At The Perfume Society, we’re seeing a huge trend right now for ‘modern florals’. Not fusty-dusty your-great-aunt florals, but contemporary interpretations of flowers that will change how you think about flowers.
Until now, the nature-inspired collection has been exclusive to Harrods, but it will shortly go on sale at the stunning Alexander McQueen flagship boutique on Bond Street. The other morning, this space saw quite the most stellar gathering of perfumers that we’ve seen together in one room for some time. (Only Christophe Raynaud and Sonia Constant – creators of the other two McQueen scents – were missing, on the day.)
As Olfactive Artistic Director Pierre Aulas, above – who liaised between McQueen designer Sarah Burton and the retinue of A-list perfumers – explained, ‘This was a project which offered extraordinary creative freedom to the perfumers.’ They were given the freedom to choose a flower, choose a colour – and the results are so worth sniffing out.
Alexander McQueen has a long creative relationship with flowers. On the top floor of the boutique there is also the most beautiful (and free) exhibition exploring the floral inspiration for many of the dresses which have graced the McQueen catwalk, over the years – the rose. Blooms have inspired many of the dresses, over the years, including a show-stopping fresh flower couture creation which has been re-created in faux flowers. So while you’re sniffing out the perfumes, be sure to take the stairs to the top floor.
While we were at this breakfast event, we chatted to some of the perfumers to find out what their own favourite flowers are. Here’s the low-down on their creations.
Domitille Bertier (above, creator of Sacred Osmanthus)
Shot through with the smokiness of Lapsang Souchong tea, both leathery and fresh, Domitille Michalon Bertier showcases osmanthus in her creation, with apricot facets and said to have magical powers. ‘This flower is the symbol of immortality and has been used in long-life potions for centuries,’ she explains.
We asked her: what is your real-life favourite flower? Mimosa. Even when it’s dry, it just smells so good. In February I will always buy mimosa; it can last up to two weeks, because the scent of dry mimosa is still so wonderful.
Nicolas Beaulieu (Creator of of Blazing Lily)
‘I’m fascinated by powerful fragrant trails – short and simple formulas that get straight to the point.’ He ignites red lilies, here with gunpowder and spicy red pimento accords.
We asked him: what is your favourite flower? ‘Jasmine sambac. To me it is the perfect mix between jasmine and orange blossom. It has this luminosity and radiance, at the same time as having this opulent floralcy. Depending on where it grows – whether it be India or Chinese – you’re going to have different kind of smells from it.’
Nadège le Garlantezec (creator of Celtic Rose)
‘The brief was timeless ephemera – that’s it,’ Nadège told us. She set out to create something that was ‘rain-drenched’ and dewy. ‘I added black pepper and pepperwood to make a rose that was contemporary, lovely and wearable.’
We asked her: what is your favourite flower? ‘In real life I’m more of a jasmine than a rose person. Maybe that’s why I was so interested in creating a rose scent, because I work a lot with white flowers and it challenges me to go in a different direction.’
Yann Vasnier (creator of Amber Garden)
It’s always a pleasure to encounter Yann, whose mastery is here expressed in a smouldering, comforting amber designed to invite you into an imaginary garden. One of the more mysterious fragrances in the collection, he explains: ‘I started with the blend of balsams – incense, styrax, benzoin tears, cistus, vanilla beans and leather. Then I merged it with rich woods (fir balsam, patchouli, vetiver and Atlas cedarwood), before introducing the light from the back with amber crystal notes and musks. Finally, I ended with the opening top note composed of citruses and spices.’
Caroline Dumur (creator of Vetiver Moss)
For the Chypre in the collection, Caroline was inspired by rich emerald green (wearing a flash of it herself, on the day, in the form of a scarab around her neck). ‘I was thinking of a McQueen embroidery, when I created this,’ she told us. ‘I used vetiver root and imagined the roots weaving through the composition, along with patchouli, which is also earthy and woody. To me, the Chypre is the strongest structure in perfumery; what makes this modern is that it’s a typical Chypre structure, updated with a contemporary green addiction.’
We asked her: what is your favourite flower? ‘I actually love gardenia. It’s creamy and milky, a little like jasmine, but at the beginning it also has this green note. There’s a little of it in Vetiver Moss, actually.’
The Roses exhibition is open during Alexander McQueen store hours at 27 Old Bond Street, Mayfair, London W1S 4QE