"No other industry - not wine, not chocolate, not beer, not tea, not coffee - nobody else uses this term. [Oriental is] basically a fake marketing word . . . that just means anyone who's melanated. Then you realize, 'Oh my gosh, this is white supremacy . . . we realize the industry has been stacked against us. It's been primarily Eurocentric.'"
"Under the layers of incense and roses, however, the term 'oriental' hides much more unsavory associations with exploitation and colonialism. For the colonized lands, the European quest for spices, gold, and raw materials had tragic consequences, many of which are still with us today."
The gist: "oriental" is a baddy-bad word in perfumery terms because of evil Europeans conquering, colonizing, fetishizing, sexualizing, exoticizing, "othering," and otherwise wantonly degrading people of color throughout history. While none of these magazines or blogs are able to give specific examples of how using the oriental category of perfumery is/was degrading to anyone, and are quite prolific at offering only the vaguest correlations to these unnameable race crimes in their historically-bemoaned contexts, I'll give you my hot take. I think at this point it's safe to say that people are full of it.
To be perfectly clear, I'm not supporting the use of the term "oriental" in any context. Frankly I find the semantic argument boring and pointless. We don't need to call things "oriental." We can call the rugs by whatever country they're from, simply saying Turkish rugs, Japanese rugs, etc. Ditto for perfumes, although there is some utility in eschewing nationalities altogether by deferring to terms like "ambery" or "spicy." I'm of the opinion that if people are offended by the use of a word, and that word is applied to pursuits that all people should enjoy without an unreasonable sense of ennui attached, we should jettison the term and find linguistic replacements. The English language is wide and far-reaching, with tens of thousands of viable options. We can request substitutions. That's not a problem. Why not ditch an old-fashioned term? It's not a big deal to do so.
Where I get annoyed is when people resort to bullshit reasons for making the change. They needlessly complicate the issue and obfuscate the rationale for a solution. If the word offends you, just say it offends you because you feel it's politically incorrect and could lead to hurt feelings. Just say you'd rather use another more neutral word instead. I respect that. I can get behind that one hundred percent. But don't start lecturing me on the language's link to European colonizers. You have a smartphone in your pocket as I'm typing this, and you're going to lecture me on how Europe "othered" their way into Asian cultures? Do you have any idea how awful smartphone companies are to Asian countries? Yet none of the well-covered evils of these technological giants, evils that are happening today, concern you enough to swear off owning and using smartphones.
Selective outrage is de rigueur among those who magically profit from the very things they're offended by. For all of their Asian pride, I can't find any info on Madelyn Chung's website about which part of Asia she's proud of, nor will anyone say "Yosh Han" and "Thai American" in the same sentence. These women claim to be concerned about perception of and respect for East Asian peoples and cultures, yet keep their own ethnic lineages out of the dialogue. This is passive aggressive. It's like Chung wants me to dig into her biography, so if I have occasion to ask her about wherever her family is from, she can ask me why I thought it was important enough to research it. I've dubbed this behavior "Proactive Indignation." Instead of doing the decent thing and exonerating everyone for their confusion, people like Chung would rather foster the conditions for committing future faux pas to perpetuate their emotionally cathartic cycle of outrage.
That's the problem with the pseudo-intellectual conversations being had on the topic. Oriental perfumes, or those categorized as "orientals" in perfumery, are named so to clarify that these perfumes are of Eastern origin. Middle Eastern, Far Eastern, or just generically Eastern, the "oriental" moniker covers everything. And there are issues with nationalizing these fragrance classes. If we rely on saying things like Chinese perfumes, Thai perfumes, Japanese perfumes, we're still not saying anything specific. Every scent category exists in these countries. So which category are we referring to? Saying "Ambery" is a little better, although it gets us into a different kind of trouble.
Old Spice has historically been recognized as an oriental because it relies on orange citrus, powdery spices, musk, and vanilla - things found by merchants in what were considered, at one time, lands of the Orient. Yet it isn't really an amber. Can we call it an amber anyway? What if we call it a "Spicy Vanilla" instead? Isn't that an oxymoron? I guess the soapy powder effect is still an amber of sorts. I suppose we can settle for a less concise labelling of Old Spice. But we've only labeled one frag. By nixing a term, we've removed a simple and effective way of knowing which family it belongs to. Still, I can settle for vaguer language, if it's just a word game we're after. My motto: The fewer feelings needlessly hurt, the better. We should all live in a world where all people and cultures are loved and celebrated. The oriental perfume category isn't that important.
But what I won't settle for is being perpetually called a racist. I don't own a smartphone. I get made fun of all the time for that, but I don't want one. Unlike the majority of the people who tell me how awful it is to ignorantly ride the racist coattails of my colonizing predecessors, I'm cognizant of how easy it is to limit my complicity in today's most racist industry. There's nothing easier than not owning a smart phone. Virtually all of them are made in exploitative sweat factory slave-labor conditions, and it's tough to own one for less than $500 (the most competent phones on the market today are upwards of $1000). I'm not going out of my way to pony up for a product that drove somebody in another country, someone considerably less advantaged than I am, to consider suicide.
These Foxconn nightmares should be today's outrage machine, and instead we're whining about Enlightenment values and getting twisted in knots over what we call our perfumes. Enough already. If you care that much about being "sensitive" to the plight of foreigners, ditch your smart phone, delete your Twitter account, and live a relatively frugal lifestyle. Let's see how long you last. I've been gifted two iPhones that I never activated. Those are my values. What are yours, and how are you living them? Do you still want to re-label Enlightenment values as "white supremacist" values? Cuz I see 500 GB of white supremacy sticking out of your butt pocket.
British Colonial Soldiers, early 1900s
"You have to ask why someone would buy something. With 'designer' fragrances, people are buying because they want a connection to the designer brand, and the product is sold to them via the perceived pedigree of that brand. With 'niche' there's no prevailing brand awareness to form the cultural tailwinds because the brand is entirely conceptual. Unlike a Chanel, where I can associate the perfume with the clothing and accessories (and commercial image), a Xerjoff stands alone with only the Xerjoff name and perfumes to speak for it.
If I don't understand something specific about Xerjoff perfumes, like what kind of fragrances they make, and how those fragrances compare to everything else, I won't be inclined to bother buying anything. Thus I'm basing a purchase solely off of what I know, rather than what I perceive. This makes the act of buying one of self-stratification with niche, while buying designer is me adhering to commercial stratification; when I buy Xerjoff, I am distinguishing myself as someone who appreciates Xerjoff perfumes, whereas a Chanel purchase is Chanel successfully tagging me a Chanel customer.
The problem with your term 'boutique' is that it's a distinction without a difference. Chanel boutiques are literally what they're called. So does that make Chanel's frags 'boutique' frags, when they're clearly just 'mainstream,' as you say? Creed Boutique is another example. Creed's logo is a clothing tailor's scissors. They're not hiding the ball there, they're telling the world they're designers . . . These terms 'boutique' and 'mainstream' don't really address what customers are buying, because they negate why they're buying them. So basically let's just keep 'niche' and 'designer.'"
While I think his argument is interesting, my counter-argument is that there's really no point in trying to separate the two categories with different language when the current language is clarifying from a consumer's point of view. Terms like "boutique" and "mainstream" are probably useful guidance for the suits wanting to know which market they should penetrate, but they fail to acknowledge the psychological motivation of the customer. Daver actually mentions this, stating that "niche" used to target a specific audience, which elaborates on the exact definition of the term, yet he deviates into the notion that the targets have broadened enough to warrant calling the whole mess "boutique." Certainly you could do this, but it would confuse many people as a colloquial term, especially when discussing designer boutiques. There's just too much definitional overlap there, a certain Comedy of Semantics.
He argues that there's too much audience overlap between the two market segments, but by taking an introspective approach to that argument, I hoped to parse out the utility of maintaining the Old Guard terms. In some ways I see his point more in regards to saying "mainstream fragrance," simply because this doesn't confuse. Stuff like Bleu de Chanel and Dior Homme are "mainstream" and mass-market. But there's still a linguistic weakness inherent to applying this label; we live in a world where familiarity isn't always the act of knowing. While Chanel and Dior are familiar "mainstream" brands, there are entire swaths of their catalog that exist under the radar. Everybody knows Chanel No. 5, but a tiny subset of everybody knows of Chanel Boy. Yet the same "mainstream" brand makes both. If you're releasing perfumes that very few people are aware of, are you in the "mainstream," or simply successful at penetrating mainstream markets? How would a customer ever discover Boy? Oh, yes, because they're interested in something to go with a Chanel tweed sweater, and the knowledgeable salesman happens to mention lavender. Suddenly the clothing matters again, even if it has nothing to do with how anything smells. Clark's Glasses vs. Superman's Cape.
If you ask me, "What kind of boutique fragrances do you like," my answer will be, "Huh?" Ask me "What niche brands are in your collection," and I'll immediately know what you're talking about, because I'm the niche audience that wanted specific items in my collection. Boutique fragrances are pretty much all fragrances, and it's hard to know what you're after if you use that word.
We need to be clearer in the language we use. In a time where everyone has their own pronouns and "truths," where definitions are being adjusted and expanded upon on a minute-by-minute basis, it would behoove us to rope in meaning when we see it, and I'm fairly certain the demarcation of perfumery markets is a worthy subject for that. Then again, Super-ego Superman would probably reduce me to a blubbering mess for suggesting it, so let's keep this between us.
Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Homme and Yet Another Irrefutably Clear-Cut Account of In-Bottle Maceration
"I must say, my bottle has matured spectacularly well over the past 5+ years. When I first got it I enjoyed it but had a distinct impression it was a bit watered down and I could spray the entire bottle on without sending people running. In the mean time it would seem to have concentrated but the bottle doesn't appear to have seen the juice contract that much. It's become stronger obviously, but also a bit sweeter and I can definitely detect many more notes than when I first got it."
When this person states that the bottle "doesn't appear to have seen the juice contract," he's referring to the chance of some liquid volume reduction due to alcohol evaporation, which would lead to oil concentration and a stronger perfume. I've had this happen with several retail-purchased Creed GITs and Orange Spice. Initial perceptions of GIT is it's weak and transparent in nature for the first few wears, at which point I'll put it away for a while. When I return, it's a completely different story. I recall one bottle starting out like water, and a few months later it had grown so potent it was almost unwearable (and had reached a Joop! Homme strength). Orange Spice also changed, going from a few thin hours to double shifts of pounding Valencias within five years. I've since then witnessed dozens of people commenting on the same thing happening to them.
It's intriguing that Ferragamo's scent is cited as one that undergoes in-bottle maceration after first use. My take on my new bottle is that it's pretty potent for two hours, and then dies down to roughly less than half its original strength. This behavior is aligned with the behavior of other fragrances that kept macerating while in my possession. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if it developed into a different performer over the next year or two, and I will keep you updated on that.