For many of us, a bottle of designer perfume is the only designer item we ever get our hands on. But things are beginning to change. High street fashion chains like French Connection and The Gap are muscling in on the fragrance market, and many women are choosing these own-brand perfumes over the designer alternatives. Could the days of glamorous and overpriced smells be over?

It began with Marks & Spencer's Isis. This cheeky take on the strikingly similar Eau d'Issey seems to have started the trend. Isis retails at a mere pounds 10 for 90ml. Both smell light and melony - few can tell the difference - and what's more, the cheaper bottle looks as good in the bathroom as Issey Miyake's stylish conical flask. Now Next, Miss Selfridge, Diesel, Monsoon and Agnes B have all launched perfumes and attendant bath treats.

It's all about our aspirations. We may not be able to buy the Chanel suit but we will happily splash out on a bottle of liquid bearing her name. Can a high street pretender give the buyer the same luxury hit as a bottle of Opium or Chanel No 5? Yes, if current sales are anything to go by. A spokesperson for French Connection claimed that stocks of their unisex eau de toilette (pounds 19.95) which they thought would last from the launch, in October, through to the new year were gone by Christmas. Although new to the game, French Connection's bright lemony scent in a simple square bottle, was a winning formula. The success of these new signature scents probably owes more to competitive pricing and elegant minimalist packaging, than the pleasure of indulgence. Does this mean that perfume is losing its luxury appeal? Probably not. Although quick to latch on to the popularity of light citrus, unisex fragrances and the appeal of beautiful packaging, the high-street chains have yet to master the art of creating lasting scents, and in some cases wearable ones. M&S's Isis, French Connection's Eau de Toilette and Diesel's eau de toilette were the best of the clean fresh perfumes. But if they don't appeal then Monsoon's offering, with its warmer and more exotic notes, is worth trying.

Of the selection we tested, only two - Diesel and Monsoon - have taken the idea of the signature perfume to its logical conclusion. Both companies are distributing their smells through selected department stores and chemists, as well as their own stores - which accounts for their more distinctive packaging.

All this activity in the perfume market is not just restricted to adult buyers. Oilily the children's clothing company have produced an Eau de Parfum aimed at 8- to 16-year olds, apparently at the request of the 80,000 strong Oilily fan club.