Leighton Denny’s love of fragrance goes all the way back to his childhood: ‘My mother and my sister had a beautiful collection of perfumes, and I grew up surrounded by amazing scents…’
It was White Diamonds for his mother, Anaïs Anaïs for his sister… And from the age of 14, when Leighton first bought a fragrance for himself in Duty Free, jetting off on holiday (Paco Rabanne XS, as it happens – ‘and I’m still wearing it!’), perfume became a true passion.
‘I love the way that fragrance and aromas tap straight into our emotions,’ explains Leighton, whose Yorkshire warmth and wit have made him a hugely popular figure in the beauty world. ‘Growing up, every Monday my mother bought a bouquet of white lilies in the house – so when I smell them now, I always think of her…’
So – having become a nail ‘superstar’ (with a star-studded client list that includes Kate Moss, Penelope Cruz and Adele), it made sense for Leighton Denny to translate that life-long love into his own fragrances: the last, gorgeous ‘finishing touch’ when a woman gets ready to face the world…
By any measure, Leighton Denny’s success story is quite something. It’s even more impressive when you learn that he began his work life as a fork-lift truck driver – and is dyslexic. (Though as we always say at The Perfume Society, a single spritz of fragrance speaks a thousand words…!)
Since turning 40, Leighton’s seen his autobiography – How I Nailed It – top the Amazon bestseller charts. He earned an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to the nail and beauty industry, with the e-mail arriving on his actual 40th birthday.. (I had to check with the Cabinet Office that they weren’t pulling my leg… ‘) His beauty empire now embraces Leighton Denny Expert Nails, Sun-Believable Expert Tan and Lip Dual Expert Makeup – and now, to the delight of his many fans, there’s a scent collection…
The very first, Light & Dark, was actually created in response to requests from his followers. ‘I put a post on Facebook and Twitter asking my customers what they’d like me to create next… And they asked for fragrance. I was truly pleased, because I felt from childhood that I had a real connection with perfume…’
That debut creation is as glamorous as fragrance gets: a voluptuous floriental, for day and for night. It bursts into life with citrus (grapefruit, mandarin), a-bloom with flower (gardenia, jasmine, lily and rose) and then moves over to ‘the dark side’, with compelling and mysterious elements of myrrh, incense and patchouli.
A must-have note, in Light & Dark’s opening, is mandarin: ‘The first thing I remember smelling,’ Leighton recalls. ‘I always loved the scent of oranges… It used to get me into trouble, because I’d walk into the kitchen, break open oranges just to get my “hit” from the zest – and not even eat the fruit…!’
In its very first year, Light & Dark was shortlisted for a coveted Fragrance Foundation Award, chosen by readers of elle.com. That success has inspired Leighton to work on new creations, designed to be worn alone or (in keeping with a trend we’re seeing right now) layered over each other, to create different customised blends. (They’re available in sparkling, handbag-friendly go-anywhere sprays, too – see below.)
Light & Dark Lively opens with bright, sparkling citrus notes (bergamot, lemon, grapefruit), with white florals scampering through the construction, warmed by a spicy accord of nutmeg, ginger, cardamom and pepper. As it mellows on the skin, elements of vetiver, amber and musk emerge, with the fragrance developing a shimmering warmth.
The name Light & Dark Desire gives a clue to the sensuality of Leighton Denny‘s third creation – which triumphed in the Fragrance Foundation Awards in the ‘Reader’s Choice for Women’ category: a true accolade. The citrus top notes of lemon, grapefruit and bergamot are softened by neroli, in what ultimately becomes a celebration of dark woods. Vetiver, patchouli and cedar are tempered by amber, moss, pepper and nutmeg, making for a scent that’s intriguing on its own – and becomes even more compelling when you create your own ‘signature’, layering on one (or even two) of the other Light & Dark collection.
Late in 2016, Light & Dark Delightful joined the line-up: a fruity explosion of red fruits garlanded bt florals (including jasmine and pink lotus), on a creamy base – and with touches of luscious coconut.
His original dream, Leighton explains, was to create an eau de parfum ‘with an edge – but which still had a provocative blend of femininity. It had to be a scent that women would love to wear – and that men would adore on them.’
Now, there’s a whole wardrobe of fragrances in his perfumed portfolio. And from the response, we’d say: he really has nailed it.
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