Making Scents: Thank heaven for little smells

There is a new wave of marketing in the fragrance industry of late. Perfume houses have saturated us with celebrity fragrances and a tide of main market offerings. We’ve even reached new heights in haute parfumerie. But industries are pushed to grow their share and are offering products to new markets by being inventive and diversifying their products. The focus is now on how to target young people and their parents, and how to offer sweet, candied, fun scents with a hint of rebellion.

In the fashion and apparel space, the relatively recent phenomenon of children’s fragrances is positioned as an add-on purchase, or a gift.

Spanish clothing store Zara presents their girls’ fragrances at the right height to attract little ones, and uses sugary packaging and whimsical illustrations to grab their attention. The scents themselves are sweet and light, moulding a whole new era of fragrance wearers as early as possible.

The French approach is pervasive and genteel. Guerlain offers the right of passage of a young lady visiting their Champs Élysées store as an important milestone in her maturity as a woman. It is a very important visit: the tween is accompanied by her mother, purchasing her first fragrance together. The journey is treated with such gentle care and attention, slowly widening the eyes of the girl to what is on offer.

Introducing crafted notes that are evocative of baby powder, but a little sharp with an air of innocence is their Petit Guerlain. “Or perhaps the young lady would like to try Insolence? An over-excited note of violet and red berries. Designed as a scent of youth, daring with freedom.”

Not only are the youth becoming more important to fragrance houses and marketers but sales research has also revealed that pregnant woman are more likely to review and change their shopping patterns, and be open to new products.

Enter the world of baby fragrances.

Probably the most renowned baby fragrance is Petite Chêrie, composed by perfumer Annick Goutal for her sister, the founder of clothing brand Petit Bateau. Baby fragrances like this often have an intermingling of fresh, light orange blossom (achieved with neroli), mandarin lavender and calming chamomile. Fresh, subtle and sweet. Very light and often simply a cologne or eau de toilette (the scent in water, rather than alcohol).

Interestingly, the price point of baby fragrances, like baby designer duds, is far more affordable than the adult version. Some adults purchase children’s fragrances for their lighter effect on both nose and purse.

Burberry launched Baby Touch, a gentle baby eau de toilette with notes of “Mandarin orange, rhubarb jelly and vanilla milk moss”. I can’t even imagine what vanilla milk moss is, but it sounds like a wonderful concept, creatively.


Then there is indie perfumer Le Labo’s Ambrette 9, which is composed for babies and their mammas – a delicate musky scent found in the ambrette seed (also called musk seeds and closely related to okra, or lady’s finger). It evokes the smell of a baby’s skin, and is described as being evocative “of human tenderness”.

What separates these designer baby fragrances from the likes of Johnson’s Baby Cologne is that they are fragrance compositions that are certainly more complex and sophisticated – but still achieve simplicity and playfulness, conceptually enticing and nostalgic.

Follow Tammy Violet Frazer on Twitter @frazerparfum

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