Thursday, January 15, 2015


Continuing to draw the smellscape of São Paulo City I am bringing you today smells and odors that are very cosmopolitan, such as the smell of construction debris found everywhere in the city. 
São Paulo is a city in development and remodeling, so you will find parked in almost every street what we call CAÇAMBA DE ENTULHO or construction dumpsters/containers. Pieces of wood, ceramics, concrete, walls, cartons and plastics are deposited everyday in these containers under the sun or rain until contractors fill them up and call collectors to remove them from site. If you pass near these container you will smell dust, paint, rotten wood and wet concrete all together. It is the smell of change, modernity.

Although Brazilians try to copy movements coming from other countries such as being eco-friendly, selective garbage disposals are not very common. They exist but it is not enforced by any legislation. Usually you will find huge plastic bags mixing all sorts of meat, poultry and fish leftovers combined with fruits is decay, papers of all sort and used aluminum foils, broken glasses and vases etc... just waiting outside to be collected. In my neighborhood you can put the garbage outside 3 days a week and only 2 hours before the garbage truck passes by.

According to the City Hall website the city generates 20.000 tons of garbage per day which 12.000 come from private homes. Also it is known that Brazilian garbage is one of the richest garbages in the world. As experts explain, the more developed and richer the country is, poorer is its garbage. Our garbage still reflect a third world country condition.

If you take a walk in my neighborhood you will find a lot of plastic bags filled with broken tree branches, leafs and recent cut grass collected from the yards. They smell fresh, green with a hint of wooden decay and straw. 

Also if you pass by my street early in the morning on sunny days you will smell the scent of fabric softeners. It is the smell of recently washed laundry. Slightly powdery, very flowery and sometimes very sweet. Brazilians also have the worst habit of washing the outside areas of the house with water, not minding the challenges of water shortage that we are facing. They pretend it does not exist. So the green fresh smell of garden waste combines with the scent of laundry softener and detergents plus some sort of powder soap that runs out of the houses to the sidewalks. I must confess I love that smell, even thou it is selfish and not very eco-friendly. 

The backfire of this misuse of water is that sometimes it brings back the smell of dried urine of dogs. It is simple unbearable, but sometimes something magical happens. The smell of urine is combined with the scent of flowers in a way that you can create an holographic white tropical flower as you pass by. I love when that happens!
São Paulo is not like New York City where the smell of human piss and dog's urine is so strong sometimes that you feel nauseated. Since we have even more dogs than New Yorkers, I take it our dogs piss less or are dog owners are more educated...

Another common smell is the one coming from kiosks located on the sidewalks. These kiosks sell newspapers, printed magazines, cigarettes, candy and sometimes beverages.
As you pass by a kiosk you can smell the scent of recently printed papers. It is a particular smell of ink, mixed with the smell of glue and varnish. The smell is dry and fatty. Oily I must say. When it comes to women's magazine you will also find hints of all sorts of perfume printed ads with encapsulated fragrances. The old scratch and sniff or open and sniff techniques. I love the smell of the kiosks in São Paulo. They give a hip and classy touch to the streets. 

And since we are mentioning ink...São Paulo embraces street art like no other city. We simply love graffiti! They are everywhere including on the walls of private home commissioned by its owners. They are colorful, creative and real pieces of modern art. We have embraced them and we have an open gallery located in the neighborhood called Vila Madalena where you will find wall after all covered by beautiful graffiti. Probably the most famous and the one you all know by name is Os Gêmeos - the two brothers whose street art has travelled the world. Everywhere I pass by I smell the scent of fresh spray paint. Frankly I am allergic to it so it is not my favorite. Visually I adore it!

Remember I said that São Paulo has a rustic side? Well we still have street markets in every neighborhood. If you pass near one the strongest smell you will find is of coconut oil cooking pastries. It is not a good smell IMO. It is the smell of fat, flour and cheese burning. 
If you stay close to the fish stands you will find a cold smell of ice mixed with the briny - salty smell of the ocean. Fresh fish actually smell good! The only problem for me is when fish vendors open the fish to clean. The smell of guts and blood are not my favorite. They wash them after opening and this water runs down to the pavement which later on starts to evaporate and stink. I can't stand that. So if you happen to be here in town, try to have a street market experience early in the morning when the sun is not burning the skull and you won't smell rotten fish vapors.

The aroma of vegetables and fruits are a one of kind experience. It is simply lovely and fresh. Very tropical, very intense. You will also find spice stands where you will smell a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, oregano and bay leaf. Very intense by the way!

These aromas are so beautiful that a Brazilian cosmetic brand called DUCHA has all its products inspired by them. The founders wanted to bring the street market experience to the homes of its clients; specially to the bathtub.

Street markets leave a residual smell that is as disgusting as the smell of an old opened trash. Oranges in decay and rotten fish odors are washed with tons of water after they dismount the stands. Truth is that you can still smell that disgusting residual rotten smell of garbage in decomposition the day after.  A tip for people looking for apartments - check if the street has an open market. If so, don't rent; don't buy it!

So let's make a quick list what was mentioned till now:

1. smell of Pinheiros and Tiête rivers (rotten eggs)
2. basaltic and limestone rocks, dust, pollution, pavement, abrasive metallic haze, rain water evaporating
3. flowers and plants of the park
4. humidity, moss, fungus, wood in decay, 
5. spray paint, construction waste, garden waste, garbage
6. frech ink, glue, varnish, encapsulated perfume
7. laundry softeners and soaps, dog piss
8. fresh fish, rotten fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, rotten fruits and vegetables, spices, fat+flour+cheese burning

Stick around as I continue to smellwalk in São Paulo!

Thursday, January 8, 2015


Photo credit: Wedding Inspiration website

In my last article about niche perfumery I discussed what NICHE meant. It was back in 2012 when a lot of bloggers, perfumers and perfume magazines were discussing the future of niche perfumery, its meaning and some of them were even discussing that at some point niche as it was presented could not be considered niche perfumery anymore.
Two years ago I said that opinions about the subject could be divided in 2 groups: the extremists or purists who think that niche means ONLY exclusive small perfume brands offering unique fragrances; and the generalists that find that everything you can offer to a certain niche can be nominated niche (I am in this group).
At that time I also explored the crucial elements that defined niche and from them I extracted meaning of niche perfumery:

-   Small
-       Specialized
-       Market segment
-       Specific
-       Marketing strategy

All lead to the common meanings that niche perfumery was 1) A specialized market segment in perfumery, or 2) A marketing strategy created to sell perfume (according to the needs, interests and wants of a group of people).

Three years later I feel that it is time that we talk about niche perfumery again and reevaluate it as it is today. The reason to do so is the fact that niche is no longer behaving at it was before. 

Once niche perfumery was ENNICHED by the market some brands started to behave like  mass production companies. 

From starters a question just popped out of my mind: Maybe we need to change permanently the name of this category of perfumery from NICHE to INDIE? 

Let's find out!

According to the Fragrance Foundation - the organization giving the FIFI AWARDS - the INDIE perfume award category (USA) is given to a fragrance launched by a brand not distributed or owned by a large company and sold in under 50 stores in the USA.

In this case we can exclude all the brands that were sold to equity groups or larger companies. But does that mean the ones not following in this category are still behaving like a niche brand?

The French perfume brand Annick Goutal was one of the first independent niche brands to be acquired by a group. Being previously owned by the investment group Starwood Capital was bought by giant Korean Cosmetic brand Amore Pacific in 2011. I remember the criticism years ago and the long discussions about quality of the raw materials and how AG lovers felt somehow betrayed by the brand. That was just the beginning...

Recently many other niche brands owners followed the path of Camille Goutal (the daughter of the founder of AG brand). UK private Equity Company Manzanita bought Diptyque and Byredo; Le Labo was bought by Estée Lauder Group who already owned Jo Malone, Frederic Malle and Tom Ford Beauty...etc etc...

Is there a back fire of these operations?

According to specialists in branding if the original niche brand does not retain its identity, its niche market is ruined or it is no longer enniched. If the parent brand gives credibility to the brand acquired  - great! If not, it is doomed to failure. In fact, it is the personality of the Indie and the power of the parent brand that will show a rebrand, an integration, an extension etc... A brand should encompass its niche market both functional and emotionally, and if still does after being bought, values will be maintained or even improved.
You see, brand values offer a promise. It is a set of attributes that its consumers experience by using their products. A deviation of this "promise" will eventually harm this loyalty.

But what is happening to the brands who did not have the fortune to be bought by bigger groups? Are they still behaving as they promised? Are they still using the same marketing strategies as in the beginning?

For many years niche perfumery sold the idea that it does not follow trends. Fact is that this promise is no longer there. As an example let's examine some facts of the market:

How many niche brands ran to launch its very own OUD fragrance because it was a fever - A RAW MATERIAL TREND no so long ago predicted by companies such as Seven or Mintel? A trend that is coming back by the way for my misfortune.
How many brands launched a perfume around a rose, leather or patchouli note this winter because it was predicted to be the next good selling product for 2015/2016 autumn and winter seasons? Check P&F article here.

Check the latest new launches for this winter and you will see that niche perfumery perfumer and brand owners are starting to follow trends like any other brand:

The Different Company - Kashan Rose EDP (Rose)
Parfums de Nicolai - Cuir Cuba Intense EDP (Leather)
Tauer Parfums - Un Rose de Kandahar (Rose)
Maison FK - Masculin Pluriel (Leather)
Tom Ford - Patchouli Absolu (Patchouli)

To make the story short: Luckyscent is displaying nothing more than 16 new leather niche fragrances and 17 new rose fragrances.

About packing design trends. Niche brands are beginning to follow trends of massive production. How many niche brand went back to their designers and ordered revamped fragrance bottles because it was a trend in the mass production market? Also a trend pointed out not so long ago in the media - for those how follow the market you know what I am talking about!! Remember the trend of heavy luxurious flacons? Many ran to make their very own and the ones who did not have it till then, ran to remodel their design.

The celebrities - this is the most sensitive element to point out. French niche perfumery brand Etat Libre D'Orange invited Tilda Swinton to "collaborate" with the creation of this fragrance. Boom! It got an FiFi Award in France. The brand had used the face of Rossy de Palma before. The marketing strategy is to call the celebrity a "muse". Another tactic - announce out loud "this or that celebrity wears my brand" - strategy used by French niche brand Honoré de Prés using Jessica Alba to sell Vamp a NY fragrance.

So, are niche brands really telling stories as they say they do? Are niche brands reflecting the personality of the owner as they once said they do? A reflexion to be made by all of us consumers.

Does that mean that niche fragrances once ENNICHED are no longer loyal to their consumers? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it is the other way around.

How many brands were launched from 2005 to 2015? Ten years ago you had a small number of perfumers launching their brands and selling exclusive lines. But what happens when the market offers 10 to 20 new different niche brands in a year and regular customers begin to have the urge to try the new brands? Are they still loyal to the houses that once inspired them?

Today niche perfumery takes 10% of high end perfume sales globally. The market changed. 

Cosmetic Business Magazine pointed out on today's issue that Euromonitor is predicting 3 trends for the fragrance market  "Three trends are expected to take off within the fragrance market this year: the rising popularity of niche fragrances, fragrance personalisation and novel retail experiences."

The article also brings insights of niche brand Micallef on the subject that are interesting:
“Consumers will continue to look for an effective identity and ability to relate emotionally and personally to a fragrance. In line with this, industry players are formulating fragrances with alternative ingredients to meet such demands. We have seen fragrances formulated with sea salt and saffron, for example, which are still alternative ingredients. Naturally, big players are trying to tap into this lucrative part of the business as evidenced by Estée Lauder's recent acquisition of Le Labo and Frédéric Malle.”

Regarding the fact that competition in this segment is on the rise:
“In order to meet such a challenge, fragrance players need to sustain their niche intent and avoid commoditising the scent.”

Micallef talks about formulation of the fragrance with alternative ingredients. that was one of the elements of the marketing strategy used exclusively by niche brands in the past. Niche brands always highlight the fact that they use expensive or unique raw materials in their composition. True sometimes. But is today a practice that is exclusive of niche brands? what about the exclusive collections of Dior or Chanel? Mass production companies changed to fit the market. exclusivity of raw materials are now part of their marketing strategy to sell fragrances for a more exclusive public.

I bring my favorite perfumer Jean Claude Ellena to the picture. The man was one of the first perfumers to explain the background of fragrance production. In his book Le Parfum (French edition of 2007) where he defines niche in chapter VII – Le Marketing (in English - The Marketing), sections I – Le marketing de la demande (in English – The marketing of the demand) and II – Le marketing de niche (in English - The niche marketing) to check what this master perfumer has said in the past about this subject:

He mentioned that brands like Annick Goutal, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Comme de Garçons, Diptyque, Frédérick Malle, The Different Company were the precursors of the awareness of the immediacy, the “déjà vus” or stereotypes of mainstream perfumery and its lack of surprises. According to him, these niche perfumers (he gave us this name in the book) could be only discriminated by the system of distribution they have adopted, which was mostly, to sell their fragrances in their own boutiques, with a set of criteiras set by them to understand their commercial approach. In section II he defines niche as a marketing strategy: a non-use of advertising support; the perfumers are placed in front of the perfumes (meaning you know who they are), and most of all: the perfume must speak for itself; it has to have a very strong identification, more olfactive. A great deal of attention is given to the name of the brand. In his opinion, a niche perfume is not only a way of distributing and selling perfume; it is also the way the brand shows its difference. He also mentions the service given to its clientele: the places where these perfumes are found are relatively closed places, where clients receive personal attention. Their satisfaction is crucial. The complicity is crucial - the mouth to mouth is the best advertising of these products. As per the creation itself, perfumers are free to create with an olfactive independence.

So what about English niche brand Creed and its advertising campaign for this last Christmas?

"Fragrance house Creed has announced plans to run its first print media advertising campaign to support its men’s scent Aventus.
The campaign is set to appear in a number of consumer publications including GQ, Esquire, Men’s Health, Big Black Book, Style (Sunday Times), Telegraph Luxury, Vanity Fair and FT: How to Spend It. Advertising will also be supported by ongoing PR to further drive sales in the run up to Christmas.
Chris Hawksley, Managing Director of The Orange Square Company and UK distributor for Creed, said: “We are seeing consumers return to quality brands they trust and we are seeking to capitalise on this throughout the Christmas retail period to create maximum awareness of both the Creed brand and this much- loved classic, while supporting the brand’s continued success.” Aventus launched in 2010 to support Creed’s 250th anniversary. The scent contains top notes of apple, blackcurrant, pineapple and bergamot; heart notes of juniper berries, birch, patchouli and jasmine; and base notes of vanilla, musk, oakmoss and ambergris." (extracted by Cosmetic Business website - article posted in 5 Nov 2014).

A niche brand according to Ellena does not advertise in magazines such as GQ. Well, it seems that things have changed in this segment. And what about the large number of online sellers of niche brands? What is the difference between sites selling niche brands on line and O Boticário lanching its Eudora website?

The final question that I raise for reflexion - as per marketing strategy called "mouth to mouth" does that include paying people to go on line in facebook, blogs, twitter and others to endorse brands being PAID to do so? I don't need to name the faces here, you all know who they are by now. Blogging was once a hobby, a it is leverage in one's bank account. The bloggers are not the issue here. I don't want to raise this discussion today in this article, but I do want to raise the question about the ethics niche brands have or have not when it starts to "support" the mouth to mouth opinion about how wonderful their perfumes are. Paying certain celeb-wanna-bes of facebook to promote this or that brand is a marketing strategy called ADVERTISING.

When money comes to the scene and profits are increasing brands, bloggers, consumers all change their behavior. Everyone wants a piece of this luxurious niche cake.

Monday, January 5, 2015


In my first article of the SMELL IN THE CITY series I started to describe the SMELLSCAPE of São Paulo City. Today I will continue to  deepen into the unique olfactive qualities of this city by bringing to you sensory information of my perception of different places and sites.

Before we start this journey I will introduce a concept that will be used many times in this text - SMELLSCAPE.
 In "Landscape's - ocular-centrism and beyond?" Hannah Mcpherson from the school of Architecture, Planning & Landscape of the University of Newcastle, UK explains that although the environment perception literature focus mostly in the ocular centric approach (sight), there are other alternative aspects of how the land is sensed and interacted with. 
Talking about multi-sensory interaction with the land she points out that the relationship between perception, the senses and the landscape is not fixed, but geographically, historically and culturally contingent. She also mentions the works of Porteous and the inclusion of the such terms as soundscapes and smellscapes.
Our perception of places and landscapes are also understood experiencing sounds and smells. Landscape perception is therefore, a "whole-body activity".
The experience of visiting a city cannot be reduced only to a visual perception of the place and its landscape, but an enriched experience that must bring a multi sensory exploration!
For us here sound and touch are less important, but not excluded. I will focus more on the SMELLSCAPE of São Paulo by bringing general smellscapes for the entire city, no matter where you are located or local olfactive experiences in neighborhoods of my choice.
 Last time I started describing São Paulo's general smellscape as follows:

"My smell walk in São Paulo City starts with an olfactive exercise of trying to decompose the general smell that is particular of my city. 
Unfortunately the stench of Tiete & Pinheiros Rivers is growing stronger as we approach to Summer, added to the fact that the air is denser and dryer due to a long and severe period of drought. We are facing an increasing amount of dust in the air and also in the level of the city's pollution. The result is a stronger odor of sewer discharge (consisting of industrial and domestic waste) combined with the stench of abrasive metallic pollutants and the smell of a haze of urban dust which is a mix of fine particles of residual concrete, paint, wood and many others materials used in the construction of buildings.
These 02 rivers with high concentrations of sulfides flow through the city bringing a smell of putrid waste and rotten eggs all together.
It is indeed a very difficult task drift away from that stench, but a trained nose must be succeed by focusing in something else".

Updating the local meteorological status - it started to rain. In fact we have been celebrating many heavy to medium showers lately - which painted a slightly different scenario in our smellscape. Let's say the smell of dust has decreased and the smell of humidity has returned.

To describe the olfactive urban design of São Paulo I will start from below the nose with smells located underfoot with the Brazilian pavements and sidewalks.

You will find different types of pavements and pavements techniques in São Paulo. The most beautiful one IMO is the mosaic shaped sidewalks:

Calçada portuguesa – Portuguese Calçada or mosaic (also known in Brazil as Portuguese stones) is a specific pavement, used mostly for finishing the walkways and sidewalks, alleys, squares and other bustling places. This stone flooring is particularly popular in Portuguese speaking countries. The unique mosaic pavements (typically from limestone or basalt) are irregularly shaped. The game of contrasts allows forming various decorative designs because of the difference in the nuances of the different pieces. The most common colors used for shaping the cobblestones are black and white, but there may be found in red and brown. (extracted from the work of Tatiana Weintraub and Waldemar Celes "Modeling the Copacabana Sidewalk Pavement").

Contrary to Israel and the United States where pavements made of concrete are everywhere, here we find a vast array of styles and materials. What is unique about these pavements is that there is a sense that time has stopped here. Sometimes you feel you are in a small village centuries ago just by looking to these trails of limestones. Brazilians are not picky about plants growing on the corners of the sidewalks. Sometimes the roots of trees have such extraordinary growth underneath the pavements and that they lift the sidewalks and street pavements resulting in superficial runoff, or end up crackling them considerably, taking over the landscape. 

São Paulo has many streets and entire areas presenting partial or total pavement destruction due to high traffic density and the high volume of pluvial waters a year round. Urban flooding is still a reality here even in the fanciest neighborhoods.

In terms of smellscape there is a very exquisite combination of mineral smells of limestone and basaltic stones combined with the smell of dirty humidity from soil and rain water evaporating with the heat. 

São Paulo is in constant rebuilding, so it is very common to find the smell of shaving/grinding stones, the tarry- rubbery smell of blacktop (asphalt mix) or the smell of smoke and oil of tractors working outside on the streets.

Interlocked concrete pavements do exist in larger areas and squares, but the streets of São Paulo still offer the vintage experience.Then there is the particular smell of the humid dirty accumulated between stones combined with the smell of moss that grows within time - a deep green smell of moss with a decay aura on top of it and the fresh flowery smell of plants, little flowers and fungus. Fact is that ecological pavements do not offer the infiltration of pluvial water and the growth of plants and mosses like these limestones do.

Visually São Paulo still presents some sort of rusticity to its landscape. All over town you will find rotten cut branches of trees with huge fungus cultures shelving up and rotten wood benches and fences. This brings a particular smell of wood decay and humidity to the air that is very countryside-ish. To me it is natural, organic and mushroomy. 

In my next post we will continue to explore the city's smellscape focusing in smell sources of all kinds. Good or bad. because the olfactive identity of a place is not the designed by a home spray or a city themed perfume!


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