Perfumed runways and olfactory branding

Perfumed runways and olfactory branding

By Erin Richardson

Hair artist, makeup maestro, nail guru: That’s so 2012. The newest go-t0 expert to consult for your chosen runway event? Why a perfumer of course.

Olfactory branding is a relatively new marketing concept where fragrance is used to help an audience associate a scent with a brand. Recently, designers have been perfuming the venues at their runway shows, choosing a signature fragrance that the audience can associate with that season’s collection—and with the DNA of the brand itself. It’s all about creating a lasting, multi-sensorial impression.

Revillon, source:, Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2013
Designer Andrew Heather of Revillon designed his Spring 2013 collection with the French Royal Court in mind. And to enhance the highly structured yet feminine collection of redingote jackets, pencil skirts and bra tops in vivid magenta, sky blue and silver, Heather worked with New York-based olfactory branding firm 12.29. The scent to capture the Marie Antoinette-loving aesthetic: why a custom blend of neroli, animal notes and seductive balsam, of course, whipped up by perfumer Francis Kurkdijian.

Meadham Kirchhoff, London Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2013
Ed Meadham and Ben Kirchhoff, the designer duo behind Meadham Kirchhoff, created a whimsically decadent atmosphere for the coming season, with models made up like Rococo cherubs, dripping with pearls and bows. To enrich the fanciful fashion surroundings, the pair chose a suitably opulent scent to perfume the catwalk: Penhaligon’s Cornubia, a rich oriental fragrance combining notes of sweet vanilla, woodsy musk and heady heliotrope.

Victoria Beckham, spring 2013 source:, scents on the runwayVictoria Beckham, New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2013
Beckham’s style is renowned for its tailored, classic lines with a modern edge. Her choice of runway show scent: the sophisticated Feu De Bois from Diptyque. Reminiscent of crackling fires on chilly January days, this fragrance created the impression of a chic, alluring home that fit flawlessly with the svelte designs of the collection.

Zoe Jordan, London Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2013
A relative newcomer to London Fashion Week, Zoe Jordan’s Spring collection was all about floaty silk, colourful graffiti and metallic mini dresses. Nicely complementing the vibrant clothing was the luminous scent of Cochine Saigon’s Frangipani & Neroli candles, with their smooth and honeyed frangipani and delicate neroli notes.

Giles Deacon Spring 2013, source:; scents on the runwayGiles, London Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2013
The Spring collection from Giles of London was an elegant mixture of graphic colours in laser-cut leather. To complement the aesthetic, the designer Giles Deacon chose Miller Harris’ La Fumée. Containing notes of coriander and incense that develop slowly to a cedar wood finish, this sophisticated scent partnered impeccably with the strong and opinionated clothing.

No wonder designers are thinking outside of the marketing box given the hundreds of brands vying for air time in a typical fashion week schedule. Consider their expressions of neroli, frangipani, wood, musk or vanilla not as an accent to their runway statements but as olfactory logos that might make all the difference to a business bottom line. After all, according to, you are 100 times more likely to remember something that you smell than something that you simply see, hear or touch.



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Deborah Fulsang has spent the last two decades as a journalist covering news and trends in the worlds of style—in fashion and beauty, design and décor, food and entertaining. Her long-held love of fragrance led her to launch The Whale & The Rose, a destination for all things perfume-related. Now, when she indulges in a crazy-expensive bottle of fragrance, she can do so guilt-free. Well almost. It’s all in the name of research after all.