Friday, April 30, 2010

BONDage & Dominance

Bond No. 9 is one of those perfume firms which have succesfully commodified the concept of "niche perfumery," which, from an aesthetic angle, was initially meant to embody a vision of perfumery as a craft based on the integrity and artistic control of an inspired creator and which now represents a streamlined pseudo-exclusivity based on imaging and PR rather than the actual quality or originality of the product (read more about niche degeneration here). Its founder Laurice Rahme, who was called "an industry bête noire, combative and obstinate" in the NY Times, somewhat modelled the Bond approach upon Creed perfumes which she had distributed in the US before breaking with them, transforming that brand's largely invented Old World pomp & circumstance narrative into a Big Apple story feeding on the well-established global attraction of New York as the capital of glitz, urbanity, cosmopolitanism and diversity. Perhaps not surprisingly, some early Bonds are rather uninspired copycats of Creed's succesful Green Irish Tweed (Chez Bond) and Silver Mountain Water (Hamptons). As a matter of fact, the staggering number of 43 releases in the 8-year period of the company's existence pretty much precludes any true dedication to originality and creativity. Naturally, the scents are created by external noses working for the big aroma & scent giants. Out of the 36 Bonds reviewed by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, 22 are judged "awful" and "disappointing."
Perhaps it is amateur psychology to assume that Bond No. 9's guilt over its little plagiarisms and general creative redundancy (hardly uncommmon in the business) has pathologized into a damaging case of paranoia about evil forces threatening the company's identity. It does seem like the firm is projecting its own attitude towards perfume onto strangers which are then accused of haunting poor little Bond No. 9 (there's a David Lynch movie somewhere in here). It was only a rumour that Rahme was pivotal in effecting the ban of decant sales on ebay (a concerted effort by numerous perfume houses). What created major repercussions in the blogosphere was Bond's threat of suing a one-woman perfume operation for trademark infringement over using the word "peace" in the name of her perfume "Peace on Earth" - a term Bond seemed to believe was its own in the world of beauty products after having released the 9/11-inspired "Scent of Peace" (a generic fruity floral more deserving of the name "Scent of Wuss"). While it may be understandable that companies are particularly eager to protect their brands in this fluid virtual age (though it's quite obvious Bond did not have a case by a mile in this particular instance) the arrogant attitude that shone through Bond's undiplomatic handling of the matter left a bad impression among a major part of the perfumista community - but not bad enough apparently for history not to repeat itself. It has been reported that Bond No. 9 has warned the decanting service The Perfumed Court, via twitter of all things, to desist from decanting Bond No. 9 fragrances as this supposedly represents a trademark infringement. This is nonsense of course, as anybody has the right to dispose of their legally acquired property as they see fit, but the question is: doesn't Bond realize that TPC, known as a reliable and trustworthy source of decants to the perfumista community, is providing free marketing for their brand and bringing in new customers for them from all over the world? That should be considered an asset rather than a threat, especially in these times of recession and after an obvious miscalculation on the potential of the German market, which was seriously oversaturated with Bond No. 9 (half-price was a common site, it was going on the grey market for 60 Euros). If I had ever been interested in this line, which I was not, this heavy-handed approach would have cured me once and for all. It's time someone told this outit to stop pestering the perfume world with its mean-spirited corporate antics and mediocre wares and to desist from infringing upon his trademark rights. I mean Mr. Bond. James Bond.

16 comments:

Diana said...

Great piece. Thanks for the heads up.

Six' said...

(over from Perfume Shrine)

*clap clap clap*

As they say, Wordy McWord. Was appalled at the time at the strong-arming over the word "peace" - which was absolutely hilarious anyway, considering Kenzo had released a "peace" scent years before Ms. Rahme's outfit.

Now this? C&D via... TWITTER??
This is plain old bullying. In the most literal sense, picking on the small ones only.
How I would love to see authorities in NYC taking a closer look at the dubious appropriation and trademarking (?) of entire landmarks....

I don't care if they actually have a case in this instance or not, the tactics are despicable.

As far as I'm concerned, this outfit ceases to exist from this instant on. I didn't know about Germany, but they seem to have completely flopped in France as well anyway, so...

tarleisio said...

I came here from PerfumeShrine, and I am - floored. (I must have missed out on an awful lot of snark/fun!)

I haven't been too impressed from the few Bonds I've tried, but I'm even more underwhelmed now. And this company doesn't expect some kind of backlash from their arrogant and misguided strong-arm tactics?

I think it should be. I'm even happier that the only Bond I've ever liked was, as you said - named James.

StyleSpy said...

I've always been underwhelmed and have studiously, purposefully avoided the Bonds since the whole eBay folderol. That woman is a petulant, paranoid egomaniac. There have been a lot of great artists who were petulant, paranoid egomaniacs, but at least they created some art to make up for it. Laurice Rahme is just a shrew.

Carly said...

Obviously she's afraid someone will be able to smell before they buy...then they would NEVER buy, even for the bottle!!!!!!

ScentScelf said...

I don't tweet. If I had, I would have heard about the twerps, I guess.

Feeling the need to squawk over social networking that includes messages like "I'm constipated" and "OMG I saw sumone he luks JUST like Justin Bieber" is kind of funny-sad, no? Especially as the first shot lobbed over the bow.

Somebody ought to settle this chasing down of decantery once and for all. Is it really an infringement? Everybody's skirting around it; perhaps it is worthy of deliberation on the halls of justice. Intellectual property is certainly worth protecting, IMHO.

But...I also have to say, I have trouble seeing how offering smaller amounts of product that was obtained at fair market value is a problem. Grey market seems a lot shadier, so to speak, to me...

SignatureScent said...

Shame as I've liked a lot of the Bond No 9 products. But am definitey going to give them a miss now. Interesting that they're getting a true internet bashing at the moment as I was reading this on Basenotes last week too: http://www.basenotes.net/threads/251225-Bond-No.-9-and-Plagiarism

Dorothy said...

I don't see how what TPC does is meaningfully different from a restaurant selling spirits by the glass. The formula for Bond No. 9 perfumes is intellectual property; claiming that the juice itself is intellectual property seems like a huge stretch.

dukeofpallmall said...

Well, judging from all your comments and many others on the perfume-WWW, this faetful tweet was, to mix proverbs, a shot in the foot heard around the world :D. Amazingly unwise. I am probably not alone in fantasizing about Ms. Rahme as the embodiment of everything unsympathetic about New Yorkers AND Parisians, with any redeeming features gone AWOL.

Qwendy said...

Thanks for the great post (I'm over from Perfume Shrine too)! As a designer I must say that part of me understands the need to "protect" what I have made, but having my pieces in great company, appreciated by many more people than I could reach myself, at absolutely no cost to me would seem like a good deal, no? Their level of protectionism is really a kind of hubris, which I imagine is already out of fashion ; )

Plus Bond perfumes are awful for the most part, and their bottles hopelessly overdesigned!

Colleen Clark said...

hi there - i'm working on a perfume piece for esquire - was wondering if i could interview you. contact me asap if you're available! cmclark@hearst.com

Flora said...

I am also coming over from The Shrine - I love your style! I would say that your commentary is as thorough a trouncing of Bond as I have seen,and richly deserved. They only bully the companies that are much smaller than they are, and I want nothing to do with them

flittersniffer said...

With you all the way on the Perfumed Court saga. I have had the same argument with a London SA for Chanel, who seemed outraged to learn that people could buy small uncontrolled quantities of Les Exclusifs via decant sites. I explained how this could lead to bottle purchases, but the message simply didn't compute.

dukeofpallmall said...

These folks really need to get back down to earth. It's not like they're selling the Holy Grail or anything...

Le Critique de Parfum said...

A truly fantastic piece of writing. Niche perfumery is now full of low-class no talent profiteers.

Anna Maria said...

Great post, Your Highness!!!

and thanks to Ambre Gris/Sixt' for link to your blog.

Unfortunately Bond9 has a great success in Italy with young people snob/will be.