Made-in-Singapore fragrances a flourishing niche market here

Buy scents inspired by Singapore at home-grown labels or create your own at workshops and bespoke perfumeries here

Under the perfume brand Singapore Memories, you can buy a scent inspired by the aromas of Peranakan culture. Called Peranakan Oud, the perfume is described as "unisex, deep soul-searching, unexpected and poetic" and contains the key ingredient of oud, a warm, woody scent derived from the tropical agar tree. Lacing the mix are tonka bean, praline and green tobacco leaves.

Going local is the strategy for Singapore Memories, which was launched in December 2016 and carries perfumes whose influences speak for themselves: Vanda 1981, named after Singapore's national flower, Orchids By The Bay, Singapore Girl and Reves De Singapour (French for Dreams Of Singapore).

The label is the latest entrant into a small but thriving niche market: the made-in-Singapore fragrance.

Stalwart brands in this club include Code Deco, started five years ago and featuring a range of luxurious scents, and Freda'D, with perfumes created in a factory in Kaki Bukit.

But nosing into the market are newbies with unique selling points. Singapore Memories is going big on the heritage angle and it also reaches out to corporate buyers. Its perfumes are priced from $28 for an 18ml eau de toilette and bulk discounts are available.

The label's founder, Mrs Prachi Saini Garg, 44, who also owns Je t'aime Perfumery, worked in the architecture and infrastructure construction industries for almost a decade before deciding to venture into the fragrance world.

Je t'aime Perfumery, which started in 2013, conducts perfume-making workshops and supplies customised corporate gifts.

Mrs Prachi says attendance at the workshops has doubled in the last two years to about 200 to 300 people a month.

 

Participants pay $125 for a two-hour workshop where they can familiarise themselves with a wide palette of ingredients and take a personality test to determine which scents match them best. They then get to make three 10ml bottles and a larger 75ml bottle of perfume to take home.

Other new brands have different strategies. The year-old Oo La Lab adopts the customisation approach, allowing customers to create their own scents by choosing from 27 fragrance notes in its shop in Alexandra Road. Customers select the base, middle and top notes and walk away with an individualised fragrance. A one-hour workshop to create a 20ml eau de parfum costs $88 for an individual and $156 for a couple.

Off-the-shelf 50ml fragrances from the brand cost $88.

Meanwhile, Six prides itself on creating perfumes that embody a travel experience. Its three signatures - 123 Tribeca, 1724 Puka and 27°F Biei - each evokes the scents of the place it drew inspiration from.

The label's founder, Mr Jason Lee, 34, was in sales and marketing at Swiss fragrance house Givaudan before starting his own company.

Mr Lee, who has a master's degree in technopreneurship and innovation from Nanyang Technological University, says: "People in Singapore are more open to private labels now. They are more discerning and receptive to niche brands that craft a compelling story rather than going with something more maintstream."

Six is stocked at six retail locations, including department stores Tangs and Robinsons and concept stores City Of Tomorrow and Manifesto. A 20ml bottle from the brand costs $66.

Niche bespoke perfumes are on the rise globally despite generally declining sales in the fragrance industry. According to market research firm Euromonitor International, fragrances recorded a 2 per cent drop to $221 million in current value terms in 2016, but there has been growth in the niche bespoke fragrances segment.

The firm's research analyst, Ms Yvonne Wong, says niche and artisanal fragrances have gained popularity as consumers become more individualistic and choose uncommon scents to express their personality.

The two established home-grown brands, Freda'D and Code Deco, have expanded their product range and seen consistent growth.

Freda'D, founded by husband-and-wife team Faridah Yusuf and Hairul Azhar, has seen revenue double each year since the label was launched in 2014.

The brand, which started with six ready-to-order scents, now has 15. The label also offers reed diffusers, body scrubs, shower gel and candles. It is available at multi-label store Threadbare & Squirrel and online at www.freda-d.com

It also opened its first brick-and-mortar store, a 250 sq ft space at Downtown Gallery, in August last year. A 30ml bottle of perfume from Freda'D costs $63, while a bespoke one costs between $60 and $150.

Code Deco, which launched in 2013, started with 12 fragrances and now has 17. It is also available outside of Singapore in India and the United States and will be debuting in Denmark next month.

Its founder, chief executive and perfumer Gauri Garodia, 44, says: "Perfume is a very subtle and versatile means of communication and consumers are shifting towards highly artistic and expressive labels."

Local customers have caught a whiff of what is on offer by these niche brands and they like what they smell. Oo La Lab customer Lua Ai Wei, 43, was intriqued by the idea of making her own perfume. The independent advertising professional says: "They also let you name your scent, which I think is really fun."

Lawyer Nicole Teo, 29, is using her third bottle of perfume from Six since discovering the label in 2016 . She has also bought perfumes from the brand for her friends and family.

"I find that the fragrances have lingering sensual qualities and each scent is evocative in its own right without being too commercialised.

"The quality of the perfume is also better as it lasts longer than others I have tried. "

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2018, with the headline 'Spicing up local scents'. Subscribe