The ‘first lady of flowers’ launches Grandiflora fragrances at Fenwick – follow the fragrant journey of floral artist, Saskia Havekes…
Greeted by a swathe of stephanotis encased in a block of ice and perched on a pedestal, it was immediately apparent that internationally acclaimed florist to the stars and royalty alike, Saskia Havekes, has a magical way of transforming flowers into living sculptures – highlighting their heart-stopping beauty with her artistry. Given that perfumers also transform the way we see, smell and think about flowers, perhaps it’s only natural that her expertise should now be interconnected with her very own collection of Grandiflora fragrances. With two based around one of Saskia’s favourite flowers, the magnolia; they are exclusive to Fenwick Bond Street in the UK – and the third is a worldwide exclusive launch: Grandiflora Madagascan Jasmine.
Named for the snug little Sydney shop in which her floral adventure first truly began (and where Grandiflora still resides some twenty years later), Saskia is connected to fragrance royalty through the specialised and personal contacts she has built up throughout the years of her experience. ‘We were lucky enough to work with some of the greatest noses in the business – Sandrine Videault, first of all, then Michel Roudnitska, and next (shhh!) Bertrand Duchaufour ‘…whom we’re incredibly excited, and I personally feel very lucky, to be working with. And you know, the next flower I’m focusing on is a bit… well, it’s a bit crazy, a bit off the wall I think… so it seemed like the perfect fit somehow.’
It all really began with Michael Edwards – British fragrance expert, author, designer of the ‘fragrance wheel’ and founding editor of Fragrances of the World, the largest guide to perfume classification – is a passionate fan and follower of Saskia’s work: “Michael visits the shop quite a lot when he comes to Sydney, he’s such a flower-lover!” and chose Saskia to collaborate with him on his last two books (veritable ‘Bibles’ for fragrance aficionados), the latest incarnation of which is to be published soon.
In fact, Michael prompted what Saskia calls her ‘huge learning-curve’ of discovery in scent – looking at flowers from a perfumer’s point of view when he put her in touch with Sandrine Videault, who spent her first four years as a perfumer under the guidance of the great Edmond Roudnitska (creator of the incomparable Diorissimo and Eau Sauvage).
‘We’re concentrating on the flowers as a whole – incorporating the stem, the leaves and the journey the scent takes as the flowers develops. Roudnitska always says that “…a beautiful perfume is one which gives us a shock: a sensory one followed by a psychological one” a belief Sandrine held close to her heart. She was a firm believer that perfume composition should be unique, much like a musical score.’
‘The Magnolia Grandiflora is one of my favourite flowers of all time – it’s hard to choose a favourite, but if I had to, that’s it. And where the shop is in Sydney, we have an avenue of them that burst into flower in Summer, and I adore it. Sandrine taught me so much – I mean I know flowers, obviously, I work with them day-in, day-out; but to actually dissect a flower and see it as a prism not a linear smell, well she was my teacher. She came to visit and we filled her hotel room with magnolias. Her interpretation of the flower was fascinating – for example, I would never have thought of grapefruit as part of its intrinsic smell – and when she said that, at first I just went “what?!” but she’s so right. She opened my eyes…’
Saskia became incredibly close to Sandrine – ‘We were best friends, we just couldn’t get enough of each other!’ – while working on the first of the fragrances: Magnolia Grandiflora. Sadly, the incredibly talented Sandrine passed away after battling with a sudden and particularly aggressive Cancer, not long after the completion of the perfume. Coming as a huge shock to her family and friends, Saskia explained that just as they were launching the fragrance in Paris, news came through of Sandrine’s passing. ‘Out of that came this incredible relationship with Michel Roudnitska – Edmond’s son – who began working with us, and he gifted the fragrance to us in memory of Sandrine. It’s very special, extra special, because of that…’
Hearing Saskia talk about her relationship with the perfumers, her personal learning experience through looking at flowers and foliage from a different angle, and the incredible floral instillations (honestly, they’re mind-blowing! Have a look at their Instagram account, which we’ve followed droolingly for ages) she works on; we were thrilled to find the perfumes themselves were every bit as fragrantly sumptuous as you would hope. Saskia is obviously passionately potty about every aspect of the flowers she so adores, and that certainly shines through when you finally wear the scents. The only problem is, which will you choose first?!
Sandrine Videault, the fragrance composer, describes the composition of this parfum as a symphony of chords. The top notes are bracing: citrus, grapefruit and pepper. The middle is clean and meditative, with chords of greenery and dry wood and then the bottom note, expanding and enveloping the senses fuses elements of musk and marine, ocean and tree, petal and sky.
Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine, £135 for 100ml eau de parfum
Beginning with the top notes of lemon, bergamot and grapefruit, the heart of the Michel scent glows with jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose and of course magnolia. Adding richness, depth and sensuality are the subtle bottom notes of vetiver, patchouli and musk. The effect is one of limpid and rich beauty: a magnificent flower in its evocative prime.
Magnolia Grandiflora Michel, £135 for 100ml eau de parfum
Michel Roudnitska refrained from using the usual citrus top notes and created instead what he calls a ‘typical heart fragrance’. The result is a parfum with a redolent jasmine core with subtle watery green notes and different threads of musk to balance the whole.’I feel,’ he said ‘it is a spiritual fragrance because I tried to reproduce my feeling about the flower using only natural jasmine and some synthetic molecules to catch the specificity, the very heart, of the scent.’
Grandiflora Madagascan Jasmine, (not yet online – worldwide exclusive launch) £135 for 100ml eau de parfum
All fragrances exclusive to Fenwick, Bond Street.
Written by Suzy Nightingale