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Meet the Supreme of the Fragrance World

House of Creed’s fragrances attract a level of fanaticism usually reserved for sneakers and “It” bags. As the brand prepares to introduce a follow-up to its bestselling eau de parfum, Aventus, BoF takes a look at how a cult following is built.
Creed colognes | Source: Courtesy
By
  • Rachel Strugatz

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NEW YORK, United States — Simon Taino is nearing the end of his supply of Aventus. All that's left is a miniature vial emblazoned with "Batch 16H11," containing a few drops of the eau de parfum.

Taino said he wears the “fruity rich” fragrance sparingly. Mostly he flips bottles to other collectors. His greatest score: stumbling upon three 100 ml. bottles for sale at Costco for just $220 - about half the typical retail price - that he then sold for over $650 each. Rare bottles, including those from legendary batches starting with the numbers 12 or 13, can fetch over $1,000 on eBay. He knows he’s onto a good score by the fragrance’s colour.

“The more green the juice, the more valuable [it is],” said Taino, a financial analyst from Toronto with an encyclopedic knowledge of fragrance that would rival many industry veterans. “Green reflects non-disturbed maceration and ageing… [The Costco bottles] were dark green almost.”

Taino is part of a thriving community who collect, wear and worship the House of Creed, the French fragrance company that produces Aventus. On Instagram, Creed fanatics spar endlessly about which vintages are most and least desirable. Comments sections on fragrance websites are filled with users, often men in their 30s and 40s, who commiserate about obtaining a less-than-satisfactory bottle and debate the variances between batches. The consensus is that the longevity of batch 18F21 is lacking – as confirmed by three users – and 16H01 is a favourite. There’s less agreement on what the numbers mean; a brand representative told BoF it makes about one batch per month, but that the codes don’t signify when bottles are produced.

For those on the outside, here’s a little Aventus 101: The eau de parfum hit the market in 2010, created by Olivier Creed and his son, Erwin Creed. The multigenerational family-owned company produced its first commercial scent in 1970. Creed expects to hit $270 million in revenue this year, with Aventus the biggest single driver of sales, according to a person familiar with the company’s operations. The fragrance is a top seller at Neiman Marcus, Holt Renfrew and Harrods, according to the retailers, and is a top five men’s fragrance umbrella brand in the UK despite limited distribution, according to NPD.

Top notes of bergamot, blackcurrant leaves, apple and pineapple give way to middle notes of pinkberries, birch, patchouli and jasmine and a base of musk, oakmoss, ambergris and vanilla. The most popular 100 ml. bottle retails for $435, and a 1-liter flacon costs $1,305.

Creed’s fragrances attract a level of fanaticism usually reserved for sneakers and “It” bags. Variances between batches - seen as a flaw in mass-produced fragrances - are an asset for the brand. The small differences identified by Creed enthusiasts instead burnish the label’s artisanal reputation (the company says scents are mixed by hand, rather than machines, in limited quantities). The numbered batch format is a hook for many, with consumers and collectors attempting to crack the code. Bottles from batches perceived as coming from a particularly good run can soar in value, much like fine wine - or a rare sneaker colourway. Another draw is Creed’s small distribution and irregular launch schedule. The brand has just 250 of points of sales in North America, versus the many thousands for “blockbuster” fragrances from Coty or L’oreal, and mainly relies on word-of-mouth for marketing.

“It’s never forced by how the industry says they should create or how a retailer says we should launch,” said Emmanuel Saujet, chief executive of Creed’s North American distributor, International Cosmetics & Perfumes. “They do it when they want to do it. They’ll spend the money if they need to if it’s a fragrance that’s never been done. ... It’s unconventional.”

"It covers my soul in a plume of mother nature's finest aromas. The collection of black currant mixing with the Italian Bergamot instantly brings me close to Igor Stravinsky and his vision of 'Adoration of the Earth.'"

Love in White (worn by Michelle Obama) was supposed to launch in 2004, until at the last minute, Erwin Creed decided the juice wasn’t good enough. The family put everything on hold – even though retailers were waiting for product and ready to sell it – and took another full year to perfect the scent.

“It was so radical. They don’t abide by any timeline,” Saujet said.

And where beauty giants typically release iteration after iteration of a successful scent, Creed has introduced only one Aventus follow-up, Aventus for Her in 2016. That’s about to change: on June 2, the brand is introducing Aventus Cologne, a lighter, “genderless” fresher scent aimed at younger consumers.

Creed is already popular with hypebeasts, joining brands like Rolex and Goyard that combine exclusivity and history. The brand is borrowing a page from the streetwear community with its latest launch, with a surprise “drop” of 50 bottles on Thursday at an event co-hosted by Highsnobiety in Brooklyn.

Erwin Creed said the new scent is heavier on apple and pineapple notes and includes the addition of vetiver.

“You can say, ‘It smells like Aventus, but different',” he said. He noted that colognes typically have less concentration of fragrance than eau de parfums, but Aventus Cologne is just as concentrated as its predecessor. “We want to attract our customer and a new one – this is the target.”

With the addition of the cologne, the trilogy is expected to comprise half of all North American sales by next year, from 40 percent currently, Saujet said.

Taino said there are limits to his love for Creed, however.

“I’m probably done with Aventus. New batches just aren’t good enough without ageing.”

Taino said in the world of Creed aficionados, a super-collector who goes by “Taha” “lives and breathes Aventus,” allegedly owning nearly 70 percent of batches made since 2012. Taha could not be reached for comment. However, in a private Facebook forum and marketplace, The Aventus Lounge, evangelists track batch codes and every small difference in scent or longevity. And there are rules: the group’s 4,480 members are prohibited from bashing prices or talking about clones (unless it’s to bash them).

Courtney Elms, a rock climbing instructor in Texas, hopes to be among the first to get his hands on the new Cologne. He owns 10 bottles of Aventus from numerous batches and said he could discern even the most subtle nuances between the juices in 14MO1 and 16CG2 (the former has more pineapple). He recently did a “respray” of his entire collection to identify is favourite.

“It covers my soul in a plume of mother nature’s finest aromas. The collection of black currant mixing with the Italian Bergamot instantly brings me close to Igor Stravinsky and his vision of ‘Adoration of the Earth,’” Elms said of the winner, batch 14MO1. “Ambergris is gripping, wrapping itself around me like a canvas being stretched out. [It’s a] scene only reminiscent of a Monet painting as the scent dips into the sunset and lets me know I have arrived.”

THIS WEEK IN BEAUTY

Coppertone has a new owner. Beiersdorf, which also owns Nivea, purchased the sunscreen brand for $550 million.

Counterfeit beauty is on the rise. Beauty tech tools are the latest category to be plagued with fake stock.

CK One was ahead of its time. The scent, which debuted in 1994, was the first openly marketed "unisex" fragrance.

On-demand beauty services are on the rise in India. Factors such as price are less important to consumers in India who say "professional skill" is essential when booking on-demand services.

Another reason to steer clear of glitter. The sourcing of mica, the glittery material often found in beauty products, has been associated with "rampant child labour."

Although more empowered than ever, there's still a stigma attached to women shaving their heads. The association with neo-Nazism has coloured the perception of skinheads since the 1970s but the shaved head is seeing a resurgence, especially with women.

Kylie Jenner will soon have a skincare line. Jenner will debut Kylie Skin next week, a millennial-pink range of products that all retail for under $30.

She also wants to get into haircare. The self-made billionaire also filed a trademark for Kylie Hair this week.

Tatcha tests "mystery products." Sephora let customers pre-order an "unnamed skincare product" from Tatcha, days ahead of today's reveal.

The Business of Beauty wants to hear from you. Send tips, suggestions, complaints and compliments to our beauty correspondent, Rachel Strugatz (rachel.strugatz@businessoffashion.com).

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State of Fashion 2023
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State of Fashion 2023