‘It is everything pure, good and evil. It aches, it desires, it is who we are.’ This is how co-founders Sarah Blair and Jeffrey Darling describe the human heart – and a clue to the inspirations behind their unique Map of the Heart fragrance collection.
With a creative partnership that had already seen them collaborate in writing, design and film, it felt like a natural step to take that expression further in to fragrance – a wearable art form – borne out of their collective need to creatively explore ‘the full atlas of the senses’. Map of the Heart fragrances come from a passion for telling stories and their understanding that scent can transport the wearer just as as words, images and films can whisk us to another world. To further this quest, to begin drawing a Map of the Heart, underpins everything they do: the desire to discover, as they put it, ‘what it is to live…’
A sense of place is important to Map of the Heart, and so let’s put a pin on the globe to trace their origins. Proudly Australian, their heritage literally runs through the veins of each bottle, with perfumer Jaques Huclier deliberately flying the flag in fragrant form by including healthy glugs of Australian sandalwood in each composition, like a signature written in scent. ‘To influence my creative process I let my imagination wander into my olfactory experiences from travelling around the world,’ he explains. ‘It was important to work freely. I gave a different dimension to this wonderful project around the true values of the heart.’
It is surely fitting to begin our actual scent journey at the start of theirs – an olfactory exploration of ‘rampant carelessness, joy and the wide open landscape’ in the Clear Heart v.1. Clear by name and nature, we can see straight through this flacon with nothing to hide. And the fragrance echoes this shameless, exhilarating ride through life at full speed – diving in to the water with wild abandon we get gaspingly green freshness licked by the salty sea, a bracing blackcurrant fruitiness underpinned by Tunisian neroli, the purity of peony patted dry with suede like orris.
As promised, the Australian sandalwood stamps its mark in the base, buoyed by the further woodiness of white cedar and drying down to a light musk and incense carried by the cooling breeze. A no-nonsense and intensely wearable modern aquatic, it’s like a holiday in bottle. And oh, those bottles…!
Designed by the legendary Pierre Dinand to resemble an anatomical model of the human heart, each piece looks like it has come straight from an art gallery. Highly distinctive, at once ultra-modern and yet resembling something from a Victorian medical museum, these are perfume bottles you’ll definitely want to put on display. And it turns out their design was just as fraught with difficulty as you may expect from such a perfectionist.
Dinand was chosen because he is ‘…the designer’s designer. He is perfume bottle design royalty!’ heavy was the head that wore this crown, as Dinand explains: ‘From the 700 perfume lines I have designed over 50 years this bottle was one of the most technically difficult. This project asked as much of me as YSL Opium or Calvin Klein Eternity. I am very proud.’ And when you hold these exquisite pieces in your own hand, we feel certain you’ll agree – he can be rightly proud, indeed.
Each perfume (See them all arrayed below) has been carefully crafted to evoke a differing emotion – the perfumer translating the co-founders words and startling imagery in to the notes he uses, the bottle designer evolving the story through the colours that echo the theme. And from clarity and innocence we can plunge in to murkier realms – as always when dealing with the human heart itself!
So in Black Heart v.2, we get to stand in the space where ‘fantasy and reality collide’ in the darker side of romance… A juxtaposition of darkness and light, the structure is deceptively simple – a mixture of hot spices sliced through with citrus and smoke – but intense freshness run through with rivulets of eucalyptus sways back and forth between ice and flames. A surreal scent journey that keeps the nose guessing where it will take you next, and of course, not for the faint of heart.
A change of pace, perhaps, to the soothing embrace of Gold Heart v.4 – which we are delighted to showcase in The Perfume Society‘s Velvet Collection Discovery Box, with its comforting cloak of warm milk infused with saffron, pink peppercorns and the glow of amber. Cinnamon and cardamom are submerged in the creamy depths, dotted with rose oil, the ever-present sandalwood and a bed of deep muskiness. Looking – and smelling – for all the world like something a mythological goddess would own (probably having turned a lover who’d spurned her in to the gilded vessel) it’s a must-own scent for all those who adore opulent yet nurturing fragrances to surround themselves with.
From interplays of forbidden fruit, rebellion and attraction, through Utopian images of perfect peace expressed in precious, ancient spices to the utterly decadent and totally intriguing mixture of salty liquorice and violets – there can be no doubt that the continuation of the Map of the Heart fragrances offer life-affirming celebrations with each spritz. Artfully conceived, yes, but ultimately entirely wearable by both sexes – not merely artworks to be admired in a cabinet but ones to be lovingly sprayed with abandon.
And for this creative team, the heart continues to beat strongly; for as Sarah and Jeffrey say: ‘…there are so many worlds to discover in the maps of our hearts. There are lots more to come.’