Thursday, 31 December 2015

Guerlain, YSL and Penhaligon's - The Accountant Effect

As we take our first steps into a new year it's customary to look back on the previous twelve months and celebrate successes, whilst saying goodbye to failures. Well, the perfume industry is no different. The list of new releases gets longer every year and so casualties are inevitable. When decisions are made commercially, rather than artistically, love goes out of the window. With accountants entrusted to make the choices, is it true that "when love goes wrong, nothing goes right"?

There has always been a rush to copy successful perfumes or styles, but when a marketplace gets flooded with them then it is inevitable that the original will be the one to survive. The accountant’s spreadsheet will always aim to end in the black, but when commercialism starts to fight against a brand’s heritage, or the public’s expectations, then it can quickly spiral down into the red. Yves Saint Laurent, Guerlain and Penhaligon’s have all fallen foul to this trend during 2015, and whilst there’s light at the end of the tunnel the journey is far from over.


Lancôme’s “La Vie Est Belle” was a phenomenal success when it launched, and even the new Parfum Intense received favourable reviews and strong sales, but when Guerlain decided to try and copy the style it hit problems. “Le Bouquet de la Mariée”, “Le Plus Beau Jour de ma Vie” and “Mon Exclusif” all tried to incorporate its tender floral notes along with sugared almonds, carla lavender, caramel accord, the list goes on. On the launch of “Bouquet” in May, Luca Turin wrote, “Guerlain cannot sink any lower”, and when he spoke about the house again in October his opinion unfortunately hadn't changed.

Yves Saint Laurent launched “Black Opium Eau de Toilette” in August 2015. Now, when the EDP was released last year it completely divided opinion. Some saw it as sacrilege to use the name of one of their most famous fragrances in a new edition, whilst others fell for the “rock 'n' roll interpretation”. Clearly it was an attempt to reboot the heritage, and a futuristic launch in Selfridges was definitely eye-catching, but with a third version launching in early 2016 it would seem that the idea could be wearing a little thin with many fans.

Penhaligon’s, that bastion of all things English, have actually gone a different way to the other companies. Their accountant's approach was simply to discontinue what some customers saw as their staple scents. Gone are “Violetta” and “Elisabethan Rose”, gone are sections of their luxury soap range, and gone is the power in the base of most of their fragrances. Now, Penhaligon's have always been a favourite of mine, and that will never change, but with some questionable releases planned for 2016 it would seem that commercialism has definitely won.

On a positive note, 2015 also saw Thierry Wasser fight back with Ne m'Oubliez Pas, Christian Provenzano with Halfeti and YSL with Le Vestiaire des Parfums. So, keep your fingers crossed for a return to artistry in 2016.

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