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The scents of summer: Flowery, fruity and...watered down?

Neil Snape for The Globe and Mail

Oh, summer: Time to swap our boots for sandals, our minestrone for gazpacho – and our Burberry Brit for Burberry Brit Summer Edition?

Short answer: Yes. These days, there are more and more options when it comes to ostensible hot-weather scents. Known in industry parlance as "flankers," these summer offshoots of popular commercial fragrances share the same DNA as the originals but introduce new notes to present a slightly modified, more "summery" personality. Just a few of the recent launches include Burberry Brit Summer Edition, David Yurman Summer Essence, Lise Watier Summer Sunset and Beyoncé Summer Pulse. Designed to capitalize on and extend the appeal of best sellers, flankers currently make up 27 per cent of women's perfume sales, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm that tracks a number of consumer categories, including fragrances.

In fact, says Karen Grant, a global industry analyst at NPD, flankers have performed stronger than the industry in general, based on 2008 to 2011 figures. What's behind this seasonal explosion? In addition to summer's bounty of luscious fruit and fragrant fresh flowers providing both a literal and symbolic abundance of ingredients, the desire to make seasonal style shifts, whether manufactured or not, is a strong one, Grant explains. Fashion-wise, "you could wear black all year, but it's nice to wear some white and linen [during the summer]," she says over the phone from Port Washington, N.Y. It's becoming the same with fragrance: "A lot of the [perfume] business is marketing and a lot of it is creating a need or desire. The marketing goes along with what happens in the season."

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Of course, the concept of a summer scent isn't entirely new: Between CK and Eternity, the Calvin Klein fragrance range has offered summer versions for some time now. What' s different these days, Grant points out, is the number of prestige brands, such as David Yurman and Burberry, launching them. Another is greater expectations among consumers: As fragrance experts warn, there is more to creating a summer edition than tinting a perfume pink or purple or shooting an ad in a garden.

True summer scents, says Marian Bendeth of the Toronto-based consultancy Sixth Scents, are those that have a summery character. When we sniff the thoughtfully crafted, legit examples, she explains, we immediately associate them with pastel colours, open fields and other touchstones of the season. More specifically, they tend to include some combination of white flowers (gardenia, lily of valley), citrusy notes (neroli, lime, bergamot, grapefruit) and hits of fruit (raspberry, strawberry, peach) as key players. Ditto anything beachy, such as notes that evoke salt water or coconut suntan lotion.

"Summer scents are generally constructed to smell 'fresher' or more 'sparkling,'" concurs Dawn Goldworm, a fragrance expert and co-founder of 12.29, which develops scent identities for brands. Such notes, she adds, contrast the rich, enveloping perfumes that people associate with winter.

Both Bendeth and Goldworm explain that heat – both the air temperature and our internal thermostat – affects how a fragrance blooms on the skin. "Fragrances are volatile with heat," Bendeth says. "When you perspire more, you don't want to go darker; you want to go lighter."As the skin heats up, Goldworm adds, it improves the diffusion of a fragrance. This is why perfumes that already have heavy, spicy floral characteristics may seem overwhelming in summer. "Anyone who says you can wear those all year round is deluded," Bendeth says. In the same vein, "we aren't reminded of peaches in November."

Equally responsible for a fragrance's intensity is its concentration of aromatic compounds. (Of the scents featured on in the photo gallery, all except one are eau de toilettes.) "Summer fragrance conveys 'softer' and 'lighter' without having to say 'less concentrated,'" Grant points out. "[Perfumers] don't want to say, 'Here's the watered-down version.'" Hence some of the more euphemistic labels, such as "sheer," that are being attached to summer scents.

Such labels, however, aren't just hollow slogans: They do reflect a considered approach to the season, especially important when, say, you're riding the subway on a sticky July morning. If realized as intended, a summer scent greatly reduces the chances of assaulting fellow passengers with a perfume that might otherwise be benign in February.

So will we continue to see more summer flankers from more perfume brands? The answer, Grant says, depends on a fragrance's main identity. If it begins its life as a light floral, for instance, a summer flanker would be redundant. Rich, heady scents, on the other hand, stand to gain from a product extension that is comparatively fresh.

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One final note on the flanker phenomenon: Interestingly, fragrances appear to be moving in toward seasonal incarnations at precisely the same time as fashion embraces the notion of seasonless dressing. Scent's new seasonality doesn't mean, however, that you have to altogether abandon your fresher, lighter favourite once Labour Day arrives. When fall and winter roll around, keep the mother fragrance in your purse and spritz the one you wore through the summer onto your pillowcase every night, thereby transporting yourself back to the late-night sunsets, the picnics and the warmth of the season just before you close your eyes.


Spritz liberally...

Eau de toilette (EDT) dissipates more quickly on the skin than eau de parfum (EDP), Bendeth says. So go ahead and spray various points on the arms and legs.

...except in officesRemember that a scent can waft through a room, whether air-conditioned or not. Be considerate to co-workers who may be sensitive to fragrance and apply only to the wrists and neck.

Consider the crisperGoldworm refrigerates her fragrances in the summer so that they feel extra refreshing when sprayed on the skin.

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Avoid sunlight (the bottle, not you)

While Bendeth is well aware that a beautiful flacon deserves prime real estate on a vanity, a drawer, she says, might be the best srorage place during humid summer months.

Cream onDon't forget scented lotions as an alternative to perfumes. They not only moisturize, but distribute their subtle fragrance all over the body.

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