The modern fragrance wearer is both fashion-forward and fickle. She is always checking out what's new at the perfume counter — and...

Share story

NEW YORK — The modern fragrance wearer is both fashion-forward and fickle.

She is always checking out what’s new at the perfume counter — and there is always something new — but she also needs to be convinced to switch from the scent she’s already wearing.

For Candy Pratts Price, executive fashion editor for Style.com, it’s often the bottle that draws her in. Her favorite, for many years, is Santa Maria Novella Tuberose, but she says she longs for the days when women would have a vanity littered with beautiful bottles.

“A lot of effort goes into making the bottle beautiful,” she said. “I wish we noticed more.”

One new one she would add to her collection is Tom Ford Black Orchid. The opaque bottle, made by Lalique, is jet black with gold accents and Art Deco-style lines.

“It’s a very ‘public’ bottle — a beautiful bottle that should be displayed,” she said.

Pratts Price noted, however, that it has much more of an old-fashioned feel than some of Ford’s fans might be used to. She wondered if modern women will appreciate the message of subtle luxury, especially with a suggested price of $90 for 1.7 ounces of eau de parfum and $600 for a half-ounce of pure perfume.

Scores of fragrances come and go each year, observed Pratts Price, which means shoppers are using them more like an accessory — in one season, out the next. It used to be that once a woman identified with a scent, she stuck with it.

No more.

Fashion designers are now a driving force in prestige fragrance (Tom Ford’s in good company with Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang, Anna Sui, Donna Karan) and they’re used to tinkering with things — even successful things. It seems they can’t resist updating their signature scent or launching yet another one to match the mood of the season.

Plus, there’s always the next big designer around the corner.

Perfume allows designers to reinforce their brand with consumers and to introduce themselves to new ones because the product is less of an investment than an outfit. And, in case you hadn’t noticed, fragrance ads are everywhere.

The heaviest users of perfume are 18- to 24-year-old females, according to the market researchers at NPD Group, but fewer than 60 percent have bought a new bottle in the past year. Instead, they often get them as gifts, especially from their mothers.

Meanwhile, 64 percent of women in the 45- to 54-year-old group bought perfume products, followed closely by women in the 25- to 34-year-old category (63 percent) and 35- to 44-year-olds (62 percent).

But NPD senior beauty analyst Karen Grant said the future is with the younger market. “Understanding these young women — who they are, what they want and how to message this to them — will be the key to future growth. Whoever gets their attention wins.”

The winning formula, said Pratts Price, is an overall good product. “You need timing, the bottle, and the juice has got to be quality.”

Most “juices” are a mix of several different aromas, with what the industry refers to as top, heart and base notes. The top note is what you smell first; then you encounter the heart of the scent; the base note is what lingers as it dries.