Patrick Hui, founder of Scented Niche, on his favourite fragrances, finding boutique scents and delivering independent labels to his discerning Hong Kong clientele.
When did you personally become involved with fragrances? Can you give us a little bit of your own background?
I first started using perfumes when I was in high school, but it was when I went to study in the UK that I realised just how big that world really was. Europe has such a mature perfume culture, for example, there are 700 perfume boutiques in Italy alone. I’ve been enamoured with scents ever since then.
Tell us a little about Scented Niche.
Scented Niche is a boutique perfume shop that brings exclusive scents to our scent lovers in Asia. We try to keep everything minimalist, only carrying creations from independent houses, rather than mass produced ones. Currently we have eight brands in all, which includes a range of perfumes, scented candles and home fragrances.
So these are all scents from independent houses?
All of them are from independently owned houses. For me, there’s a big difference between independent brands and designer perfumes. Big brands usually produce scents formulaically so as to develop a best-seller. Independently-owned perfumeries are different, they try to create something unique, something that doesn’t follow the trends, that are classic and timeless. Fine fragrances – those made by independent houses – can take anywhere from six months to three years to develop for each perfume.
You have said that fragrances shouldn’t be mass produced. Why do you think that?
Most of the designer perfumes are mass produced. The company spends a lot of money on marketing and also the packaging of the perfume bottle itself. All of this cuts into the budget to actually create a great, unique scent. Also, big brands have a really wide channel distribution. We could see it on counters, department stores, a lot of companies and online channels. This cuts down on the exclusivity of the actual product.
What can customers expect when they visit Scented Niche?
The first thing that they will experience is our friendly staff, all of whom are passionate about perfumes. They are trained to help visitors find just the right scent that they’re looking for, based on personal scent preferences, previous fragrances they’ve bought and so forth. They can then introduce them to those products created by the independent brands we carry and find a perfect match. In many cases, customers have previously relied on designer perfumes, but have become disenchanted with their short lifespan and want something that will be more unique while also long-lasting.
How do you find new products for Scented Niche?
We work directly with perfume houses and then we have them send the samples here. So we test their scents but we also evaluate how their development strategy is over the next year. We just want to make sure they are not too mass-market, that they have no plans to enter wide distribution channels like department stores. We will also evaluate the sellers’ online sales – particularly because many Hongkongers purchase their perfumes digitally. In both instances, wide distribution can confuse consumers and cause deregulated prices for goods, which we try to avoid.
Do you guys also do crowd testing before you introduce your products?
Not in any formal capacity, not, but every time we find something with potential, we ask our important VIP clients to also test them out. After all, many of our customers personally own 600 to 900 bottles in their fragrance collections. They’ve smelled many scents and they know what they like, so they help us gage how other people will feel about it as well.
You started Scented Niche in Hong Kong. Why did you choose Hong Kong as your place?
Hong Kong consumers are quite unique. It’s a very mature market and they’re very multicultural. They know what they want. In many cases, true perfume aficionados either have to travel overseas to find new, unique scents or to settle for more mass market designer perfumes that aren’t as exclusive as what they’re looking for. Ultimately, we thought Scented Niche’s motto of finding the best boutique fragrances would definitely be embraced by these discerning customers.
Given you have all the perfumes here, do you have any favourite scents and why?
I do have some favourite fragrances among the current stock we have here. Chypre Palatin from Parfums MDCI is one of my favourites because it is something I wear for occasions when I go out in the night. I won’t wear it every day. It is not as linear as the other daily-wear perfumes, it’s a statement-making scent.
Can you give us an idea of what kind of smell it is?
It is a very complicated perfume made by world class perfumer, Bertrand Duchaufour. Even though it has a vintage Chypre structure (citrus opening with a combination of floral notes at the heart, oak moss and balsamic resins at the base), it doesn’t smell too old with all the floral absolutes in the heart. I would say it’s good for both men and women, even though it was created as a masculine perfume. It’s a very modern homage to the nostalgic scents of yesteryears.
Finally, do you have any new projects on the horizon?
This past year has been a very big one for us at Scented Niche, and we believe 2020 will be even better. We’re looking to open a second location in Hong Kong, which I’m super excited for, and we also want to expand on our current collections of offerings so that our customers can find even more fragrances that they like.