Oh, Gorilla Perfumes. They are all …
And I am all …
You can see why I didn’t rush out to try the new releases (Volume 2) when they came out late in 2012. But I do blog about perfume (you might have noticed), so I got around to them eventually, and some were memorable. The Sun smelled like orange oil and suncream (no coconut). Hellstone smelled like an interpretation of carob and vetiver. Devil’s Nightcap paired dark/light notes for nice effect.
Unfortunately, what is most notable to me is that they seem to be positioning themselves in a market where they don’t belong.
Previous Gorilla Perfumes have usually struck me as sloppy compositions. Sometimes they seemed to be based on a clear idea, but most of the time I thought the execution was muddled. With Volume 2, the perfumers Mark and Simon Constantine may have mostly resolved that problem. The accords felt more constructed. But now I find myself asking “Is this a perfume, or just a smell?”
It makes me wonder if the Constantines are evolving as perfumers in a way that perhaps every perfumer does, with the difference that—because they own their own shop—they are selling what they make at each stage, where a perfumer working for a big brand might consider such products to be part of the learning process, or to be early-stage accords to be fleshed out into a perfume.
To state this another way: there are a lot of “perfumes” for sale that are “smells.” But in most cases, one can see that is all they are trying to be. The Body Shop produces a rose perfume, and I expect it to be a rose smell that can be produced, packaged, and sold at a profit for $29. It might be pretty, but it probably won’t be artful, and that’s okay because the consumer knows it. But I don’t think that is what Gorilla Perfumes is trying to do. “Perfume is the Point!” they have exclaimed in their advertising, and a 3oz. bottle of a Gorilla Perfume will set you back $129—more than a 3oz. bottle of most mainstream perfumes.
I’m not a trained perfumer. I can’t assess these perfumes from a technical standpoint. But I can say that not all of them strike me as true compositions, and when I revisit them, maybe none of them will. But Gorilla Perfumes seems to be positioning themselves in competition with really well crafted, artful perfumes. It isn’t working for me.
On a final note, I can’t talk about these without commenting on the packaging. The Gorilla Perfumes website quotes Tania Sanchez saying “If I ran the world, this is how fragrance would work: all the money spent on the juice, the bottle a mere afterthought, not the sad, common reverse.” I was going to provide a little commentary, but I realized that I can say everything I want to say with a similar statement of my own.
“If I ran the world, perfume companies would spend as much money as they wanted on beautiful packaging, and offer consumers the opportunity to buy (and pay for!) the fully packaged product or a ‘refill’ style plain container (which ideally could be recycled and refilled like Mugler perfumes offers). But companies would accept that if they put their perfume to market in an airport-sized cheap whiskey bottle with an inkjet-printed label of a low-resolution GIF they downloaded from hippiestuff.com, they would lose some customers. Like me.”
Images courtesy of IBNlive.com, tvthrong.co.uk, and Lush, respectively.