Celebrity scent: The war of the noses

As celebrities send perfumes flying off the shelves, Paul Cahalan and Genevieve Roberts ask: have thousands of years of civilisation brought us to this?

Justin Bieber's got one, while Lady Gaga's - apparently - boasts top notes of blood and something unmentionable. Paris Hilton has half a dozen to her name, and even Pizza Hut is getting in on the act.

The perfume industry, worth more than £460m a year in the UK alone, is booming as celebrities either bring out or endorse new fragrances on an almost daily basis. But a leading psychologist believes it has little to do with people wishing to smell more alluring.

Paul Buckley, consumer psychologist at Cardiff School of Management, says: "I heard of someone who said they didn't like the smell of the perfume but bought it because 'everyone was wearing it'. Essentially people want to fit in.... They might not be able to buy the Chanel jacket, but they can buy a little bit of the lifestyle with the perfume."

He estimates that on a typical £100 bottle of scent, some 20 per cent might be spent on production and marketing, with fashion houses and shops adding as much as 100 per cent in mark-up. "The cost of the fragrance could literally be pence," he says. "Essentially it is just essence that is brought in bulk, with huge amounts of alcohol and water added. The cost is in the marketing, but profit margins are enormous."

The latest additions to the perfume market include the smell of Marmite, an ingredient in Union's new £125 perfume, Celtic Fire, and a limited-edition fresh-baked-dough perfume from Pizza Hut in Canada.

While some perfumes are made from inexpensive essence, others use very expensive oils. The jasmine for Chanel No 5 – a bottle of which sells every 55 seconds – has been harvested by hand from the same fields in Provence since its inception in 1921. Farmer Joseph Mul says: "It's the most expensive jasmine in the world... a sweeter, softer scent than exotic jasmine."

The perfumer Roja Dove, 56, launched his own-name range in 2010, which became Harrods' bestselling brand. He says: "We use Rose de Mai, from Grasse, which is extremely rare, and jasmine from the area, costing £34,000 a kilo. Many oils cost more than gold bullion."

Linda Key, executive director of the Fragrance Foundation, says that, this Christmas, celebrity fragrances – including Lady Gaga's Fame and Justin Bieber's Girlfriend, which sold one per minute in some shops Ω are hooking younger, first-time buyers.

"They buy the fragrance for how it makes them feel," she says. "Selling a perfume is like selling a dream."

Peter York, the style consultant who analyses the perfumes' advertising campaigns on these pages, takes a similar view, describing the sales pitches as ranging from "rather good" to "gnomic".

But whatever our reasons for buying them, fragrances tap into our primitive selves, according to Sheila Keegan, consumer psychologist and associate fellow at the British Psychological Society. "We respond to smell in a way we are less conscious of, unlike seeing or hearing," she says. "We wouldn't be wearing fragrances if we were on our own – it is the connection it makes with other people that makes it work. And, of course, the fact every woman hopes Brad Pitt comes with the fragrance."

Dolce & Gabbana, The One

What's in it? A warm and sensual floral-fruity composition, with powdery vanilla trace.

Who's the face? Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett says: "Music inspires me, art inspires me, but so does the wind."

Style consultant Peter York says: "She is saying 'I am not Hollywood I am something else... I'm not just concerned about money'."

Price: From £38

Lancôme, La vie est belle

What's in it? Jasmine, orange blossom and softer notes of pear, vanilla, praline, blackcurrant.

Who's the face? Julia Roberts

Julia says: "I think it is best when perfume is kind of there, but still draws people in. You have to get close to figure out what you're dealing with."

York says: "I quite like that ... it speaks about the product she is selling."

Price: £56+

David Beckham, The Essence

What's in it? Elements of grapefruit, lavender, cardamom and patchouli.

Who's the face? Not this again!

David says: "It conveys a sense of adventure and moments spent with loved ones."

York says: "He's a family man and it's consistent with his brand. He's a perfectly intelligent person not particularly well educated. It's a bit crass but it is consistent."

Price: From £25

Justin Bieber's Girlfriend

What's in it? The "mature" scent is mandarin and juicy blackberry, and features exotic floral notes of pink freesia and jasmine.

Who's the face? It's the Biebster. Its makers say: "One spray and you'll finally experience the exhilaration of holding on and never letting go."

York says: "He's only about 17 so he can get away with saying anything, can't he? 'Bieberettes' will buy anything ..."

Price: From £24

Chanel No 5

What's in it? Infused with jasmine, rose, sandalwood and vanilla, in that whisky-style decanter.

Who's the face? Brad Pitt

Brad says: "The world turns and we turn with it."

York says: "It is high media – say something intriguing, clever or deep. It means little but it appears really profound."

Price: From £135

Christina Aguilera, Signature

What's in it? Fruit sorbet, blackcurrant tea, musk and vanilla.

Who's the face? Like it says on the label ...

Christina says: "Sometimes it's all you need to wear."

York says: "That is stolen straight from Marilyn Monroe, who was speaking about Chanel No 5."

Price: From £20

Miss Dior Cherie

What's in it? Rose Absolute, patchouli, amber and vanilla

Who's the face? Natalie Portman

Its makers say: "Miss Dior ... is an elegant invitation to a party ruled by seduction."

York says: "I rather like that. It's rather good.... It sounds a bit 'keys in the middle', or 'go with the flow'."

Price: From £64

Sarah Jessica Parker, Lovely

What's in it? Citrus and woody with a touch of lavender and apple martini.

Who's the face? Yes, it's eponymous.

Sarah says: "Lovely, on the inside."

York says: "That's gnomic. Really, Jessica, I thought you were all about dresses, high heels and slap."

Price: From £25

Thierry Mugler, A*Men Pure Shot

What's in it? Fresh mint, white pepper notes, sequoia wood and patchouli.

Who's the face? Oscar Pistorius

Its makers say: "A*Men Pure Shot inspires men to push their limits, exceed their expectations and embrace invincibility."

York says: "It is all strength and endeavour. They are trading on Pistorius and his extreme position, with his scythe-like legs."

Price: £48

Boss Nuit Pour Femme

What's in it? Peach, white flowers and creamy white woods.

Who's the face? Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth says: "It gives you a sense of mystery and allure... it is so important for a woman to smell beautiful."

York says: "The use of the words 'mystery' and 'allure', that's a model Miss World contestant answer."

Price: From £47

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Advisor - (HR, L&D) - Rugby

    £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and well established busi...

    Recruitment Genius: Product Owner - Business Analyst

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Product Owner/Business Analyst is required t...

    Recruitment Genius: Quality Technician

    £28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

    Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

    £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

    Day In a Page

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea