Every perfume-lover knows and understands the power of fragrance to catapult us through time and spice. And having always loved scent herself, Susie Willis (below) – founder and Creative Director of Romilly Wilde – knew that beautiful fragrances had to be the foundation stone for her beauty collection.
Actually, you might know Susie Willis’s name: she was the creator of the so-successful Plum Baby foods business. But this isn’t a woman to put her feet up – or not for long. So her passion for natural ingredients has inspired Susie to create a new venture: Romilly Wilde, launched with a capsule skincare range – and one very beautiful, natural-as-possible ‘mixed media’ perfume glorying in the name ‘Idle’.
To turn her fragrant dreams into reality, Susie looked to find a natural perfumer who was prepared to push the boundaries of conventional perfume compositions to create fragrances that are unique and wearable. So she enlisted the talents of Fragrance Foundation Award-winning perfumer Marina Barcenilla. Marina’s all-natural perfume India wowed the judges at the 2016 awards, who voted it ‘Best New Independent Fragrance’, winning again for Black Osmanthus in 2017. Idle, too, was nominated in 2017 in the ‘Independent’ category – a fantastic achievement for this new scent brand.
As Marina explains of the creative process: ‘Susie has a very clear vision of what she wants and won’t settle for anything predictable – even if that means a long and painstaking search for something that will turn a beautiful fragrance into something compelling.’
She begins by tapping into Susie’s emotions – and that rich tapestry of memories. ‘It’s my job,’ explains Marina, ‘to get as much detail as possible out of Susie – and translate it into a fragrant tale.’ From there, Marina selects natural essences for Susie to explore at leisure: essential oils, absolutes, CO2 extracts, tinctures and natural isolates. ‘I encourage her to tell me how she feels – and make notes of any particular memories or anecdotes she might want to share, because they’re relevant to what we’re trying to create.’
A few simple accords will be created, to smell and to pass back and forth, helping the famously dynamic driving forc behind Romilly Wilde to clarify what she’s looking for. But, smiles Marina, ‘Susie allows me to be creative and inventive – so I don’t choose the perfume’s components purely based on her likes and dislikes.’ (So just sometimes, an ingredient Susie’s not so fond of makes its way in there – not obviously discernible, but vibrating under the surface to work some alchemical magic.)
It’s at this point that a handful of synthetic ingredients may make their way into the blend – ‘used only to create special effects,’ continues Marina, ‘to exalt the fragrance of natural materials, and to add sparkle and fixation.’ The result, then, combines the finest natural ingredients with the abstract quality and longevity of modern fragrant molecules. This stage in the process can take weeks – or even months, with the fragrance gradually being developed until everyone’s happy. (Marina also worked on the exquisite scents for Romilly Wilde’s skincare, which includes a Serum Cleanser, Active Boost Face Oil and Advanced Supercell Serum).
Of course Idle is quite an ironic name for a fragrance created by a team which is so demonstrably anything but. Yet there’s delicious languor to the debut scent from the exciting new name on the natural beauty block: ultra-feminine, with a floral muskiness that makes for a white floral, Oriental sweetness. (And this musky floral captured a loyal following even before launch.)
The opening is fresh: green mandarin and cardamom spice, with musky angelica. At the heart, meanwhile, is a special jasmine chord developed specially for Romilly Wilde, based around jasmine sambac.
As it warms on the skin, the floral, spicy greenness is buffed by a harmony of sandalwood, cabreuva wood (distilled from the bark of a South American tree), musk, moss and ambergris delivering a cashmere-soft base – and what Romilly Wilde accurately describe as a ‘maddeningly addictive’ dry-down.
As Susie explains: ‘I create scents that become part of you, that are a natural extension of your own self. Our perfumes need to be worn by you – not the perfume wearing the person. They subtly blend into your own familiar scent, so that you smell like a prettier version of you…’
Idle marks just the start of this fragrant adventure, with three further scents on the horizon. And we look forward to seeing – or rather smelling – the delicious memory bank that Romilly Wilde taps into next…