Tigerlily Retail Store Field Trip; Photo by Yuna Choi

Field Trip To Tigerlily Perfumery

Exterior Store of Tigerlily; Image Courtesy of Tigerilly Perfumery
Exterior of the Tigerlily store; Image Courtesy of Tigerilly Perfumery
Tigerlily Store Inside; Image Courtesy of Tigerlily
Image Courtesy of Tigerlily Perfumery

On July 16th, MFA FSH 632 Trend Analysis & Product Development students went on field trip to Tigerlily Perfumery in San Francisco’s Mission District. As the only boutique in the city dedicated entirely to artisan and niche perfumes, Tigerlily stocks a vast collection of US indie fragrances as well as hard-to-find cult favorites from around the world. Antonia Kohl, the owner of Tigerlily gave an exclusive lecture about her business and perfume industry. Instructor and Senior Director of Fashion Merchandising Keanan Duffty said, “The purpose of this field trip is to fully understand the independent fragrance business from the point of view of a retail business owner and to get real world feedback from that retailer.”

Inside of Tigerlily Store; Image Courtesy of Tigerlily Perfumery
Inside the Tigerlily Store; Image Courtesy of Tigerlily Perfumery

The field trip tied into a group project that the class had been working on, which was to develop a fragrance brand and marketing that brand within the current confines of the fragrance and beauty businesses. They created a brand named Wild & Nature, and their debut fragrance was also named after the name of a brand. The concept was woodsy and natural but including sensual scent. The team is organized into different roles such as Production/Design, PR/Marketing, and Sales/Distribution. Duffty said of the project, “The Perfume business is a combination of product development, Sales, Marketing and PR that is unique. It takes teamwork and a collaborative cohesiveness to build a fragrance brand. Creating scent that has a broad appeal is extremely challenging.”

Perfumes in Tigerlily Store; Image Courtesy of Tigerlily Perfumery
Perfumes in Tigerlily Store; Image Courtesy of Tigerlily Perfumery

During the lecture, Kohl spoke about the perfume industry in San Francisco. “There are different types of perfume consumers in San Francisco. Tigerlily has substantial perfume aficionado/collector community, who are extremely diverse and enthusiastic – an amazing group of people! This community is important to our business because they’re passionate about getting the word out about niche perfumery and are up for trying new and different scents. We also have great foot traffic on our street, which brings a nice base of local customers who wander into the shop looking casually for a new scent, some of whom become treasured regulars. On top of that, Valencia Street is now a tourist draw, which we also benefit from and which helps us with international recognition. Holiday gift buyers are a good segment too! Overall, most of our customers care about quality over cost, but of course there are price limits for most of us.”

Tigerlily Retail Store Field Trip; Photo by Yuna Choi
Tigerlily Retail Store Field Trip; Photo by Yuna Choi

After the lecture and Q&A drew to a close, Kohl reviewed the students’ project. She advised students to further delve into the online and social media worlds for perfume lovers and collectors, not to oversaturate a neighborhood, and think more deeply about the specific notes in the fragrance and how they capture the essence of their scents, literally and/or conceptually. She also recommended students identify all product cost-of-goods and production schedule. Team leader Felicia Gillis said of Kohl’s input, “I learned that there is a lot to the fragrance industry and the following is under rated. Fragrance is a lucrative business and is continuing to grow. Kohl’s lecture was very helpful. She gave insight on a world that is hard to research and that we as a group couldn’t grasp completely.Her lecture definitely altered our decisions. We minimized the amount of stores we would distribute too and we also decided to do online sales.”

Antonia advised to Academy of Art University students who are interested in going perfume industry. “You’ll enjoy it more if you’re passionate about it! This is especially true in independent perfumery because it may take years to become established and financially successful, if ever. That said, there are many different roads to take in the industry, including more traditional roles in larger companies. So research the options, think about what you might love to do and reach out to people who are doing it to find out if it’s right for you.”


Written by Yuna Choi