Shine On

Want to smell like new books or burning rubber? The niche perfume market is growing

Paper passion is a new perfume that smells like freshly printed books. (Steidlville.com)Paper passion is a new perfume that smells like freshly printed books. (Steidlville.com)Do you want to smell smart, like a new book? Or would you rather smell dangerous, like burning rubber or black tar, evoking images of motorcycles and leather on a hot summer day. Perhaps you're more of a techno-geek, and like the smell of a laptop?

Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld's recent collaboration with Wallpaper magazine to create a perfume that smells like freshly printed books, Paper Passion, is the most recent in a string of fragrances with unusual scents.

"There is a perfume line called Demeter, which is very literal — Gin & Tonic, Snow, Christmas in New York. And they smell as advertised," says Gwen Dunant, co-owner of the Toronto-based Perfumeniche.com, a website and store specializing in unusual and niche fragrances.

"The Niche market is growing and is a good place for a well-established designer to go and play," says Dunant.

Also see: Unusual smelling perfumes: gallery

Perfumes can sometimes be an adaptation of a scent, she says. So Paper Passion may not literally smell like paper, but rather, will evoke images of books, of a library — and it will change and evolve once it makes contact with your skin.

"People often buy fragrances that evoke a memory or a feeling," she continues. "My mother wore it; it smells like being in a big armchair by a fireplace reading a new book; it reminds me of family vacation by the ocean,; I feel sexy/pretty/powerful when I wear it."

Kay Smith, Durant's co-owner at Perfumeniche.com, says that while the market for niche perfumes may be growing, they are not an entirely new concept. Demeter and CB I Hate Perfume are companies that have been creating unusual fragrances for more than a decade.

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So who is buying them?

"It has always been the case in niche perfumery that more adventurous people want something out of the mainstream," says Dunant. "Remember, while they may be marketed as smelling of smoldering rubber or new car they are well-crafted fragrances that are nuanced in their construction."

"If done by a true 'nose' with quality ingredients, it will sell to a limited discerning market," says Smith.

Dunant believes more big-name collaborations in the fragrance world will happen in the future.

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