Pinpointing yourself to a country, where you were born, where you live; you have different preferences in taste, even in music and in fashion, all merely because of the cultural influence around you. The same goes for fragrance. This miraculous phenomenon, invisible to the human eye, doesn't only speak to individual preferences, yet more grandly, reflects entire countries and continents!
In understanding the personal perceptions of what “smells good” to different people of different countries, it quite simply only requires to have a look at their domestic bestsellers for women and men versus the others. Although, there are some commonalities that run across all markets, such as the desire for “fresh” and “modern-styled” fragrances; statistics do reveal that history, tradition, and even climate, all inform a region's particular taste in fragrance.
THE OLFACTIVE DIFFERENCES OF DIFFERENT CONTINENTS
With an overall divergent understanding of fragrances stemming from their strong cultural attitude of respect for one another; perfume, especially the stronger scents, is considered disturbing and thus rather offensive. Nevertheless, the region is undergoing changes in their perceptions, with the perfume industry gradually growing.
Large in size, with different regions, cultures and traditions all in one, China’s perfume preferences commonly correlate with the different climates. For instance, the woody, powdery, spicy notes, such as those in parts found in Chanel No 5 by Chanel and BLV Pour Homme by Bvlgari, are better fitted for dry areas such as Beijing; whilst fresh, powdery florals are favoured in the warmer regions, like Shanghai. Moving south, to a more humid and hot climate; refreshing yet pungent scents, such as Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel, are known to be more successful. In contrast with a more reserved society, Japan instead evades heavy scents and gravitates towards niche, hard-to-find fragrances, that are delicate, subtle, well-balanced and often with aquatic nuances, including L'Eau d'Issey by Issey Miyake and Cool Water by Davidoff for men. The Koreans’ olfactive preferences correlate similarly with that of the Japanese, with very light, softly fruity, and citrusy fragrances to thrive most in their market.
Fragrance is completely ingrained in their culture. Revered to a high degree, and rooting from the historical practices, the Persians were the first to use distillation in extracting oils from flowers to create beautiful aromas. Who would’ve known that decades, centuries later, perfume application still remains an essential ritual in their daily lives!
Renowned for the most fragrant of traditions: smouldering incense, ritualistic essential oils and fragrant teas; it is no wonder why the language of fragrance applies on many levels in their culture. From a spiritual way to anoint oneself before prayer, to epitomising a personal fingerprint, a statement; perfume is a powerful tool in characterising one's individuality.
With surely the strongest olfactive preferences globally, the residents of the Middle East seek a bold and definitely above average longevity. Moreover, their traditional approach includes layering of multiple opposing scents. Most prevalently they use spices, earthy vetiver, sensual oud, floral rose and jasmine, and different woods, all to create the most elaborate, exclusive, and astounding compositions. The most prominent to the region include, Good Girl by Caroline Herrera, Pour Homme Oud Noir by Versace and Gucci Oud by Gucci.
Three quarters of the population, majority of which are the younger generations, use perfumes. Overall, they have a rather broad range of olfactive preferences. Known for their voracious appetites, this justifies their admiration for gourmand notes, such as sweet vanilla and as fruity strawberry, best exemplified by brands such as Victoria Secrets. In addition though, the US is fond of fragrances that offer a fresh and clean feel, like CK One by Calvin Klein; the most prevalent olfactive preferences reflect timeless and elegant simplicity. These most traditionally are feminine garden florals, with common use of rose, lily of the valley as well as violet notes. The top sellers for women in the USA include, Trésor by Lancôme, Beautiful by Estee Lauder and Happy by Clinique. Similarly, men’s fragrances have also seen a shift into the lighter and more botanical territory, with notes such as citruses, florals, and woods becoming increasingly eminent due to the recent push towards unisex perfumes. Examples of male and unisex fragrances include Super Cedar by Byredo, the newly reimagined Dior Homme Eau de Toilette by Dior, Y by YSL, as well as Essencial Oud by Natura.
Although the perfume market is underdeveloped, it is foreseen to be lucrative, with the local population constantly looking for different fragrances from outside the region. The majority don't regard perfume as an essential daily-wear and instead see the bottled potions as a luxury, something that they may gift or spray onto their skin for the most exciting of occasions! Nonetheless, it is seen that fresh and zesty as well as floral and fruity are most favoured for both male and female fragrances.
Most definitely the oldest and largest population of users of modern perfumery, having the treasured perfume capital France at its heart, France. For the French, perfume is as much of the culture as having a glass of the finest wine or eating cheese… it’s simply part of the phrase “c’est la vie”, and of course, the surrounding countries have benefited and derive from the French parfum experience! Accessible to the middle class, the innovation of perfume is the driving force behind market growth.
In comparison to, for instance the US, whose fundamental and ulterior motive is really to say “I am clean”, or even with the Middle East, where perfume is used to introduce yourself, even before you step into the room; contrastingly the European’s use each spray as a narrative for their character, their personality that day, that evening. You for sure, won’t only find a couple of bottles on their beauty counter, more realistically, you’ll find a whole perfume cupboard… A different scent for different occasions, for different personalities,and moods! This continent focuses on rather easy-wears, whilst also remaining clean and fresh, yet not forgetting the vital element of sexiness!
Starting from France, you’ll notice that they’re not afraid of bold, timeless scents, even with the strongest of accords, such as dark, spicy and even common nuances of musk, such as the classics Shalimar by Guerlain, La vie est belle by Lancome, and J’adore by Dior. Moving across the continent, into the southern European regions, Mediterranean freshness is de rigueur, with the local ingredients, such as the citruses, bergamot and orange, as well as neroli, being the most successful. The best examples include, Eau d’Orange Vert by Hermes, Cristalle Eau Verte by Chanel, as well as Light Blue by D&G. Moreover, for male fragrances, the Europeans do admire the classical cologne structures (high in citrus): bold, fierce and openly masculine, with frequent aromatic, aquatic and woody notes, such as in Eau Sauvage by Dior and Bleu de Chanel by Chanel.