10/25/18

Unplanned Obsolescence: Do Millennials Lack the Attention Span For Perfume?


A suitable replacement for any Creed.


I recently read an article by Sarah Wu on Glamour.com, entitled "I Replaced My $215 Perfume With This $6 Body Wash," and it intrigued me.

Sarah writes:
"Twenty seconds into trying on my first perfume (the classic, spicy Paloma Piccaso), I got bored and proceeded to add a few generous spritzes of Bath & Body Works Cucumber Melon . . . I wear something different almost every day, flitting between bottles as often as my mood changes (aided largely by magazine testers, blogger swaps, and free samples from department stores)."
When I read this, I had to rub my eyes and reread it twice before believing what was actually on my screen. Paloma Piccaso couldn't even hold her attention for twenty seconds? Twenty seconds??

It surprised me for two reasons, the first being that it suggests our attention spans have become so poor that we can't even maintain interest in our own personal fragrance, which presumably has ever-changing top, middle, and basenotes. It also reminded me of my ex, who was given to "layering" perfumes, and randomly spraying new ones, often blending cheap body mists with pricier fare.

It now makes sense why she did that: she was bored. In the age of iPhones and apps, social media immersion, and the Internet of Things, we are officially becoming the insipid children of tomorrow, in an age when everyone, in chronic fits of technological withdrawal, seeks stimuli so forced, detached, and fleeting, that worldly pleasures no longer satisfy even brief moments of exhaustion.

Sarah apparently fell in love with Grand Soir by Maison Francis Kurkdjian, but when it was confiscated at an airport on her way to a country where it was unavailable, she discovered Dove Cream Oil Intensive Body Lotion, and felt that the soft, vanilla skin scent of that stuff was an excellent substitute.

This is a very strange thing to say. This isn't the same as someone saying their interest in niche perfume has been diverted to a greater interest in cheap drugstore lotions. It's not like saying that well-crafted perfumes are no longer your taste. It isn't even saying that a lifestyle change necessitated such a bizarre substitution; in the age of the interenet, we no longer need to worry about sourcing products, as any online merchant can ship them directly to us.

No, what Ms. Wu is saying is that she enjoyed the ambiance of the Dove cream enough to not miss, or even long for, Grand Soir. She is essentially saying that she doesn't see the need to ever purchase Grand Soir again, thanks to Dove. Now, if she had said this in an intellectual vacuum, where this topic alone was addressed, I would understand. But with the paragraph quoted above preceding her story, I can't help but think that Sarah Wu can't sustain interest in a luxury perfume, and thus prefers an almost undetectable skin scent lotion, upon which she can parade a myriad of different scents.

If I ever said I'd replace my Green Irish Tweed with Nivea Men aftershave lotion, because it's green and fresh enough to always make me smile, I'd ask you to take me to the emergency room.

Sarah's article fills me with despair. On her embarrassingly pathetic twenty second trajectory, we are headed for a different world, with a different kind of perfume. Instead of having perfumes as individual scents with legible drydowns, the future will bring us perfumes marketed as chameleons, strange creatures that are labeled as being "3-in-1" scents, each drydown phase so disparate from the others that they will save wearers the trouble of layering, or changing scents mid-day. It is conceivable that the young woman of tomorrow will purchase something like a "summer mélange mist," with top drydown of lime and coconut, middle drydown of watermelon and sea salt, and base drydown of lemon, grapefruit, and cherry blossom.

Each drydown will happen abruptly, spaced out by two hours, and in the course of six hours, the young lady will have worn the equivalent of three distinct perfumes, after only applying one. The old rules of citrus and aromatic top notes burning off and leaving a sturdy base of woody florals and musks will no longer apply, as new (and some not so new) advancements in technology will enable perfumers to attach formerly transient accords to late phases of wear. And instead of each drydown phase assembling into one beautiful composition, their transitions will intentionally diverge in character and tonality, stark enough to leave no trace of a single preceding note.

While this may sound like a good idea to some, I fear it would mark the beginning of a dire age. Imagine a world where people have so little attention and patience that they can't even bear the thought of wearing one perfume all day? What else would they have no time for? Reading a book? Watching a movie? Having a conversation? Eating a meal at the dinner table? Answering childrens' questions about life? Having a single original thought?

I keep waiting for the day when it will become obvious that technology is synonymous with progress, but after a lifetime, I'm still waiting.


19 comments:

  1. We still have attention spans. Why just yesterday...
    hey, did you hear about what happened to....
    I just got the new iP....
    I can't wait until we get a new pre.....
    oh look, something shiny!
    What was I saying again?

    But if she prefers Cucumber Melon over Paloma Picasso, I'll be more than happy to get a couple of 8oz bottles of it at B&BW and swap with her. If she has any other MFK fragrances, I'll gladly exchange some Dove moisturizer with her as well

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    1. Yeah I was thinking the guy at the airport probably robbed her, but then after reading her article, I realized he did her (and Kurkdjian) a favor.

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    2. If she didn't check the liquid or fragrance allowances before traveling, she deserved to get a pricey bottle confiscated for being so negligent anyway. I always make sure to check every single time I travel, just in case there is some slight change.

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  2. According to what Alberto Morillas said in an article I read about the making of Gucci Bloom, the modern trend in perfumery is "linear" and "natural." And indeed, Gucci Bloom is linear, natural, and yet (thankfully) multifaceted.
    I guess this is where "headspace technology" is leading with photo-realistic accords. And there has never been a generation that has been barraged by so many multitudinous choices as constantly as the Millennials. It is not just choices in fragrance but makeup, music, videos, food, drink, clothing- you name it! Welcome to the 21st century where your entire identity & mode of self-expression is superfluous consumerism!
    I don't know, I was looking at the plethora eyeshadow palettes available this holiday season and thinking, "Do I really need 20 shades of eyeshadow in my entire lifetime - much less for one year or season?" I mean what happened to the days of eyeshadow quads- a well thought out foursome of shades that would take me from office-appropriate to casual weekend to sophisticated evening looks with a minimum of effort & choices? It would take me 5 yrs to get through 20 pans of eyeshadow!!!
    Welcome to the age of maximalism! (I just wrote about this on the review of Gucci Bloom on my blog) More is more in this seemingly kaleidoscopic era! Actually, I do wish more of these luxury brands would put out 10ml spray vials like Malle is doing - there are a lot of scents I would enjoy for a few months & not plunk down over $100 for.
    Yes, I have also noticed that the youngsters prefer scents that "only they can smell" as I overheard two 20-somethings say away at the Sephora fragrance counter. I'm just glad that they like a floral like Gucci Bloom rather than the ubiquitous candied ethyl maltol spawn of Angel.

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    1. I agree, the "maximalism" ethos is in full swing. I don't mind being spoiled for choice, but to me it's overkill on most fronts, as you pointed out with the eyeshadow.

      One of the issues I see in the perfume world right now is that it's incredibly saturated by two categories: (1) super affordable crap frags that are literally variations of each other (with maybe four themes being played across tens of thousands of scents), and (2) ultra luxe niche and upscale designer frags that are sometimes true quality, but often just mind over matter - put it in a fancy bottle and slap a big price tag on it, and some nouveau riche brat will hype it and help it sell to other people who really can't afford it, but buy anyway.

      I'd rather see "linear" perfumes than anything like what I described in my post.

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    2. Ultimately the goal is to sell more product (as we live in a consumerist, capitalist society). So while in the 80's we were looking for a signature scent, in the 90's we were encouraged to create a scent wardrobe. I suppose the next move is to collect a scent 'palette' where one can spritz according to mood from numerous tiny vials (probably pink, as the M generation luvs pink & tiny) possibly even layering them to suit your oh so unique snowflake self! - AND of course none of the scents will last more than an hour so you don't get bored. I think 10 to 15 minutes is the average Millennial's attention span as that's the typical length of a youtube video.

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  3. Every generation has it quirks and I'm sure my generation had a myriads of traits that annoyed the previous generation to no end as well. Millennial's have one major thing playing against them and it is that very thing they got brought up with: the internet.
    No previous generation has had their every move recorded and documented as the Millennial's have and while they embrace it with vigor, they may actually not fully realize or care that it puts them in very precarious position.
    Precarious because it's easy to scrutinize the Millennial's and discover their weaknesses and / or lack of thoroughness etc.

    The funny thing about the lack of attention is that at the same time Millennials seem to highly regard healthy activities such as meditation. However one could wonder if they even do practice meditation at all since meditation, when practised on a daily basis should promote the exact opposite of lack of attention, namely focus and the ability to keep one's mind on one specific thing for a prolonged time.
    This discrepancy either means they don't meditate and just pretend they do because it's 'bon ton' on social media or they're doing it wrong and just daydream while sitting in a meditative posture. Which is, using a Trumpism: –Sad!

    Which brings me to another Millennial trait: style (or actually anything) over substance.
    Before I read your article, I was actually baffled (once again) by something else I had just read. Somebody (a Millennial no less) had started a kickstarter for an invention defined as 'a thing to keep track of daily habits' gloriously named:
    ...The Everyday Calendar!
    It's basically a big board that you hang on your wall with capacitive touch buttons that light up when you push it (duh), so every day you do whatever you promised yourself to do, you just push the button and the board lights up and you can keep track of those daily activities. It even has a 'non-volatile memory' so when it looses power it still remembers your last settings –neat!

    Now, I seriously applaud and respect the dedication of any inventor for putting precious time and workmanship into engineering whatever their minds fancy to come up with.
    However, every self respecting inventor (in my opinion anyway) should undoubtedly also put some time into investigating if such contraption, doesn't already exist and/or is actually worth the building time and materials.

    After all, I couldn't help myself thinking that The Everyday Calendar is nothing more than a fancy high tech parody of the Tally marks which by the way, was invented somewhere around... 35000 years ago! Want something more modern and more practical than covering your walls with stick marks? How about an Abacus aka counting frame, dating back to around 2500 years BC. Both can deliver the same basic result but will cost you less.

    But, here again – I must be already too old (or completely obsolete) because lo and behold, this kickstarter project got pledged more than ten times it's desired goal of 35000 dollars!
    (note how the initial goal coincidentally is the same as the years of the Tally marks)
    It's currently clocking at 393,095 dollars!

    The proverbial reinventing the wheel just reached new heights of absurdity! Although it's not so much the invention but the willingness of people to invest in something that is totally unnecessary and in a sense denotes a total disdain towards the past and our ancestors as a whole.

    Technology synonymous with progress? Yeah sure! Just ask Fred Flintstone!












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    1. I'm currently reviewing strategies for starting a business myself, and find that the "reinventing the wheel" approach is utterly pointless. It's 2018 - everything has been done before, and often done better than anything I could ever come up with. The main truism in business is that taking action and maintaining a constant and steady rate of forward momentum is key to successfully launching anything. Inventing or reinventing something for the sake of novelty or distinction is just a barrier to entry into any given market.

      With that said, there is some practical use in "refining" existing standards to meet a new niche. Perhaps that is what our illustrious calendar guy is striving for? Hard to say. But hopefully his investors aren't jilted in the end.

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    2. Perhaps the investors see it as a form of artwork, after all it's something to put on the wall so this calendar is both style and function.
      If people are happy with it so be it, but to me there's just a certain pattern that keeps reemerging. I've seen it in personal experience and also on the net when it comes to Millennials; a total disinterest in things that predates the 2000's.
      Just for the sake of argument here is an excerpt of a car reviewer that speaks about the 2018 Mustang 'Bullitt':

      'The Bullitt is a throwback car to a generation before my time, so I can't appreciate this car as much as someone from that generation. I just can't because I didn't grow up in that era. - I know it's a special car but it doesn't hold that same significance to me because (small pause) go ahead and hate from a Millenial, hate me - people are like uh, Millenials are dumb! Whatever, I'm a good person.'

      This were the exact words.

      I dunno but seriously the Bullitt movie isn't even from my generation either, it's my dad's generation - yet I had no problem whatsoever to appreciate both the movie and the significance of the car.
      But somehow for a Millenial it's just 'out of their scope' and their only justification is to suddenly get defensive about being a Millennial!???

      If I was to replace this 'Bullitt car' by something else that happened before their life span, like say the Holocaust - would they equally say that they can't relate because they didn't grow up in that era?

      And people are wondering why there's animosity about the Millenials?
      I remember a time where I would have been beaten or at least reprimanded for even daring to say things that Millenials say nowadays.

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    3. Yeah and the best part is, we get to suffer the indignities of their politics on a daily basis. We get the bored, detached, uninformed masses of brainwashed leftist drivel, we get the hypocrisy of their adamant condemnation of "Fascism" just before they dive headfirst into an iPhone made under the most inhumane and pernicious conditions in none other than oppressive Communist China. We get their inability to sit through a movie made before 2008. We get their skinny fucking jeans. We get their unkempt and misguided beards. We get their identity politics, we get their "healthy food" that is slathered with pesticides, and grown in polluted soil. We get an inability to contextualize anything from the 20th century.

      What a joy to be around them. I can't wait to see how this generation moves the world forward. The "reset button" meme seems fitting.

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  4. I think the idea of millennial ADHD is overstated, pretty much like most things said about millennials. Like all generations, this generation will have a mixed bag of effects. Some will be good for fragrance; others not so.

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    1. Richard, I appreciate your opinion! I'll give a more thorough response to it below in my reply to John.

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  5. As I've already said here before, I think trashing the younger generation is knee-jerk behavior practiced by virtually every generation I can recall to no avail, and beside the point. Surely LVMH is doing more to consign our sense of the historical in perfume to oblivion than kids enjoying moisturizer... The form of marketing that produces dozens of flankers for a pillar is everywhere, not just in the world of fragrance -- in Vogue this month there is a think piece discussing how much more accelerated the consumption of cosmetics has become for instance, underscoring the way that cosmetics and the ever-expanding wellness industry have merged to create a market in which the beauty industry can justify a greater rate of production in the name of serving an aspirational model of spiritualized self-improvement. Many niche brands and 'exclusive' designer lines produce lines in which each fragrance focus on single 'theme' accord, emphasizing the amassing of a wardrobe of several different scents to suit different moods or for 'bespoke' combinations (see FK's recent work for Burberry…)

    These kinds of strategies are, IMHO, a much bigger phenomenon than the foibles of a single generation; they represent part of the same massive shift that is producing crises for people of every generation, as value, experience, quality, memory, heritage, etc., as they relate to products, services and social contracts undergo hitherto unimagined processes of relativization and abstraction via hybrid platforms of entertainment, marketing and social media. Maybe Sarah gets bored and has to mix different things together because a lot of the experiences offered by this supposedly varied marketplace are similarly airless and single-minded... I expect that the younger folks are just the early adaptors, or the most vulnerable, manipulated and malleable, depending on how you see things. I actually like that someone could set aside the conspicuous prestige of a brand like MFK for a simple moisturizer... It suggests the lurking evidence of trust in one's personal taste or the development of an open mind, or at the very least the desire to allow travel experiences, even uncomfortable ones, shape sensibility. Besides, attaching a particular scent to travel is a great way to fix memories for future (Proustian) reference.

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    1. "It suggests the lurking evidence of trust in one's personal taste or the development of an open mind, or at the very least the desire to allow travel experiences, even uncomfortable ones, shape sensibility."

      It could, but it could also signal a distinct lack of appreciation for a higher art (to use the term figuratively, as I'm not one to suggest perfume is actually fine art). To try a luxe, well made perfume, full of different facets and nuances, and feel bored with it after 20 seconds, suggests the perfume isn't to her taste. But to try such a product, be bored after 20 seconds, and then attempt to layer it with a pedestrian melon bodyspray is akin to drawing a smiley face on a postmodernist painting at the MOMA. No sense of reverence for the vision, no sense of respect or patience for the trajectory of the product, purchased at a price most middle class Americans could never afford, just an immediate "Where's my instant gratification?" It's like if I wore Green Irish Tweed for the first time, complained of boredom, and immediately began slathering myself with Aqua Velva to try and "mix it up." Sorry, no.

      I get that Millennials are dumped on quite frequently by people, many of whom are like me, perhaps just a split hair removed from that generation themselves, but to fully understand how vacuous and uninspired their collective ethos is, you really have to be in the trenches, right there with them, day in and day out.

      It's easy to point to a maximalist marketing universe under the umbrella of major multi-national corporations like LVMH and blame them for the negligent ethos. As you said, if they are only producing average to well below average products, and producing them in numbers never seen before in history, then one could be forgiven for blaming the suits instead of their customers.

      However, I'm not entirely convinced that the corporations should be expected to play culprit to a phenomenon best understood not in the macro, but in the micro. Millennial men and women are glued to their phones. Often it's painful for them to look up from these devices and engage in simple five minute conversations. They actually wear pained expressions when persuaded to do so.

      Millennials have a built-in sense of entitlement, which I believe is groomed by helicopter parents and leftist universities. Your identity is supposedly what matters. You should go forth into the world feeling persecuted because of your ethnicity, and not because of who you are as an individual. Therefore every action a Millennial takes is actually reactionary. Are you offending me? Are you being micro-aggressive? Are you trying to say that this ISN'T offensive to you? The collective takes precedent over the individual, and those that are individuals are apart from the collective.

      The Millennial generation has spawned inferiority as a rule. I saw the trailer for Mid90s on Sunday and was immediately dismayed. Not only did the trailer fail to capture even the slightest feel of the 90s, but it looked like a godawful movie. But watching movies is akin to reading books nowadays - nobody can be bothered, least of all those in the industry making them. So what can I expect?

      Sarah gets bored because she wouldn't know a good perfume if it smacked her in the nose. That's nobody's else's fault but hers.

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  6. (But perhaps judging a film based on its trailer kind of falls into the same trap you are protesting?)

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    1. John, see Kids from 1995. Actually, just watch the trailer. I've seen the film and the trailer. You will see that just the trailer alone looks more modern and fresh than the trailer for Mid90s. Sorry, the 90s didn't look like Jonah Hill's version.

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  7. I don't need to see the trailer for Kids, Bryan, as I recall seeing the movie back when it first came out and Larry Clark called it 'a wake up call'. I also knew guys who were kind of like those kids! I think they're probably just very different kinds of films, the newer release absolutely allowing for backward looking nostalgia as readily as the original pursued apocalyptic, open-ended intensity. I was actually pretty impressed with Jonah Hill's work in the recent (uneven, but imaginative) Fukunaga series Maniac -- I didn't know he had it in him to play a delusional depressive, opposite Emma Stone no less. For that if nothing else, I'd likely forestall giving Mid90's a thumbs down until *actually* viewing it. Besides, writing in these very columns has more than once called into question posters who condemn or celebrate a fragrance based on note pyramids or comparisons without ever wearing it... It seems important to maintain a standard of critical distance regardless of whether the subject is movies or perfume. As I get older and think about losing touch (this is in terms of writing art criticism, but I think it's a credible stretch), I often tell myself the definitive moment of not caring anymore/losing the plot will be when I am no longer a participant but still think my opinions matter... As I get older, I'm also getting quite preachy, apparently.

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    1. Movies are visual, and based on the visuals in the advertisement for a movie that is ostensibly attempting to gain my viewership, I can say without irony that the intended goal is to capture the ethos of the 1990s. Based on the advertisement, it failed. There is no further criticism of the movie to be gleaned from anything I've said. It could be a fantastic film, and I may see it in the future despite my misgivings about its appearance and its intended cultural goals. But what I think of the film itself isn't the point I made, even if it's the point you're arguing.

      My point is that people stop at the surface nowadays. We don't understand nuance, and I've yet to meet a Millennial who really contends with the absence of nuance in our culture, and their possible culpability in its perceived vacation. Now, you're saying that I'm stopping at the surface by criticizing Mid90s without even seeing it. What I'm criticizing is what its trailer has offered me: a series of clips from a movie set in the 90s that has merely been saturated with material things from the 90s, and nothing else. I see no other indicator that this film is credibly set in the 1990s. Just putting 90s cars and 90s clothes and dated technology in the shots doesn't actually work. The 1990s was an aggressive, positive, optimistic, extroverted, and paradoxically politically correct decade that riffed on itself and its shortcomings (Seinfeld is the easiest example of that). Mid90s posits a vision of a decade that was introverted, pessimistic, suppressed, and passive. Skateboarders find it puzzling. People who actually remember the 1990s, like you and I, should cast a preliminary glance in this light, although far be from me to direct how others view things - I'm just starting from the start in my critique, and will move on from there.

      Millennials think that it's enough to "convey" using "type." This is a dramatic cultural mistake. It's the reason why so many films are simply flat, one dimensional representations of character plays. I recently saw the latest Halloween movie. It was the kind of film that could not bridge the gap between emotional tensions: the mother in the film was cavalier about her family's safety until her daughter goes missing, when suddenly her character shifts into being terrified and concerned, and then shifts again to being suddenly "tired of hiding" and willing to risk her life by fibbing about a vulnerability just to get Michael Myers in her sights. At no stage in the film are any of these onion-like layers of her psyche allowed to exist and manifest. Instead we're just supposed to see each kind of character come forward and automatically fuse them in our imaginations as being behavioral patterns of one coherent person. Sorry, no. That's lazy. But nowadays people see that and just lap it up. We have "serious" movies where at no point does anyone smile in any scene. We have "comedy" films where all people are doing is acting ridiculous, because you're supposed to find broad humor funny. But we don't have movies like the original 1978 Halloween, where you can palpably see Jamie Lee Curtis' fear translate into credible behavior onscreen.

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  8. Y'know I was having a chat with a fellow mom of teens and we came to this conclusion:
    Without a parent to exalt what is of quality, tasteful, preferred, etc,- you are going to get these Sarah Wu sorts whose preferences stay mired in infancy.
    I just took my sons to buy their first 'real' suit- we went over fit, fabric (super 180s), construction (lining & canvassing), yada yada yada. Over the years I have shown them what to look for in a quality dress shirt, shoes, underwear, bedding, kitchenware, furniture, steaks, fragrance, etc. This is what my parents did for me also. One must inculcate such notions of what is preferred from birth. They may not seem like they are listening at first, and they may even initially reject your wisdom- but it sinks in & becomes part of their long term programming. Hopefully this programming will extend to their choice of spouses & I will not end up with a "Sarah Wu" for a daughter-in-law.

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