Fragrance 101: What is Niche Perfume?
Before we talk about niche perfume, let’s establish what niche actually means.
The word ‘niche’ has evolved over time to encompass various meanings. It originates from the French word ‘nicher’ which means ‘to nest’ and derives from the Old French verb ‘nichier’, used to describe the action of birds building nests.
It was first adopted into English during the 17th century where it was used to describe a recess or hollow space in a wall used to display statues and other decorative pieces. It’s here where its popular, modern day meaning begins to take shape.
Over time, the term has expanded from its literal definition of ‘recess-in-a-wall’, evolving to describe the metaphorical concept of a small, specialised segment of a market.
Where perfume is concerned, ‘niche’ is used to describe both the special artisan products it produces and the discerning consumer it serves. Handmade, unique and innovative, it describes a small portion of an industry revered for its distinctiveness and superior quality.
What makes niche... niche?
Niche fragrance is unique. It celebrates the rare and the beautiful. It isn’t mass-produced and is not mainstream by design. Niche perfume houses dare to be different. They are bold (Juliette Has a Gun, Xerjoff, Mancera), innovative (Matiere Premiere, Memo, Laboratorio Olfattivo, Carriere Freres), and historical (Creed, Trudon, Santa Maria Novella, Lubin, Floris, Frapin).
While every niche house has its own distinct approach, style and philosophy, they each share common characteristics which earn them niche category status.
Niche brands view fragrance as art, with creativity the axis by which everything else revolves. Their products are often handmade, employing traditional techniques and materials, preserving cultural heritage and supporting local artisans. Niche perfumers prioritise the use of high-quality ingredients, focussing on natural essences, rare & exotic botanicals and carefully selected synthetic molecules to produce distinctive, luxurious fragrances.
Niche perfume houses are known for their meticulous attention to detail throughout the fragrance creation process. They carefully consider every aspect, including the composition, development, blending techniques, and packaging, to ensure a cohesive and refined final product. They are made with love.
Many niche perfume houses are independent and privately owned, allowing them greater freedom and flexibility in their creative pursuits. This independence often enables niche perfumers to push boundaries, experiment with unconventional ideas, and maintain their unique vision without commercial pressures.
People and the pyramid
Niche perfume evolves on the skin. While many mass-market scents are known as ‘static fragrances’ — akin to a one-note melody — niche fragrances are designed to change and develop over time. This is best explained within the framework of the Olfactive Pyramid, the concept of three main olfactive stages — top, heart and base — showcasing the journey of a perfume’s composition. Concentration typically begins at around 15% essential oils.
For many perfumers, niche fragrance is a passion project. Aurélien Guichard of Matiere Premiere, David Benedek of BDK and Julian Bedel of Fueguia 1833, are all great examples of perfumers who pour everything and the kitchen sink into each and every aspect of what they do. David Frossard, the creative force behind Frapin, Obvious and Liquides Imaginaires, is also a notable figure within the niche space, developing brands and concepts that simply wouldn’t exist within the machine of a global beauty conglomerate.
Even Alberto Morillas, the world-renowned Spanish master perfumer and architect behind blockbuster fragrances CK One and Giorgio Armani’s Acqua di Giò, turns to the niche space for his creative kicks with his very own ‘secret garden’ house, Mizensir.
Ultimately, 'Niche' is a special place where artisans and discerning lovers of art converge. It’s a celebration of creativity with a focus on quality, artistry and exclusivity. And we think It makes life infinitely better.