I went through a period a number of years ago when I was so put off by new scents that only vintage perfumes smelled good to me! I am not exactly anti-synthetic, but the contemporary crop of perfume chemicals (in contrast with what I call Original Synth from the first half of the 20th Century) is so omni-present I am just sick of all of it!
I recently had the chance to smell a 8 or 9 Gardenia scents on a whim, to compare and contrast them and choose one, when I had a sudden craving for big white florals. This happens to Perfumistas. It was painfully obvious that they were all working around the same one or two "gardenia" molecules, some formulations were better for me than others, but the blatant similarity diminished the whole group! Yes I was able to choose my favorite, but that's really not enough for me, as a lover of original perfumes.
On my recent trip to NY I was drawn to a new Oud Rose perfume, but I swear that everyone even seems to be using the same couple of Oud molecules, what a bore! One would think that they would make 10 or 20 different Ouds to exploit all the different facets of this amazing material, but no! Regardless, Rosam is half the price of Kilian's Rose Oud and might be a bit of a smell alike (although it has been ages since I tried the Kilian).
It's hard to understand what perfumers are doing when you smell what is around and then see a fab photo like this of perfumer Isobel Doyen working at her perfume organ, WTF??? Yes she has composed a number of "uber niche" scents like Elena at Perfume Shrine mentions in her nice interview, but I wonder what she is doing now? Do the companies demand something that smells just like something else that sold well by another perfume line -- which is why I didn't become a commercial shoe designer -- and isn't she totally frustrated? It just seems like they are using the same bases and ingredients over and over again in about 10 different genres and achieving slightly different but all too recognizable tonal qualities!
Luckily lots of people aren't looking for the most unusual, original, oddball perfumes, and more than ever before, even I often just want to "smell good," but there are lots of us Perfumistas disillusioned with the perfume world, so we will have to share resources. Not everyone is looking for ultra personal and iconoclastic scents, and it is a noble pursuit just to smell great in our world overrun with the same scent chemicals everywhere.
It was first beautifully elucidated by the wonderful Mandy Aftel in Essence and Alchemy, who I call the Godmother of the movement (more about her in the next blog), the only natural perfumer making things that I actually crave, although there many others to explore, from the ridiculous to the sublime.
To be fair, there are several perfume houses who still speak with an original voice, Frederic Malle, Serge Lutens, Patricia de Nicolai, Andy Tauer, Les Histoires de Parfums, and Miller Harris, to name a few, maybe we can make a list!