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Did you know that there are different categories of perfumery? When it comes to describing the different manufacturers of perfumes, experts within the industry will describe a perfume as either a designer perfume or a niche perfume. But what does this exactly mean? In this article, we’ll be tackling the topic of designer and niche perfumes, explaining the differences between the two, and answering any questions you may have about the different classifications of perfumery. Let’s take a look.

What is Designer Perfume?

By far and away the most common variety of perfume you’ll find on the market, the designer perfume industry brought in a global revenue of 13.2 billion USD in 2021[1] and has been steadily increasing (apart from 2020) since 2014. Designer perfumery is perfumery manufactured and sold by companies that also offer designer clothing, accessories, or even other cosmetics. For designer companies, perfumery is just one aspect of their overall product offerings.

These perfumes are sold by names you’ll probably recognize. Brands like VersaceChristian Dior, Armani, Prada, and Chanel all manufacture and sell designer perfumes. The majority of perfumes you’ll find at large retailers across the globe will most likely be designer perfumes, due to the strength of the distribution networks and the large budgets that brands like the ones listed above possess.

Designer perfumery can range vastly in price, from the low end of $20 USD for a 100ml bottle (like the popular Voyage for men from American designer Nautica) to $160 USD for a 100ml of Chanel Coco Mademoiselle.


What is Niche Perfume?

Conversely, niche perfume is perfume produced by companies that focus on perfume production exclusively. These companies do not offer any other products such as clothing, or accessories as designer companies do. Popular brand names in the niche perfume industry include Creed, By Kilian, Amouage, Roja Parfums, and Frederic Malle.

These names are certainly not as familiar to most consumers as the names previously mentioned in the designer perfume category. That’s because the niche perfume industry, while growing, is much smaller when compared to the designer perfume industry.  For example, in 2022 it was estimated that the niche perfume industry had a global revenue of 2 billion USD[1], a fraction of the revenue of the designer perfume industry.

Niche perfumes are typically harder to find when compared to designer perfumes, mainly due to the fact that the companies that produce them are not as prominent as the ones producing designer perfumes, and thus lack comparable distribution networks. Because of this exclusivity, their products often (but not always) command a higher price tag. For example, one popular niche fragrance, Baccarat Rouge 540 from company Maison Francis Kurkjian currently costs $325 USD for a 70ml bottle.


Designer Perfume vs. Niche Perfume – The Main Differences

We’ve mentioned some differences between designer perfume and niche perfume, including availability, and price. However, there are more differences you should be aware of before you seek out a particular perfume.

In general, most designer perfumes will smell agreeable to the majority of the population. This is because designer companies offer products that are designed to appeal to the majority of the public, due to the large marketing and production budgets allocated to the launches of their perfumes.

On the other side of the coin, niche perfumes can sometimes be challenging and more experimental. This is because niche perfumes are more exclusive, and lack the massive marketing budgets that designer perfumes have. This allows niche companies to have more creative freedom when releasing their perfumes.

The Advantages of Designer Perfume

Just because most designer perfumes are more affordable than niche perfumes, does not mean that designer perfumes do not have their advantages in comparison. One advantage of designer perfume is the affordability of the perfume. If you’re someone with limited disposable income to spend on perfume, you may be attracted to the lower price tags that certain designer perfumes offer.

Also, designer perfumes are often created by some of the most talented and established perfumers in the industry. Although relatively unknown by the general public, perfumers like Alberto Morillas (Acqua di Gio, Versace Pour Homme, Gucci Bloom) and Jean-Claude Ellena (Terre d’Hermes, Cartier Declaration) are some of the most famous perfumers in the industry, and they often work on perfumes created by designer brands.

The accessibility of designer perfume cannot be understated. If you fall in love with a designer perfume, you should be able to find it at most major retailers. The same cannot be said for niche perfumery.

The Disadvantages of Designer Perfume

However, this accessibility does come at a price. Because designer perfumes are so commonplace, you run the risk of smelling the same as other people who wear the same perfume. If you’re someone who likes to stand out with a unique aesthetic, you may find that designer perfumes just aren’t interesting enough for your tastes.

Designer perfumes also typically use cheaper ingredients in their formulas. Because designer perfumes are meant to be mass-produced, they use synthetic aroma compounds to create smells familiar to people (citrus fruits, woods, musk, etc.). These synthetic compounds are cheaper to produce at a mass scale, when compared to fragrance oils derived from natural ingredients.

If you fall in love with a designer perfume, you run the risk of that perfume being discontinued. Because designer companies are always chasing the next big thing, they are often less cautious of discontinuing an older, weaker selling perfume in their lineup.

The Advantages of Niche Perfume

If you’re someone who likes to be unique, then designer perfumes might not cut it for you. Niche perfumery has the advantage of being much more unique when compared to the offerings of established designer brands. This is because niche perfumes are scarce when compared to designer. If you decide to wear a niche perfume, you can bet that no one else around you will be wearing that same perfume.

Niche perfumes also use more expensive ingredients when compared to designer perfumes. Luxurious ingredients such as oud, ambergris, and Mysore sandalwood can often be found in expensive niche perfumes, but are rarely found in designer perfumes. To put it simply, niche perfumes are more expensive to produce, which is why they often command a higher price tag compared to their designer counterparts.

The Disadvantages of Niche Perfume

Natural ingredients, however, do have their disadvantages as well. Because natural materials are more volatile, the smell of a niche perfume can change between batches. You might fall in love with one batch of a niche perfume, only to find that the next bottle you purchase doesn’t smell quite the same as the old one you had. This is because natural materials are subject to change, just like how wine tastes can change from season to season.

Because of their more avant-garde nature, some niche perfumes can actually be off-putting to some. While this is possible with designer perfumes as well, it’s more common with niche perfumery.

The last disadvantage is one we’ve discussed before, which is price. Simply put, niche perfumes are much more expensive than designer perfumes, and many consumers are priced out of purchasing them.

Which One Should You Choose: Designer or Niche Perfume?

If you’re interesting in purchasing either a designer or niche perfume, we recommend asking yourself a few questions first.

  1. How much money are you looking to spend on the perfume?

If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on a perfume, you might not be able to purchase some of the most popular niche perfumes. If that’s the case, you’re probably better off seeking out a designer perfume.

  1. Where will you be wearing the perfume?

Most niche perfumes are more avant-garde and daring. If you plan to wear the perfume in settings like the office or school, you should probably go for something less ostentatious, like a designer perfume.

  1. Do you want to smell unique?

Designer perfumes are always among the best-selling perfumes on the market. If you want to smell like nobody else, we recommend seeking out a niche perfume.


If you’ve read this far, you’ve become an expert on the distinctions between niche and designer perfume, and should know which type of perfume you’d like to purchase for yourself (or for others). While these are some of the more important distinctions, keep in mind that there are no hard and fast rules in perfumery. There are some designer fragrances that are avant-garde and expensive, and there are some niche perfumes that can be more inexpensive and inoffensive. We always recommend getting your nose on as many perfumes as possible so you can make the best decision for you!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are examples of popular designer perfume brands?

Some of the most popular designer brands are brands you’ve heard of, including brands like Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, and Armani.

What are examples of popular niche perfume brands?

Popular niche perfume brands are well known within the industry, but might not be as well known in the general public. Brands like these include: Creed, Amouage, By Kilian, Parfums de Marly, Byredo, Le Labo, and Maison Francis Kurkdjian.

Are all designer perfumes cheaper than niche perfumes?

For the most part, designer perfumes are cheaper than niche perfumes. However, many designer brands have started to launch more upscale collections to compete with the niche perfume market. These perfumes use higher-quality ingredients and as such are comparably priced to niche perfumes.

Where can I find niche perfumes?

You can find some niche perfume brands at high-end department stores like Nordstrom, De Bijenkorf, Holt Renfrew, Harrods, etc. Some more exclusive niche brands can only be found in boutique perfume stores that specialize in selling perfume.


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