Power players

Power players

By Adriana Ermter

Remember in the ’80s, when everyone wore a thick cloud of Giorgio Beverly Hills, Giorgio perfume and smelled exactly alike? And not only did nobody care, we liked it. The olfactory sensation was not just the fragrant equivalent to emulating Molly Ringwald’s pout, wearing a strand of white pearls and punctuating our sentences with the Valley Girl expression, “totally,” it was the decade’s standard.

Drunken and heady, a bold floral bouquet mixed with seductive skin-like musk and warm, rich sandalwood, was a status symbol. Its decadence announced our presence long before our shoulder-padded frame marched through the door (often sideways). 

Now, after the wave of minimalist ’90s scents, we are returning to an era of femme-fatale olfactory extravagance. Just consider all of the latest Intense versions of the perfumes too. These are perfumes that definitely work with the smoky-eyed, strong-shouldered, femme-fatale styles seen on the fall 2013 runways.

We’ve also witnessed perfumery’s powerhouse scents tweaked with a lighter touch to suit modern-day tastes: fyi, Yves Saint Laurent’s heady Opium of the late 1970s has been revisited several times in the past couple of years, likewise Shalimar and Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps. The Giorgio couture house also launched a sunnier eau under its iconic label last year—30 years after its original ruled the airwaves. They’ll still bold, just not retro.

In keeping with our zeitgeist’s love of glamour, we are embracing strong, opinionated style: Consider Tom Ford’s hugely successful perfumes and the toilettes by Frederic Malle which are helping steer the fragrance tide.

“These [big, bold] fragrances are very well known all over the world,” affirms Nathalie Lorson, a perfumer with Firmenich the Swiss fragrance and flavours company. “They have a strong identity and an olfactory signature.”

The inexplicable timelessness of these bold scents is what keeps perfumers motivated, one-upping themselves year after year in attempt to re-set the perfume bar and establish their next elixir as the next power player.

According to Serge Lutens, the founder and perfumer of his namesake brand, these larger-than-life perfumes also share one thing in common: “the power of their creator.”

“In the case of the house of Chanel,” says Lutens, “it is the personality of Gabrielle Chanel [that] determined her perfume’s fame. She wished for an abstract juice because then, fashion was influenced with cubism art. The perfume also had the advantage of being beautiful.”


For other perfumes, success can be attributed to a variety of factors: the scent hits just the right note, the brand is popular on TV, it has a covetable bottle or perhaps it was co-created by a megawatt celebrity. And sometimes, says Lutens, it simply boils down to timing and good luck. “Its success can not be identified, but the perfume has somehow found something alive that hit the right chord,” he says. “Even if you don’t know what that is.”

TIP: Timid with high-powered fragrances? No worries. Use a light hand when applying or take the indirect approach and spritz your scent into the air before walking through the fragrant mist to perfume yourself.

1889: Guerlain Jicky

1920s: Lanvin Arpège, Chanel No. 5, Guerlain Shalimar

1930s: Jean Patou Joy, Dana Tabu and Lancôme’s Cuir

1940s: Miss Dior, Robert Piguet Fracas and Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps

1950s: Caron Poivre and Creed Fleurissimo

1960s: Estée Lauder Youth Dew, Guerlain Mitsouko and Houbigant Chantilly

1970s: Gucci Pour Homme, Cacharel Anaïs Anaïs, Yves Saint Laurent Opium, Revlon Charlie, Clinique Aromatic Elixir

1980s: Chanel Coco, Alfred Sung Sung, Estée Lauder Beautiful, Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue, Dior Poison

1990s: Thierry Mugler Angel, Issey Miyake L’Eau de Issey, Comme des Garçon for Men and Women, Calvin Klein Eternity, Serge Lutens Féminité du Bois, Jean Paul Gautier Le Male

2000s: Frederic Malle Carnal Flower, Prada Infusion d’Iris, and Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely

2010s: Elie Saab Le Parfum, Givenchy Dahlia Noir, Tom Ford Tabacco Vanille, Frederic Malle Portrait of A Lady, Chanel Coco Noir, Prada Candy

Hey! What was the powerhouse fragrance that first rocked your perfume world? Maybe it was also a powerhouse woman wearing that perfume that mentored your style… Please share. We love fragrance stories.

Next Post:
Previous Post:
This article was written by

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.