What does the very first ‘dermatologist brand’ of skincare have to do with fragrance? Everything.
Because although Clinique – now one of the world’s best-known and best-loved skincare brands – launched into the beauty world with that famous ‘3-Step’ programme (including, of course, Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion), fragrance has been its heart since the launch of Aromatics Elixir, in the 1970s.
But first, let’s rewind to how Clinique began. In 1967, American Vogue published an article called ‘Can Great Skin Be Created?’, written by beauty editor Carol Phillips, with dermatologist Dr. Norman Orentreich, looking at the importance of a skincare regime. It might seem second nature, now, but back then women’s beauty rituals were quite different – and a lot more basic. And as for skin types? Before Clinique, most of us hadn’t a clue.
Evelyn Lauder – the young wife of Leonard Lauder, Estée Lauder‘s son – saw that Vogue article, and put it on her beloved mother-in-law’s radar. The aforementioned beauty editor and doctor were enlisted to bring their expertise to the brand – and in August 1968, the world’s first allergy-tested, dermatologist-driven brand was unveiled at Saks Fifth Avenue.
It got off to a stellar start – helped at least a touch by Carol Phillips’s relationship with legendary photographer Irving Penn, who created the iconic advertising campaign for the brand. ‘Irving and I were working colleagues for years at Vogue. When the time came to advertise Clinique, all I had to do was call my good buddy and he put that wonderful first ad. together – the one with the toothbrush in the glass.’ (We’re sure you all know it.)
And a few years later, along came Aromatics Elixir. ‘More than a fragrance’, they called this exotic Chypre, which was created as the world’s first ‘aromatherapy scent’, a tonic for the senses – becoming a fragrant phenomenon which endures to this day. (There are precious few perfumes that make it to their 40th birthday.) Carol Phillips recalled her clear vision of what Aromatics Elixir should feel and smell like – ‘perfume and far beyond’. It was created as an echo of the pharmaceutical style of the brand, ingredients were rigorously allergy-tested – and the flacon for this rich Chypre was designed to look (and feel) like an apothecary jar. As for what’s inside? Think of it as ‘inner calm in a bottle’ (and who doesn’t want some of that?).
So the overture has toning and astringent qualities, powered by rose essence, calming chamomile and sandalwood. In Aromatics Elixir‘s heart, muguet and ylang are joined by jasmine, a classic stimulant. But as Aromatics Elixir devotees know, it’s the base which grounds and steadies us, in a frenzied world: seductive, warming elements of patchouli, vetiver, musk and amber. It even has a special application technique, to get the best results: sprtiz into the air, and walk into the fragrant cloud. No wonder it became the secret of ‘in-the-know’ perfume-lovers around the world.
But it was just the start of Clinique‘s fragrant chapter – which always remained incredibly close to the heart of our late friend Evelyn Lauder. (We never dropped into her office without being offered an anonymous spray of something, to share our thoughts on.)
So since Aromatics Elixir, we’ve been invited to become ‘Happy‘, with that upliftingly-named scent: a multi-layered floral, sparkling with citrus notes of bergamot and ruby red grapefruit, giving way to Morning Dew orchid, boysenberry bush flower and melati blossom, for a tropical feel, flowing into equally sensual notes of Hawaiian wedding flower, Chinese golden magnolia, spring mimosa blossoms and white crinum lily. (There is also the option of Happy for Men, by the way – which sits in the collection alongside the ‘skin Cologne’, Chemistry.)
And – to resounding cheers from women everywhere – the legendary Calyx has today found a permanent home in Clinique‘s fragrance collection. As Luca Turin, author of Perfumes: The Guide comments: ‘Calyx maintains a perfect balance between clean crispness and rosy sweetness… For a scent of the ’80s – 1986, to be exact – Calyx also manages to smell incredibly fresh and modern. This scent helped inspire the next generation of fruity, clean florals – although none have really improved on it. It’s one of those rare fragrances you could wear your whole life.’
Beyond Rose has also now unfurled in Clinique‘s fragrant collection, created by Alienor Massenet (read more about Alienor here, in our ‘nose’ interview): ‘A velvety rose,’ as she describes it, ‘with an Oriental dry-down. It’s a very appealing fragrance. Once sprayed onto the skin, it creates a second-skin enveloping effect, as if you were surrounded by soft rose petals.’
We feel a bit calmer just thinking about that. No change there, then, when it comes to Clinique…