Niche perfume brands are having their moment in the sun. For the last few years, the perfume market has faced a tough time showing little growth, with celebrity fragrances taking the biggest hit, dipping as much as 22% in 2016. Big brands like Coty and L’Oreal, who once dominated, are now facing a backlash as consumers turn away from the mass-market appeal of their blockbuster scents. Right now, people want something a little more unique, and a little less ubiquitous.
And in this moment of flux, niche brands have moved in and found their feet, as have super premium products. People want - and in many cases are prepared to pay for - something a bit different.
The UK is leading the charge, offering up some distinct, original scents, with a strong brand aesthetic and narrative that reinforces the idea a consumer has hit upon something special. In our global world, we’re constantly looking for more creative ways to find something that feels truly original, bespoke, not easily replaced or copied, and is, increasingly, kind to the planet. And now people want the same of their fragrances.
So, if you looking for something new, here’s our guide the best alternative British perfumeries.
Founded by David and Julia Bridger, Parterre fragrances has its roots in botany. The key ingredients for all of their scents are grown and distilled at the 50-acre estate, Keyneston Mill, the UK’s largest botanical garden dedicated to aromatic and scented plants, just off the south coast in Dorset. The couple works with master perfumer Jacques Chabert, the nose behind perfumes from Chanel and Guerlain, to turn their garden into bottled fragrances. Parterre hasn’t just become a must-have brand, the Keyneston Mill estate has become a destination in its own right thanks to the botanical cafe and cocktail dome.
Sarah McCartney's micro-perfumery likes to “create perfume that reminds people of happy times and interesting places”. Producing handmade batches of 20-200 bottles in Acton, West London, 4160 Tuesdays will also develop bespoke scents for people, events and organisations. And while it might be a tiny production, the perfume is sought-after all over the world and is stocked in the UK, parts of Europe, North American and India.
As if you needed any further proof that Kent’s once-forgotten seaside town of Margate has become a hipster paradise, look no further. Alongside the Turner Contemporary gallery and coach-loads of young Londoners looking for houses they can afford, is Haeckels, a cult beauty and fragrance brand that uses Margate’s natural resources - seaweed - as the base of its products, “from the ocean for the ocean”. Always committed to protecting the sea, founder Dom Bridges, a former volunteer beach warden and coastal enthusiast, was motivated to create a brand that challenged the conventional ocean-damaging ways of the skincare world. Today, the company continues to organise beach clean-ups and have a RUBBISH FOR PRODUCT scheme whereby customers who bring in rubbish from a local beach are rewarded with a Haeckels body cleanser. This is fragrance with a conscience.
In our ongoing quest for bespoke scents, Laboratory, as the name might suggest, took a scientific approach. The British scent specialists, going since 2011, craft gender-free fragrances, scientifically formulated to react to the wearer and evolve over the day. Without doubt a glimpse into the future, customising perfumes for each wearer, based on their biological make-up and evolving to their environmental circumstances, will be just the beginning in bespoke perfumeries.
Known in business as the “anti-fragrance fragrance brand”, Escentric Molecules was founded in 2006 by world renown perfumer, Geza Schoen who’d been disillusioned of the big perfume brands he was working for in Paris and moved to London. After the huge success of first fragrance, Molecule 01, in 2009 Schoen initiated the Beautiful Mind Series working with outstanding women in different creative fields to construct fragrances dedicated to the power of the female mind.
Founder Imogen Russon-Taylor wanted to “bottle Scotland” and created the country's first fragrance house KINGDOM Scotland. Having previously worked with Scottish whisky brands, she saw parallels with perfume and Scotland, such as heritage, traditional distillation processes, complex sensory experiences, and a demand for the finest ingredients. And her scents do tell the story of Scotland, from ALBAURA - a scent in tribute to Scottish botanist and Arctic explorer, Isobel Wylie Hutchison, it mixes the glacial freshers of snow and ice blended with berries and botanicals, to METAMORPHIC, a nod to the metamorphic rock that is wove into the landscape and gives Scotland some of the most complex geology in the the world.
Based in East London, the Experimental Perfume club, an open-door laboratory from Emmanuelle Moeglin, has created its own range of scents called Layers. The range is split into three categories: base, mid, and top layers. Users are encouraged to wear them separately, or mix them themselves to create a truly unique and personalised scent. Moeglin is inspired by the creativity of others and wants users to wear perfumes they have designed, “We believe everyone should dare to create. We think fragrance should be fun and personal and no two scents should smell the same”
Main image credit: Diana Spatariu on Unsplash