Post by Anne-Marie
Caution being my middle name, I was never tremendously adventurous in sampling niche fragrances, even at the best of times. Now that it’s the worst of times (a low Aussie dollar and much higher shipping costs), I’m not buying niche at all.
But a tight budget forces you back on your own resources: if you apply a bit of cleverness and an open mind, it is amazing the treasures you can find amongst the stuff cluttering up the shelves and inventories of mainstream sellers and discounters.
Here are five inexpensive (well under $AUD 100) options to try if you are looking for fragrances that are off-beat, avant-garde, or beautiful in an inexplicably un-beautiful sort of way.
Five Reasons You Don’t Need To Buy Niche
Molinard Habanita (perfumer unknown, 1921)
Towering in its originality, Habanita is so weird it never smells dated. Although famous for its association with cigarettes, tobacco is not listed as a note in Habanita. I get dirty leather, vanilla, jammy fruit, and vetiver. Florals? I suppose so, but I don’t smell them.
Rochas Femme (Edmond Roudnitska, 1943)
Chypres smell ‘niche’ because they are not fashionable for the mall customer any more. Femme is a meltingly beautiful fruity chypre, often likened to Guerlain’s Mitsouko but less austere and much easier to wear. I prefer the post-1989 reformulation to the vintage versions I’ve tried.
Bvlgari Black (Annick Mernado, 1998)
Like Habanita, Black is famous for a note it does not possess: tyre rubber. Black is mainly leather, vanilla and smoky tea. Comforting, edgy, and so alluring. Someone should write a novel where the main character wears Black. Would they be male or female? You decide.
Estee Lauder Knowing (Elie Roger, 1998)
Lauder is so mainstream you can buy it anywhere. If Lauder could establish a counter on the moon, it would. This makes it all the more wonderful that Knowing is still in the line-up. It’s a rose chypre so intelligent, so commanding and so dark that the best way to wear it is not with a pencil skirt and stilettos – for that would be too predictable now – but with jeans and a simple cotton shirt.
Lalique Encre Noire (Nathalie Lorson, 2006)
Encre Noire is a crisp, nothing-to-hide vetiver. You might find it linear and one-dimensional. Or, conversely, you might love that it takes ease and good taste for granted. It needs confidence to pull off something as apparently simple as this.
It was easy to think of five examples of ‘alternative to niche’. I could easily rattle off more, but I’m interested in hearing your ideas. What would you pick?