Toronto perfume company Niche Essence

This growing industry is producing the most underrated fashion accessory in Toronto

When you think of fashion accessories, you might think of jewellery, shoes or maybe even a good haircut. But while all of those appeal to your sense of sight, what about your sense of smell?

According to experts in the fragrance industry, perfume can be as much of a fashion statement as a cool pair of earrings or a unique outfit. But perfume isn’t well-known in North America, at least not as much as it is among the swaths of European brands that have devoted decades of work and research to crafting the perfect fragrance. Now, these three Toronto businesses are trying to make a name for the city within the perfume world – and convince Torontonians to add perfumes to their fashion roster.

Niche Essence is a perfume shop located in the Bayview Village shopping centre that is looking to introduce local Torontonians to masterful fragrances from all over the world. They house over 25 international niche brands, most of which you can’t find at your local Nordstrom or Saks Off Fifth. (A niche brand produces solely fragrances, whereas brands such as Tom Ford and Chanel fall into the designer category, as they produce fragrances alongside clothing and accessories.)

Kiavash Kashani established Niche Essence in 2012 with the hopes of broadening the horizons of local perfume enthusiasts. In 2018, he chose to close down his store located on Yonge and Eglinton with the hope of focusing on the online brand.

Now in 2022, the newly-opened Niche Essence is the Toronto hot spot for budding perfume lovers who are looking to dip their toes into unique creations. “Our goal is to present high-quality products to clients and at the same time educate people about the difference between designers and niche,” Kashani says.

Kashani believes that the key to continuing the growth of perfume in Toronto is education. He believes that the difference between North America and Europe is the market size. Torontonians simply don’t know that these niche and indie (independent) perfume houses exist.

To help introduce Torontonians to niche perfumery, Daniel Orban created Rendezvous Scents. This subscription service gives customers the option of receiving a monthly 10 ml sample monthly for six months or bi-monthly for the year. Orban curated “scent journeys,” which gives the customers the chance to pick a fragrance style like Coastal Treasures or Sweet Shoppe.

Orban began his professional beauty journey selling fragrances at Holt Renfrew and Nordstrom where he sold for counters like Tom Ford, By Kilian and Frederic Malle. However, his love for beauty products was always apparent. “One day I discovered fragrance and it was kind of this light bulb ‘aha’ moment because I was at a time in my life where I was trying to discover who I was,” he says.

“One of my biggest pieces of advice to people who don’t wear fragrance is to consider fragrance like pieces of clothing. I liken perfume to fabrication,” he says. “So we live in Canada, it’s a different climate every other month, right? You wouldn’t wear a chunky knit sweater to the beach, and you wouldn’t wear flip flops to go downhill skiing. The same is true with fragrance – there are different scents for different occasions.”

Now, Orban inspires customers to be themselves through their choice of fragrance. Each journey is created in order to highlight a certain location and evoke feelings within the theme.

Orban says that during the pandemic, the fragrance world blew up. People were trying to find new hobbies and passions. A fragrance hobby offers collectors and wearers the opportunity to stunt financially and fine-tune their fashion sense. “It’s useful to have a wardrobe of scents to choose from so that you can tackle your day in the most appropriate attire,” he explains.

While Orban isn’t physically creating his own perfumes, there’s someone from Toronto who is – and he’s making a name for himself internationally. Victor Wong of Zoologist Perfumes has over 25 creations, all of which are based on animals and the aura surrounding them. His shop and lab are located in North York, which is open to the public for fragrance shopping.

Formerly a 3D video game designer, Wong combined his passion for fragrances and animals when he created Zoologist. Like other indie fragrance brand owners, Wong bottles, packages and ships his fragrance from the shop by himself.

His fragrances have become extremely popular over the years for their high quality and ability to please a range of people, and they’re sold everywhere from Italy to Australia. When creating his scents, he tries to pick a singular note and work around that. Most of the time, that note might be a bit more obscure. Recently, he built the scent Cow around a milk accord.

Wong is quite content with the growth of perfumery in Toronto, saying, “People might be surprised to learn that a lot of active Youtube fragrance reviewers are actually Canadians, and quite a few live in Toronto, too! In my opinion, Canadians as a whole may not be as enthusiastic about perfumes as Europeans because they have a fragrance culture, but those who are passionate about perfumes are very active and vocal about it.”

According to these Toronto experts, 2022 might be the year to pick up a perfume or two and factor them in to your outfit equations every morning! Your fashion sense (and scents) will thank you.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO