They will tell you that celebrity fragrances are over, and maybe they’re right, but only to a point. It is true, that after the celebrity fragrance boom of the mid-to-late 2000s, people have scaled back on buying fragrances with celebrity names attached to them, and started optioning to buy higher end (“higher end”) fragrances with less frequency. Buying fewer fragrances per year, but choosing a scent at a higher price point. Buying less of something as to put their money to a higher quality product.
The Washington Post cites that sales of celebrity scents have dropped by half since 2000, while luxury perfumes have seen a recent sales increase of 16 percent, bringing them to a record high. So maybe the tide has turned on celebs hawking juice with their name and face on them.
There will always be products for celebrities to attach their name to, create brand extensions with, and most importantly — profit from. Perhaps fragrances are swinging back around to a marker of a certain echelon of celebrity, a product only given to those at the very top of their game, much like a Nike deal, a Superbowl Half Time Show, or a really great tabloid scandal.
Celebrity fragrances are not going anywhere, simply because people still, and will always love them. More so, they’re great for the celebrity they’re attached to because it’s an easy way for them to remain visible during their off-season, between album cycles, or hell, at least have something to Instagram.
For most of us who don’t interact with celebs on the daily, our relationship with celebrity, and specific celebrities themselves happens from a distance. We experience them not as people, but as products, ingesting whatever song, photo, or product they choose to release. They are not so much revealing themselves to us, but continuing to build the character they are projecting themselves to be. We are falling in love with someone we will never know.
In that way, celebrity fragrances are different than scents from the big houses — the Armanis and Chanels. While brand loyalty is certainly a factor in what helps fragrances from the big guys fly off of the shelves every season (not without the help of a celebrity as the face of the brand and scent) celeb scents tap into a different part of our psyche.
When you spend so many years playing a pop star’s record over and over, when they’re in your top Instagram searches, a fixture in your daily life, there can be something seductive about being able to own a part of them. Purchasing something tangible with your favorite artist’s name on it, their face on the packaging, the design of the bottle so unique to them, it’s exciting. You can smell the way they smell. You have so much in common.
Scent is such an intimate part of our lives. Sometimes we put it on for ourselves, sometimes for other people, or even just that ~special someone~. But allowing someone to smell your perfume means allowing them a certain proximity, and when they ask what fragrance you’re wearing, and the first thing out of your mouth is someone else’s name, it’s almost like it creates this instant love triangle, like shouting the wrong name in bed.
Celebrity is something our culture obsesses over but does not respect. Case in point: some people are constantly questioning why Kim Kardashian “is famous for nothing” while simultaneously clicking every headline that has her name in it. We love it, but we’d never admit it. This is largely why celebrity scents are looked at as low rent. So when you tell someone you’re wearing a scent by your favorite celebrity, or simply a celeb scent that you just happen to like, their reaction to your choice of fragrance says more about them than your fragrance does about you.
We have Jennifer Lopez to thank for this (and so many other things, if we’re being honest.) Before J.Lo’s first fragrance, the iconic Glow, celebrity fragrances were essentially unheard of, save for White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor, which had already been around forever. In the midst of expanding her brand with a clothing line, accessories, and swimwear, she announced to much skepticism that she was also doing a fragrance.
The industry expected the fragrance to be a flash in the pan, but Glow quickly became one of the top sellers in the American market and racked up a staggering 100 million in sales in its first year alone. This illustrated that there was an entirely untapped sector of the market that was waiting to be capitalized on. Though the late 80s showed that people weren’t looking to smell like celebrities when even icons like Cher couldn’t push a successful scent, the early 2000s told us that people were ready to smell like their favorite celebrity and would pay to do so.
The other early adopters were the legendary miss Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, who have both seen wild successes in scent and are still dropping scents today, VIP Private Show and Rosé Rush, respectively. Ten years later, if you’re a celebrity, most often times a woman, and most definitely if you’ve got a record deal and are approaching your sophomore effort, you’ve probably got a scent as well.
And yes, there are many that have just been packaged and rushed out for a quick buck, but so many others that are worth your while. Chandler Burr gave Midnight Fantasy by Britney Spears four stars, stating perfectly “there is no law that celebrity perfumes need be less than designer perfumes; and done well, ultra-gourmands are a marvel. Midnight Fantasy expertly illustrates both.”
Sarah Jessica Parker has less scents than most celebrities who have been in the fragrance game for 12 years, but each are lauded as works of art, celebrity or not, including last year’s Stash. Though Beyoncé’s fragrance era has most likely come and gone, Heat by Beyonce is still a favorite of many. Unbreakable by Khloe & Lamar is a really incredible scent, one that was marketed as unisex which most brands are still afraid to do.
The omnipresent question looming over this whole conversation is always how much of the celebrity is in the juice? How involved they were in the scent’s creation, how much of their ideas went into it, if they’ve even smelled their scent at all. Sometimes it’s a lot! Sometimes, not so much. Most often, we can’t get a good answer either way. Does that mean the scents themselves are of less quality? I guess that’s your call.
We may be witnessing the pendulum swinging back on the trend of celebrity scents, with only the biggest names able to tout a fragrance (Ariana Grande just released her fourth, Moonlight) but the trend of celebrity fragrances will only completely die out when our collective obsession with celebrity does — which is to say, not any time in the near future.
- The Unofficial Guide to Naming a Celebrity Fragrance
- We Found the Perfect Fragrance for Every Conceivable Summer Scenario
- The Top 10 Britney Spears Perfumes in Order of Greatness