2023 was the year that vanilla had its glow up and ouds took over perfume shelves, and while we’ll no doubt see more of them this year, there are also plenty of exciting new developments when it comes to the revival of classic blooms and how technology is making perfume shopping easier.
ELLE went straight to the experts – from fragrance specialists to perfumers – to find out what’s in store for 2024. Spoiler alert: this year’s about to smell really, really good.
1. Immersive Spaces
There’s nothing quite as glamorously confusing as a perfume commercial, which often sees a beautiful person, surrounded by other beautiful people, in a beautiful setting, doing random things such as driving in circles, jumping into bodies of water or running. So. Much. Running.
Thankfully, the industry is waking up to more creative ways of exploring fragrance. Enter: fragrance immersion spaces. This is where brands build an IRL world for its perfume, allowing customers to not only experience the scent beyond a blotter, but also get a closer look at the story and inspiration behind the perfume.
Glossier You’s Regent Street pop-up last December was an instant hit thanks to the sensorial journey it offers, created by Kendall Latham, the brand’s director of retail and experiential design.
Perfume is also deeply woven into the tapestry of culture, which is why Christie’s partnership with Airparfum, a perfume tech company, late last year makes perfect sense. The collab essentially brings 17th century artwork by Julius Porcelli to life by diffusing matching scents in the air for a 360° experience.
Shopping destinations are in on it, too. ‘Given (a fragrance’s) sensuality, I expect the places we shop to reflect that, as department stores can still feel clinical,’ says Rhea Cartwright, head of beauty buying at Liberty.
‘If I’m looking for a fragrance for a big birthday or special event, I want to be looked after in the same way as if I’m visiting a luxury boutique hotel – it’s not simply a transaction.’ The launch of LBTY sees fragrance ‘greenhouse pods’ on the store’s foyer, where customers can step in and be cocooned in each scent.
2. Perfume Oils
2024 will have us wearing fragrance even closer on our skin via perfume oils. It’s good news for those who react poorly to alcohol or clouds of perfume in the air as rollerballs deposit the product directly where you want it.
‘”Fragrance” on a label can indicate the presence of several things including alcohol, additives and ingredients such as isopropyl myristate and mono propylene glycol which could be a source of irritation for some,’ says cosmetic doctor Dr. Sonia Khorana.
Essential oils can be just as irritating (if not more so) than lab-created ingredients, so modern perfume oils rely instead on formulas free from drying alcohols and well-researched ingredients.
Perfume oils by Malin + Goetz, which use organic, plant-derived alcohol, offer impressive longevity and scent trail, as do DS & Durga’s fan-favourite Pistachio (out this month), now available in a jojoba oil-based formula.
Byredo, Le Labo and Bjork & Berries also offer your favourite perfumes in oil formats. Even if allergies aren’t a concern, these nifty perfumes are great for on-the-go use.
3. Slow And Steady
‘Our members love our seasonal releases – we often hear from them that receiving the fragrance is like a gift for the new season,’ Emily Cameron, creative director of Somerset-based fragrance brand, Ffern, tells ELLE UK.
The brand is leading the cavalry of slow perfumery, whereby launches are done mindfully, one scent at a time, in limited batches in order to minimise waste and discourage excess shopping. Ffern operates a pre-order system via its ‘ledger’ which allows the brand to ‘plan our production in advance, only making as much fragrance as we know we’re going to need – and always presenting it in recycled, recyclable and in mycellium packaging which is home-compostable.’
After disrupting the skincare industry with its affordable single-ingredient formulas, Deciem’s (one and only) fragrance, Avestan, is much quieter yet no less brilliant. It’s been around for the past 5 years exclusively in its low-key Soho outpost. It was founder Brandon Truaxe’s brainchild before his passing, and the team has kept the Soho store as Truaxe left it; cosy but almost-bare, industrial, and with no photos allowed inside.
Perfume notes are kept under lock and key but evokes the respite one feels upon stepping into a quiet place, lit up only by incense and a fireplace, with tactile rugs and soft cushions lining the room. Priced at £38, it remains to be seen whether Deciem will release another perfume but they don’t have to. Truaxe has left one beautifully-scented legacy.
4. All Hail AI
We get the AI fatigue. Every expert is talking about artificial intelligence in their respective industries but hear us out: Robots aren’t replacing the expertise of perfumers, but rather, helping them concoct even more wonderful things for our pleasure, all while streamlining the perfume discovery process.
Fragrance company Diem (whose founders are investors in Skin+Me and Papier among others) uses AI to take the guesswork out of perfume shopping at a democratic price point. Simply create a profile, and the brand sends five tester vials for £3.95. Once you find a favourite, a full bottle is available for £40.
‘Introducing AI prevents wastage. It helps people purchase scents that they know they like, it saves millions of pounds being spent on creating fragrances that people don’t buy, and also helps us make more informed decisions about the fragrances we produce using our customer data,’ explains co-founder Greg LeTocq.
In other sectors of the market, AI is being used in scents that focuses on wellbeing. ‘Neuroscientists are looking at how individual molecules are perceived and how they make people feel. This in turn is all turned into data and with the help of AI could help perfumers select materials for mood-enhancing qualities, for example,’ says LeTocq.
5. Purple Patch
Purple flowers such as iris and violets are set to have their moment in the spotlight this year. These classic blooms – both Napoleon and Empress Marie Louise Bonaparte were partial to violets – are known for their powdery, old-world scent profiles, but 2024 will see clever perfumers using them in fresher and more eclectic ways. But why now?
‘We might finally be generationally far enough from the iconic perfumes that first popularised these materials and the notes possible with them,’ says perfumer and co-founder of British label Boujee Bougies, Pia Long. ‘The new ingredients since invented can also reinvigorate well-known materials by inviting perfumers to create new olfactive shapes.’
According to Long, orris butter or absolute (derived from irises) have the opulent scent akin to luxury make-up. ‘It’s buttery like the softest leather of an expensive handbag, and has tonalities of whiskey, especially the absolute.’ Meanwhile, violet leaf absolute evokes a cool, green vibe.
Boujee Bougies’ scrumptious Eau de Boujee Queen EDP finds violet leaves nestled amongst jam tarts and black tea to create a ‘psychedelic and even sinister undertones’ while Issey Miyake’s upcoming L’Eau D’Issey Solar Violet (available this spring) is freshly laundered white linens, all clean and airy.
Harry Styles is apparently in on it too. His Pleasing Closeness perfume, created by Jerôme Épinette, reimagines a starlet’s dressing room; intimate and fuzzy, with woody accents.
6. Bedtime Perfume
A scent for important meetings, a scent for holidays, a scent for…bed? Yes. Considering how closely scent is linked to memory, it makes sense to have a perfume that you associate with downtime and dozing off.
Certified fragrance specialist Eudora Nwasike agrees. ‘If a fragrance is good enough to make you feel great during the day, it can surely do the same for your sleep,’ she tells ELLE UK, recommending notes such as lavender, vanilla and sandalwood to ‘ease stress and promote relaxation’. Keep it on your bedside and wear it exclusively before getting into bed.
7. Livin’ La Vida Lychee
Nwasike foresees tropical fruits taking centre stage this year and one standout that’s set to be everywhere? Succulent lychees. These round, rosy fruits with their translucent flesh are popular in Southeast Asian desserts and are grown predominantly in China, Malaysia and Vietnam.
‘Lychee is such a complex and nuanced note, capturing facets of juicy fruit, but also hints of blushing rose,’ says perfumer Patricia Choux, who’s behind Nest New York’s Lychee Rose (out February). She describes it as having ‘a rosy floralcy with pops of pear and juicy red fruit notes’. According to her, lychee notes are often accords composed using notes such as raspberry, blackcurrant and rose essence.
You’ll also find lychee in Kayali Eden Sparkling Lychee, Hermès Tutti Twilly d’Hermès
and – for home scent enthusiasts – D.S & Durga Dream Lychee candle (out February). ‘Lychee is one of the most universally narcotic fruits that I can think of,’ David Seth Moltz of D.S & Durga tells ELLE UK. ‘To me, it always tastes, and smells like some distant far away.’