Between Byredo and Maison Margiela, the allure of a trending fragrance can be hard to ignore when choosing a new perfume—especially as a beauty editor when there are so many launches to test and trial each month. However, much like a timeless handbag or a good pair of chunky boots, there are certain perfumes that draw you in beyond the initial buzz of a new launch. And many of these classic perfumes come courtesy of the biggest designer names in the world. Yes, from Chanel to Yves Saint Laurent, some of the most iconic scents are designer fragrances—and they truly stand the test of time.
Ahead, from the brands' best sellers to their lesser-known offerings, discover the best designer fragrances from six of the biggest fashion houses in the world.
Fragrances don't come more classic than Chanel N°5, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Famously endorsed by Marilyn Monroe in the '50s, this sophisticated scent has been adored around the world ever since. A layered floral with a complex blend of notes, it has legions of devotees and will likely remain a global best seller for another 100 years to come.
"I have been wearing this perfume for years, and even though there are other lovely perfumes out there, I love this one too much," says one five-star reviewer on John Lewis. "I get comments every day about my perfume, and how nice it smells [and] I've been followed around shops before by women and men asking me what I'm wearing! I always keep a handbag size bottle in my bag and offer a little spritz to anyone who likes it. It is expensive, but a bottle goes a long way. A true Chanel classic and one I will buy again and again."
Until the launch of this new fragrance earlier this year, Chance was my Chanel perfume of choice and has been since I was gifted a bottle when leaving my Saturday job at Boots when I was 19. Le Lion is decidedly more grown-up and suits how my perfume tastes have evolved now that I'm in my 30s. Inspired by Gabrielle Chanel's astrological sign, it's a strong, warm scent laced with amber, vanilla and patchouli, and I think it's destined to be a new classic for Chanel.
This is one of those iconic designer fragrances that you recognise as soon as someone passes you wearing it. It's a head-turning, luxurious scent that has the markings of a heady men's cologne (that'll be the geranium) but remains velvety and smooth thanks to hints of peach, lilac and patchouli. A true classic.
"This perfume is so beautiful, its subtle but sensual. As Emily in Paris said, its like wearing poetry and I definitely believe that," says one Netflix-savvy reviewer on House of Fraser. "I personally love the smell of jasmine, but its so hard to find and use in a perfume... but this frangrance really mellows the jasmine harmoniously with the other notes."
Sure, Harry Styles being the face of Mémoire might add to the appeal of this unisex perfume, but I have to say that this Gucci newbie is genuinely delightful. I'd describe it as an outdoorsy scent with lots of herby, earthy, woody notes like chamomile, cedarwood and musk, but there's also sweetness from vanilla and jasmine. It's a breath of fresh air and truly unlike anything else in my collection.
3. Yves Saint Laurent
First launched in 1977, YSL's Opium is perhaps the most instantly recognisable perfume from the brand, and its popularity has resulted in a growing Opium family in the years since. It's a spicy, sensual perfume that definitely evokes some of those free-spirited '70s vibes, but lighter touches of tangerine and rose keep the deeper notes like sandalwood myrrh from becoming too heady.
There are so many five-star reviews on House of Fraser for this designer fragrance, and I have to say that it's definitely up there with one of my favourites too. In fact, it's the number two top-selling female fragrance in the UK. "Not one for changing from my regular cycle of favourite perfumes but this one has just been added to that collection," says one five-star review. "It's such a feminine fragrance that lasts a very long time...a big tick just for that! It smells expensive and I had so many comments on it from people literally passing me by which I have never had even from my favourite perfumes. Classy, understated and different. I love it!"
Sadly, I think that Parisienne might have been discontinued (or at least it's becoming increasingly hard to come by), so I'll be stocking up on my YSL perfume of choice wherever I find it. For me, this is a somewhat nostalgic scent that was my signature in my early 20s, and it definitely captures that carefree time for me. It's a fruity and floral blend of blackberry, violet and rose with a slightly musky-leathery edge that just stops it from veering into sweet-shop territory. It will always have a very special place in my heart, and I implore you to try it while you still can.
4. Louis Vuitton
Before returning to the world of fragrance back in 2016, Louis Vuitton hadn't launched a perfume for over 70 years. Of course, with that in mind, it's hard to pull out a time-tested classic from the brand like with other designers. However, when it comes to fragrances, Rose des Vents is as timeless a floral as they come. Like standing in a field of roses, it's fresh, green and a real modern classic.
"I was looking for a fresh yuzu scent for the summer. I tried three or four that were fine but didn’t scratch the itch. On the Beach hit the spot perfectly," says one happy reviewer on Fragrantica of this new summer scent from Louis Vuitton. "The yuzu in the opening is beautiful, a little lemony on me, and just feels juicy and refreshing immediately....I'm over the moon with how this fragrance works for me."
Warm, musky, slightly sweet scents that feel like a hug are right up my street, and this is all of that and more. Effectively a love letter to vanilla, this is a gourmand perfume that melds aromatic vanilla with sweet orange flower, magnolia and hints of bitter cocoa. It's comforting, cosy and sophisticated, and I have been eking out my bottle for years.
5. Giorgio Armani
When I think of the best designer fragrances, it's a simple, elegant bottle of Si that springs to mind first for me. First launched in 2013, it has become synonymous with Armani perfumes and has spawned plenty of other interpretations as the Si range continues to expand. This one pairs bergamot and cassis with rose, neroli and vanilla for incredibly chic results.
"So many new perfumes have been released since this came out years ago. However this still out performs a lot of them, not only smell wise but performance wise also," says one five-star review on Boots. "It's a great classic scent that smells very sexy but not too strong. It's a great everyday perfume and very affordable too—and [I] always gets lots of compliments!"
This is my favourite of the Si fragrances, as it's less floral and fruitier than the others. Described as being the red-lip effect in a bottle, I can definitely vouch for the confidence-boosting benefits that a spritz of this can offer. It's bright with blackcurrant and pear but mellows out into those classic rosy notes before finishing with a hint of patchouli and vanilla.
Since its launch in 1995, Burberry for Women has remained a mainstay in the world of designer fragrances and for good reason: It smells so good. I remember this perfume being the height of sophistication while I was at secondary school, but the mix of fruity, floral and woody notes means that it's still as alluring to me today. If you're seeking a wearable, everyday perfume, then you really can't go wrong with this one.
"Have been using this perfume for about 2 years now and I really love it," says one positive reviewer on John Lewis. "I'm a fan of floral perfumes and can't stand anything that is too heavy. This is the perfect level of luxury, but not too strong to not be able to wear it daily."
I love rose perfumes anyway, but this one is probably the most classic one that I own, and I recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the floral. Inspired by a Bloomsbury garden, it is a celebration of rose in all its forms, but there's also a sprinkling of Italian lemon and vetiver to keep it fresh and sparkling.