The rise of niche perfume

We thought it might be our imagination at first. Being in the niche fragrance game, we thought it might be like when you hear a new word – you suddenly start hearing it everywhere. But niche perfume is definitely on the rise.

According to Wikipedia niche perfume is ‘an alternative to mass perfume production. Niche is limited by the clientele and therefore with a limited sale range, thus the goal of niche houses is not to sell as much as possible.’  

We like to think of it more like art – it’s not created to leverage market trends and appeal to the masses, it’s a way for the perfumer to express themselves. We’ve written more about niche perfume here.

So why is it becoming more popular? To us, it makes complete sense – why would you want to smell like everyone else in a mass-produced perfume?! But the question really is, why are more and more people thinking like this?

We think there could be a number of reasons for the growing popularity of niche fragrance:

There’s more choice

The industry is opening up – or being prised open, rather.

For a long time, centuries even, perfumery was (and still is to some extent) an extremely difficult industry to get into. It’s quite secretive, with some old-school perfume houses not wanting to share their secrets with anyone but a handful of carefully picked students. But these days many modern perfumers are self-taught, using online course, resources, and books to get them started. There’s also a growing number of shorter perfume-making course available. All of this means that there are more artists in the field – more people making perfume for the joy of it – rather than to sustain a multinational business.

Social media

Have you heard of #PerfumeTok? So far, we’ve resisted TikTok, but it might not make a lot of sense for us to do so, because it’s a hive of niche-appreciation. Users are sharing what they love about underground fragrance houses, making it cool to explore and ‘discover’ lesser-known scents. This trend is predominately led by Gen Z, who are clearly very wise.

Societal changes

There’s no doubt that the popularity of all-natural fragrances comes from a good place; to lessen harm on the environment, and an awareness of the products we use on our skin. However, it’s a nuanced subject and all is not what it seems. But, more often than not, all-natural perfume houses are indie, or niche.

There’s also been campaigns urging consumers to ‘buy local’ and from small businesses, tying in with a wider rejection of big corporations. And nothing says small business than an indie fragrance house, a lot of them are one-man-bands (hi!)

Finally, the way we talk about gender is changing. But for years – and still even now – the big perfume brands produce scent marketed specifically to men OR women. Most niche houses create fragrances that are gender-neutral – they’re really leading the way here, and they’re more in touch with the way younger generations think.  Eventually the big brands will catch up too.

And how do you really know niche is on the rise? … Big companies are investing in it. It’s paradoxical right?

French multinational Kering, who specialise in luxury goods, have recently acquired Creed. Who aren’t exactly small, but they aren’t totally mainstream either.

And big-boy beauty giant Coty is getting in on the act too. They’re launching 14, what seem to be, niche-style fragrances in 2024 – ‘fusing beauty, science and art.’

Airports such as Heathrow have a niche perfume duty-free section in amongst the designer shops. And Hyundai Duty Free opened Korea’s largest niche perfume pavilion in early 2023, featuring 30 niche brands.

Plus, high-end fashion mags – the home of big-brand fragrance ads – now do round-ups of the best niche scents out there. They’re giving their readers what they want!

Long live niche! If you want to explore Thursday, try our discovery set to see if you can find a scent you love.