The past year or so has seen a shift in the worlds of fashion and beauty, with life imitating art not only on the runways, but on the retail shelves too. Breaking news topics, such as industrial scandals and the call for equality and diversity, paired with our ever-changing economic landscape, were all factors that signalled a change, not only in what we think, but also in what we buy and how we curate our lifestyles. Powerful movements such as Time’s Up and Me Too — a response to the concealed culture of sexual harassment and gender inequality in the workplace — saw female A-list celebrities coming forward to disclose their stories, which bred a strong wave of activism on all fronts.
The most memorable representation of this was on this past season’s runways, with fashion designers showcasing thought-provoking collections that aimed to say something meaningful, instead of just parading an army of beautifully made garments. From the women’s march demonstration at Christian Dior, to the power-suited models at Tom Ford, fashion and beauty were taking a stand for something, and using artistry to propel the movement forward.
You may not think of fragrances as players in the world of activism, but the collective protesting energy of society has landed scent in a space to incite conversation through visuals and the senses. Many luxury designer brands, such as Elie Saab, Bulgari, and Jean-Paul Gaultier, have presented their recent launches with a focus on youthfulness, freedom of expression, and femininity.
While the call for gender fluidity is still strong, as more and more unisex fragrance collections pop up, there is also a growing trend that celebrates unapologetic femininity in the fragrance industry. Filtering through from scent itself to visual ad campaigns, brands are appointing strong, influential, and unknown female figures, as opposed to established supermodels, to front their fragrance campaigns and to make the idea of designer anything more relatable and attainable.
Elie Saab introduced a new fragrance pillar to its house with the launch of the Girl of Now scent in 2017. It was a younger, fresher scent that celebrated the idea of the iconic “girl gang” at its core. Similarly, Bulgari received the same feminist memo with the launch of its new Omnia Pink Sapphire fragrance, which introduces a more free-spirited, daring scent to the iconic Omnia collection. Jean Paul Gaultier also caught the feminism wave by launching a new fragrance pillar with Jean Paul Gaultier Scandal. The fragrance, showcasing a new bottle design from the classic Le Male and Classique scents, plays on the idea of a strong female figure working in a corporate, male-dominated work space by day, who is the life-of-the-party at night, when she reveals her ultra-feminine, rebellious, and playful alter-ego.
LUXURY BECOMES SUSTAINABLE
Conscious business practices in both the fashion and beauty spaces have been a huge trend, with brands becoming increasingly aware of their impact on the environment and the economy. Consumers have become more discerning of what they consume physically, due to the shift to more holistic beauty and wellness philosophy. This has spilt over into people becoming more aware of the goods they consume, as well as the environmental footprint they create. Companies such Parfums Mugler and Azzaro have already jumped onto the trend and put programmes in place. One of these is the Responsible Alcohol Approach that looks at practising sustainable methods of sourcing materials and fragrance alcohol production.
The most recent brand to take such an approach is high-end jewellery brand Chopard, which has created a sustainable fragrance collection in line with its Luxury Natural Philosophy. Chopard has always been a brand that cares about social empowerment: it was the first watch and jewellery brand to provide Fairmined certification to small-scale mining communities. So it was a natural progression to venture into making fragrances that are created using only sustainable and naturally sourced ingredients, such as Indian sambac jasmine, Calabrian bergamot, vanilla absolute, damascena rose, and incense essential oil. “Our industry relies on smallholder farmers around the world to grow the natural ingredients for flavours and fragrances which enhance our daily lives,” says Firmenich CEO Gilbert Ghostine. “Our Naturals Together initiative not only protects the best that nature has to offer, but also shares its know-how to improve farmers’ livelihoods, while fostering biodiversity.”
The past year saw a lot of brands looking to the past for their next fragrance venture. Houses such as Lacoste, Chanel, Hugo Boss, YSL, Calvin Klein, and Dolce & Gabbana all went back to the fragrances that made them iconic or carried a significant chunk of their brand history, and brought them into 2018 with younger, more era-appropriate campaigns, new bottle designs, and innovative tweaks to the scents’ olfactory composition.
L’Homme Lacoste took us back to the classic campaign visual of René Lacoste sitting next to an alligator; Calvin Klein reawakened our love for ’90s Kate Moss with the release of the new version of Obsession in the form of Obsessed; Dolce & Gabbana reimmersed us in the waters of the Mediterranean with the more intense version of the iconic Light Blue; while Chanel just recently launched the intense newbie of its best-selling female fragrance, Coco Mademoiselle.
The millennial presence is stronger than ever with more designer brands collaborating with artists and innovative technology to make fragrance more interactive and “cool”. Commes des Garçons collaborated with musician Pharrell on the fragrance called Girl, which was inspired by his chart-topping single by the same name.
More recently, Zadig & Voltaire paid homage to its pioneering scents, This is Him! and This is Her!, with a unique partnership with tattoo artist Virginia Elwood, who created graphics for the limited-edition bottles. Technology is also influencing the direction of perfumery, with the use of a technique called headspace, used in the Bulgari Omnia Pink Sapphire scent. This allows perfumers to “freeze” an olfactory moment of an ingredient. When needing floral notes, flowers do not have to be plucked or extracted, but the scent of the flower is absorbed by a neutral gas, allowing the perfumer to reconstruct it into a useable raw material.