At this time of year, many men will be opening their bathroom cabinets and looking at the aftershave that a loved one so kindly gave them for Christmas. They’ll then be wondering whether to splash a little bit on their freshly shaved face – or discreetly throw it in the bin.
Buying the right aftershave for a man might not be quite as tricky as choosing perfume for a woman but it requires a certain skill. Whether this makes it easier or harder, it’s too early to judge, but the choice of fragrances for men is getting wider. More niche luxury names are coming into the market – and finding a ready audience, it seems. Men’s premium fragrances have been growing over the last three years and will grow faster in Western Europe and the UK than mass brands, according to figures from market researchers Euromonitor International. In the UK, sales of men’s mass fragrances fell by 7.9 per cent over the period 2005 to 2010, it found, while the premium sector enjoyed a growth of 23.3 per cent. Across Western Europe, over the same time period, premium products have enjoyed growth rates that are triple those of the mass sector, with the trend expected to continue strongly over the next five years.
Fragrances have bounced back after the economic shock of 2008 and brought with them a “flight to quality,” according to Irina Barbalova, Euromonitor International’s Head of Beauty and Personal Care Research. “There’s a greater demand for unconventional fragrances among higher end male customers now, with more of a focus on individuality,” she says. “We’re seeing the use of more non-traditional but premium ingredients, such as amber. These are fragrances that are focussed on a place or which tell a story, unlike the mass products which are more about brands and celebrities.”
For example, Molton Brown recently launched its first range of fragrances, at a premium price point, each of which is connected to a particular location. Navigations Through Scent is a collection of five varied and distinct artisanal fine fragrances, which follow the ancient spice trade routes, with aromas connected with Egypt, China and Indonesia, then England, before entering the New World in Canada. Tom Ford’s range of fragrances for men has also encouraged new interest in niche fragrances associated with certain locations and experiences.
“There’s been significant growth in the niche fragrance world,” says Clorinda Di Tommaso of luxury fragrance emporium, Avery Fine Perfumery. “We’re also seeing big brands launching smaller, more exclusive collections to cater for this change in the market. Another important change taking place is the move to fragrances being unisex. Just as the first time you burn a luxury candle, you never turn back – the same applies to the discovery of quality perfume.”
One exciting recent addition at Avery is Swedish brand Agonist. Its fragrances are made from 100 per cent natural raw materials. “This is very challenging in the world of modern perfumery. In a true collaboration between art and fragrance, two creative masteries are intertwined: the art of mouth-blowing glass and the art of perfume-making,” says Di Tommaso.
Men, as luxury designers and marketers know, like clothing and accessories with a narrative, a quirky history. The same is increasingly true of fragrances. At Avery, they are excited about a fragrance collection called Eight + Bob. This is the long lost fragrance that John F. Kennedy and an elite circle of men wore in the late thirties. The packaging tells the story of how the precious bottles managed to make their journey from France to the US during the beginning of WWII: hidden and smuggled within books.
Also among these new, niche luxury brands are Byredo, created by Ben Gorham, a former basketball player. Another favourite is Francis Kurkdjian, whose APOM (A Part of Me) for men contains a heady but refreshing mixture of orange flower, cedar wood and amber. Kurkdjian’s Lumiere For Him features cumin, cinnamon, patchouli and mugwort.
Barbalova points out that many of these new scents are unisex – men are more interested in the actual smell than any macho branding around it. Individual designers such as Boadicea the Victorious, whose founder, Michael Boadi, has no normal training, is aimed equally at men and women.
This year, many men are looking for something more niche when it comes to fragrances. With fragrance, as has already happened with products such as wine, coffee and chocolate, consumers are now increasingly keen to learn about composition and provenance. Green Irish Tweed and the more recent Aventus Millesime fragrances from Creed, a long established but hitherto not well-known fragrance house, are proving popular.
Ironically, in this age of celebrity aftershaves when almost any performer from Sean John to Antonio Banderas or Ronan Keating seems happy to slap his likeness on a bottle of smelly water, and even the X-factor has its own line, actor and gallerist Sean Pertwee recently created a scent because, counter-intuitively, he wanted something that wouldn’t be widely available. “At the moment the market is saturated with designer and celebrity fragrances which aim to develop scents that appeal to a wide range of consumers. As a result of this, the intimacy and power associated with what was once known as a ‘signature scent’ has been lost,” he says. Pertwee worked with Floris to create Pertwee Anderson and Gold 1, a niche fragrance, which, he believes, evokes the world of Beau Brummel. “We’re looking to recreate some of the magic around a really beautiful, distinctive, man’s fragrance.” What man could say no to that?