working on my first collection of all-natural scents and am having a lot of fun with it. Terminology is important for defining things like FIFI award categories, but terminology isn’t as important to the consumer; people buy what appeals to them, so indies need to produce the best quality, most unique and interesting products we can regardless of the labels we use to identify ourselves.
I just learned of a beautiful perfume blog I had not seen before, called La fleur et le parfum. It had a review of Jour Ensoleillé yesterday, but you can also find many other reviews of indie brands. (Edited to add: Some posts are in French but with English translations if you scroll down to the bottom.) I love the video of Roxana. Love the beautiful imagery there too. Thanks, Caroline, for the lovely review!
I’m still working on the new scents in between orders and email tasks. Here are a few pictures I took on Sunday. It was a gorgeous, warm weekend and everything looks magical in the fall afternoon light, including the roses.
And a fall clematis flower on a repeat bloomer:
Forest Walk was reviewed today on Fragrance Belles-Lettres. Thanks, Felicia! Glad you had fun at the SF Fragrance Salon!
I took some pictures of the back deck here at Sonoma Scent Studio, showing the oaks that wrap around the deck.
The oak leaves are starting to fall and it is acorn season, with the sound of acorns hitting the roof as they fall. The noise can be disconcerting to visitors at first. 🙂
The summer annuals in pots will soon give way as the cold nights begin. In one deck corner, pots hold pansies, begonias, heirloom carnations, strawberries, and green and purple basil. The strawberries are still giving berries; the plants came from my Mom, whose strawberry patch produced a lot of baby plants that needed a home. Lucky me!
The blog EauMG has posted a review today of Champagne de Bois. Thanks, Victoria! It’s CdB time of year again with fall in the air. And while you’re there at the EauMG blog, check out Victoria’s make-up tutorials on creating vintage looks. She’s cute in all of them and it’s fun to see how close she gets to the vintage.
I have some new ingredient samples to sniff: cork oak absolute, cypress absolute, and a new beeswax. The cork really smells like you might expect, with a dry, dusty woods smell. I need to dilute these down to test them. The cypress is beautiful, but it’s similar to my black hemlock absolute so I’m not sure I’ll need both. I will compare them side by side to see.
I’m working on some natural blends, one of which has blood orange as a major player. I’ve not done a commercial scent with a strong citrus note for a while (I had one called Tapestry years ago), so this is fun.
Just a quick public service post that Indie Scents is having a 50% off sale on DSH perfumes as well as Slumberhouse Grev and Vikt and Sara Horowitz Wings. This is a great chance to get some DSH faves.
Also, I wanted to remind folks that you can get the 34 ml bottles of SSS boutique scents at Indie Scents with free shipping anytime since they have free shipping with over $75 in purchases. (The SSS scents are not on sale, but thought I’d mention the free shipping since not everyone knows about it.)
Back to work! Hope everyone had a great long weekend. We’re having our typical Indian summer, with hot afternoons but cool nights and mornings. Days are getting shorter, and the golden afternoon light has that extra special Sept/Oct glow. My nieces are back in school — it seems to start earlier every year.
In between orders I’m working on the naturals project I’ve had in mind for ages. It’s fun to do something different. I really needed this to recharge a bit. I’m also finishing the Vintage Rose reformulation (I sent out a few testers). I’ll have more to say on these projects, and others, soon.