In the not-so-distant past, a “natural” perfume meant wafts of patchouli permeating the air.
And then came the rise of the niche brand, tiny fragrance companies with products found at specialty boutiques offering iterations of scents with ingredients like pure essential oils, organic materials, and natural notes. But today, these niche brands are appealing to more mainstream consumers and can be found from local shops to department stores.
As society as a whole is paying more attention to the environment and sustainability, so too is the luxury fragrance market. “Similar to other areas of the beauty industry, fragrance mirrors global trends. In color cosmetic and skincare, consumers are looking for natural and/or sustainably sourced products,” says Linda G. Levy, president of New York City-based The Fragrance Foundation, a nonprofit educational group whose members represent 82 of the biggest fragrance companies in the world.
“Naturals are a market trend we’ve been seeing for some years now that’s influencing everyone,” says Bruna Bergemann director of marketing for Givaudan, one of the leading scent developers in the world. “People are thinking more about the environment and whether their products are good for them—and fine fragrance is following suit,” Bergemann says.
“Following this macro trend, we’re moving from fragrances that, for example, say they contain roses, to fragrances that contain roses from Bulgaria, to fragrances infused with Bulgarian roses from a sustainable source that impacts the local community,” says Hervé Fretay director of natural ingredients for Givaudan. “More brands are looking at how their ingredients are grown, picked, extracted, and the impact they have on the local community; they’re telling more of a story.”
Big Luxury Brands Get in the Game
And it’s not just the niche brands offering scents with eco-friendly ingredients. Big luxury companies are getting into the eco-chic fragrance game.
Chopard, for example, recently launched its Garden of Paradise line of fragrances composed of raw materials. In a commitment to reduce their footprint, Bulgari introduced its new Wood Essence fragrance for men made from sustainably sourced raw materials and housed in a 90% recycled glass bottle.
And even beauty powerhouse Sephora recently launched its Clean beauty hub, which offers fragrances as well as makeup, skincare, and haircare that’s free of many chemicals. “People need to take care of the way they source raw materials, whether it’s for jewelry, leather, or fine fragrance, and there’s a need for sustainability across the board,” Fretay says.
And the demand for eco-chic fragrances is reaching those with some of the most particular tastes—high-end consumers. “Money brings ease of living, and with that comes a desire to take care of yourself and live longer, healthier, and better,” Fretay says. In fact, Givaudan is currently researching how fragrance can impact health and well-being with scents that improve everything from mood and quality of sleep to overall quality of life.
While natural ingredients in fragrances are a growing trend, what’s essential to keep in mind, says Bergemann, is that the majority of fragrances with natural ingredients are still a blend of synthetic ingredients as well as natural, and there is much confusion around the terminology.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about naturals versus synthetics,” Levy says. “Synthetic molecules in fragrance allow for the creation of a wide variety of natural scents that nature itself could not create and are neither harmful to the body nor the environment.”
She adds, “with fragrance it’s important to remember that natural doesn’t mean better. Synthetic ingredients can be created without the use of many common allergens and can be produced in a sustainable fashion without depleting any precious flora or natural resources.”