Over the past decade, niche fragrance brands such as Byredo, Le Labo, Diptyque, and Jo Malone have dominated the fragrance market. As consumers seek a more personalised and intimate fragrance experience, big brands are facing stiff competition from these aspiring brands.
While perfume might be considered a beauty product, unlike cosmetics, it is specialised for self-expression and consumed more similarly to fashion products. In contrast to perfumes produced under big labels, niche perfumes are generally perceived as a more personalised option that exudes character, style and individuality.
Niche perfumes are typically composed of natural or rare ingredients that rely on a difficult extraction method to be retrieved in their purest forms. As a result, customers often find that the price of such perfumes can be significantly higher than other brands.
According to Euromonitor, the size of the Korean perfume market grew from KRW 506 billion in 2015 to KRW 706.7 billion last year. Further, it is expected to grow to KRW 810 billion by 2025.
The younger generations of Koreans in their 20s and 30s tend to have a stronger preference for niche perfumes. Therefore, it is no surprise that the proportion of sales of mainstream perfume brands such as Chanel and Dior are decreasing, while sales of niche perfume brands are on the rise. Niche perfume brands online sales have averaged a 107.8 percent increase compared to that of 2020. Shinsegae Duty Free reports that niche perfumes are also the most popular duty-free item on non-landing tourist flights.
Interest in niche perfumes is also shown through YouTube beauty content, which is often at the forefront of the latest beauty trends. According to the ‘2022 Beauty Trend Report’, issued by beauty influencer business group, Leferi, curiosity in niche perfumes, which started in the latter half of 2020, peaked in 2021 .
Here are 6 need-to-know niche Korean perfume brands to keep an eye on:
Nonfiction offers fragrances, hand creams, hand wash as well as body care products. Based on their incorporation of the finest vegetables and raw materials in their signature delicate perfumery, their fragrance line creates a distinctive ambience. The brand is known for their use of clean ingredients, with the elimination of 17 harmful ingredients, such as sulphate, paraben and phthalate, for their unique formulas, and that each Nonfiction product has their own fragrance narrative.
The brand name itself is derived from the combination of the words ‘Elements’ and ‘Korea’. As the brainchild of couple Lee Wonny Lee and Park Su Min, they aim to promote their heritage by creating a line of genderless fragrances made from authentic South Korean ingredients. The highest quality materials are sourced and products are made in small batches.
Elorea balances the traditional and modern approaches to perfume creation by drawing inspiration from Korean origins . The brand offers an olfactive experience alternative to the euro-centric fragrance market.
RboW, short for rainbow, is a South Korean beauty and fragrance brand that aims to bridge the gap between beauty and art by combining both elements. Founded by Sohyung Kim, former director of an art gallery, the company offers candles, diffuser oils, creams and fragrances. The brand combines Kim’s passion for art and fragrance.
Each product comes in a packaging decorated with abstract drawings, that expresses the corresponding mood of each respective scent. The scents are inspired by minimal art, brought to life through the simple combination of a few elements to create an instantly recognizable fragrance.
Designed by Gentle Monster, Tamburins products resemble designer accessories or mini art pieces. The brand name reflects a sophisticated interpretation of art and beauty. Founded in 2017, Tamburins offers a wide range of beauty products, such as hand cream, sanitizers, perfumed body emulsions and perfumes.
Tamburins hope to give the monotonous daily routines of modern people a free and new rhythm through a sensual scent. As an alternative to a sharp first impression most perfume brands offer, Tamburins’ curvy design cues offer a tactile experience that is intriguing to experience synesthesia.
The brand name is derived from the founder’s name,meaning ‘excellent fragrance’. Soohyang wants to carve the space for a niche local presence in the market traditionally dominated by European players such as Diptyque and Jo Malone. Itaewon 565, the brand’s signature scent, is designed to remind visitors of Seoul with its location-inspired design.
The scents are used in different product categories, to invite customers to experience them in diverse ways. Incorporating traditional elements, Soohyang created scents inspired by various Korean locations.
The brand started in 2014 in a small hanok in Bukchon Village. With the motto of ‘daily fragrance’, Granhand researches fragrances and products for customers to enjoy comfortably in everyday life. Furthermore, Granhand’s aim is to create a fragrance culture as a lifestyle to enhance one’s individual identity.
Granhand’s shop is located in a traditional Korean house, reflecting its philosophy of slow production process. Additionally, Grahand sells ceramic hangari vessels containing soy wax candles, depicting a more traditional side of Korea as these vessels were traditionally used to ferment foods such as makgeolli and kimchi.