The niche fragrance sector has appeared to explode in recent years. In Australia, for the past 20 years, growth has been uphill, only sometimes steady. In 2018 demand for the latest, greatest-sounding fragrances continue to rise, but who’s behind niche’s success in Australia? Who stuck it out through the changes, surviving to create the counters and freestanding boutiques showcasing brands that are becoming part of our everyday beauty pages and rituals?

Australia’s key distributors and importers of independent niche brands include 

  • Jill Timms, owner of Melbourne’s Peony Haute Parfumerie, an independent boutique now in its 15th year, which curates up to 10 exclusive brands at any one time which Jill imports directly.
  • • Nick Smart, founder of Agence de Parfum and Libertine Perfumery in Brisbane and Galerie de Parfum in Myer Sydney/Melbourne, with counters also in David Jones, Sephora and in Sydney Airport’s Amuse Beauty. Through Agence de Parfum he and his expanding team distribute Creed, Cire Trudon, L’Artisan Parfumeur, Amouage, Juliette Has A Gun, Lalique, Penhaligon’s, Frapin & Cie, Lubin, Robert Piguet, Costume National, Keiko Mecheri and more throughout Australia and New Zealand, pushing boundaries all the way.
  • Mecca Cosmetica’s Jo Horgan concluded 2017 on a high with the retailer’s 20th anniversary celebrations and now operating over 80 Mecca stores across Australia and New Zealand and has been an important innovator for niche fragrances in Australia.

Collectively they’ve sourced and imported key and standout international fragrance brands, despite increasingly regulated and costly shipping hurdles, making them accessible for the Australian market. Brands they’ve nurtured years ago have now been snapped up by large international players, for example during 2017 Maison Francis Kurkdjian, a Mecca brand was sold to LVMH, in 2016 Atelier Cologne, an Agence de Parfum brand was bought by Estée Lauder. 

Competitive prices through internet shopping internationally pose some risk. It is tough but the main thing: they’ve survived graciously and forged a specialised fragrance sector in Australia that we can enjoy, without travelling overseas.

Mainstream beauty/fashion publications historically rarely feature independent niche perfume brands in their pages, however today’s editorials are dotted with such. Even here between the pages of our beloved esprit, four years ago this one page was dedicated to niche. Now additional sections throughout the magazine focus on distributors, announce new fragrances, cover launch events and visits from international perfumers and brand owners.

More than ever before, niche resides comfortably beside mainstream and designer fragrances. Turn a full circle in the fragrance/beauty floors of department stores and you’re bound to see niche, no longer hidden on one shelf, having their own prominent counters and displays. 

A surge in Australian-owned perfumery brands is the next wave in Australian niche, including the now fashionable use of Australian native ingredients. Grandiflora Fragrances; recently repackaged and launching Boronia this month, Fort and Manlé, Goldfield & Banks and Map of the Heart; all serious players…and no doubt we will see more in 2018.

Fueled by a worldwide boom in niche brands and a curious population with a desire for something unique, access to information and best prices, niche in Australia as we know it is still evolving, led by some true innovators and risk takers. It makes me wonder where we will be in another year and will the rest of the world take notice?!

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