As a self-confessed perfume addict, you’d think I would be delighted to discover an entire new shop devoted to rare and unusual perfumes, as I did last weekend in Paris. The shop was Jovoy, between the Tuileries gardens and the Place Vendôme, and at first it seemed like an exciting find, with a remarkably wide range of so-called ‘niche’ brands, from Vero Profumo and Histoires de Parfums to Roja Dove and Juliette Has a Gun.
Some of them I knew already; others I hadn’t heard of before, such as the intriguing LM Parfums, which despite its French name is actually from New York. At first glance this looked like seventh heaven: the range was amazing, the staff were friendly, and if the store design was on the kitsch side, I guess that’s something you could learn to live with if the other stuff was so good.
But why, after about ten minutes, did my heart begin to sink? It’s not that, in all likelihood, there weren’t some brilliant new perfumes to discover, and I have nothing against niche perfumers – they’re perhaps more likely to come up with interesting and unusual scents than the big mass-market companies, though they’re equally capable of creating crap as well.
No: that sinking feeling came on simply because of the sheer number of different perfumes on offer – more than anyone could sensibly smell in days of sampling. It’s the same feeling I get, sometimes, when I walk into an outsize bookshop: the choice, rather than being exhilarating, is actually overwhelming and deadening. Whatever I might have been looking for when I walked in generally goes straight out of my head, and my mind goes blank: it’s a depressing feeling, and that’s exactly how I felt in Jovoy on the Rue de Castiglione.
The perfume market is saturated, just like the market for so many other things. And the result is confusion for the consumer (me), and a smaller and smaller share of the market for each new perfume brand. Obviously there are still huge profits to be made in perfume or there wouldn’t be this ever-increasing number of launches and new brands, but I can’t help wondering how long this endless expansion can last. Just like in Jovoy last week, it makes me tired simply to think about it.