Re-Evaluating Our Shopping Habits Following The Pandemic, a.k.a The Joy Of a Perfume Sample
If you've been following me on Instagram you'll have noticed that I spent the entire month of June trying to highlight the sample / discovery set options the majority of the perfume brands offer nowadays.
As we, very slowly and safely, move towards a "new normal" living , many of our shopping habits will inadvertently change. Until it's 100% safe to hug friends and family, the majority of us definitely won't be taking chances touching a bottle / tester that has been left on the shop floor regardless of how much we want to try the new exciting release we've heard about. Many won't even venture as far as the shops for the sake of trying a new fragrance just yet.
Individual sampling of fragrances will become the new way; which actually, pandemic or not, is the best way to try fragrances as it gives you the time to try them on your skin from the leisure of your home and give them time to live with you so you can make a stress free decision if you like them or not and are ready to spend your money on them.
*Photos from left to right: KEMI, 100 BON, Atkinsons
I very clearly remember long (and not so long) ago where it was nearly impossible to get a sample of a fragrance, especially if it was a new release. Growing up in Greece during the 80's and 90's when I first discovered the magical world of fragrances, the only way to shop was to physically get to the (one - maybe two) shops and bear through the gatekeepers / salespeople who usually had a very specific opinion on what you should try and buy and "imposed" it on you. Thankfully I was always very confident on what I wanted to try and buy and with a tight budget there wasn't much room for error, however the majority of customers left the stores having bought what the saleswoman had "advised them" that was the best choice for them.
*Photos from left to right: Sarah Ireland, Roos & Roos, KTF frangrances
Later on at the beginning of the 00's, as soon as the huge competition between the fragrance brands begun with the multiple new releases, there was an actual hazard of getting over-sprayed by trigger happy salespeople that had to get you to try whatever was the flavor of the month to achieve their targets; the face of selling fragrances changed and everything was based on first impressions (or top notes if you will) and the fleeting freshness of the first spray very rarely lived up to your expectations or taste.
*Photos from left to right: Ormonde Jayne, Rook Perfumes, La Maison J.U.S.
That was the time I slowly started to fall deep into the rabbit hole and begun reading reviews and saving money for purchases while travelling abroad myself or providing friends with very precise orders of what to get me; I still have the limited edition Une Fleur de Chanel from the US, a friend's cousin brought to me while honeymooning in Las Vegas and Kenzo Jungle Le Tigre that my godmother brought me from Singapore when it was not yet available in Greece (and very sadly discontinued soon after).
*Photos from left to right: Naikii, The Merchant of Venice, Annicke by Eight & Bob
I started blind buying online directly from the brands and my collection and passion grew in size with many perfumes that I didn't necessarily love but always used for reference; I always advise against blind buys as the majority of people are not perfume hoarders like myself and what they really want and need is a curated fragrance wardrobe that suits them and their lifestyle.
*Photos from left to right: Fragrance Du Bois, Hilde Soliani, KIERIN NYC
As the years progressed and niche perfumes became widely available, I started buying samples whenever they were on offer; mainly from the US and Luckyscent or contacting the brands directly; I still have the wax samples Serge Lutens sent me following a very kind request I made. Befriending all the salespeople was key as well as I'd get dibs on new releases and offers plus they would make me small samples to try at home.
*Photos from left to right: 19-69, Alexandre J., SoScent
This journey has had some very lucky moments; my move to London coincided with the birth of The Perfume Society a few months later which lead me to a new world of discovery through workshops, events, the gorgeously curated discovery boxes and the infamous The Scented Letter in which me and my collection have been lucky enough to be featured.
*Photos from left to right: The Perfume Society discovery boxes
Sarah McCartney's 4160 Tuesdays was a young brand at the beginning of 10's that I started buying fragrances and samples from while I was still living in Greece so when I placed an order with a West London postcode it kind of looked like a stalker move; I remain a big fan, attended her perfume making workshops and have subscribed to her Patreon account to keep up to date with new and exciting projects; do have a look and subscribe yourselves, it gives a unique insight to her creativity and imagination plus you get to try first many creations.
It took a while I think for brands to realize the power of the sample and although I appreciate that it is a long, tedious and expensive job to bottle all those tiny vials, it's the best way to introduce your work to all interested people and potential buyers. Many brands offer them with free delivery and are refundable upon the purchase of a full bottle of fragrance which makes them practically free for the consumer.
*Photos from left to right: Histoires de Parfums, Marc-Antoine Barrois, Alex Simone
*Photos from left to right: Amirius, Hiram Green, Stories by Eliza Grace
*Photos from left to right: Sarah Baker, Sylvaine Delacourte, Svensk Parfym
*Photos from left to right: Nidor, Chabaud, Parfumeurs du Monde
I must mention that the London fragrance shops like Les Senteurs, Jovoy and Bloom have been offering samples (free and paid for) since the beginning.
*Photos from left to right: Les Senteurs, Jovoy, Bloom
At Les Senteurs you can choose to trial up to four different scents for a small charge per fragrance. The samples are decanted into 1.5ml vials and come packaged in a Les Senteurs card holder detailing the name of the scent and its fragrance house. If you require further assistance, they also provide a bespoke follow up service offering further advice and recommendations.
Jovoy offers the "TRY ME" service, where you can order online a sample of the fragrance you're interested in. All samples are supplied by the manufacturer and/or made using the original perfume supplied directly by the manufacturer.
Bloom has taken it a step further with their curated sample packs that follow a theme to help people discover a specific note in perfumery. They are offered as a standalone product, extremely helpful if you want to get acquainted to specific note, or as a yearly subscription that makes a perfect gift for curious noses!
*Photo of Bloom's sample packs screenshotted from their website
Escentual has been quite bold with their blind fragrance tests involving many fragrance experts and consumers with fantastic results on how we perceive fragrance and now they offer a sample pack of their latest challenge. You can get yours on their website and watch the videos on their blog.
Experimental Perfume Club has been quite innovative with their offering of workshops and open lab days that moved partly online during the lockdown, however they have gone a step further offering perfumery equipment and ingredients along their Layers Collection (which is a must try!).
I believe we're at a crossroads at the moment; regardless of how much we might want to go back to our old way of life, it is impossible; change is inevitable and the best way to embrace it is to find new ways to shop and enjoy our purchases. Sustainability will play a major role in making a decision as well as most of us tend to be more conscious about our purchases. The positive thing that came out is the fact that we slowed down and have taken extra time to take care of ourselves (mostly; they were days of unhealthy binge eating and watching endless telly) rediscovering the products we bulk bought previously without paying much attention and wearing scent on a daily basis. Perfume is a form of art; the civilized thing to do if you will and sometimes the only thing that can keep us connected and sane.
*Photos from left to right: Parterre, Le Monarque, Phuong Dang
Fragrance has been a a great profit maker for all the big department stores like Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Liberty and Fenwick that made them to reconsider their fragrance departments and either make major refurbishments or smartly re-arrange their spaces so they could focus more on it. Hopefully they will continue to keep the spotlight on its importance and support the niche and independent brands. As soon as we all feel comfortable enough we should all physically visit them even if it's just to browse what's new and open our senses to new experiences and hopefully attend fragrance events like we used to.
*Photos from left to right: Harrods, Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason
Now is the time we need to take time to re-evaluate how we shop, travel, socialize and most of all, live with the help of fragrance!