Friday, 19 September 2014

'Cover girl': The Social parfum and the Sindy doll school of perfumery

Source: pinterest
When I was a kid, I had a Sindy doll. Well, I had a steady procession of Sindy dolls in fact, as my mother persisted in melting their heads under the grill. Every time she did, I would write a plaintive letter to Mattel, whereupon the empathetic people in Customer Services would promptly send me a replacement. I was not allowed Barbie, I might add - her physique was deemed too preposterously provocative. Nor was I allowed Tiny Tears for that matter - too anatomically correct. So serial Sindys it was. That said, one outfit you could buy for her comprised a rather raunchy patent mac - for a very affordable half a crown as I recall - so she wasn't entirely the wholesome girl-next-door sort she was cracked up to be.

But what, you may ask, is the connection between Sindy and a new perfume with the rather curious name of The Social parfum? Well, my initial take on the scent was that it's not so much about being sociable as about dressing up. For the distinctive feature of The Social parfum is that it is one scent, however, as a kind of 'fashion accessory', for want of a better term, you can buy one or more spare boxes (The Social parfum calls them 'covers'), from a range of fairly vivid shades, swapping them over as the fancy takes you. I see echoes here of the different coloured bottles of Kenzo Amour - there you can pick a bottle at the outset in your preferred shade, but if you then fancied a change, you would have to commit to buying a second bottle. Here of course you are only investing in a replacement box.


So at some point over the summer I was contacted out of the blue by The Social parfum. After my usual demurral and request for a sample instead - I levelled with them and admitted that I didn't think this perfume would be my cup of tea - the company assured me that it was no trouble to send me a complimentary bottle anyway. Shortly afterwards, a bottle duly turned up in its default white plastic box, together with a separate pink box to swap the flacon into - why, they didn't even ask me what colour I'd like, hehe! ;) ;) At a pinch you could even just swap the top over, so you would have a white bottom and a pink top, though I am not sure why you would want to do that, unless you were very drawn to the look of Neapolitan ice cream.

Yes, this whole 'dressing up' game is doubtless not aimed at the likes of mature women in their 50s, I sense - or even immature 50-somethings, which is more apt. I am guessing from the marketing photos that their target audience is teens to early 20s, though even that age group has surely long since abandoned their dolls. But hold on, hold on.....I suppose if people swap the covers out on their mobile phones or Kindles etc - which is a distinct possibility - there might be a market for doing this with perfume bottle boxes after all...?

The Dolly Mixture / Neapolitan look

I should perhaps have clocked the blurb on the brand's website sooner - the rationale behind the launch is set out there. And I think we can guess the target audience from the inclusion of the word 'totally' - that's 'yoof speak' all right, though I am occasionally guilty of it myself.  Hmm, now 'code' in what sense? 'Code' as in a received mode of behaviour, like 'dress code', or 'code' as in speaking in a secret language with your mates? You know, in a Masonic funny handshake kind of way? Could be a mixture of both in fact.

"The new perfume code.

The one and only women's eau de parfum you can totally mix & match as you like. 6 covers 1 fragrance for the new social woman.

Collect them all, share your personal parfum with your friends and get social!"

And another thing - this is eau de parfum, not 'parfum', though I don't suppose anyone looking at the presentation would be misled into thinking this was extrait strength...

Also, the 'parfum' is only 'personal' if you happen to have chosen a different box from your pals - the perfume of course remains the same. And that's always assuming you know anyone else with it in the first place. But that is most likely the whole point - a group of young female friends, united by a common perfume, but distinguished by their own choice of coloured box.

It's a concept, no question, but I wouldn't buy into it now, and I am not sure I would have done so back then, had I been into perfume at that age. Though as I say, there could be something in it, based on the swappable mobile phone covers fad. I'd be interested to hear what any readers think of this, especially those with daughters in the target age group.

I also took a look at The Social parfum's Facebook page - it is an Italian company and there are a number of photographs on there of young women holding little cards with the house's heart shaped logo on them, looking happy together - and quite sociable, it must be said - in piazzas up and down the land.

And what about the scent itself, I hear you ask?

Top notes: bergamot, blackcurrant, white peach
Middle notes: waterlily, rose, almond blossom
Base notes: exotic woods, vanilla musk


Hmm...The Social parfum reminds me a bit of how I would imagine a mainstream take on L'Artisan's Mure et Musc to smell, and it also has some crossover with YSL Parisienne, which I remember describing once - rather uncharitably perhaps, looking back - as 'disgruntled purple talc'. I am wearing the two scents side-by-side, and there is a definite resemblance, though The Social parfum has a cleaner blackcurrant note and a marked kind of nuttiness to it (or pepper, maybe?), where Parisienne is more powdery. For the market they are aiming for, The Social parfum is probably in the right ballpark, even if it isn't my thing. If you are any age and a particular fan of blackcurrant, it might be worth a sniff too, though I am not sure that these are available in store anywhere.

Oh, and if anyone is curious about the colourways, they are as follows - mostly on the bright side, as I say:

BLUE'S (sic)

The separate covers are 11 euros each and the 50ml eau de parfum + a white cover (the 'starter cover') is 67 euros, which strikes me as rather expensive for what is essentially a mainstream scent from an unknown house. I note on the bottom that the perfume is made by ROLS SAS in Italy, a company of which I can find absolutely no trace in Google. And having had a little play with the shopping part of the site, there doesn't seem to be a way you could pick a coloured cover as your base box, meaning that if you fancy anything other than white, you automatically have to fork out the extra 11 euros for the spare.

The gargoyle reassembled the boxes into their correct colours

So may I you swap your mobile phone covers, or Kindle or iPad covers etc, and would you be inclined to do so with perfume boxes - just for the hell of it to ring the changes, or to differentiate yourself from your friends' bottles? 

And if not, do you know anyone who might? 


Jennifer Wells said...

Hi there, Vanessa--

I followed you over here from Katie's blog, I've enjoyed your comments for awhile now, and I'm happy to see that you have your own blog.

I may not be the person who will offer the best perspective on this question, being 37 rather than 19 or 20, but the concept doesn't sound promising to me. The idea of swapping perfume covers seems a little too young for the age group they're targeting, and yet the product itself is a little too old for the age group (pre-teens) who would find it interesting.

If it takes off, my congratulations to the company, but I don't feel very hopeful.

Oh, and as far as swapping covers for my tablet, I think I'm a little too much of a cheapskate to do that very often!

Tara said...

So many questions, V.

Why such a high price point for a youth fragrance?
Why not customise the bottle rather than the box which most people throw away?
Why did your mother go to such extreme measures to dispose of your Sindys?

I am baffled.

Tara said...

I really should have answered your questions rather than batting back some of my own.

I do like to be able to customise which I guess is where this idea came from but I don't swap my phone/Kindle covers around. I just have one for each.

I think they have something with the concept, just not sure about the execution.

Vanessa said...

Hi Nora,

Thanks for stopping by - I 'know' you very well as a commenter on Katie's blog! :)

And I think you make a very shrewd point here that the quality / style of the perfume and the fun cover-swapping-with-your-mates principle don't quite mesh together demographically. Time will tell.

I don't own a tablet myself, though I aspire to do so before too long. I don't imagine I will be toggling between covers either, anticipating that I shall have blown my budget on the device itself, but I continue to posit that some people may do so! :)

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I agree that the price point might well be a barrier for that segment. The customising of the bottle is more appealing I agree, but might have been too much of a commitment at this early stage for such a little known brand? Kenzo can afford to launch a bunch of Amours in different colourways, but differentiating by cover is presumably cheaper. Well, I am not sure about that, but it feels more disposable, as you say.

Interesting that you yourself buy into the customising concept - as I do to a degree with my iPhone, though it has a boringly plain green cover at the moment - but you wouldn't go the extra step of buying extra covers for your gadgets. The thing is, if I have got the correct end of the stick, you get the white cover as standard with The Social parfum bottle, so if you wish to customise your bottle you are obliged to buy a second box.

Oh, I used to wash my Sindy dolls' hair, and my mum thought she was being helpful by accelerating the drying process in this novel way. You would think she might have learnt her lesson after casualty No 1...;)

Undina said...

I'm totally in the wrong age/social/any other possible group for this concept. My iPhone is completely naked (no cover, no scratch-resistant film) - and this is my second device with the first one still being undamaged. My iPad (it's curious that a spell checker here knows about the iPhone and iPod but objects to the Apple tablet name spelling) has only the "official" screen cover - and I never felt compelled to do any further customization.
As to the perfume in question, I don't like anything: the price is too high for a 2-3 pounds worth perfume (and we all know that this is how much mass-market perfume production costs); 50 ml is a huge bottle for it to be a cool accessory where smelling exactly the same girls could take out of the pocket or purse their version of a bottle and show to each other - or being BFFs swap two tops and get combinations of colors just for two of them (similar to what you did for the post). Now 11 pounds extra for a cover with just plain colors? No interesting patterns, no pictures or a possibility to mix and match? And who on Earth would think of "collecting them all"?!!! Why?! Can you imagine a vanity display with these ugly cubes?

In many cases I wish small new brands luck even when I do not agree with some aspects of their new business because I still hope it promotes perfumes one way or the other - and the whole industry might benefit eventually. In this case I hope this enterprise falls apart as soon as possible. Why? Because it's not about perfume!
Ok, I should probably stop: it's a comment, not a post ; -)

Carol said...

Hahahaa, did i tell you we weren't allowed to have Barbie either? We had Skipper and Scooter instead. When I turned 30, my sisters bought me my first Barbie!

SallyM said...

Daft gimmick, I say. I'm certainly not in their target group in any way, but my 14 year old granddaughter fits the bill and she's recently stepped onto the perfumista-ette path. Knowing her and her friends, I would guess that they would all go for the hot pink and so how would they be different from their besties?? And 50 ml is too big a bottle for a teen to be sporting, fashion "accessory" or no. The boxes aren't even attractive - the first thing I can imagine girls doing with them (and I see this concept as a girlie thing, not the "woman" that the advertising spouts") is covering them with stickers to make them more interesting.

I do own a Kindle, iPad and iPhone (I'm cringing as I speak with this horrible self confessed acquisition of things technological) - there's no way I would buy a different cover for any of them simply to swap it up. It took me too long to save up for the original items and the accompanying protective covers. Unless they disintegrate under the grill like your Sindy's hair (which might happen given my penchant for menopausal weird events) , the originals are here to stay.

I had a Tressy doll, whose hair I cut thinking to make her look chic. I was mortified when I discovered that this time, her hair would not grow back...

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I loved your comment-cum-post! Full of very insightful points. I thought the price too high, but you made me realise the bottle size is too great for this 'hanging with your perfume bottle and your mates' notion. In the light of your recent gorgeous Etro acquisition, I tend to agree that the plain plastic boxes are just that - too plain to excite serious interest. Was amused by your comment about a vanity display 'with these ugly cubes'. The whole look is a bit minimalist for sure. 'Brutalist', even.

And yes, the perfume does feel secondary to the cover swapping exercise, though the juice may well pass muster with this audience.

Vanessa said...

Hi Carol,

Haha - how funny that you were not allowed Barbie too! Also because she was a bit trashy, do I infer? What a hoot that you got one in the end. Did you mother roll her eyes...? I don't really recall Skipper and Scooter - though their younger age doubtless made them more acceptable. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi SallyM,

Great to get your take on all this, not least because you have a granddaughter who is coming up to the target age for this product. I chuckled at the notion of her and her friends hypothetically finding they had all bought the hot pink version, thereby blowing the differentiation idea. I think you have put your finger on a possible flaw...

You raise similar points to Undina about the bottles being too big and too plain - I do have to agree with you on this, although that didn't initially strike me.

If I do get an iPad eventually, like you, I shan't be in the market to blow a lot of cash on spare / discretionary covers. LOL at your accident-prone antics - I can relate. I am certainly burning myself more lately on the grill, and the finger mishap rather confirms this general trend. ;)

Tressy - I had forgotten all about Tressy! I can't recall if I ever owned one, but I do recall that when you pressed a button in her back(?), like Rapunzel she let her hair down. Though obviously not if you had cut most of it off first. ;)

Carol said...

My Mom said 'when you look like Barbie, you can have a Barbie" ;)

Martha said...

I do not swap covers. I can almost kinda sorta imagine wanting to do so with my phone, at least if I try hard to imagine it. But if I stop trying hard, it all collapses.

I can't imagine wanting to change my perfume bottle/case/whatsit, no matter how hard I try.

Vanessa said...

Oh, priceless! Though I am not sure that principle applies to much of our aspirational consumerist culture....;)

Vanessa said...

Martha, what can I say? Thanks so much for trying, is what...;)

Odiferess said...

Hi Vanessa, I am TOTALLY not excited by a pink cover. That said, in orange it might just catch me. I've come home after a weekend away to find my new orange Ipad cover lurking in my post box. I did buy this primarily because the one school gave me let said device drop out and slide onto my lap. I thought it best to purchase something safer. But in orange, it gains a smiling character.
I think the 'cover' concept is lovely when applied in very classy gentlemen's leather 'travel case' style. The Hermes and Acqua di Parma ones are delightful.
That juice sounds darn awful though, it would need the finest of kid glovery to cover up such a confection.

Vanessa said...

Hi Odiferess,

I can understand your attraction to orange with its sunny disposition, though I sense this plastic number wouldn't move you. Totally agree with you on the Hermes bottles. Then I have a leather cover for my Puredistance 1 'test tube' and it is pretty groovy. But I feel no need to get another one!

Anonymous said...

No, no and no. I had Barbies. And between my cousin and myself we had them doing very strange things in the Barbie house, aged 12. Sindy would have been safer. Bussi.

Vanessa said...

Hi Val,

Haha, the mind boggles! I am wondering whether you had any Kens, for example... ;)

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I only had a Skipper too, and she did NOT have very interesting clothes. I don't know whether this counts as customizing, but my ebook reader is housed in a 60's evening clutch --AnnieA

Vanessa said...

Hi AnnieA,

Skipper was not really on my radar, but it seems I was not missing much.

I think the clutch sounds like an excellent way to customise a gadget. ;)

Oh, and by coincidence, I have just mentioned you in my upcoming post I am in the process of writing...

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