The idea for my article in this month’s Perfume Magazine came to me during a weekend French lesson. I’ve enrolled myself into French speaking bootcamp in preparation for a trip to Grasse in September. Last year I made a pact with myself sitting in the dome brasserie of Printemps that the next time I go to France, I would be speaking conversational French. So less than three months to go before I return to France and so far I can comfortably order a glass of wine. Needless to say I am not sure how I will go conversing with French perfumers on the finer points of perfume! I guess the wonderful thing about perfume is that is smells great in any language.
As I explored the gender of words in French language, I began to think of gender in perfume. Department store sales people still seem hung up on it and as a man browsing in the female perfume section it is always the first question they ask, “Are you buying a gift?” This is their polite way of saying, “Do you realise you are browsing in the women’s area?” I’ve given up explaining that I also wear women’s perfume as that only leads to further confusion. Instead I say yes, I am looking for a gift and I have created this make-believe female persona who I buy for so I can continue to look for what I want without disturbance. Many niche perfume boutiques have the opposite reaction. Defining perfume as men’s or women’s is a stone age practice for today’s niche purists and they proudly proclaim their perfumes to be gender-free. Asking if the bottle you have taken off the shelf is intended for men or woman is tantamount to asking for bell bottomed jeans at your local denim store in 2012. So not cool!
This month’s article introduces this idea of gender in perfume. Who decides a perfume’s gender? The marketing team? The perfumer? Or is it the ingredients themselves? You could write a book on the matter, so the article does not aim to provide all the answers, but hopefully provides some food for thought.