A Week of Mainstream Perfumes

My closest friend (we were friends ON and OFF, but mostly ON from when we both were about 10 years old) lives half the World away. From when we both were young, both she and I liked and wore perfumes, though, as I remember, our tastes always were somewhat different: while my true love was Lancôme Climat, she preferred Magie Noir; and Diorissimo was more appealing to her than my favorite Dior at the time – Diorella.

Since my descent into the rabbit hole of niche perfumery, I periodically try to share my hobby with her in form of samples, decants, minis and information about different perfumes, notes and brands, but we live too far from each other (with no guaranteed parcel delivery and rare “perfume mules” occasions), English is not a language in which she’d read anything for pleasure (hence, no exposure to my blog), and perfume choices where she lives are much more limited. So, all these years later she’s still a “civilian” (© Tara) perfume user.

When she recently asked if I could suggest her anything powdery with a good sillage, one brand immediately jumped to mind: Narciso Rodriguez. Year and a half later after I wrote about my attraction to that white square bottle (Narciso [Rodriguez] Ed[P/T/Whatever]), I still haven’t pulled a trigger on buying it but from my memory it fitted the bill. Then I went to the site of the large high-end perfume chain in Ukraine to see what else to suggest… And I had to excuse myself because I realized that I wasn’t familiar enough with the most of mainstream perfumes that they offer.


Narciso Rodriguez Two Samples


That’s when my friend asked: “Do you ever try mainstream perfumes for yourself? Or do you consider it a waste of time?” I told her “Sometimes,” but also that I wasn’t that thrilled with the current niche or “niche” perfumes either (and these days it’s harder and harder to decide whether to [still] consider some brands as niche).

That conversation and especially her question provoked my thinking on the topic. These days I rarely try mainstream/mass-market perfumes; and even less often I like them enough to try on skin. But from time to time I come across something that seems nice, I get a sample and think for myself that I need to try wearing it and decide whether I like it enough to buy. Usually I end up designating the sample as “nice, will use what I have” in my database: as a rule, I do not wear perfumes from samples unless I’m trying to decide whether to buy a bottle, or when it’s marked with this category (meaning “do not need more but will wear”). And then I almost never wear those mainstream perfumes that I thought would be nice to wear a couple of times…

And that gave me an idea to do a mainstream week where I’d wear not just any mainstream perfumes but those that I kept in my collection hoping to wear someday.

* * *

Since I recommended this perfume to my friend, I decided to start with Narciso (a “white cube” one). It was still as pleasant as I remembered it from the previous encounter. But I was surprised that in wearing it was much less tenacious than I would expect from such perfume – though, as a (questionable) plus side: I finished my sample while re-applying it throughout the day. And since I still don’t love it, my resolution is: I do not want any more of it.


I liked Sisley Eau du Soir from when I tried it first from a mini bottle that I got in a Perfume Society box. At some point I even swapped for a travel bottle and thought it was quite suitable for wine tasting trips, but then the bottle went off. That taught me not to do bottle swapping (you never know how someone else had stored their perfumes), and somehow it put me off that perfume. Since I still had that first mini, I decided to wear it again. I still think it’s a very nice chypre, and I liked wearing it – even though I still think it’s a little bit “rough around the edges” but once it starts developing it gets a lot more… sophisticated.


Sisley Eau du Soir


A sample of Marni’s first perfume, Marni, I got soon after it was released. It was getting a lot of love in Perfumeland, and the bottle was cute, so I persuaded myself that I liked it enough to wear at least from a sample that I got. I did it once many years ago, so it just stayed in my “to wear one day” box until I got it out for this project. I can’t say I disliked it, but now I know that I won’t be wearing it any more, and I definitely do not need any more of it.


I liked Tom Ford Noir Pour Femme when I was testing it for the post several years ago (Mr. & Mrs. Tom Ford Noir). Since at that time it was a new release, I decided that I’d wear it from the samples that I’ve got and wait for it to get to discounters. And I completely forgot not only about this plan, but also about the sample. When I wore it again for this project, I realized that I still liked it very much. I even got a compliment when I wore it (from a dentist’s assistant). I think it’s time to find a, hopefully, highly discounted bottle.


Seven years ago, I wrote (In the Search for the Perfect Leather) that I would see if I need more of Bottega Veneta Parfum (the first one) once I’m done with a mini bottle that I’ve got. At the rate I’m using it (once or twice a year), it will be a while before I’ll have to decide.


By the end of my experiment I was slightly bored, so the last two perfumes I wore in parallel. Luckily, these two weren’t contradicting each other much: Jour d’Hermes and Jour d’Hermes Absolu. It’s one more case when a “peer pressure” and samples that fell into my lap had influenced my decision to keep samples to wear those perfumes (“will use what I have”). If I absolutely had to choose, I would have probably worn Jour d’Hermes Absolu. But since I hope never to be in such situation, I should pass on both samples.


Perfume Samples


All in all, it seems like a good result: out of 7, I’ll buy TF Noir Pour Femme, will continue wearing from time to time perfumes from two minis that I have (Eau du Soir and Bottega Veneta), and downgrade the other three to the “Library” category (while passing on the remaining samples on someone who might enjoy them more).

What are your relationships with mainstream perfumes?


Images: my own

31 thoughts on “A Week of Mainstream Perfumes

  1. Great post.
    I think when you said you got bored by the end of the week, that sums it up for me. There are good perfumes to be found if you’re happy with something simple, but we are used to more complexity by now. I gave my bottle of Bottega Veneta away, which was the last mainstream release I bought.
    It’s also very telling that you and your friend loved Climat, Diorella, Magie Noir and Diorissimo. Mainstream perfumes were on another level back then.

    • Thank you, Tara. I’m glad to be in such a good company :)
      I’m hesitant to part with bottles that I have (for the fear to regret it later) but I don’t have a similar attachment to samples and decants, so I should do the re-homing much earlier.

  2. I agree with Tara that mainstream perfumes were on another level them. I usually have a spray of mainstream perfumes in stores,

    • Since I never put any perfume on skin in a store unless I’ve previously smelled it on paper, with the most of mainstream perfumes it ends on that paper stage.

  3. interesting week! Last year I bought a couple of perfumes at Marshall’s – Banana Republic Neroli Woods and L’Homme Ideal Cologne, and L’Occitaine Eau des Baux with a coupon. All of which I will share with my son. Nothing released recently, and nothing full price! I do have some mainstream faves in my collection but if I look back at my SOTD (on Instagram) I only see mainstream perfumes very few weeks!

    • Since I ran out of the shelf space, I’m not even tempted any more by what TJ Max offers :)
      I’m still extremely interested in trying new perfumes, I just don’t want to pay for it. So, when I’m done with everything new and interesting on the higher end, I do try something… less attractive in principle.

  4. Interesting post, as always :) I have nothing against mainstream perfumes-I really like Prada Amber, and the Prada Infusion d’Iris. And 4711. But now that I’ve been exposed to so many perfumes I think I should cull my collection a bit-I think I have a lot-maybe 70 bottles. Now some were gifts, and if I ever saw anything remotely nice at winners I bought it. I love mthe idea of a good perfume being available to all-think of the Soir de Paris, available in tiny bottles for a few cents, or in bigger, more costly bottle. Life is short-wear what pleases you :)

    Happy New Year,


    • Thank you, Carol. Happy New Year to you too!

      I’m not familiar with the numbered perfume you’ve mentioned, but the two from Prada are already classic perfumes :) I like them too. But “they don’t make them like that any more,” so to speak. I don’t oppose mainstream perfumes on principle, I’m all for going to the closest mall, enjoying trying new releases and buying something not costing you arm and leg. Doesn’t happen often though.

      • Ah, 4711 is one of the original eau de colognes-just a simple limpid little thing. Inexpensive and pleasant. Neroli and musk. Super cheap and cheerful.

  5. I have some mainstream perfumes and enjoy the ones I still wear. Jour d’Hermes is a favorite of mine. It really sings on my skin and I am a big fan of Jean-Claude Ellena’s work. I also enjoy Oscar de la Renta’s Bella Blanca and Oscar’s Something Blue. Finally, I like Kenzo Amour and (don’t shoot me) YSL”s original Black Opium. Something about the Black Opium, the vanilla and coffee notes, is very comforting to me. I wore it endlessly after some massive surgery last year and it made me feel warm and like I was surrounded with hugs..

    • I think it’s great when you find perfumes that comfort you in times of need. When I was sick last year, I stopped wearing perfumes for almost a week because I was afraid to make a mental connection from how miserable I felt to my carefully selected favorites. And I didn’t want to get wrong impression about any new samples I had – so I wasn’t testing as well.
      Do you own Jour a bottle d’Hermes already? If no, send me you shipping address for re-homing my samples.

      • Sorry, my apologies, I missed your comment. I do have a nice big bottle of Jour d’Hermes. It’s my second bottle. I tend to spray it with abandon!

  6. I haven’t given up on mainstream perfumes yet, Undina. For me, there are still enough interesting releases among all the very generic stuff to keep me coming back.

    Last year, for instance, I loved Twilly d’Hermès Eau Poivrée, Gucci Memoire d’Une Odeur and Dior Joy Intense.

    There’s so much average and overpriced stuff in niche, so I do my damndest to seek out the best in all categories.

    Strange not seeing Rusty in your post and love the term ‘civilian’.

  7. I used to only wear mainstream perfumes, when they were much better, back in the 80’s. Nowadays it’s almost exclusively niche or premium designer. I do enjoy Bottega Veneta, but I think that was the last mainstream perfume I truly loved. I do enjoy Mon Guerlain as well, but not sure how to classify it. I still wear Hypnotic Poison from back in the day.

    • Back in the 80s all perfumes were mainstream! I don’t think there were any niche brands in the modern sense of the definition, however vague and blurred that definition is. And I would (and in some cases do) gladly wear perfumes from that era.

  8. I wouldn’t make a special trip just to smell mainstream but it’s probably because I can stop by a counter anytime I want. TF Noir Pour Femme is quite good and I have the cute 30mL….I will consider this for SOTD!

    • And now I can’t find a good price for a 30 ml! I can see myself paying close to/same price as I can get 50 ml but I can’t persuade myself to pay more. So I might have to settle for a 50 ml bottle of TF.

  9. I remember being attracted to the white cube Narciso bottle. It looked milky; something about it pleased me. And I liked this perfume better than the rest of the line, but never quite enough to buy it. I like Jour d’Hermes. It smells very pleasant on my skin. And Bottega Veneta is alos a like for me as the leather is subdued, just the way I like it. But looking at my bottles, I don’t often buy the mainstream brands any more. The only one popping into my mind at the moment is an old bottle of Paris from the 90s.

    • I think one more “caveat” with mainstream is that we usually try it once it’s new and just came to the store. So, unless it’s an “unconditional love,” we don’t want to pay full price knowing that 6-12 months later it’ll appear at discounters… But by the time they do, we moved on.

  10. I just discovered a nice mainstream perfume, Jason Wu’s Velvet Rouge. It was created by Frank Voekl, who is the nose behind many Le Labo fragrances and 6 Nomenclature fragrances. it’s a rose fragrance, but it has a great niche vibe to it in the opening for sure. It opens with a big dose of green, crushed violet leaves and some lovely smoky incense. As it develops, a big Damascene rose note enters, but never overwhelms. The drydown brings in amber and musk along with the big rose note. I wish the green notes lasted for hours, but they disappear after a couple of hours. Nevertheless, it’s still a very pleasant and different designer rose scent. Bottega Venetta Eau Legere is another pretty more mainstream fragrance, a sparkling light floral with a bit of leather.

      • Jason Wu is a fashion designer for women. He designed the two gowns Michelle Obama wore to Pres. Obama’s 2 inaugural balls- a white gown and a red gown. Mrs. Obama wore quite a few of his designs when she was First Lady. Duchess Meghan wears a lot of his designs as well. They are feminine, flattering, very traditionally pretty with a modern vibe. I own a couple of his pieces that I got at a major discount in a sale and I like them. Jason started out designing fashion dolls, Barbie size but much more grown up and fabulous, think mini-couture models. That’s how I first learned of him. And yes, I admit it, I own quite a few of those gorgeous dolls. I have a mini-couture collection in addition to the perfumes. I met Mr. Wu in NYC a few years ago. He’s young, mid-30’s now, a very kind, polite man.

        By the way, Iris 39 is good. It’s hard to describe, but it’s different from the Prada and Lutens irises.

        • Now I know why the name sounded familiar! :) Now I need to google those dolls (unless you have an Instagram account where you have pictures of yours :) ).

          About Iris 39, you misunderstood me: I do know, love and wear this perfume, and because of that I want to give Velvet Rouge a try (otherwise, none of the other Voekl’s perfumes are among my favorites).

  11. I just tried Bottega Veneta and I like it quite well — I don’t normally go for many leathers, but this one is very soft. Re designer fragrances: I guess it depends how they’re defined, and whether they are “high-end” designer or more mass market. I love several Chanels and Diors, and a couple of the Hermes Jardin series. I like some of the Maison Lancome scents very much, and the reissued classics, but not their regular current lines. No interest in current Givenchy or Calvin Klein, or most Gucci (I did like the new Memoire d’une Odeur).

    • Judging by the fact that so many years later Bottega Veneta didn’t get to a deep discounted sites, it is quite a unique perfume that got many “civilian” followers in addition to being praised by perfumistas.
      I’m with you on most of your “likes” but I wish a had more chances to test Lancome’s luxury brand: the store that carries it is 40+ minutes drive on a weekend, so I haven’t gotten to there in several years.

      • I wish they still sold more of their travel sizes, those are great. I’m bummed that I didn’t know some stores had gift sets of the small sizes during the holidays! Next year I’ll look for those.

  12. I was given the white cube before it was released in Australia and I went through the whole bottle. I’ve never replaced it though, just like I never replaced my original Elie Saab. They had their seasons and I wore them both with abandon. I haven’t purchased a mainstream for a long time but I still rock up to department stores and sniff whatever there’s current buzz on in Perfumeland.

    • I can’t help trying brands that I know but I do not even touch many brands because I’m not even curious. For those, someone I trust should give a recommendation. But with thousands new releases per year, literally, any way of triaging is fine, I think.

      • We probably don’t have as many mainstream ones here. It’s quite easy to test everything that comes through a department store. In the last few years I’ve just sniffed the nozzle for most of it though!

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