‘Did you ever sleep in a field of orange-trees in bloom? The air which one inhales deliciously is a quintessence of perfumes. This powerful and sweet smell, as savoury as a sweetmeat, seems to penetrate one, to impregnate, to intoxicate, to induce languor, to bring about a dreamy and somnolent torpor. It is like opium prepared by fairy hands and not by chemists.’ ― Guy de Maupassant, 88 Short Stories
Orange blossom is beloved by perfumers in light-filled ‘solar’ scents – a newly emerging category, and a word I’ve found increasingly used for fragrances which aren’t merely fresh, but attempt the alchemy of bottling sunshine.
It’s the bitter orange tree we have to thank for these heady white blossoms – one of the most benificent trees in the world, for it also gives us neroli, orange flower water and petitgrain – all utterly unique in smell, from verdant to va-va-voom depending how they are distilled and the quantity used in a fragrance.
Originating from Asia, the bitter orange was introduced to North Africa by crusaders of the VIIth century, and now it’s just six villages in the Nabeul region of Tunisia that provide the majority of the world’s crop. Women do most of the harvesting, the pickers swathed in headscarves climbing treacherously high-looking ladders to reach the very tops of the trees, typically working eight hours a day and gathering around 20,000 (approximately 10kg) of flowers.
When the blossoms are hydro-distilled – soaked in water before being heated, with volatile materials carried away in the steam to condense and separate – the extracted oil is neroli, the by-product being orange flower water, while petitgrain is the essential oil steam distilled from the leaves and green twigs.
Long steeped in bridal mythology, when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, she chose orange blossom to decorate her dress, carried sprigs in her bouquet and even wore a circlet of the blossoms fashioned from gold leaves, white porcelain flowers and green enamelled oranges in her hair. It firmly planted the fashion for ‘blushing brides’ being associated with orange blossom – but this pretty flower can hide a naughty secret beneath its pristine petals…
While the primly perfect buds might visually convey a sign of innocence, their heady scent can, conversely, bring a lover to their knees with longing. In his novel The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa chronicles crossing an orange grove in full flower, describing ‘…the nuptial scent of the blossoms absorbed the rest as a full moon does a landscape… that Islamic perfume evoking houris [beautiful young women] and fleshly joys beyond the grave.’
It’s the kind of floral that might signify sunshine and gauzy gowns or veritably snarl with sensuality. Similar to the narcotic addictiveness of jasmine, with something of tuberose’s potency; orange blossom posesses none of that cold, grandiose standoffishness of some white florals: it pulsates, warmly, all the way.
Perfumer Alberto Morillas associates the scent of orange blossom with his birthplace: ‘I’m from Seville, when I’m creating a fragrance, all my emotion goes back to my home,’ Alberto told me, talking about his inspiration for Solar Blossom (below). ‘You have the sun, the light and water – always a fountain in the middle of the square – and “solar” means your soul is being lifted upwards.’
Oh, how we need that bottled sunshine when summer fades; an almost imperceptible shifting of the light that harkens misty mornings, bejwelled spiderwebs and sudden shivers…
Why not swathe yourself in these light-filled fragrances to huddle against the Stygian gloom? I love wearing them year-round, to remind me sunny days will return, that things will be brighter, presently.
Mizensir Solar Blossom Luminescent, life-affirming, a shady Sevillian courtyard with eyes and hearts lifted to the glorious sun, ripples of laughter and birdsong.
£185 for 100ml eau de parfum harveynichols.com
Sana Jardin Berber Blonde A shimmering haze of Moroccan magic, orange blossom diffused by dusk, a languid sigh of inner contentment. £95 for 100mlsanajardin.com
Stories By Eliza Grace No.1 Waves of warmth giving way to fig tea sipped beneath the shade of whispering trees, bare feet on sun-warmed flagstones, fingers entwined, forever dancing. £75 for 30ml eau de parfumelizagrace.com
Elie Saab Girl of Now Youthful sophistication via juicy pear and pistachio sway to opulent orange blossom at this fragrance’s marzipan heart, melding to a carefree, dreamy base. £42 for 30ml eau de parfum (but try a 2ml sample in the Eau So Fresh Discovery Box)
As we’re still not able to travel very far physically, so many of us have turned more than ever to fragrance as a way to ‘travel with our nose.’ Today we are traversing time and space with Celia Lyttelton‘s beautifully written and so-evocative book, The Scent Trail, that follows her journey to discover the secret of scent…
Penguin say: ‘When Celia Lyttelton visited a bespoke perfumers, she realised a long-held ambition: to have a scent created solely for her. Entering this heady, exotic world of oils and essences, she was transported from a leafy London square to a place of long-forgotten memories and sensory experiences. And once drawn into this world, she felt compelled to trace the origins, history and culture of the many ingredients that made up her unique perfume…
And so began a magical journey of the senses that took Celia from Grasse, the cradle of perfume, to Morocco; from the rose-growing region of Isparta in Turkey, to the Tuscan hills where the iris grows wild. And after journeying to Sri Lanka, the home of the heavenly scented jasmine, Celia ventured to India, the Yemen and finally to the ‘Island of Bliss’, Socotra. Here she traced the rarest and most mysterious agent in perfumery, ambergris, which is found in the bellies of whales and is said to have powerful aphrodisiac qualities.
From the peasants and farmers growing their own crops, and the traders who sell to the great perfume houses, to the ‘noses’ who create the scents and the marketing kings who rule this powerful billion-dollar industry, Celia Lyttelton paints a mystical, sensual landscape of sights, sounds and aromas as she recalls the extraordinary people and places she encountered on her unique Scent Trail.’
We say: While on the quest for ‘the perfect perfume’, author Celia Lyttelton had a bespoke fragrance made by Anastasia Brozler in London, an encounter that set Lyttelton off on a tour of the world to trace the history and provenence of the ingredients used. From a collection of precious oils contained in an old wooden box to the growing, harvesting and distilling of the materials and exploring cultural responses and mythological beliefs surroung scent, this book is a must-have for anyone who wonders where, exactly their perfume originated. And what a tour to take! With new scent adventures beginning with sentences such as: ‘We arrived on a plateau of dragons’ blood trees and desert roses…’ you will doubtless be Googling far flung fragrant climes, just as we did, while reading this (and now knowing exactly what you’d do following a Lottery win!) Movingly written, and full of the insightful, utterly fascinating pieces of fragrant history that she collected along the way, this book is a deep-dive into perfume ingredients that will satiate your travel-lust until such time we may pack our bags and set off into the scented sunset…
Celia Lyttelton The Scent Trail: A Journey of the Senses, Bantam Books amazon.co.uk
Looking for a gift or just the next thing you need to get your nose in to? Have a browseof our ever-expanding selection of favourite books – some are exclusively about perfume, others are more scholarly tomes on the history and scientific advancements of smell and the senses; while others still follow a path of examining fragrant ingredients in poetic, funny or awe-inspiring ways. Every page is a journey in itself. What are you waiting for…?
It is not every day that a new Chanel fragrance lands on our desks. (Though it is always a happy one.) And Le Lion is particularly hotly-anticipated, since its launch – like so many – was pushed back from 2020.
It was worth the wait. Not least because it reminds us yet again of the many symbols and even superstitions that are as seamlessly woven into the fab of Chanel as the threads in one of their signature tweeds. Gabrielle Chanel was a deeply superstitious woman, and this opulent fragrance embodies and even celebrates one of them: her passion for lions.
Born on 19th August 1883, the woman who later became one of the world’s greatest designers and couturiers was a Leo. She always believed that the lion watched over her, associating it with the sign of luck. Having been fortunate enough to visit Mademoiselle Chanel’s apartment, atop the Paris showroom and atelier on Rue Cambon, I’ve seen up close the gilded lion statuettes which she kept there – literally watching over her cigarettes, her scissors, the bureau where she wrote her letters.
Invited to follow in Chanel‘s footsteps for another launch, in Venice a few years ago, I learned the story behind her love of all things leonine. The journalists who assembled from around the world were introduced to some of the lions she discovered during her time in Venice. You can find them in many places, one you start looking: the city’s fierce guardians, on pillars, standing sentinel over St. Mark’s Square, on door knockers and in sculptures…
Venice is a city that marked a turning point in Chanel’s life, after she fled there devastated by the death of her lover, Boy Capel, to stay with friends José-Maria Sert and his artist’s muse wife, Misia Sert. And following her time there, Chanel began to embrace the symbol of the lion in her designs: on buttons, clasps, jewellery – including the gilded (now-vintage) cuff I bought years ago at Chanel, a photo of which is below – and which you can see on The Perfume Society’s Instagram to mark the launch of Le Lion de Chanel.
So many of Chanel‘s fragrances have some sort of symbolism – so it’s fascinating to see how Olivier Polge, Chanel Perfumer, expressed her totem animal in scent form. Really, could Le Lion de Chanel have been anything but an Oriental fragrance, though: powerful, elegant, enveloping…? ‘A lion that does not need to roar to command respect,’ is how Chanel describe it – and though there’s ultimately more of a purr to Le Lion de Chanel than a roar, this is a fragrance for someone who knows their own taste and their own power, and is unashamed to make a statement to that effect.
Sparkling citrus elements of bergamot and lemon sparkle like sunlight on Venice’s Lagoon, before the Oriental warmth drifts in. (We’d classify this as a ‘solar Oriental’, actually.) Ambery notes swirl through resinous labdanum, buffed by soft vanilla. As it warms on the skin, creamy sandalwood and patchouli make their presence felt. This is a scent that truly smoulders, exquisitely – and the trail you’ll leave (even if, currently, it is just to pick up a loaf at the corner shop) is quite something.
It joins the line-up of Les Exclusifs de Chanel from today. We suggest you take a prowl to smell it, just as soon as it’s allowed. And if you can’t wait – details are below…
Well firstly, ‘hate’ is a very strong word. If you’ve been landed with the favourite fragrance of your current partner’s ex, we’re not going to pretend to make you suddenly adore it, so maybe re-gift that one – see tip #7 – and treat yourself to one of our Discovery Boxes of fragrant delights, and perhaps a new partner, instead?
But there are things you can try before you completely ditch a scent – we can’t tell you how many fragrance experts (ourselves included!) and even perfumers have drastically changed their minds about a fragrance by trying some of these top tips…
#1 – Seasonal changes
Did you know that the weather, your mood and even what you ate up to *two weeks ago* can dramatically alter how scent smells on your skin? Skin and climate temperature are vital to a perfume’s performance, so even your favourite fragrance will smell different based on the time of year. When perfumers test the scents they’re creating they often use climate-controlled booths to check how they smell in hot and colder conditions (depending what countries they’ll be selling in). Don’t re-gift until you’ve tried the perfume again later in the year, or even on holiday (remember those?)
– Similarly, strongly spiced foods can change how a perfume smells on your skin, and when testing fragrances under lab conditions, the ‘skin model’ volunteers they use are often specifically asked to refrain from eating such foods up to two weeks prior to testing, so the perfumers can smell a ‘true’ representation of the scent. Though sometimes the reverse is true: if a fragrance is to be mainly sold in a country where people eat lots of spicy foods, the ‘skin models’ are asked to replicate that diet to ensure the scent works efficiently.
– We now know that mood plays an important part in how we select a fragrance – try a scent when you’re feeling a particular way, and it colours how you feel about the fragrance itself. If you’re feeling stressed or upset, a bit under the weather or just overwhelmed, these are not ideal conditions for testing out something new. Wait until you’re feeling calmer, or simply have more time to really explore what you’re smelling. That’s when you can try to…
#2 – Improve your sense of smell
Absolutely everyone can benefit from this – we’ve had people from normal perfume-lovers, complete novices to industry professionals telling us how trying these techniques have changed the way they smell for the better (for good). This doesn’t mean suddenly gaining the ability of being able to detect every single ingredient within a bottle of perfume, but rather learning to train your nose the way a perfumer does: by deeply exploring the emotions it makes you feel, colours, textures, places and people it reminds you of.
This is why we developed our so-popular How to Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops, which we have regularly held in London and, sometimes at independent perfumeries around the UK. We’ll be adding new dates as soon as we’re able to hold face-to-face workshops again, and plan to make a video available online.
Meanwhile, here are a few simple tips to try every day:
– Spray a scent on a blotter, preferably; close your eyes and keep sniffing for several seconds, then take the blotter away, inhale deeply, and re-sniff the blotter again. Repeat this for a minute or so, and then begin writing a few words in a notebook. It doesn’t have to be a description, and it shouldn’t ‘list’ notes – try to use words that make you think of other things. For example…
– If this scent were a fabric, what would it be? What colour? If you made someone an outfit from that fabric, who would they be, where would they be going?
– If it were a piece of music, what instruments would be playing? Is it classical, rock music, pop, rap or jazz?
Really attempt to get past thinking ‘I don’t like this’ and focus instead on the mood it’s creating. Is it too deep or too fresh or floral for your personal taste? Give it time and then, if needed, move on to one of the tips, below…
#3 – Layer up!
Layering fragrances used to be seen as a scent sin, but we’ve all gotten over ourselves a bit (well most of us have). You don’t have to do this to a perfume you already love on its own – why would you need to? – but there are brilliant ways of beefing-up a sadly flimsy fragrance, or adding a zing to something that’s a bit too dark or cloying on your skin. Give it a go, because, as we always say: perfume isn’t a tattoo – if you don’t like it, you can wash it off!
– Add power: ramp it up by adding more base notes like patchouli, labdanum, vetiver, woods or musk.
– Add freshness: look for citrus notes like bergamot, neroli, lemon, lime or ‘green’ notes such as galbanum, tomato or violet leaf, green tea, marine/aquatic accords (synthetic recreations of sea-like, watery smells) and aldehydes (often desribed as being like Champagne bubbles).
– Add beauty: find a scent too ‘harsh’ or clinical? Look to layer it with decadently velvety or lusciously fruity rose oils, the sunshine-bottled scent of orange flower, a heady glamour of tuberose or a luminescent jasmine; try an apricot-like osmanthus flower, the fluffiness of mimosa or the powdery elegance of iris/orris.
– Add sweetness: vanilla and tonka bean can ’round’ a perfume, making it swoon on your skin (and addictive to smell), as can touches of synthetic notes described as ‘caramel’ or ‘dulce de leche’, ripe fruits, chocolate or even candy floss. Try to add less than you think you need, as adding more is always easier than taking away, and a little of these can go a long way!
For layering any of these, you can either try layering over other fragrances you have in which the above notes dominate, with a single-fragranced ‘soliflore’ (one main note) fragrance oil or spray, or try layering the scent you don’t currently like over a differently perfumed body lotion or oil (see below or the added benefits of doing this…)
#4 – Boost the lasting-power
If the reason you don’t like a perfume is because it just seems to ‘disappear’ on your skin, you’re not alone. We often find those with dry skin have this problem, and it’s even thought genetics and things like hair colour may play a part. Scientists are still finding this out, but while they do, there are ways you can make perfume last far longer:
– Try using a body oil, rich body balm or moisturising lotion before you put any fragrance on (and even afterwards, too), as scent takes longer to evaporate on nourished skin. This helps the fragrance ‘cling’ to your skin more easily, and so you get to actually smell if for more than a few minutes without frantically re-spraying.
– Spray pulse-points you might not usually think of. Behind your knees is a good example – it’s a warm spot that, once spritzed, will mean you leave a fragrant trail…
– Spritz the perfume at the nape of your neck, even into your hair and on clothes – BUT do check by spraying a tissue first that it isn’t going to mark your hair or fabric a strange colour, or leave an oily residue! We adore this way of wearing perfume, as hair and fabric are porous without heating up as much as your skin, allowing the perfume to stay all day.
Spraying a fragrance on to a scarf is a particularly good idea if you want…
#5 – A part-time perfume
There are days we feel the need to try something completely different, but perhaps don’t want to be stuck with that scent all day, so what to do?
– Consider spraying a scarf (preferably not silk or a light colour, unless you’ve patch-tested it as above, first!) with this perfume you’re unsure of, that way if it gets a bit ‘too much’ or you want to wear something different, you can simply take the scarf off and you’re not stuck with it on your skin all day.
Nope? Tried all that and still struggling? All is not lost, don’t give up yet…
#6 – Scent up your life
We all have certain scents or fragrant ingredients that, for one reason or another, we might not wish to wear but do like to smell if it’s scenting something else.
– Why not try spraying off-cuts of pretty wrapping paper or tissue paper, and using this to line your lingerie or sweater drawers?
– Or, how about being utterly fabulous by spraying your note paper and insides of envelopes (the fancy ones lined with tissue paper are particularly good for this), and writing a few actual letters or thank you cards to loved-ones you’ve not seen for a while. Everyone loves getting proper post!
– The truly decadent could try scenting table linen – again, PLEASE patch test, as above – for lavish dinner parties to rival Marie Antoinette – spraying on cotton wool and putting inside a deocrative ceramic or pottery vase, on wooden ornaments or ceramic discs you hang over radiators to scent the whole room as they heat.
We so hope you can find a way to try this poor perfume again and give it some love, but if all else fails and you still can’t bring yourself to use it, well at least you tried! Why not…
#7 – Have a perfume-swapping party / re-gift
Um, remembering not to invite the one who gave you that particular perfume… otherwise, major awks. Or, if you’re looking to re-gift, have a look at our brilliant Fragrance Finder.
Simply put the name of the fragrance into the search box, and it’ll suggest six scents that are similar in character and style, or share a number of significant notes – this way you can see if anyone you know already has one of these, and it means they’ll very likely love to receive this one from you.
We were in London last week, pre-Tier 3, taking in some of the sights – and in the case of Les Senteurs, the smells of Christmas.
Because outside their Pimlico store, this perfume mecca has installed a wonderful ‘spritz-and-sniff’ installation. We all know just how hard it is to smell things in store right now, so they’ve found a way for perfume-lovers and passers-by to sample scent right there on Elizabeth Street. There are 12 little ‘windows’ in this advent calendar, each dispensing fragrance at the touch of a button (and it really works).
Fragrances include Les Éditions de Parfums Frédéric Malle Rose & Cuir, Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin and Ormonde Jayne Tolu, among other gorgeousness. (Note: you do need to be a little bit of a giraffe to reach the top row of smells – take a tall accomplice, is our recommendation!)
A treat for the nose, without crossing the threshold – although it would be a shame not to do just that: Les Senteurs’ expert scent team is on standby, just longing to help you make fragrant gift choices. Their Christmas opening times are below…
Monday to Saturday (excluding Thursday) – 10am – 6pm
Thursday – 10am-7pm
Sunday – 11am – 5pm
Christmas Eve – 9am – 4pm
25th – 28th (included) – CLOSED
New Year’s Eve – 9am – 4pm
New Year’s Day – CLOSED
Les Senteurs 71 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, London SW1W 9PJ
In our most recent issue of The Scented Letter, Persolaise writes about diversity and inclusivity – noting that fragrance houses are starting to feature a wider age range of models in their ad. campaigns (and hallelujah for that).
And how welcome it is that the latest ‘face’ for the legendary Chanel N°5 is no ingénue, but revered French actor Marion Cotillard, an Oscar winner for her portrayal of Édith Piaf and in La Vie en Rose and surely in her absolute prime at 45. It’s a piece of casting that is frankly out of this world – in every way, because the ‘sets’ for the ad include (yes!) the moon. Directed by Swedish director Johan Renck (he won an Emmy for for his work on the mini-series Chernobyl, among many other ‘gongs’), the commercial ‘flies’ Marion Cotillard to the surface of the moon, where she spins around giddily with Étoile dancer Jérémie Bélingard. Literally just released, you can watch it below.
The celestial dance is the ‘third actor in this story, explains CHANEL‘s Head of Global Creative Resources Fragrance & Beauty, Thomas du Pré de Saint Maur – no doubt wafting a sillage of N°5, a fragrance of which Cotillard comments: ‘I felt an instant connection with N°5 which, more than a fragrance, is a work of art. Something I always dreamed of.’ (And for any actress, being the ‘face’ of CHANEL N°5 is the ultimate accolade.)
We’re also starstruck by Artistic Director of CHANEL Fashion Virginie Viard‘s choice of dress for Marion Cotillard, with its gold embroidered lace. Requiring 900 hours of work, it was embroidered by sixteen artisan Lesage embroiderers (from a company that sits under CHANEL‘s umbrella). ‘I wanted Marion to perform in a dress that was completely CHANEL, past, present and future. Iconic. We started from the dress worn by Mademoiselle Chanel, immortalized by Cecil Beaton in 1937 which Karl Lagerfeld particularly liked… We adjusted it so that Marion could make it her own, dance in it; we wanted the dress to serve her and not the other way around.’
Watch the behind the scenes of the ad, below… And remind yourself of Chanel N°5 and its legendary floral-aldehydic beauty, here.
We also LOVE the behind-the-scenes in the CHANEL fragrance lab with the wonderful Olivier Polge, resident perfumer and custodian of CHANEL’s extraordinary scent legacy. So we’re sharing the extended edit for your delectation, too…
Something truly uplifting and thrilling, at a time when we need much more of that in the world, s’il vous plaît.
Perfume isn’t just a capital city experience anymore, as Stephan Matthews discovered when he created his own fragrance in the middle of the Welsh countryside (and the middle of a pandemic)
Every perfume fan has, at one time or another, dreamed of making their own fragrance. Unfortunately the price tag that goes with a bespoke scent means it’s usually out of our reach. This is where the many perfume workshops that have sprung up come into their own. They allow you to play with ingredients and, at the end, hopefully walk away with something that is wearable. Normally confined to either London, Paris, or Grasse, you can imagine my surprise when I found a perfume workshop was quietly operating in the beautiful surroundings of a Tudor garden in Monmouth, South Wales.
Run by Louise Smith, who is both self-taught and studied privately with a classical perfumer in Paris, Monmouth Botanicals has been helping fans to create bespoke fragrances for the last three years. However, the whole process is very different to other workshops that you may have attended before. Louise told me, ‘Creating a fragrance that is bespoke to your personal taste encourages you to wear it with passion and pride, because it’s something that you have handcrafted.’ So, needless to say, I didn’t need any persuading when I was invited to one of their socially-distanced workshops.
After temperature checks, and with masks in place, the two hour session begins with a quick history of fragrance. It’s a general overview but, even if you’re pretty familiar with the subject, I guarantee that you’ll be scribbling some notes. The setting for the workshop is a custom-built wooden studio that looks out onto an incredible five hundred year old walled garden. Designed by Louise’s husband Kenton, who was originally a Canadian Ice Hockey player, you really do feel as if you’re surrounded by nature. Views and pucks aside, the creation process is also fantastic.
You’re each given your own set of 35 ingredients that are split into top, middle, and base notes. Now there’s a mix of naturals and also a couple of synthetics, but Louise very clearly labels them in case you have a particular preference. You’re asked to smell every ingredient and write your impressions in a very stylish workbook, but the unusual part is that you also have to give it a score from 0 to 10 in terms of whether you like it. Luckily, if your nose starts to get tired then there’s plenty of fresh Welsh air outside to help you reset.
From here on in is where the workshop takes a more handholding approach. Louise looks at your workbook, taking into account your scores and comments, and gives you suggestions for the ingredients to use in your final perfume. You pop a drop of each one on its own paper strip, peg them together, and see how the various aromas combine. You do this for the top notes, then the middle, and finally the base ones. This is the point where you can make alterations if you want to, but I found Louise’s method to be pretty faultless.
In many workshops this is where you are often cast adrift, but things are very different here. Louise works out a bespoke formula for you using your choices, and which also ensures that you leave with an IFRA-compliant fragrance. Now what does this mean? Well certain ingredients are restricted and should only be used at specific strengths to avoid allergic reactions. This is why Louise is responsible for creating the formula, but you’re in charge of weighing the oils on the perfumer’s scales. This needs concentration because one extra drop could turn your fougère into a floriental.
So what did I go home with? Well I ended up in woody aromatic territory, which is actually the style I’m loving at the moment. A citrus enhanced neroli led onto an aromatic heart before notes of cedarwood and earthy vetiver mingled in with a touch of woody Iso E Super. You leave with a 50ml eau de parfum and the formula, which Louise will remake for you when you run out. Since I’ve only got about 5ml left, that reminds me I need to order another bottle! A bespoke fragrance doesn’t need to be a dream anymore. You simply have to name it…
The two hour workshop is £60 and includes drinks and chocolate. For more information, or to book, you can visit the website at monmouthbotanicals.com
Live Zoom Webinar Q+A on Wednesday 29th July 2020 at 6.30p.m.
PLEASE NOTE THE LATER TIME THAN USUAL, AS CHRISTOPHE IS BASED IN NEW YORK…
‘Let’s do something really explosive!’ said Christophe Laudamiel when we invited him to join us last week for an InstaLive on our @theperfumesociety account. Unfortunately technology was not on our side, with Christophe being based in New York and us in the UK, it was the connection which ‘exploded;. So we have decided to reschedule, but this time around, host our very first Zoom Webinar.
There are ALWAYS fireworks when Christophe is around, though. This ground-breaking New York-based perfumer is the co-creator – alongside Helena Christensen and Elizabeth Gaynes – of the rising star perfume house strangelove, as well as his own house, The Zoo. Over the years, Christophe has created for Michael Kors, Elton John, Burberry, Thierry Mugler, Ralph Lauren, Clinique and more. He’s also contributed to the perfumer’s palette with the creation of novel molecules. The word ‘disruptor’ could almost have been invented to describe Christophe.
Early on in #lockdown, Francis Kurkdjian invited us to interview him on an Instagram Live Q+A. We were honoured – and it became the first in what is now a series of fascinating interviews with brand founders and perfumers.
We had so very many questions for Francis that he couldn’t answer them all at the time – so he very kindly offered to give written answers to the questions. Merçi, Francis! It was a wonderful live interview and we really appreciate you taking the time to answer everyone.
Q. Your Aqua Celestia is like ‘Valses Nobles et Sentimentales’ by Ravel.. I feel a beautiful timbre, comfortably complex in harmonies , and exciting rhythms in all your creations. Does music inspire you a lot? A little? Or not at all? (From Miyako)
A. ‘My mother had a beautiful mezzo-soprano voice. My father was a self-taught guitar player. His uncle was a conductor, a composer, a piano and organ player, and his wife was a violinist. So music is very important to me and plays an important part in my work as a perfumer. I have played the piano since I was. One of my composers of choice is Maurice Ravel. I was blessed when sound designer Beatrice Ardisson, along with world renowned pianists Katia and Marielle Labeque, remastered my favourite score for my website: ‘Pavane for a Dead Princess.’ On another level, one of my creations, Aqua Universalis Forte, was inspired by music. I reworked the original eau de toilette into an eau de parfum, making a parallel between playing the same score on a chamber orchestra or with a symphonic orchestra. Same spirit and feeling, same story but in a louder volume.’ (Francis Kurkdjian)
Q. What are your 5 favorite smells? (From Wayne)
‘I don’t have any favorite scents. As a perfumer, when it comes to my personal taste, the smells I have in mind for the future are always for me the most intriguing and appealing. In fact, the most exciting in life is always what lies ahead. So I guess they are my favourite, even if they are not yet created.’ (FK)
Q. Is there something like a place, a person or an event that you would like interpret as a perfume some day? What would you bottle?(From @littleseta)
A. ‘My sources of inspiration are very opened and wide. They go from culture, art, fashion, couture and of course the time we live in, plus my very personal experiences, so I will probably be inspired in the future by a particular place I love or a person… To give you examples, for my previous creation Aqua Vitae, the inspiration came when I was motorcycling on a Mediterranean island. The speed combined with the heat of the air made an intriguing feeling I wanted to capture. I had then the idea of capturing the energy of the sun, its sensuality and glamour. Gentle Fluidity is about redefining the emotional balance between genders. Baccarat Rouge 540 is about the craftsmanship and the alchemy behind the crystal house. Behind each fragrance there is a unique story and inspiration. Without a strong and true story, there is no fragrance creation.’ (FK)
Q. Is gentle fluidity silver for men or for women? I read that it is for both, but once a brand specialist at a retail shop told me that it is for men. (From @Samah_alquraan)
A. ‘The Gentle Fluidity duo goes beyond the concept of perfumery for women, men or mixed. These two eaux de parfums (gentle Fluidity gold edition and Gentle fluidity silver edition) have two utterly different olfactory worlds – one features a woody, aromatic scent, the other musky, oriental notes – yet draw from the same list of ingredients. Let your mood chooses the Gentle Fluidity that suits you and see how it helps you to express a part of yourself.’ (FK)
Q. ‘If you were to create a powdery male perfume, what ingredients would you put in? (From @nikolaoskanew)
A. ‘The creation of a fragrance always starts with a story, and a name. It’s only after that I choose the right ingredients. Therefore it will depend on the story I want to tell; we cannot predict the ingredients I would choose. What type of powdery notes for men, who is that man, what is his story…? Without a story, there is no scent. And that story has to be strong enough, powerful enough to be translated into a scent.’ (FK)
Q. As you are my favourite perfumer and I have almost all the MFK perfumes, I want to know if you would make a bespoke perfume for my wife and I for our wedding? I also want to know when will you open a boutique in Saudi Arabia? Thank you for giving us a chance to ask such a great perfume. (From @Ameenbeladi)
A. ‘Thank you for your kind words! Do send us an e-mail hereand we will revert to you with details about custom-made fragrances. We already have points of sale in Saudi Arabia; you’ll find the list here.’ (FK)
Q. If you still create perfumes for clients / businesses and what are the three most important questions you ask / things you do to determine what the person/people want? (From @greekgoddessldn)
A. ‘My mission when I create bespoke fragrances is to fulfil the clients’ needs and dreams. Creating a bespoke perfume is a question of trust and confidentiality as you share intimate moments and memories. I develop these exclusive fragrances in the course of brainstorming sessions that allow me to get a feel for the client’s personality, environment, tastes and memories. It the scent is for a brand, I ask myself if I have the envy to create. Does this brand and projects resonates with me, my values, my aesthetic vision.’ (FK)
Q. Are there any plans to release Fendi Frenesia as an MFK product? (From @sarahandherscents)
A. ‘No. Fendi Frenesia was created in collaboration with the Roman house of Fendi, to scent the leather of the iconic Baguette bag and nano- Baguette bag ,designed by Silvia Venturini Fendi. The Fendi Frenesia Baguette is crafted from the finest Cuoio Romano leather tinged with Fendi’s iconic yellow hue (above) and scented with the Fendi Frenesia fragrance, using a signature and patented technique developed by Maison Francis Kurkdjian technique.’ (FK)
Q. I’d like you to recommend me the most amazing parfum in the world! I love anjelica, cinnamon, orange flowers, caramel, bergamot and vanilla. Compliments on your amazing creations! (From Ralitsa Arabadzhian)
‘Thank you for your kind words. To get the best advice, we invite you to go to one of our boutiques or you can contact our customer service team here. Our team will revert to you as soon as possible and will be very pleased to guide you. You can also find on our eshop an assortment of samples, which is a way to discover up to four fragrances of our fragrance wardrobe.’
During lockdown, perfume has become more important than ever, for so many people.
It has buoyed us up, given us courage and backbone…
…It has grounded us…
…It has cheered us up…
…It has reminded us, perhaps, of people we can’t be with…
…It has reconnected us with our senses…
…And so, so much more.
Echoing our own feedback from followers who’ve told us time and again how important their fragrance has been to them these past few challenging months, The Fragrance Foundation actually produced some research in tandem with ad agency M&C Saatchi which established that people have been turning to fragrance to improve mood and create a sense of normality, to boost productivity or simply make the feel normal.
So we want to celebrate perfume’s amazing powers, asking you to post on your Instagram feed to share with us what perfume means to you.
Simply share a photo of a fragrance that has become more important to you than ever during lockdown. Or perhaps of your whole fragrance collection. Or maybe a ‘smellfie’, with a favourite scent.
Add a few lines of explanation about what perfume means to you, then post on your Instagram using the hashtag #perfumeismy – and also tagging us @theperfumesociety
Over the next 12 days, from now until 20th July 2020, we’ll be watching – and sharing many of your Instagrams on our Instagram Stories. After that, we’ll be choosing five Instagram posts that have really, for us, captured what perfume means to us all – and those five will win a sublime Miller Harris candle, worth £45. (Because now we’re working from home, we want those homes to smell amazing, don’t we?)
Those of us on The Perfume Society team will be posting on Instagram ourselves to express what fragrance means to us – and we want to create a groundswell of love for perfume, over the next few weeks.
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