The New Classics: Modern Fragrance Design

Chanel No. 5, without question, continues to be the number one perfume in the world. The name and scent are instantly recognizable whether you are an avid fragrance follower, a perfume aficionado or die-hard Marilyn Monroe fan – the legendary screen siren has been quoted as saying the only thing she wore to bed was […]

Chanel No. 5, without question, continues to be the number one perfume in the world. The name and scent are instantly recognizable whether you are an avid fragrance follower, a perfume aficionado or die-hard Marilyn Monroe fan – the legendary screen siren has been quoted as saying the only thing she wore to bed was Chanel No. 5.

The lore and allure of this fabled fragrance, created back in 1921, has endured the passage of time and continues to garner consumer appeal today. The very first perfume made by the House of Chanel is an elite in a category few fragrances ever reach: the classics.

Today’s world of fragrance design is intensely competitive with a new fragrance being created somewhere in the world every few days. The saturation of scent makes it increasingly difficult for a fragrance to find a place in today’s market, and even more challenging for it to reach “classic” status.

Why do some scents become classics, while others fade into obscurity? The beauty of the design, the memory and moods the creation evokes, the packaging, the lore and the story all play a significant role in establishing a classic fragrance. Classic fragrances inspire.

So, what fragrances of today may become the classic scents of tomorrow? What notes and accords will define the market and inspire future fragrance design? We turn to the creative perfumery team at Agilex Fragrances for insight into what modern scents they feel are soon-to-be-classics.

“Classic as applied to fragrance means different things to different people, or groups of people. It’s a moving target,” stresses Vice President of Perfumery, Alice Rebeck.

From Rebeck’s perspective, the classics shift in relationship to the age group. “Afragrance that can remain popular through three decades should be considered a classic. That’s enough time to span two generations, two distinctly different tastes and attitudes”commented Rebeck.

She cites fragrances like Beautiful, Eternity, and Drakkar which have survived 30 years with continued popularity and have inspired numerous types and renditions.

“If a fragrance can survive five decades,” continues Rebeck, “well, we’re talking timeless classic i.e., Miss Dior, Shalimar and Old Spice. Chanel No. 5 is approaching the century mark. Consider the obstacles: five generations spanned, ingredient shortages, changing regulations – it is quite an achievement.”

Looking forward: Future Classics

Lois Evans, Senior Creative Perfumer believes that woody notes, once only prominent in men’s colognes, now have a strong presence in fragrances for all types of products.

“Today, woody notes are very popular as the signature note in women’s fragrances,” says Evans. The trend began with the launch of Light Blue by Dolce & Gabbana with its characteristic blend of sandalwood and cedar.

“Light Blue has grown over the years to be a best seller and will be a classic,” asserts Evans. Flower Bomb by Victor & Rolf followed with its prominent woody note, supporting its oriental structure. Tom Ford has also launched numerous woody fragrances such as White Patchouli, Santal Blush and Oud Wood.

Evans adds, “La Vie Est Belle by Lancome has a beautiful woody complex and will surely become a classic. B by Balenciaga, Wood Sage and Sea Salt by Jo Malone and Miu Miu by Prada are all interesting new fragrances with big woody notes and have the potential to become classics as well.”

Evans continues that fine fragrance isn’t the only market celebrating woody accords. The candle market offers woody varieties such as patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood, mahogany, teak and oud. For example, Tide Simply Fresh and Clean has entered the laundry market with a very woody fragrance, a first to be seen in the U.S. market.

Fellow perfumer Martha Noyes concurs that Lancôme’s La Vie Est Belle will become a classic. “La Vie Est Belle represents a sweet amber, floral blend, highlighted by a beautiful iris note that is unparalleled by any of its competitors,” declares Noyes.

Noyes also believes that Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle, known for its sophisticated oriental accords and rich musks, may also reach classic status. Fragrance notes she sees becoming classics are Oud, (also paired alongside Rose), Pink Pepper and nature-inspired accords, which satisfy future generations desire to live a healthier lifestyle.

All fragrance designers would love to create their own Chanel No. 5 and become forever etched in the sensory landscape of fragrance history. Only time will tell if their creations have the lasting appeal of this enduring classic.


Agilex Fragrances