Have you heard the one about hemlines predicting the economic forecast? It goes like this: when short skirts are fashionable, the economy is on the up; mid-lengths mean things are okay, while long skirts are the harbinger of gloom. Before you scoff, the theory was in fact put forward by an economist, not a fashionista looking for gravitas. Like fashion, fragrance has an uncanny knack of being in tune with the zeitgeist. The 1980s, for example, were all about power dressing and conspicuous consumption. The most popular scents of the time had correspondingly big personalities, shouting your arrival before you entered a room. Likewise, the scents of today reflect what’s currently on our minds. Suddenly buying a new perfume or aftershave at the airport has a whole new meaning…


The trend: Gourmand notes

Fragrances featuring edible notes, such as fruits, chocolate, caramel and a large dose of vanilla, have been around since the early 1990s, but continue to grow in popularity, with many new scents of the genre launched this autumn/winter. Will Andrews of P&G Fragrance Creation comments: “We believe that the gourmand trend is driven by the unsettled world in which we live – think global terrorism and you want to get some comfort. The gourmand fragrances often smell of sweets or vanilla, which allows us to access the gentle memories of our youth. If not sweets, then fruit scents often feature. Fruit puts us in an open and accessible frame of mind – we relax and socialise when we eat.”

Try Hugo Pure Purple, from £20, inspired by Calisson sweets with marzipan in its heart note, alongside notes of edible violets and peach; Dolce & Gabbana The One, from £29, has masses of vanilla with succulent fruit notes; Lancôme Miracle Forever, from £29.50, has almond flower nectar and red fruit notes; DKNY Red Delicious, from £27, is a blend of champagne notes, exotic lychee, raspberry and crisp apple, plus vanilla bean.


The trend: Macho scents

Leave smelling edible to the girls, the hottest male scents right now are truly masculine and rather traditional, using amber, woody vetiver notes, powdery violet and green ivy. Fougère notes (French for fern – think woodland freshness with aromatic herbs) are having a fashion moment, as are spicy scents. Curiously, this ties in with a 1970s trend, spearheaded by retro food, music and fashion and then film (the remake of Starsky & Hutch, for instance). One British retailer has reported a renewed interest in Brut, the ultimate spicy, macho aftershave.

Try Boss Selection, from £33, with green, fizzy top notes that give way to deeper masculine cedar leaf, musk and vetiver; Clinique Chemistry, £32, which has a fabulous mix of spicy black pepper and clary sage, plus lavender and warm, woody ingredients.

The trend: Vintage/classics

According to Will Andrews, the return to the classics is driven by several factors. He says: “It is the desire for distinctive experiences, moving away from a mass-marketed experience. It is nostalgia in a bottle, part of a scented world that belonged to your parents and defined your own youth, which is empowering and comforting. It is also a return to the ‘good old days’, a perception that classics contain higher-quality ingredients, and also a return to traditional values.”
Certainly many perfumers, not to mention fragrance-bottle designers, are consulting the archives for inspiration. Rumeur, the new floral, woody scent from the recently revitalised fashion house Lanvin, has precisely the same French chic as Lanvin’s iconic scent Arpège, launched in 1927. Nostalgia abounds. Giorgio Armani’s latest fragrance, Code for Women, was inspired by the orange blossom scent of the designer’s grandmother’s garden, while Camille Goutal has created a scented candle based on the smell of her beloved late mother’s handbag. Le Sac de ma Mere smells of leather and makeup, violet and iris.

Try Floris Night Scented Jasmine, from £24, a modern take on a Floris original introduced in 1806 by John Floris. It smells like a garden full of jasmine, mimosa, gardenia, ylang ylang and roses; Lalique Perles de Lalique, from £34, an elegant feminine scent with a first key note of Bulgarian rose and a classic chypre-style base.


The Trend: Seduction

The idea of wearing scent to attract the opposite sex is as old as the hills. Goethe, for example, wrote about Trojan women lusting after Paris with his “perfume of incense and roses”. Today, the languid sensuality and pleasures of perfume could be seen as an antidote to our fast pace of life. Or maybe it’s just that sex always sells. While one person’s Allure (Chanel) is another person’s Poison (Dior), there are certain ingredients that do it for everyone. Musk and jasmine, for instance, contain indoles, which act as anti-depressants with a sexual edge. Equally, vanilla is said to have aphrodisiac qualities. Spicy, sweet and warm oriental scents are also generally classed as very sexy scents.

Try For men – Bulgari Pour Homme Soir, from £37, a new evening scent, with fresh tea and bergamot and a rich, seductive amber warmth; Yves Saint Laurent L’Homme, £33, a charismatic fragrance with floral and spicy middle notes and charismatic woods, vetiver and amber.

For women – Givenchy Ange ou Démon, from £32, a beautiful floral oriental fragrance revolving around pure lily and deep, dense oakwood; Cacharel Amor Amor Elixir Passion, from £20, which has a burst of citrus, giving way to sweet, white flowers, such as jasmine, tiare flower and lily of the valley and long-lasting, sensual woody essences.