The weird world of imitation fragrances. Heavenly scents at heaven-sent prices... What's the catch?
Something different today - as well as being a shoe lover, I have for a long time spent quite a lot of money on fragrances. Of course, for every luxury product in the world there are people out there imitating it, so today I'll be diving into the sometimes shady, often confusing and potentially cost-saving world of imitation fragrances, and considering if it's worthwhile for scent snobs.
My go-to maker is Creed, who sit pretty low on the bang-for-buck hierarchy- prices for 50ml bottles of most of their scents hover around £175, going even higher for their more popular products. I've also owned most of the classics from Tom Ford, Hermes, Dior, Acqua di Parma, Chanel and Guerlain. So while not an obsessive collector, I have a good base to compare from.
The imitation game
Ownership of £200 perfumes is neither a necessity nor a right - they are a luxury purchase - but the reason that many of these scents are so enduringly popular is because they are just... really nice. They smell good, regardless of the bottle they come in. And recreating these scents, or at least getting really near to recreating them, is very possible through the wonders of modern science. Probably not 100% of the same ingredients, but enough to make a passable likeness.
If you can do so at a fraction of the price then the appeal becomes clear. Call it what you will - imitation, copycat, clones, or even rip-offs if you are feeling less charitable - there is a substantial market out there for this type of product.
The products I'm looking at today were from copycatfragances.co.uk - all purchased by myself, with no association with the site. The purchase experience is easy enough - the site makes it clear what the inspiration for each fragrance was. Prices run from about £4 for a 5ml spray to about £60 for 100ml of the Creed perfumes (slightly less for the imitations of Tom Ford or other makers).
Silver Mountain Water
Green Irish Tweed
I've had a day's wear of each of them now.
Starting with the positive, I was very impressed with the resemblance to the original for their versions of Millesime Imperial and Silver Mountain Water. The top and middle notes of both of these are quite fruity - maybe these are some of the easier ingredients to replicate. The longevity and sillage are both good - maybe not quite at the original levels, but you'll get a good few hours of wear from each application.
The... well, not bad, but less good
Green Irish Tweed, Vetiver and Himalaya were decent attempts, but rather weak in projection and longevity. The original notes are clearly there and they are pleasant enough, but you'll need to add an extra spray or two to get any projection, and you'll be topping up regularly throughout the day.
The weakest were Viking (although it's not a scent I've ever rated that highly anyway) and unfortunately their version of Aventus, named "Executive". Like many people, I'd say Aventus is my favourite scent of all time. But there is a noticeable lack of the zesty impact of pineapple, and where the drydown of Aventus is simply divine, this version really expires too quickly to notice.
Given Aventus' relative popularity, it seems like one of the scents that could most easily be identified as an imitation too. But I'd also reflect that Aventus has famously inconsistent reception for its batches over the years - I last bought a bottle last year, which was nowhere near as impressive as the one I first bought 10 years ago. I'm not sure I'd buy another bottle of Aventus at retail price these days.
False economies and compromises
It is noticeable that all of these scents have rather less sillage and longevity than the original versions. So yes, these products cost about 1/4 as much of the Creed versions, but they also only last for a fraction of the time before needing re-application. As such it really could be a false economy if you're spraying 3 or 4 times as often to keep up the same level of scent.
However, for a certain use case, I think these are solid products. Being able to buy 5ml sprays is handy - this is a good size to take to the office, much easier than taking a larger bottle in your bag. I also find the slightly more modest sillage and longevity quite helpful in this context - you can top up through the day but not overpower your co-workers.
The morality of imitations
I think it's pretty well established at this point that, to the vast majority of people, the difference between these and the originals is going to be pretty imperceptible. It does raise the age-old question of imitation products though - the only people that would probably notice the difference would be people who are expert enough in the originals, who would probably be most derisive about using an imitation.
What even is a luxury product when it comes down to it? A certain amount of it is the cachet of the maker; the purchase experience; the packaging and the presentation. Can it really be reduced to its chemical makeup and seen as equivalent?
If you care so much about the originals that you want to impersonate them, are you somehow denigrating the value of the original through the mere act of impersonation? Frankly, I think it's a bit of a semantic discussion at a certain point - if it brings you joy and doesn't cost the Earth, is it really doing any harm? Are the people buying these imitations really likely to shell out for the full-price equivalents anyway? If not, are they really doing any harm to the business of the original?