The niche explosion

Robin posted today on NST about the crazy number of new fragrance releases coming out each year. This situation is something I think about a lot, of course. When I first started SSS in 2004 the field was already overcrowded, but if I had known what was coming I would have been even more hesitant. I try to keep in mind what’s been done before and put my spin on things to produce something new, but ultimately I have to focus on my own work. I do enjoy trying other indie lines and I obviously understand and appreciate the effort that goes into a small perfume business. It’s especially inspiring to see other indie women perfumers who are basically one-person businesses. It’s also amazing to see how Andy Tauer has grown — I can’t imagine handling the huge quantities he does now. The distinction between indie/artisan and niche has become important, and when products are made by hand with love it really can make a difference. I need to find my way as I go, staying small, trying to offer things that are original and high quality. It’s a crazy world out there though, and I do think about it.

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  1. Laurie, one of the things that I like so much about Sonoma Scent Studio is that your collection of offerings is broad, but small enough that it’s feasible for a person to try out the entire line. I also love that your signature style is present in each creation, and that none of them feel “tacked-on” for the sake of having an offering in every genre. Each perfume feels like it was created with passion, and with purpose. And that’s how I wear them!

    I hope that you’ll keep doing what you do for as long as you live!


    1. Thanks Dee, that’s sweet of you. 🙂 I try to keep the scent list to a manageable length for me and for customers. I want to add a few more summery offerings, but it takes time to develop each new scent so the list is a work in progress, lol. I enjoy the process as it evolves though.

  2. Echoing Dee here. There are other lines that I’ve enjoyed what I’ve sampled, but the offerings are so overwhelming it’s almost a turnoff. I keep to a small, strict sampling budget, and the idea of spending MONTHS trying out just one line doesn’t appeal. (Your line was one of the first I sampled, and I’ve since discovered what a wise decision that was on my part. I’ve yet to find anything else where so many scents work so nicely on my skin.)

    Because I’m so new at this, I realized very quickly there was no way I’d ever be able to smell everything, so I made the conscious decision right near the beginning that the indies is where I’d focus. You could call me an “artisanal snob” ;). If you check out the comments over at NST, there are quite a few voices proclaiming that indie is the new niche.

    Related to that, The Perfume Posse has a discussion going today about the uber-expensive stuff, and whether or not it’s worth it. Personally, I plan on never even sniffing JAR or Xerjoff et al. To my mind, they’re overpriced and aspirational, when I can find perfume of similar beauty made by perfumers like yourself. I’d rather spend my carefully budgeted money where I can get the most bang for my buck.

    1. I’ve come to similar conclusions about being more interested in indie brands and not feeling compelled to try to sniff all the latest releases. I pick the things that interest me most, and I’m sure that’s what most people do these days. I think it’s good to do some self editing as I go along to avoid the problem of a huge scent list. I look at the Boutique group as scents that I’m trying to commit to long term, and I see the Exclusives group as a place to have fun with some limited editions as well as some longer term scents.

  3. I think that although the quality of the product speaks the biggest volume, the affordability becomes an enabling factor, and the accessibility of the creator helps to seal the long-term relationship.
    Many Niche perfumeries jump on the commercial bandwagon thanks to existing connections even though they have very little substance in the product to back up their hype, not to mention the inflationary prices which makes them seemingly untouchable. It’s especially heartening when an independent artist (through sheer talent and drive) is able to build and maintain a business around truly high quality, lovingly hand-crafted products that do not require a fancy purse string to enjoy. You have also managed to cultivate a wonderful relationship with your customers over the years both personally and through your blog and I think that additional quality makes you and Andy (and others like you) steps above the rest and able to maintain our loyalty.
    I’ve kept a little fortune cookie fortune for over 30 yrs that says, “The world is always ready to embrace talent with open arms.” It gave me a great boost of confidence whenever I thought of it, and I believe it continues to hold true. Real talent (especially when backed by a gracious heart) is always welcome in our world!


    1. Hi Ann, what a nice fortune and a heartfelt post. You make good points about price and connection with customers. The people connections make the job special from my end too. Many of the invoices that come through are people that I’ve come to know, and I think about what extra goodies they might enjoy in their package. It’s fun to wrap things up knowing a little bit about the people on the other end. Nancy from Fishbone Fragrances (decants, now closed) once described how she sent each package out with good wish for the recipient, and I know what she meant.

  4. I also appreciate being able to sample an entire line without totally depleting my bank account. It is overwhelming when a niche or indie line has dozens and dozens of choices, as I simply do not know where to start. I have sampled everything currently available from your line, and am very glad to have been able to do so. Not all of them worked well for me, but that is only to be expected. None of them, though, smell like something thrown together to please the mass market or to jump on the latest trend, as some of the niche lines seem to be doing these days. Even with the ones I did not care for, I can still recognize the quality of the ingredients and the craftsmanship, and I can certainly appreciate that they would be pleasing to someone else. Several of those that do work for me, on the other hand, work tremendously well. Please continue to do what you are doing so well. I truly believe that no matter how crowded the field may be, there will always be room for genuine quality.

    1. Thanks so much 50_Roses. I rarely like or dislike every scent in a line either — there are usually hits and misses for me in each line, which is one reason it’s nice to have choices (even if we don’t need quite so many options as exist these days, lol).

  5. What exactly is the distinction between niche and indie? This question came up the other day on NST, and there seem to be different understandings of the terminology. Somebody even used the term “microniche”, which I had not heard before. Does indie mean the company is run by a perfumer who personally creates all the perfumes her- or himself (this is more or less what I had understood it to mean)? Does it have anything to do with size or distribution networks?

    1. That’s a great question and I’m not sure everyone means the same thing when they use the word indie. To me it means someone who is both the maker of the products and the owner of the business — a small artisan operation. Many brands on Luckyscent are considered niche (as in not designer/department store/widely distributed) but are still mass produced and therefore not indie. Indie to me means handmade, but my usage may not be what everyone agrees on.

      Here are the wiki write-ups for indie and niche. Wiki defines niche in context of the target market rather than in context of the producer, so you can be an indie producer selling to a niche market.

      wiki on indie design:

      “The indie design movement is made up of independent designers, artists and craftspeople who design and make a wide array of products without being part of large, industrialized businesses.

      They are supported by a growing number of indie shoppers who are seeking niche and often handmade products as opposed to those mass-produced by corporations. Such products may include jewelery and other accessories, ceramics, clothing, glass, metalwork, furniture, cosmetics, art and much more.

      Indie designers often sell their items directly to buyers by way of their own online shops, craft fairs, street markets and a variety of online marketplaces, such as Etsy and Artfire. However, they may also engage in consignment and/or wholesale relationships with retail outlets, both online and offline.

      The indie design movement can be seen as being an aspect of the general indie movement and DIY culture.”

      wiki on niche market:

      “A niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focusing; therefore the market niche defines the specific product features aimed at satisfying specific market needs, as well as the price range, production quality and the demographics that is intended to impact.”

  6. I read in an earlier post that you were “on the limit with the oakmoss level” on your new scent. I say go over the so-called limit and put a warning label on it. I’ll be happy to take my chances and perfume dangerously!

  7. I was sitting in my sunroom looking at the frozen creek and listening for early sounds of spring when I Googled the fragrance I longed for, so reminiscent of my life in Sonoma growing vintage roses and my life here in Montana on the edge of mint fields, under the shadow of the Swan range of the Rockies. Your Velvet Rose was my Google result and your essay about walking the meadows and hills as a girl brought all of it back for me. Thank you. I could vividly remember riding bikes to the plaza and letting the fragrant air whirl around me from the fruit trees and flower gardens along the way.

    1. Hi Linnea,

      Glad it brought back some good memories! Isn’t it amazing how scent is so associated with vivid memories and emotions! I love the spring and summer outdoor scents here too. 🙂

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