Wanting your signature scent to be unique to you is a universal goal. But reality is, given there’s only so many perfumes in the world that you’ll actually like, and there’s billions of humans wearing perfume on the regular – it’s an impossible dream. So we settle for at least having a perfume no one else in our social circle has.
Niche fragrance has had a huge resurgence in the last decade, particularly recent years. It goes hand in hand with the Instagram generation – we want to have a unique slant to our style and personal ~brand~, and fragrance absolutely is part of this. So it makes sense that smaller houses are the go-to for our gen.
Here are some of the top niche fragrance houses, and a bit about their vibe.
Look, it’s controversial to call Byredo a niche house these days – almost any beauty aficionado is across the perfection that is Gypsy Water. But given they’re still only stocked in Mecca in Australia, we’re claiming them as niche. Founded in Stockholm in 2006, their fragrances are made in Sweden and have that sexy, lived-in feel to them. Basically, they’re what you imagine off-duty models wear.
ICONIC: Gypsy Water consistently tops the top seller list at Mecca, and its fresh/woody feel (thanks to layers of lemon and pepper with a sandalwood base) somehow manages to feel light enough for daytime wear and sultry as hell for night.
NEXT GEN: All the Byredo fragrances are iconic in and of themselves, but Super Cedar is our tip for the dark horse in the bunch. It’s the perfect unisex scent for guys who like to smell like girls, and girls who like to smell like guys, if you feel me – all thanks to its cedarwood and silk musk base.
This NYC brand was established in 2004, and produces only 14 fragrances, all of which are unisex. They also do home fragrance – you might remember the name from Bey‘s Lemonade clip for Sandcastles, during which she burns two Santal 26 candles. Everything is compounded when you purchase it in their boutiques, one of which recently opened in Melbourne.
ICONIC: Santal 33 is frequently named as influencers and celebrities go-to scent. It’s a true unisex one, with notes of violet and iris that lead into leather and musk. Sex in a spray, basically.
NEXT GEN: Thé Noir 29 is a green, fresh scent that softens to a beautiful musky base. It’s a favourite of Aussie influencer Talisa Sutton, so think chic and minimalist.
JULIETTE HAS A GUN
Juliette Has A Gun has the ethos of “perfume as art“, so you’ve probably got a good idea already of how intriguing their fragrances are. Created by Romano Ricci – yep, of the Nina Ricci fragrance family – the brand is all about being niche. They’re all about limited distribution, sticking to perfumeries and a few department stores for stocking their wares.
ICONIC: Not A Perfume was one of the first fragrances to embrace the “nothing” scent. It’s literally one base note called Celatox, which gives a subtle musk-like fragrance. It’s every no-frills girl’s dream perfume.
NEXT-GEN: Gentlewoman isn’t exactly new, but given the trend for women’s scents to embrace masculine notes, we predict it’ll have a massive revival. Literally marketed as a men’s cologne dedicated to women, it’s built around Neroli, with a Musk and Ambroxan base that gives the masculine weight.
Originating as a home fragrance and candle company, Lumira soon found their luxe home scents were so coveted, they should be in perfume oil form for body wear. There’s only four on offer currently, but each is just as amazing and intoxicating as the last.
ICONIC: Of all the scents, Cuban Tobacco is the one your boyfriend’ll steal. It’s got that perfect blend of masculine and feminine notes that makes it equally as wearable on guys as it is on girls. Patchouli mingles with tangerine and clove bud as well as, of course, tobacco to make a truly sexy as hell scent.
NEXT GEN: Arabian Oud sounds like it’d be a really intense scent, but it’s actually a lot more feminine and soft than expected. The mid floral notes are the basis for this – they take a bit of the heaviness away from that oud and amber base.
The Frédéric Malle story is this – back in 2000, Malle decided to create a fragrance house that utilised the biggest names in fragrance creation to make their own signature scents under his label. It was an era when everything was heavily branded, so Malle was going out on a limb with this, and it 100% worked. “Eliminate all that is superfluous or merely decorative” is his credo, and it’s the only guidance he gives the perfume creators, which is why the brand has such an eclectic mix of scents in its repertoire.
ICONIC: Portrait Of A Lady is the top rated of all the Frédéric Malle creations. It’s a twist on the classic rose scent, with cinnamon, sandalwood and patchouli making it less ladylike, more chill. It’s what I imagine Penny Lane from Almost Famous would rep once she quit being a band-aid and settled down in suburbia.
NEXT GEN: You’d think a perfume with the name Carnal Flower would be the most intensely sexual thing you’ve ever come across, but this perfume is surprisingly sophisticated and not over-powering at all. The name actually translates to ‘forbidden flower’, as it features the carnal tuberose. It’s definitely sexy, though – expect heads to turn and people to grab you to ask what you’re wearing.
A throwback to the 90’s minimalist-chic years, the Helmut Lang fragrance range consists of just three scents – all of which will make you feel like Kate Moss circa 1995. The fragrances were actually released in 2000, and discontinued by 2005 – perhaps because by then we were well into our Paris Hilton years and no one had the time for anything besides cloyingly sweet scents (hello, Britney Spears Fantasy). Recently, there was an outcry to see them back on shelves, and Helmut Lang answered with their re-release.
ICONIC: The Eau de Parfum is the best starting point – it’s soft and powdery, making it perfect for office wear. Think feminine-chic businesswoman who takes no shit.
NEXT GEN: Cuiron is probably the most confronting of the three, I mean – the liquid is an amber hue, which already seems intimidating. But it is easily the sexiest and the most unisex, with top notes of bergamot and pink peppercorn with a rich frankincense and suede base.
Inspired to get your own sweet-smelling side-hustle off the ground? Enter our current comp c/o Set for Life, and you could with $5k to give it legs – plus you’ll score a luxe weekender in Sydney and lunch with epic boss lady of Gritty Pretty, Eleanor Pendleton.
Image: Instagram / @grittypretty.