Guerlain Muguet Millésime 2024 – excuse us while we swoon…

Every year in the month of May, Guerlain releases their much-anticipated Muguet – a limited edition, Bee-bottled fragrant homage to the the spring season, and artistically referencing legends surrounding lily of the valley…

 

Only available on guerlain.com and in Guerlain boutiques, this annual exquisite collectors piece represents Guerlain’s olfactive ode to their heritage – utilising a beloved floral symbol which we happen to adore at The Perfume Society, too, lily of the valley being the emblem we chose for its fragrant folklore meanings (and because we began ten years ago on May 1st, when bouquets of lily of the valley, or muguet in French, are traditionally bequeathed to loved ones.

Guerlain Says: ‘Like every year, the House of Guerlain celebrates the arrival of spring with its emblematic Muguet in a limited, numbered pieces edition. For this long-awaited and exclusive lucky rendezvous, Guerlain reaffirms its commitment to arts and crafts by collaborating with Anne Lopez.’

 

 

 

 

‘On the iconic Bee Bottle, the sculptor brings to life subtle bells fashioned in stucco and enhanced with 22-carat fine gold, turning the 2024 Millésime into a singular sculptural work. A trail, which freshness reminisces of a freshly-picked sprig of lily of the valley.’

Artist Anne Lopez was chosen to design the precious flaçon this year, and Guerlain explains that ‘The adornment of lucky bell-shaped flowers was born from her delicate sketches, drafts that create a singular vision. Fashioned in stucco, a coating made of marble powder, the twenty-four bell-shaped flowers illuminated with gold and the two green leaves are sculpted by Anne Lopez directly on the glass. Just like a delicate necklace, the lily-of-the-valley sprig composition unfolds in a considered way around the bottle’s curves : plump bell-shaped flowers at the top, then gradually refining into an utterly graceful string.’

 

 

 

 

Although each year the bottle design and embellishments change depending on the artist Guerlain is collaborating with, the stunning scent remains – gracefully, gratefully – unchanged. ‘It is to Guerlain’s Master Perfumer that we owe the feat of reproducing the fragrance of lily of the valley.’ And Guerlain reminds us that the this flower is one of the trickiest to translate in fragrant form. ‘Described as “mute”, its natural essence is impossible to extract. Guerlain’s Muguet, composed since 2016 by Thierry Wasser, captures as faithfully as possible the scent of the lucky sprigs. In a burst of freshness, the green notes meeting the floral preciousness of jasmine and rose adorn this emblematic trail with soft and pearly green and rosy facets. At the heart of this bouquet, the olfactory illusion of a freshly picked sprig of lily of the valley emerges.’

Of course this is a dream piece – these are collected, and beloved all over the world. But how wonderful that such artistry can still be found, and admired (even in simply gasping at pictures of the work, or watching the bottle spin in the film found on Guerlain’s website). Drink in the artistry of the images, and (we urge you) do go and smell the scent in-store, and allow yourself to be awed awhile by something beautiful. It’s good for the soul…

 

 

 

Guerlain Muguet Millésime 2024 (4885 limited and numbered collection pieces), £675 for 100ml Bee Bottle + 30ml Spray Bottle guerlain.com

 

By Suzy Nightingale

Scenting Sargent – matching portraits to perfumes

The opening of Tate Britain’s Sargent and Fashion exhibition is more than an opportunity to view some of the most famous portraits in the world: it’s an invitation to spend time with people who began as acquaintances – faces you recognised, who played a perhaps minor moment in your life – and leave having made several roomfuls of dear friends.

There are so many connections between other art-forms and fragrance – music and literature being the most usually cited – but pairing portraiture and perfume was an emotional connection impossible to resist. It’s because (as those of us obsessed with fragrance readily understand, and which anyone can feel deep inside when a certain smell triggers an emotional response within them;) a scent can communicate with such aching, soul-baring intimacy; telling complete strangers things about ourselves that we’d never otherwise overtly express.

Partly, the intimacy one feels in Sargent and Fashion comes from seeing the paintings up close and in person. The way these people (mostly women, in this exhibition) meet your eye, often challengingly, or sometimes deliberately evading your gaze. Intimacy, too, in the way he painted them – mostly these people were very close friends within Sargent’s social circle, and this fact absolutely leaps off each canvas in the vivacious vibrancy and liveliness with which they’re depicted. There’s tenderness at times, and humour, too. A vulnerability or a twinkle in the eye that can only be achieved through decades of a deep bond between painter and sitter.

 

John Singer Sargent in his studio (Madame X in the background)

 

We, as visitors, get to feel truly included in this partnership while viewing the exhibition. And the shortcut to our deeper understanding of the people behind the paint is partly thanks to the clothing and accessories displayed alongside the portraits. Many of them are the very outfits the sitters were wearing while he painted them, and we learn from the exhibition notes and signs beside the displays, that not only did Sargent keep costumes and props in his studio, but that on numerous occasions Sargent designed many of the outfits himself – in collaboration with esteemed couture fashion houses such as Worth. It wasn’t a case of ‘come as you are’ when turning up to Sargent’s studio to be painted. It was far more ‘let’s show these people who you REALLY are.’ As the introduction to the exhibition guide states:

 

‘Sargent and his sitters thought carefully about the clothes that he would paint them in, the messages their choices would send, and how well particular outfits would translate to paint. The rapport between fashion and painting was well understood at this time: as one French critic noted, ‘there is now a class who dress after pictures, and when they buy a gown ask ‘will it paint?’’’

 

At this point I have to allow myself a rant. Not about the exhibition – which I adored, and which I shall think about for many years to come – but about some of the reviews by art critics I’ve read since attending the Press View. In their opinion, the extraordinary artefacts detracted from the portraits and were entirely unconnected to our understanding of Sargent or the sitters. They describe the clothes and accessories, variously, as ‘old rags’ and ‘glittery baubles’, or ‘belonging in Miss Havisham’s attic’. And the undercurrent of these reviews very strongly comes across as ‘these are women’s fripperies, therefore utterly bereft of meaning or importance.’

To arrive at this conclusion is – quite apart from being disgustingly misogynistic, and in the same patronising lineage as literary critics dismissing Jane Austen’s work as historic ‘chick lit’ because it dares to document the lives of women – to miss the point of the exhibition entirely. The clue was in the name, after all: Sargent and Fashion. The clothing was even capitalised in the title to help them.

Women have always been especially judged on what clothes they wear, and in this exhibition the point is made – again and again, if you care to comprehend – that the sitters and Sargent liked to subvert this power play in the colour and cut of the clothing, in the positioning of their bodies. They were judged for these choices contemporarily, too – several of the portraits causing shocking scandals and what we’d now understand as ‘being cancelled’. Most notably with the famous (and swoon-worthy) portrait of Madam X, for which, as this brilliant Varsity article on the infamous portrait explains:

‘Sargent initially depicted Gautreau in a tightly silhouetted black gown, with chained straps doing very little to conceal her pearlescent shoulders and décolletage. In fact, originally, Sargent chose to drape one strap down Gautreau’s arm; this inadvertently caused further outrage. To spectators past, it was a brazen attempt to barely veil Gautreau’s body, suggesting that if one strap can breezily slip, so can the rest.’

The clothing has nothing to do with the portraits? No importance? Tell that to Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, who was lacerated by public opinion to the point where, as the Varsity article recounts:

‘Even Gautreau – a woman fiercely aware of her beauty, and inclined to weaponise it for advancement by becoming the archetypal ‘Parisienne’ – felt that it was best to anonymise her painted figure: thus Madame X was born.’

 

 

 

 

These spectacularly cloistered critics failed to appreciate the importance Sargent himself placed on the clothing – let’s reiterate the fact he DESIGNED many of the outfits himself, or carefully positioned the clothing and angles we can view them from; choosing to deliberately drape and conceal, or otherwise starkly reveal his sitters. And little wonder they missed (or elected not to place value on) the many examples of how important these clothes were – they spent very little time actually looking at the portraits or the clothes, or the numerous signs next to them explaining the significance. Instead, they gathered in tiny, tutting cabals during the exhibition, loudly discussing which other exhibitions or parties they had, or had not, been invited to.

#notallmen, but sadly, the ones I saw doing this all were. Ironically, I overheard them discussing what outifits they were going to wear to various fashion event parties that evening. But these were their clothes – men’s clothes – so presumably were of significance to them.

I shan’t link to their excoriating yet ultimately vacuous reviews because it lends them more credence than they’re due. And I needn’t couch my words, because they’ll never bother reading something so frivolous as an article matching PERFUME to portraits. Fragrance, I feel pretty confident in assuming, is something they would similarly sneer at as being bereft of cultural and emotional value, so equally pointless in examining. Those of us who feel otherwise are lucky in having our lives enriched by art in more ways than they could ever comprehend.

Let’s allow them to tut away to their heart’s content, and instead go and see the exhibition, and then imagine if we knew what fragrances the people in these portraits had also chosen to wear! Or what scent they might select, were they around now. Such consideration adds further layers which might reveal depths even Sargent never got to know. Which perhaps they never even truly realised about themselves.

Fragrance can do that. The right scent, worn at the right time, can disclose intimate secrets or conceal us in a cloak of intrigue. A perfume can be a worn as a kind of emotional X-Ray, or played with like choosing a costume from a dressing-up box.

 

 

The women in these portraits, we learn (and FEEL by smiling along with them), were not passive, wilting muses – they were accomplished artists, poets, academics, and philosophers in their own right. And they were in partnership with Sargent, with the fashion designers, and with us as we look at them and feel something that goes beyond the gaze to a complicit understanding. Just as wearing a particular fragrance can announce to the world who we are inside, or dictate how we want others to feel about us – transcending words and going straight to the soul.

When we take time to select a scent based on our emotional response to it – or gather whole wardrobes and toolboxes of them – we go beyond passive consumers to being in a relationship with the perfumer, the packaging designers, the experts and consultants that recommended them, and the people who then smell that fragrance as we waft past.

In pairing perfumes with Sargent’s portraits, then, I hope it helps you feel an even closer companionship to the people portrayed in them, and a have deeper understanding of the mood each scent can similarly evoke. And I urge you to try this for yourselves next time you’re in a museum or art gallery – or meeting friends in your own social circle. Wonder how you’d scent them, and then reflect on what this tells you about them, about the fragrance, and even what this reveals about our own levels of perception and interpretation.

Having gained a greater closeness to Sargent the man (not just the painter), and to the people (not only the portraits) during this exquisitely soul-enriching, emotional conversation of an exhibition, I feel he’d have approved. Indeed, he’d likely have had fragrances specially commissioned, worked on exacting briefs for the perfumers, and suggested precise tweaks to the perfumes’ formulae – the better to reflect the people behind the layers of paint, and further shaping our understanding of them.

Without such bespoke examples, what follows are the perfumes I felt ‘matched’ the personality of five portraits that particularly spoke to me. Indeed, there were so many other fragrance pairings inspired in my mind (and still bubbling away) by seeing this exhibition, that I’ll need to do a Part Two to stop them invading my every thought. But for now, what I really want to know is – which portraits would you decide to match, having got to know them at the exhibition; how would you scent them, and why would you pick that to evoke their character, the clothing, and the mood of the portrait itself…?

Sargent and Fashion is at Tate Britain until 7 July 2024. [Free for Tate members, and worth every penny if you’re not]

 

 

 

John Singer Sargent Lady Agnew of Lochnaw 

Outwardly the very picture of femininity, in both the sitter and the scent there’s a strong backbone that runs through the centre. Gertrude is surrounded by a froth of delicate, transparent material, but she sits on a hard-backed chair and meets us with a direct and judging stare. In Apres L’Ondee a spring garden of rain-soaked blossoms feels encircled by a high fence. The violet in it is cool, almost frosted, but has survived the storm. You may admire the garden, but the casual passer-by will not be invited inside.

Guerlain Apres L’Ondee £108 for 75ml eau de parfum guerlain.com

 

 

 

John Singer Sargent Ena Wertheimer 

Sargent and Ena were great friends, their rapport and her amusement vibrating through this unconventional portrait, and the stance apparently all Ena’s doing. She came to his studio, grabbed a broom and began fencing with it. Her heavy opera coat becomes a Cavalier’s uniform (or a witch’s cloak, given the subtext of the broomstick). In Moonlight Patchouli, inky black velvet is suddenly spotlit, bathed in a phosphorescent glow, dusted with iris – a focus on warm skin dominating the darkness.

Van Cleef & Arpels Moonlight Patchouli £145 for 75ml eau de parfum harrods.com

 

 

 

John Singer Sargent Mrs Hugh Hammersley (Mary Frances Grant) 

A fashionable hostess of salons, Mary looks so happy to see you, but would like you to understand she has a lot to do. The extraordinary depth of colour and texture in her gown are discussed in this Metropolitan Museum of Art feature, but her vivacity and poised opulence are obvious. I tried not to use this scent in this piece, but it had to be hers. The striking depths of rose, raspberry and patchouli are hugely impactful, filled with beauty, power, and a presence that lasts long after you’ve left a room.

Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady from £60 for 10ml eau de parfum fredericmalle.co.uk

 

 

 

John Singer Sargent Dr. Pozzi at Home

A blaze of passionate red, this man might appear a dandy, but he’s incredibly intelligent. He may look casually attired, but the drape of his dressing gown and the meticulous pleats of the white linen shirt dramatically contrast the swathe of scarlet. Habit Rouge is devilishly handsome and knows it. Dynamically woody, a hint of animalic magnetism balanced by almost soapy neroli and jasmine; rendered irresistible by the creamy warmth of spiced vanilla and moody patchouli in the base.

[P.S. I also attempted not to use Guerlain twice in my matches, but the body craves what it needs, and Pozzi’s needed this.]

Guerlain Habit Rouge £81 for 50ml eau de parfum guerlain.com

 

 

 

John Singer Sargent Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) 

The largest space in the exhibition is given over to Sargent’s most famous portrait, room for captivated crowds to gather and gaze, elongating their bodies and arching upwards, echoing her position, desperate for her to turn and look back. Virginie adored this painting, as did Sargent, but her life was scandalised by it. In Santal Majuscule, we’re invited to worship the sandalwood, acres of creaminess suggesting an expanse of bare skin. A pared back elegance which nonetheless skewers with longing.

Serges Lutens Santal Majuscule £135 for 50ml eau de parfum sergeslutens.co.uk

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

The Scent of Snowdrops & the Promise of Spring

In the depths of winter, when life seems dormant and waiting, there is one little glimpse of brighter times to come – a whiff of hope on the frosty breeze – in that cheering moment we first spot a snowdrop. Yes, that might sound clichéd, but I defy you to smother a smile when you see one.

SO delicately scented with a lightly honeyed, creamy almond kind of smell, the latin name ‘Galanthus‘ means ‘milky flower’, and this tiny bloom has gathered centuries of fragrant folklore around its origins, continuing to inspire perfumers with its transcendent prettiness.

Native to Alpine regions, where they thrive amidst the cold, mountainous climes; snowdrops are believed to have first appeared in the British Isles when they were brought there by monks. It’s rather nice to imagine them tenderly tucked in religious robes while they travelled, but however they first arrived, they took root in the frozen winter soil of this country, and in our souls, somehow. Perhaps we were seduced by the mythology – stories passed down through generations, such as the legend recounted on the snowdrop-centric website snowdrops.me: ‘when you listen closely,’ they explain, ‘you can hear their bells ringing, trying to wake up nature from its winter sleep.’ Even more beautiful is the ancient German tale re-told on The Creative Countryside blog:

 

 

 

‘At the beginning of all things when life was new, the Snow sought to borrow a colour. The flowers were much admired by all the elements but they guarded their colour’s jealousy and when the Snow pleaded with them, they turned their backs in contempt for they believed the Snow cold and unpleasant. The tiny humble snowdrops took pity on the Snow for none of the other flowers had shown it any kindness and so they came forth and offered up to the Snow their colour. The Snow gratefully accepted and became white forevermore, just like the Snowdrops. In its gratitude, the Snow permitted the little pearly flowers the protection to appear in winter, to be impervious to the ice and bitter chill. From then on, the Snow and the Snowdrops coexisted side by side as friends.’

 

I’ll be the first to admit the smell of snowdrops isn’t effusive, it doesn’t billow through the woods as a scented cloud harkening Spring; but though tenderly scented, it’s the symbolism of this flower that so inspires perfumers, I think. And to which we feel drawn – perhaps likening ourselves to the ‘brave’ flower having clung on through icy conditions, and having managed to immerge, even through the frozen ground. A triumph of beauty over adversity, if you will.

 

 

 

 

Quietly scented (to us) they may be, but that smell acts as a clarion call for potential pollinators. The composition of the snowdrop’s fragrant waft depends on the type of insect it wants to attract. The honeyed kind attract bees (and us), but because the snowdrop is a fairly recent inhabitant on British shores, the scent they exude can also be a wordless cry to a species not available here. So, not all snowdrops have a smell that pleases the masses. Explains the National Plant Collection of Galanthus at Bruckhills Croft in Aberdeenshire on their snowdrops.me blog (where you can purchase several varieties of the flower): ‘The species Koenenianus is often described as having a smell of animal urine or bitter almonds, so perhaps has evolved to attract pollenating beetles in its native North-Eastern Turkey?’

 

 

 

 

Fragrances evoking snowdrops are (given our love for the flowers and their symbolism) still surprisingly rather scarce, but when we find them they may lean on the tenderly honeyed side of their scent (I’m very glad to say), with clever ‘noses’ tending to use a blend of notes to evoke these seasonal flagposts of hope in their fragrances – boosting their brightness, smoothing the edges, radiating anticipation. Such is the alchemy of a fragrant composition, we might be smelling lily-of-the-valley or bluebell accords (also imagined evocations) or the dewy green of violet leaf. Creamy white musks are often used to create that elegant shiver of the flower, or a whisper of cool woodiness wafting an imagined breeze to shake their bells. Conversely, the sense of snowdrops may be borrowed to add pale shafts of sunlight within the darkness of a scent, the contrast emboldening the harmony of the whole blend.

So, while you may not pick up a bottle and confidently declare ‘Aha! I detect snowdrops!’ we can quite willingly succumb to the romance of the story, and cling on to the feeling of hopefulness each of these four snowdrop fragrances grant the wearer…

 

 

 

 

Shay & Blue Black Tulip From £7.95 for 10ml eau de parfum
Contrasts abound as white chocolate swathes spiced plum, but before gourmand-avoiders back away, it’s not overtly sweet – think of it more like the silky ‘mouth-feel’ amidst swathes of bright snowdrops and creamy cyclamen. The dark heart hushes to wood shavings, curls of chocolate still falling like snowflakes.

 

 

Zoologist Snowy Owl £175 for 60ml extrait de parfum
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s calone-based ‘snow accord’ imagines the backdrop for the owl’s scented swooping: ‘A thick carpet of silver envelops the landscape, untouched but for the dazzling reflection of the sun.’ Icy mint, lily of the valley and coconut drift to snowdrops and sap-filled galbanum, softly feathered by the moss-snuggled base.

 

 

 

A portrait of a frozen stream in perfumed form, snowdrops and freesia are lapped by lychee water, peony petals and jasmine hinting at warmer days, clementine blossom a burat of happiness amidst misty, crystalline musks. Then, the smooth teakwood base is whipped through with fluffs of creamy vanilla for an ambient blanket of calm.

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Flanders Lawn £85 for 30ml eau de parfum
Kate learned perfumery at her mother’s knee, taking over the house after Angela died, with this dew-speckled, dawn-struck scent her first offering. ‘Lawn marked a new start for me as a perfumer’, she explains, ‘and is therefore a most appropriate scent for the time of year when we feel ready to embrace the promise of a new season.’

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

The art-inspired scents of D’Otto (and how to get samples!)

Art and fragrance are so closely entwined – and here at The Perfume Society, we have long held that fine fragrance creation truly is an art form. We were thrilled when the Italian niche house of D’Otto launched in 2022, with their ‘liquid art’ concept blurring these boundaries even further – each exquisite fragrance forming its inspiration directly from a major modern artwork. D’Otto explains…

 

‘Visual artists express themselves through shape and colour, free from rigid boundaries and expectations. Musical artists express themselves through chord progressions and note expressions. Perfumers transmit emotional messages by composing fragrances with olfactory notes and accords. These approaches in both art and perfumery are inextricably linked – forms of communication and powerful sources of human emotion that speak to our inner child, bringing memories to the forefront of our minds in an instant.’

 

 

Little wonder this collection is so artistically conceived and beautifully realised, being the brainchild of talented third-generation Italian perfumer, Paolo Terenzi. An ‘unconventional storyteller and musician with a professional background including a degree in law and philosophy, studies in chemistry and physics and a lifelong passion for poetry; Paolo can trace his artistic inclinations back through his family’s bloodline, to 15th Century Rimini and ‘the nobleman Gabriele Terenzi, lover of art and alchemy, who died around 1450.

We love the way each scent is described, referencing the material the artist who inspired the fragrance worked with, the colours they used and even the types of brushstroke or their signature style. This is a much more visceral way of understanding a fragrance’s character, and how it might translate to being worn on our skin, than simply listing ingredients (many of which we might not have had the opportunity to smell in isolation or be familiar with).

Thrillingly, you can try samples of D’Otto to experience the fragrant artistry for yourself, in two of The Perfume Society’s Discovery Boxes…

 

For the Launches To Love Discovery Box  – £23 / £19 for VIP members – we chose D’Otto 1+7. 

FAMILY: FOUGERE
TOP NOTES: grapefruit, bergamot, lemon, petitgrain
HEART NOTES: orange blossom, sage, lavender, thyme
BASE NOTES: sandalwood, vetiver, musk, ambergris, oud

“Opening with luminous transparency, 1+7 is at first smooth and bright. An explosive and uplifting citrus bouquet of Calabrian bergamot, Sorrento lemon and Sicilian grapefruit, represents the canvas and flecks of white paint used in Number 31 by Jackson Pollock.”

 

 

And in the Scintillating Scents Discovery Box – £33 / £29 for VIPs – you’ll receive one of either D’Otto 2+6, 3+5, 5+3, or 6+2.

Read and dream at the evocative descriptions of each fragrance – and discover the fascinating full story behind the brand – on our page dedicated to the house of D’Otto.

In the meantime, while you wait for your samples to arrive, we wonder which iconic artistic works YOU think should be translated into a fragrance. What notes would they contain and what style of perfumery would best express that artist’s work? When asking people to close their eyes and imagine a fragrance in a more abstract form, we often encourage people to think of colours, artistic materials and brushstrokes – how wonderful, then, that D’Otto uses this artistic springboard for the creation of their own scents. We can’t wait to see (and smell!) the next in their collection…

 

Written by Suzy Nightingale

A deep dive into the art of Maya Njie’s Discovery Set

Today we’re taking a deep dive into the art behind the Maya Njie fragrances in her sensorially interwoven and utterly intriguing Discovery Set, which we are thrilled you can now purchase from The Perfume Society shop!

Maya Njie (pronounced ‘Maia N-Jai’) has uniquely diverse familial and artistic roots to bring to her fragrance creations. Being born in Västerås Sweden, with a West African heritage, and later moving to London in her teens, Maya went on to study at the University of the Arts.

Weaving together these threads via the medium of the senses, Maya began experimenting with smell alongside the the visual mediums of colour and photography. Indeed, so Maya told us when we first met her, the studio often gained visitors of passers-by who’d been attracted first by the wonderful scents wafting from the doors…

 

 

‘Some would ask if they could buy whatever fragrance it was, and I had to explain they weren’t for sale. But it got me thinking…’

Truly, wearing her heritage and inspiration on her skin, the fragrant future of Maya Njie was forming.
Maya had chosen the stimuli of an old family photo album for her inspiration – the images within were taken decades before her birth, but she found their faded colours and snapshots of familial life so fascinating to pair to fragrances.
Gaining notoriety from glowing fragrance reviews all over the world, now, we are thrilled to be working with Maya Njie at The Perfume Society, and to offer her fabulous Fragrance Discovery Set now in our shop!

 

Within Nordic Cedar, for example, we may never have visited the Swedish Forest it was inspired by, but we feel a sense of towering trees, the reassuring comfort of cedar and earthy patchouli enclosing us as cardamom gifts brightness, ambergris adds a touch of mist.

For Vanilj, the traditional Swedish note of cardamom is used again, the comfort intensified by addictively dark vanilla that swirls boozily amidst ambered musk.

In Tobak, addiction is ramped up via the honeyed smokiness of the tobacco leaf, a trail of animalic musks and leather resonating many hours later.

Incorporating music as another inspirational medium, Les Fleures is named for Minnie Ripperton’s 1970 song, a green floral scent that ripples with bergamot’s brightness, magnolia and sweet fig, an ‘unbound celebration of life, love and creation.’

Those longing to escape might yearn for Tropica – an invitation to imagine ‘trading in a dark, bleak and cold setting for a warmer climate far away, with flourishing green vegetation and remote beaches’ with tropical fruits lushly layered on sandalwood and coconut.

And in the latest launch, Voyeur Verde, nature claims an abandoned car, leaves and creepers entangling the leather seats, a wonderfully verdant burst of rebirth and ‘balmy cypress trees shadowed by the Sierra Bernia mountains.’

 

Discover even more about Maya Njie on our page dedicated to her incredible work.
Written by Suzy Nightingale

Get to Know… Sarah Baker perfumes (now available in our shop!)

Contemporary artist Sarah Baker’s photography, sculpture and films are inspired by ‘fashion, luxury and celebrity’, but little did she know that when she created a fictional fragrance house as part of her artwork, her passion for the project (and the public’s reaction to it) would result in a real-life fragrance house. Still artistically inspired, luckily for us they’re now ready to (actually) wear…

When we speak to founders of fragrance houses, we’re used to hearing them rhapsodise about their childhood memories of exploring their mother’s scents on the dressing table and how they discovered the world (and themselves) through smell, but Sarah Baker chuckles as she recalls growing up avoiding perfume, because for years, ‘I convinced myself I was actually allergic to it, because my sister wore so much of it and I’d be stuck in the car with her on long journeys!’ This early olfactory over-exposure luckily didn’t put her off perfume for life, and teenage Sarah became ‘obsessed’ with The Body Shop’s White musk. ‘My friend Alice and I had a ritual of going to the Body Shop,’ she says, ‘and dousing ourselves with it. I swear it bonded us. I smell it now and think of all the fun times, like sleepovers, laughing together…’

 

 

Gaining a place at Goldsmith’s College, in 2000 Sarah moved from America to live and study in London. The overt opulence and heady glamour of 1980’s movies, soap operas, music and swaggering fashion styles inspired Sarah’s artwork and still very much inspire her today. This maximalist (and Fun with a capital F) ethos inspires her love of fragrance too. The first joining of the artistic and fragrant dots, as it were, occurring when Sarah created a film inspired by the life of Patrizia Reggiani (who was convicted of hiring a hitman to kill her husband, the fashion world figure Maurizio Gucci).

 

 

‘I’m really interested in exploring soap operas in my work and here was a real life one.’ For the project, Sarah invented a fashion company that she named ‘Imperio Rosso’, and, with help from the Arts Council, in 2014 made a deliberately hyperbolic film for the Institute of Art and Olfaction about her fictional fashion moguls’ passionate, fashion and perfume-obsessed lives. It was during the making of the movie that Sarah finally realised she wanted ‘…to enter into the world of commerce and create an actual, real-life scent brand.’ Having become ‘really interested in celebrity perfumes – what are you buying into when you purchase them’, a line of scents ‘based on my love of luxury fabrics’ was the perfect fit.

 

 

Collaborating with other creatives at the top of their game really seems to light Sarah Baker’s fire, so the first collection in 2016 found her working with perfumer Ashley Eden Kessler (who’d originally made the fragrances for the exhibition), and 4160 Tuesday’s perfumer Sarah McCartney. In 2018, Sarah collaborated with fragrance writer Miguel Matos for a limited edition scent called Jungle Jezebel – a limited edition design concept that saw the bottle adorned with drag queen-esque eyelashes. But Sarah’s artistic/fashion dreams really took flight when working with the legendary Donatella Versace and supermodel Helena Christensen as part of the most 80s-tastic spectacular campaign you’re likely to see, for a Jackie Collins-inspired coffee table book entitled Baroness, with Donatella guest-editing the issue and styling the interiors and clothes featured within…

We know you’ve been adoring the samples we’ve included from Sarah Baker in our Discovery Boxes, but now we are thrilled to be able to offer you full sizes to purchase in our shop! Which of them have you fallen for…?

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Clive Christian – the art of Matsukita – an interview with artist Yukako Sakakura

Taking inspiration from their unique heritage, Clive Christian recently celebrated their beautiful Matsukita fragrance in artful style at an exhibition in Mayfair’s Jovoy perfumery. We were honoured to catch up with the world-famous artist Yukako Sakakura and talk to her about creating the most stunning multi-layered painting directly inspired by smelling the scent…

 

Matsukita was inspired ‘by a fabled Japanese princess who awed the Victorian royal court with her elegance and grace’ and first launched in 1892 by Crown Perfumery, advertised with lavish, hand painted illustrations. Clive Christian have dipped back into this intriguing heritage to recreate some iconic fragrances with a distinctly modern feel – the meeting place of historic references and scents that have a certain classic style, but are thoroughly contemporary in character when you wear them.

With this juxtaposition in mind, today Matsukita ‘has been reimagined to capture this illusive elegance.’ A deliciously woody chypre, there’s an invigorating freshness wafting around the top notes to keep this breezy and simply beautiful. Green bergamot, pink pepper and flecks of nutmeg swoop to the floral, woody heart of Chinese imperial jasmine infused with refined notes of black tea. The smoke dispersing to reveal an amber-rich base swathed in whisper-soft musk add further to the ‘sense of mystery and grace’ they hoped to capture of the original.

  

 

 Further expressing their heritage in modern ways, Clive Christian has long heralded contemporary artists, and they were delighted to partner with artist Yukako for a sensory collaboration around the scent of Matsukita, the experience of smelling which formed the inspiration for her extraordinary painting, ‘You Close Your Eyes to See Our Spring.’ Yukako explains: ‘I’ve always liked painting natural elements, because flowers link with emotions. In Japan we use these natural elements in art a lot, so it therefore feels quite natural for me to use these symbols to express feelings.’

‘I love to use layers within my work, so many I sometimes lose count! It’s usually 50 plus layers, anyway. I finish my flowers first and paint over the whole surface, then I change the shape of the flowers with further layers. If I didn’t have the layers, everything looks too flat to me, it’s not wavy enough! I want to make sure all the flowers are kind of singing the same song, it’s a way of breathing life into the landscape; so, I just paint over and over again until it feels like all the flowers are breathing with the same rhythm. To gauge when it’s finished, I must sit in front of the painting for ages, sometimes five hours (with a cup of coffee), looking closely and making sure everything is doing the right thing.’

 

‘I smelled the fragrance first, and then wore it as I painted, it helped feed my imagination and it’s as though I felt the energy of the scent go down my arm into the paintbrush. I know that might sound strange to some, but I started learning calligraphy at the age of three, and that’s all about imagination, getting to know what kind of brush marks you can make…’

 

 

‘In calligraphy, you learn that before you make a single mark on the page you have to spend time imagining it all in your head, and then you join those energies of thought and process. For my Matsukita painting, it was all about smelling the fragrance and connecting to the emotions it gave me, then translating these into images, and they flow from my brain to the brush. You know, I did all my studying about art in U.K. I’ve not done any art studies in Japan, and I find that when I’m in the mood for 100% concentration, I speak English, even in my head.’

  

 

‘I find I talk to colours [Yukako giggles] and I have changing relationships with them. For instance, I used to hate yellow years ago, and it would creep into my paintings sometimes and I’d get angry with it for spoiling them and tell it to go away, but now I absolutely love yellow! I knew I wanted yellow in this as soon as I smelled Matsukita. I must explain that I don’t talk to the colours out loud. It’s all in my head – it’s part of the way I communicate with the world and translate my feelings to the canvas. Again, while smelling the scent I knew the roses must dance first in the painting. I don’t let anyone in my studio when I’m painting because it’s disrupting to my conversation with the painting itself! My family all think I’m very weird, but it’s the way I work…’

 

 

What an incredible privilege it was to meet this visionary artist and see her work in the flesh – for seeing pictures of the paintings really cannot convey their extraordinary depth of feeling and movement. You really can sense the ‘sway’ and ‘dance’ of the flowers and petals in the breeze, standing in front of the picture itself. And isn’t that the way of fragrance itself, too? Talking about individual notes can only bring you so far – to really know a fragrance and feel its emotional connection, you must wear it on your skin. And we urge you try Matsukita this way, to truly feel the character of the scent yourself…

 Clive Christian Matsukita £350 for 50ml at Jovoy

 Written by Suzy Nightingale

Manos Gerakinis – the first Greek luxury niche perfume house

Manos Gerakinis is, quite incredibly, the first Greek luxury niche perfume house. With fragrances inspired by the history, art and mythology of the country, and radiating the poetry and passion of their founder – we think you’re going to love getting to know them…

Manos had an extremely prestigious career, managing the Harrods luxury department and working with designers such as Valentino, Alexander McQueen and Dolce & Gabbana. His job took him around the world, seeing (and staying in) some of the most opulent places and experiencing the best of the best. A dream come true, right? But something else was pulling at the strings of his heart. From an early age, Manos says he knew that fragrance was important, that ‘…every bottle is more than a mere perfume; it is a living olfactory experience, unique and mysterious.’

Growing up in Kavala, Greece, Manos’ childhood was already infused with the tales and traditions passed down through the generations of his family, who originated from Istanbul. He speaks of being surrounded by ‘the cultivation of saffron, tobacco, labdanum and honey’ and in an interview with the Greek City Times, divulged that his maternal grandmother played a huge role in his life. ‘She was a woman of high standards and aesthetics,’ he says. ‘She introduced me to the French “Savoir-Faire”, classical music and fine arts. I am blessed in a family that provided us with the stimulus to reach our full potential.’ This potential was further encouraged to develop through art – ‘a natural talent for painting together with history, philosophy and culture’.

 

 

Imbued with those fragrant memories and a respect for the ingredients grown and harvested in Greece, and the mythology surrounding many of them, Manos took a perfumed path by learning how to create fragrances – the very first being a signature scent for himself…

‘Creating my own fragrance was always in the back of my mind,’ he explains, ‘and once I was given the opportunity, I grabbed it.’  Delving further into researching and learning the technical side of the fragrance world, ‘My initial goal was to create a powerful scent that was able to captivate anyone in the room. I wanted an alluring scent, mysterious and poetic.’

He began curating a collection of exquisite essential oils and ingredients from around the world, and it took nine months to complete the first fragrance, Sillage Royal – a warm, woody, immediately evocative scent that, perhaps understandably, is the most personally resonant for Manos, being inspired by the picturesque city of Kavala he grew up in. Part of the Egyptian-Otoman Empire for hundreds of years, it became powerful through the production of tobacco, and the rose, saffron and spices further reflect his olfactory heritage, captured in a scented snapshot. Says Manos: ‘During this process I came to realise that I had a talent for creating beautiful scents,’ and buoyed by his success, the collection inevitably grew.

Rose Poetique is the first Manos Gerakinis fragrance I had the pleasure of experiencing myself. It’s a stunning evocation of the Damask rose, which the Greek poet Sappho described as ‘the pride of plants, and queen of flowers.’ This is a rose that drapes the skin as velvet does, relecting the texture of the petals themselves. It billows from the tart, fruitier aspect of the flower with rhubarb up top, to the resinous, romantic depths of the base – beautifully balanced with smooth labdanum, cashmere wood and vanilla. One for all rose-lovers to add their collection, for sure.

 

 

There are currently seven fragrances to explore in the collection – which you can read about on our new page dedicated to Manos Gerakinis Parfums – from delicate sophistication to swaggering sensuality, simplicity to extravagance. At every stage your senses will be enthralled, and as you explore, you’ll feel Manos’ ethos reverberating in each scent. Man’s greatest heritage is the pictures he collects and his memories,’ he says. ‘That doesn’t necessarily mean he has to travel, it means that he has to be open to collect beauty and then compose it into his own palette.’ And wearing a Manos Gerakinis fragrance, we’re sure you’ll agree, …allows the true beauty of the individual to emerge.’

By Suzy Nightingale

OlfactoStroll – artist creates guided ‘smell walk’ (with accompanying podcast)

Artist Jan Uprichard has created a unique ‘smell walk’ called OlfactoStroll, with an accompanying podcast to gently guide your senses and help shape your usual daily walk, into something hopefully not only interesting but a valuable moment of serenity…

Devised in collaboration with the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) in Derry – it doesn’t matter if you’re not in Northern Ireland: the walk can be taken wherever you live. There’s a specially-created podcast of that name, which you can download and listen to no matter where you are in the world. The prompts Jan gives during her so-soothing narration are not dictated by place, but rather suggest things to look out for during your walk, how to navigate your local landscape using the sense of smell.

OlfactoStroll was an idea Jan came up with as part of PhD research, for which she’s developing a method of Deep Smelling. Using smell, walking, archives, mapping, food, sound, film, bookmaking, botany, and interventions as practical, participatory tools for her art, the idea is to offer differing ways to experience familiar surroundings. Says Jan:

‘Deep Smelling is a meditative, experiential and process-based art practice, which brings our attention to our sense of smell. The smell walk has been configured with Derry city in mind, however you can apply the principles of the walk to anywhere in the world, including your own home.’

The podcast/guided walk is an incredibly relaxing listen – Jan has a naturally soothing voice and instead of talking all the time, you’re offered suggestions several minutes apart, for how to control your breathing, things to look out for and special circumstances to take note of (such as air temperature) which make this an experience that would be interesting to repeat several times during the next few months, to see if you notice any changes.

You can download the podcast from Anchor, Spotify and iTunes, or listen to it by clicking below…

 

If you do happen to live in Derry, the walk is apparently ‘accompanied by a series of Deep Smelling protocols, visible through the gallery windows and at various spots around the city.’ But as Jan says – this is a walk you can take absolutely anywhere, whether you’re in an urban environment, going for a hike through the woods or walking beside the seashore.

 

 

Besides being an anxiety-busting method of slowing down and taking notice of nature around you – and a way to improve your sense of smell simply by learning to focus on it and being mindful of what you sense – it’s also an important exercise in the current climate. As a spokesperson for the CCA commented on the joint project:

‘Both walking and smell have taken on added importance during the pandemic. Jan’s hope, as we try to figure out what a ‘new normal’ could be, is that we take the opportunity to maintain a slower pace. That we will reflect on our experiences with a quiet activism, that utilises taking time to do nothing but wander around, and in this case, notice what we can smell and sense around us.’

Indeed, Jan drives this point home on her blog, saying that ‘Smell has taken on special significance in the past year,’ and so ‘If you have experienced a loss of change in your sense of smell AbScent.org is a UK charity that offers support and advice to people with smell disorders.’

We’ve written several features on smell-loss being an early syptom of Covid-19, and something scientists are currently exploring further; and we hope our sense of smell will be taken far more seriously in the future. In the meantime, what a wonderful way to change-up your daily walk into a scented stroll…

By Suzy Nightingale

 

More perfume podcasts…? Eau yes!

We’re so excited to see more dedicated perfume podcasts (and fragrantly themed episodes of other series) starting to blossom, and here’s our pick of the current bunch…

 

The SniffNicola Thomis is a fragrance-obsessed reviewer who, in previous episodes, has looked at soothing scents for troubled times, spoke with language translator, (and sometime Perfume Society fellow contributor) Marta Dziurosz, about the language of smell, and interviewed some of the hottest names in niche perfumery. The lastest episode is a vox-pop of perfumes people have been reaching for, and we love listening!

 

Molecast – The brilliant perfumer Geza Schoen and writer, Susan Irvine, are the hosts of this Escentric Molecules podcast, with Geza taking a deep dive in to the way he creates fragrances and Susan exploring the wider world of fragrance terms and techniques. This episodes looks at notes ‘from the stinky to sublime‘…

 

 

Outspoken Beauty – Host, Nicola Bonn, dedicates this episode to her ‘favourite fragrance of all time’: the iconic Frédéric Malle Portrait of a Lady. Hearing from the perfumer, Dominique Ropion, himself, plus a plethora of celebrity fans, like Val Garland and Nicola Chapman, say why they’re similarly obsessed. Our fragrant friend Odette Toilette also adds her knowledge, and this beautifully produced documentary is an absolute treat of an olfactory ode.

 

Fume Chat – We’ve been fans of this down-to-earth and chatty ppodcast since it began, and now we’re up to Season 3 if you can believe it! Co-hosts,fFragrance expert & consultant, Nick Gilbert and blogger & writer, Thomas Dunckley (aka The Candy Perfume Boy) use this latest episoide to take the lid off Playful Perfumery using ‘novel accords’. It’s always such a pleasure to tune in – they’re great friends as well as colleagues, and it really shows.

 

Dressed: The History of Fashion – Though they normally focus on fashion, obvs, in this special episoide, the historiuan and museum curator hosts, Cassidy Zachary and April Calahan, invite author and illustrator Jessica Roux ‘to discuss how the Victorians used the symbolism of flowers as a means of communication.’ Fascinating stuff, and of course we immediately pre-ordered a copy of Jessica’s stunning looking book, Floriography: An Illustrated Guide to the Victorian Language of Flowers (which we’ll review for our ever-growing Fragrant Reads section, never fear!)

 

 

Want to add even more perfume-related listening to your podcast list? Here’s the previous five fragrance podcasts we listened to, and then even more to peruse when you’ve finished those…

By Suzy Nightingale