When I go to a museum, there is nothing I love more than seeing a retrospective. The privilege of seeing someone’s work throughout their lifetime is exciting but equally fascinating is the curator’s eye… the choices that were made to bring together the pieces that make up the exhibition. That’s what I love about Etiket. The owner, Simon Tooley, has literally created a collection of what he considers beautiful… not only the different perfume houses but also the specific perfumes from the different houses. As a perfumista, I LOVE it when someone takes a stand! And, Simon has surrounded himself with people who not only love perfume but are not afraid to say, “THIS, I love… but that fragrance, although I love it, doesn’t hold on my skin” or “that’s not my cup of tea.” So, in effect, they are more like consultants than sales people and because they are not attached to any one brand, they can easily present you perfumes from L’Artisan Parfumeur to Heeley and from Amouage to Atelier Cologne. Recently, they announced that they will be carrying Tauer Perfumes, launch date is June 2015. As you can see, Etiket is definitely niche… so don’t expect to buy Miss Dior there or Coco Mademoiselle.
Simon sees his role as an educator as well as a retailer. At a recent event, the staff had grouped the perfumes by family according to the Société Française des Parfumeurs classification… very smart. For those of us in the know, we knew immediately what we wanted to try (chypres and florals for me) and for neophytes, it was a lesson in perfume classification. As I was sniffing Histoires de Parfums Tubéreuse 2 Virginale, a young man introduced himself and offered me samples of anything I wanted… any brand, any perfume. Can you imagine? In my 10 years of perfume shopping, I had never seen this kind of service.
Etiket is located at 1832 Sherbrooke Street West, maybe a 5-minute walk west of Holt Renfrew. As you can see from the photos, it is absolutely beautiful and their website (www.etiket.ca) is extremely easy to navigate. Special events are always a perfume-lover’s delight and are well attended. Although I have never used their mail service, I have no doubt it is excellent.
I asked Simon Tooley two questions. First, why he opened a niche perfume boutique in the first place and what he thought the challenges were in today’s market.
“I opened Etiket because I have always wanted to have my own shop. Fragrance for me has been a quiet life long passion. I am not a collector except perhaps of memories, as that is what fragrance is for me. It brings to mind memories of people or places or things. Walks on the beach. My mother coming down the staircase in chiffon and her Ecusson perfume. The first time I smelled Eau Sauvage from Christian Dior or Jicky from Guerlain or my first waft of Patchouli. With Etiket I saw the opportunity to introduce the world of niche perfume to Montreal and through our on-line store to Canada. When I discovered niche perfumes and what was behind them I fell in love. I think niche fragrance tells stories and if it is a good house, the story that the fragrance tells can be an incredible one.
The challenge of selling niche is opening people’s eyes, or I should say noses to the possibility of what is in those bottles. I think that today with all of the marketing that is behind the big fragrance brands we get lost in the packaging and the hype and that we need to worry less about that and more about how the fragrance makes us feel. What does it do to us? With niche brands the creators tell us a story with each fragrance and it is wonderful to find our own story in what they are telling us. I always encourage people to try something different from what they usually wear when they come to see us, to be open to discovery. I just wish I could bring in all of the fragrances that I want to, but slowly over time I will continually add to the collections that we have.”
If you are a perfumista and are looking for niche perfumes, Etiket is “incontournable” as the French would say. If you are somewhat new to perfume, go anyway and discover! The staff is knowledgeable, approachable and just plain fun to talk with. And believe me, that’s not a given in this industry! If you are coming this summer (2015), here’s an idea. Start at Etiket and buy yourself something fabulous and decadent.Then, walk east on Sherbrooke Street and check out the Horst photography exhibit at the McCord Museum.