Wanted: the vintage perfume phenomenon

Is vintage perfume a fashion trend or a phenomenon that will last for a long time?

In the world of perfumery, as in many other industries, technological progress has allowed incredible advances. If it is now possible to recreate new scents such as the smell of space, the perfume of sea spray or even to bottle the odor of certain cities, other diehard noses are passionate about the compositions of yesteryear. As for fashion or design, vintage perfume is seducing more and more new collectors. True enthusiasts are snatching up fragrances that have become iconic or simply unobtainable. We tell you more about this inspired phenomenon.

The emergence of a new phenomenon

For about ten years now, retro has been on the rise. Some people are passionate about the fashion of our (great-)grandparents, while others are scouring flea markets to find the ONE piece of seventies decor that will dress up their living room, or that will sell for a fortune. But who hasn’t been tempted to get their hands, and noses, on a lost or forgotten fragrance? You know, the one that takes us back to our childhood memories like an olfactory Proust’s madeleine… Or simply this composition that we loved so much, but that has deserted the perfumeries’ shelves.

But at a time of ever more frequent launches and limited editions that follow one another, it is sometimes difficult to imagine that a fragrance can be preserved over time. And yet, like a good wine, perfume can be kept for several years without altering (just follow a few simple tips), and even improve! A bottle well protected from temperature variations and light can go through the years without taking a wrinkle, the lucky one! The perfume can then become vintage.

What is vintage perfume?

The vintage perfume looks like a composition that awakens in us a certain nostalgia. It can be about great classics of perfumery that have become almost unobtainable, more confidential juices that are no longer renewed, or sometimes even relatively recent creations that some consumers despair of finding. As you can see, a perfume becomes vintage as soon as it becomes impossible to get it in the usual distribution channels. For example, we speak of vintage perfume when the brand has ceased to exist, when the original perfume has changed its formula for various reasons, or when the juice is discontinued. Between the evolution of the regulations on the banning of certain materials and the natural selection imposed by a faster and faster rotation in the shelves, it gives a lot of fragrances on the hot seat, ready to become vintage!

“Illegal” materials and reformulations

The quest for the vintage perfume has been largely initiated by the phenomenon of reformulations for several years. Indeed, the regulations regarding compositions push the noses to rework their formulas. From the banning of raw materials of animal origin (such as musk tonkin or civet for example), to the reduction of the dosage of certain components considered allergenic, the formulas of juices must constantly adapt. For ecological or sanitary reasons, IFRA, the organization that regulates the perfume industry, runs the show about the ingredients. Every year, it removes certain molecules from the perfumer’s palette or regulates the use and dosage of various components.

This is how raw materials, natural or synthetic, present in “old perfumes” are now banned. To avoid the total disappearance of the composition, the noses have no other choice than to reformulate the original fragrance by adapting to these new constraints. This phenomenon explains why some creations released several decades ago reveal somewhat different notes in their current version. And it is this original version, before reformulation, that vintage perfume afficionados sometimes snatch up at a high price.

Where to find vintage perfume?

Many enthusiasts therefore throw themselves headlong into the quest for their precious untouched fragrance. But how to get vintage perfume, and preferably the real juice? This phenomenon first appeared in the 2000s on famous auction platforms like Ebay. At that time, you could find real olfactory gems at reasonable prices. But more and more collectors and curious noses are playing the game… Driving up prices, while counterfeits and more or less well-preserved juices are trying to make a place for themselves. For that matter, the LVMH group has succeeded in banning the sale of its products on Ebay France since 2008.

To avoid wrong notes, the most courageous survey flea markets and other garage sales. They hope to come across the right find. It is rare, but it happens. And the transactions are often interesting because the sellers are not always aware of the value of their vintage bottles. Finally, more and more communities of researchers are emerging on social networks. Regulated and often based on recruitment by invitation, they work like exchanges. You can sell, buy, barter. Fans sometimes pay crazy amounts of money to get their coveted perfume…

Vintage, a perfume of renewal?

If you don’t have the time or money to go on a quest for vintage perfume, you should know that this phenomenon is inspiring more and more noses. Smelling the olfactory trend, some perfumers have quickly realized that these old references often evoke familiar, nostalgic scents. So we see the reappearance of fragrances with notes of violet, very 80s, or some chypre very advanced and sophisticated as the first compositions of this kind dating from the 50s. Whether it’s a passing trend or a true return to its roots, this is a timeless and inspired way to be fashionable again!


Have you ever heard of vintage perfume? Do you miss some of the vanished compositions terribly?


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