According to Michael Edwards (author of Fragrances of the World, now in its 29th edition), an average of three perfumes per day were released in 2011.* This preponderance of perfume is due in part to a burgeoning niche and indie perfume industry. Though let’s face it, there are a lot of sequels (a.k.a., flankers) out there. Consider the exponential proliferation of Poisons and Addicts alone.
Flankers have been around for a long time, but what caught my interest in recent years was the trend toward what I call Perfume Prequels–the ones with starter adjectives in their names. Their monikers seem to imply: first, that there is a market for the fragrance equivalent of a training bra; and alternatively, that the new perfumes predate their iconic sisters. Think Chanel No. 5 Eau Première and Shalimar Parfum Initial.
Like movie prequels, perfume prequels allow expansion of a beloved story even when some of the main characters have already been killed off. With restrictions on the very ingredients that made classic perfumes classic, the notion of building on the old base to make a bigger, better, blockbuster version of what they were is but a dream–or maybe a nightmare. Instead the prequels seem to build backwards, paring down, while retaining recognizable features of their precursors: the silky texture of No.5; Shalimar’s fleshy iris blush.
I was at first suspicious of the Prequels. But it turns out their hushed tones are just the ticket for me. They deliver all the retro gravitas of a silent movie still, but with a lighthearted charm reminiscent of Georges Meliès’s most whimsical frames.
* The Edwards statistic came directly from communication with his publicist.