Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year from the Land of Confusion

Octavian Coifan describes today’s perfume market as a “land of confusion” where even the well-informed customer is baffled by the profusion of flankers within a legitimate brand. (Hey, Octavian, it’s not only perfume—try shopping for toothpaste or shampoo here in the U.S.) He also calls attention to an alarming convergence: the cheapening and dumbing down of package, bottle and juice by major manufacturers on the one hand, and the increasing ease and sophistication of counterfeiting on the other. The confusion gives birth to a new phenomenon: the launching of brand-name hoax perfumes. These fake but plausible products are popping up outside of Europe and North America.

Coifan thinks it will be easier to counterfeit and hoax niche brands because their limited distribution makes it less likely consumers will be familiar with the real thing. I see a ray of hope, however: niche brands may be able to afford truly effective anti-counterfeiting technologies given their limited distribution, low piece count, and high profit margins.

Coifan thinks that lack of skilled perfumers and aroma chemicals will impede the growth of fakes and hoaxes from India and China. I’m not so sure. Based on its track record in other product areas (infant formula, dog food, etc.), China is likely not only to ignore IFRA guidelines, but to use adulterated and plainly dangerous materials in perfume. Here’s a cheery prediction: someone will get hurt and the resulting shitstorm will encourage the anti-fragrance crowd and lead the EU’s regulatory-corporate combine to tighten the screws even further.

On a worrisome note, Coifan hints in a pre-Christmas post that time-and-money circumstances may cause him to throttle back on his blogging in 2011. We hope it won’t come to that but we know how he feels . . .

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy New Year.

UPDATE: January 4, 2011

Uh oh . . . There goes Octavian's first line of defense.


Katy Josephine said...

I'm wondering if all of the worry over what could/might/will happen actually creates, or attracts, the shitstorm.

The world of perfume is what is is; a changing, morphing monster, like everything else in life. Perhaps in the end, the industry will actually be better.

Denial is my official position until I'm forced to admit otherwise.

Avery Gilbert said...


See no evil, smell no evil?

I think we've seen too much turmoil in book publishing and the music industry to have confidence that the denial cocoon will provide shelter for perfumery.

Anya McCoy has already hoisted the Jolly Roger of the Outlaw Perfume Project and set sail directly for the shitstorm.

Guess we'll see which approach works best.