Take a raw ingredient pioneer, one of the world’s most famous supermodels and a perfumer-provocateur, and what do you get? strangelove has reached cult status for its utterly addictive, opulent scents…
A passionate trio of people (below) make up the niche house of strangelove: founder and expert in natural materials, Elizabeth Gaynes; photographer, iconic supermodel and creative director Helena Christensen; and the maverick perfumer genius Christophe Laudamiel. Together, they create beguiling fragrances to ‘…provoke passion amongst all who experience them.’ And oh, we assure you, those passions will most certainly be aroused when you get to experience each perfume for yourself.
strangelove came to life in 2013, after Gaynes had ‘fallen in love with oudh, and it sparked my passion for beautiful ingredients.’ Smelling oudh, along with other materials on her fragrant journey, Gaynes co-founded GaiaOne, a company changing the way raw materials are sourced for fragrances. Among their projects is a partnership in Borneo with Givaudan, one of the world’s leading fragrance development companies, focused around a 600-acre plantation dedicated to growing organic crops for essential oils. These plantations work to promote sustainable and transparent practices – and above and beyond bringing peace of mind to the ever-growing number of fragrance-lovers keen to know the provenance of their perfumes, this also helps safeguard the region’s unique ecosystem.
Early on, Gaynes sparked the interest of none other than Helena Christensen, whom she’d met and become friends with as their sons attended the same school. Having always loved fragrances (and, indeed, been the ‘face’ for a scent campaign shot by Helmut Newton, at one point), Christensen told Forbes.com that she knew she had to get involved when Gaynes gave her samples of ingredients she’d brought back from Borneo. Her verdict was: ‘I want to be in on this, because this is very unique.’
With his extensive, practically encyclopaedic knowledge of both natural and synthetic materials, Christophe Laudamiel was the perfect choice of perfumer to bring on board. He’s certainly not your average ‘nose’ (if, indeed, any perfumer could be called average, as they’re all alchemists to us).
Let’s just say he doesn’t look how you might expect a perfumer to. Cast aside thoughts of white lab-coated men, and picture, instead, a blue-haired (or sometimes pink, or purple as the mood takes him), spangled leather trouser-wearing punk rock star of the scent world. Personal style aside, his signature perfumery style is creating utterly exquisite, seamlessly blended and just bloomin’ beautiful fragrances.
Oudh is at the heart of each fragrance – but this is not the oudh that you may think you know. According to strangelove: ‘The nuanced woody scent blends well with a variety of fragrance families, including florals, Chypres, Ambrées and fougères. Each of our fragrances contains two types of pure oudh, adding richness and dimension to our perfumes, which are among the finest in the world.’
Each fragrance – available in the UK at Harrods, as well as their own site – was first created as a perfume oil, which can be worn a gold, flower-topped necklace for ultimate on-the-go luxury; later, the fragrances also became available as larger, sprayable bottles of eaux de parfum. For Christensen, oils have always been a favourite way to wear scents. ‘They work with your body, your temperature, your skin, ‘ she explains, adding that she also loves to ‘wear fragrance oils in my hair.’ Built around a base of precious oudh [also spelled ‘oud‘], carefully blended with other precious ingredients gathered from all over the world, this is a house that refuses to compromise on quality, and with the very best (meticulously, sustainably sourced) materials at their fingertips.
With the array of rare ingredients in Christophe’s palette, each strangelove scent showcases stunning raw materials: ultra smooth ‘black gold’ (from sustainable sources) in deadofnight, euphoric Indian champaca and creamy gardenia enfleurage for lostinflowers, the surprising (and oh-so-addictive) dark chocolate and orris butter in meltmyheart, almost transcendental jonquil nectar and saffron in fallintostars, the pure ambergris and white truffle in silencethesea.
Together, the talented trio work extremely closely and symbiotically, with Christensen taking a hands-on (or perhaps nose-on) approach as Creative Director, ‘sitting with [Laudamiel] in the lab, learning about all the different notes… Mixing it, smelling it, going through the whole process is obviously a learning experience in itself. For me creatively to be able to supply the photos, to find names, the design of the bottles – that also stimulates me.’
It was vital for Christensen to be so hands-on, in fact, she says, because ‘This whole career, in a way, is about lending your name or your face or your body to a product, but to be so personally involved is a whole different thing. I can actually talk about it with conviction because I believe in it and I’ve been there from the beginning.’
The so-special alchemy of their friendship, combined knowledge, driving passions – not to mention the rare and precious rare ingredients of the perfumes themselves – make for a house we know you’re going to fall in love with, too.
And truly, there’s nothing strange about that…