The fabric of fragrance: perfumes inspired by silk, velvet, suede & linen

The catwalks have been strutted, the #FROW have gasped in delight (or tutted beneath their sunglasses) and fashion weeks in London, Paris and Milan are now in the bag – but perfumers are inspired by fabric all year ’round for their fragrant creations.

Last week we explored fragrances inspired by satin, leather, cashmere and cotton, this week we urge you to reach out and get touchy-feely with fragrances evoking the sensual textures and moods of silk, velvet, suede and linen…

 

 

Oudh-avoiders – do not recoil! This is a delightfully boozy gourmand that’s all silky smooth rum-soaked fruits slathered with cream and sprinkled with spices, so although oudh may be at the heart of each fragrance in the collection, think of it more as an ingredient added for depth and longevity. Interestingly, Amouroud is the latest evolution of the widely respected Perfumer’s Workshop, launched 45 years ago. Deliciously comforting, we’ll gladly be following the Silk Route trail (and wrapping ourselves in this along the way…)

Amouroud Silk Route £166 for 100ml eau de parfum
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Like a sweet, balmy breeze rising from the walls of ancient Palermo, the Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Oriental Musk eau de parfum swathes you in the warm caress of the sun wherever you may be. With a perfectly blended mix of woods and spices, this unique fragrance melds to your skin with sandalwood, tonka bean and aromatic cardamom – a nuzzle of delight to bury your nose in (and equally divine on any sex who dares to wear it).

Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Oriental Musk £200 for 50ml eau de parfum
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Wearing this is like reaching out and stroking the softest, most supple suede your fingers ever dreamed of. The warm intensity of oudh, olibanum, patchouli, suede and amber at the fragrance’s core is balanced with resinous balsam, sweet praline and honeysuckle, plus dreamy white flowers, while a little pinch of spiciness from cypress, birch and pepper awakens the senses. Sueded Oud is a study in carefully crafted opposites, and we love the creamy-fresh result.

CLEAN Reserve Sueded Oud – Try a generous 10ml bottle as part of THIRTEEN fragrances in the Luxury Layering Discovery Box £19 (£15 for VIPs)

 

One of the greatest pleasures on earth is surely the joy of crisp, white, line-dried cotton sheets. This absolute classic deserves to be enjoyed afresh – it’s all billowing clean fabric evoked via the slightly soapy coolness of white flowers and a zing of verdant greenery. Bulgarian rose, violet and powdery orris atop an earthier base of vetiver and soft, dry mossiness make for true elegance, a scent to wear whenever you want to remember sunshine and happiness.

Estée Lauder White Linen £56 for 60ml eau de parfum
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By Suzy Nightingale

Fragrance (but make it fashion!) – Scents inspired by fabrics

The trend-fuelled worlds of fashion and fragrance have been hand-in-glove for centuries – quite literally by 1656, when the perfumery and leather industry had become intrinsically linked, the fashion for exquisitely crafted gloves, popularised at court by Catherine de Medici, somewhat at odds with the disgustingly pungent reality of curing leather in urine. So, the Corporation of Glove-makers and Perfumers – the ‘maître-gantiers’ – (master glove-makers/perfumers) was formed in France, importing ingredients from all over the world to scent the gloves; with acres later given to growing and distilling them, such was Queen Catherine’s passion for perfume, and an entire industry was born in Grasse.

Since then, where fashion has led, so fragrance has followed – and just as hemlines go and up down, and silhouettes dramatically alter from era to era, so too do scented ‘shapes’ change with time. And perumers have long been inspired by fabric in their creations – a peculiar thing, you may think, as most fabrics don’t have their own distinct smell. Yet as we imagine a white sheet drying in sunshine, or the plush eroticism of velvet stroked beneath our fingers, we can also imagine the scent these textures might have. Such is the alchemical magic that fragrance can create – an overlapping of the senses, and in this first of two parts looking at fragrances inspired by fabrics, we pay homage to scents evoking satin, cashmere, leather and cotton…

Satin drapes. It clings to the body. It moves in the most sensuous way… And you definitely need to try draping yourself in this from prolific and gifted ‘nose’ Francis Kurkdjian. We’d call this an after-dark fragrance, one for oudh-lovers, for sure – but busting any prejudices against that ultra-woody material, for in Francis’s hands it never, ever overwhelms. We’re getting Turkish delight – a sugar-dusted rosiness that blends Bulgarian rose essence with Turkish rose absolute, while genuine Laotian oudh melts into benzoin from Siam, and the sweetness owes much to a soft, powdery accord of violet and vanilla in the heart. There’s almost a chocolate-y element swirling seductively around the patchouli, while the oudh underpins everything with its animalic smokiness. Mesmerising.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood £200 for 70ml eau de parfum
harveynichols.com

 

 

Tom describes Iridium as ‘the fragrance equivalent of charcoal coloured cashmere.’ We always enjoy a description that makes you imagine a smell from a texture and colour, don’t you? And this really is a cool-toned cashmere, exuding effortless chic with all the powdery sophistication of precious iris concrète, but granted a strong silvery spine. The iris is dosed with carrot seed to amplify the dry, root-y yet so-refined character, and the synthetic note of Iso E Super wafts forth a deliciously grown-up gourmand ‘your skin but better’ dry-down – the kind that has people asking ‘what’s that delicious smell?’ and a secret smile is stifled when you know it’s you… Now also available as an extrait formula, poured at 71% strength, for even longer lasting enswathement.

Tom Daxon Iridium £105for 50ml eau de parfum
tomdaxon.com

 

 

Reminding us of our beloved leather jacket, a stack of books or the wood-panelled, boozily infused surroundings of a members’ only club, leather fragrances evoke a particularly voracious and luxurious sensuality, favouring deep base notes that linger the whole day long. Russian leather fragrances have a long heritage, the intense smokiness of birch the vital scent ingredient giving ‘Russian’ leather it’s characteristic smell. Here, Molton Brown curl swirls of smoke through a Siberian pine forest, infusing leather-bound books with a campfire’s glowing ember scent. Magnificently done, it’s an especial pleasure in colder weather, though I love layering it at times with a rose that needs some extra oomph.

Molton Brown Russian Leather £60 for 50ml eau de toilette
Buy it at moltonbrown.co.uk

 

 

Like burying one’s nose in sunny-day line-dried linen, a gust of pure, clean ozonic notes greets us at this fragrance’s first spritz, only made more refreshing by a rush of watery notes and pinch of ginger. Mint and green accords carry this clean and fresh feeling into the fragrance’s heart accord, which then softens into florals, cushioned by skin-like musk and vetiver. Magically capturing the comforting sensation of crispness, and featuring elegant white lilies, floral cotton accords and a vanilla-speckled, benzoin-infused amber glow in the mix: this is one to spray when you need to be reminded of home, of lazy sundays and lie-ins and snuggling up in bliss. (See below to get a luxury try-me size!)

CLEAN Reserve Warm Cotton [Reserve Blend] £82 for 100ml eau de parfum
spacenk.com

 

 

Warm Cotton was the perfect addition to the Luxury Layering Discovery Box – featuring THIRTEEN layerable scents and three fragrant body treats to try at home for £19 (£15 for VIPs) – use it to freshen up a perfume without resorting to the usual citrus, to soften a scent you feel is too harsh or simply to luxuriate in the sebsation of that clean, soft white fabric dried in the sunshine.

Whether vintage or modern – evoking an era or an archetypal fabric – the fingers of fashion are still firmly within those fragrant gloves, and together they work their alchemical magic to embolden us: seducing several senses while enhancing our own sense of who we are – or whomever we want to be that day…

By Suzy Nightingale

The scent of success… Perfumer Karen Gilbert talks us through the fascinating world of 'functional fragrance'

When a perfumer creates the scent for a ‘functional fragrance’ – a product that millions of people around the world use daily in their homes or on themselves – they are composing the scent of a home, a loved one, the smell you associate with your own clean skin, perhaps. An incredibly technically challenging role, perfumers are plucked from the very same schools as those who create fine fragrances, indeed may often be the very same ‘nose’…
For a full exploration of this fascinatingly secretive cross-over between designer fashion fragrances and the scent of “clean washing”, see the hot-off-the-press Fashion & Fragrance edition of The Scented Letter magazine. But we wondered – is there room for a perfumer’s artistic expression, or does it necessarily take a differing form? We caught up with perfumer, expert consultant and teacher, Karen Gilbert, to talk about the challenges perfumers and evaluators face when evoking the scent of “clean washing”, and wondered how on earth she got into this fabric care – or “functional fragrance” – world.
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‘I fell into it by complete accident,’ Karen reminices. ‘I originally went to The London College of Fashion to train as a make up artist after working the cosmetics industry for a few years. I decided to stay on and do a cosmetics science diploma and two-week work placement at IFF [International Flavors & Fragrance]. They asked me back for a six-month temp position that turned into five years working on UK own label products as an evaluator, and running the fragrance library for the London office.’
Having interviewed the perfumer’s at IFF’s Centre of Excellence for fabric care, we knew how talented they are. But although the world of fine fragrance and fabric care/fucntional fragrances are entwined, some raw ingredients simply don’t translate because of the high temperatures and processes they’re subjected to.
Explains Karen, ‘Creating fragrances for an alcoholic fine fragrance is the easiest thing as there are much fewer technical challenges. When you are creating for a laundry care product you not only have to work with a base that already may have an unpleasant odour but you need to make sure the fragrance doesn’t get washed away during the wash/rinse cycle. There’s also the budget to consider, as most people will only pay a certain amount for something like a fabric conditioner.’
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And exactly how closely do the fabric conditioners and fine fragrances rub against each other? ‘Oh goodness everything filters down eventually to functional products. It’s so weird when people ask me to smell a perfume as I really learned about fragrance whilst I was at IFF so most of my days were spent sniffing “types” rather than fine fragrance. So if I smell a particular men’s “Aquatic” fragrance now I always think of blue toilet cleaner, and to me Tresor translated down to peach fabric conditioner. Whenever I smell a new fragrance I still find myself thinking “oh that would be good for a roomspray”  or “this would work in a men’s shower gel”. I was never a “perfumista” so my view of fragrance is quite different to the average fragrance fan I think!’
Such is the demand for perfumers to create various scented products for fragrancing every aspect of our lives that, as part of her fragrance training offering, Karen now runs a specialised course for those wanting to learn more about this intriguing yet technically challenging world. She explains that ‘…it came out of years of students coming to my live classes where we make an alcohol based EDT, who really wanted to create for their own product line.’ And that although the techniques of making a fragrance are the same ‘…there are lots of other things you need to take into consideration when creating for other types of product base.’
Aimed at anyone who want to learn more about developing fragrances for face, body and bath products – including how to professionally evaluate the performance of your products – you can find out more about Karen’s course, here
Written by Suzy Nightingale

Spin-cycle scents: which perfumes evoke one of life's simplest pleasures…?

What do you think is top of the list of those “simple pleasures” that make people happy? Well, according to a survey BUPA carried out in 2015, a whopping 62% of the British public agreed that slipping into freshly cleaned sheets was their greatest instant mood-booster.
For the just-published Fashion & Fragrance edition of our magazine, The Scented Letter, we travelled to a network of laboratories in the heart of Holland to investigate the secretive world of scented laundry products, tracing the links between fabric conditioners and fine fragrance. Did you know that some of the world’s best perfumers have made detergents, scented your shampoo and kept you shower-fresh in deodorants as well as working on your favourite designer perfume..?
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There’s no doubt about it, the smell of clean fabric is a sensorial joy – from hanging washing in a sunny garden to burying your nose in the sweater of a loved one – the slightly soapy, steamily clean, aldehedic-sparkle of a laundry scent is pretty much guaranteed to soothe the soul. The perfume world has ‘cottoned on’ and now you can spritz that sunshine-y happiness the whole day long. The Library of Fragrance always have their fingers on the pulse of creating wearable, layerable true-to-life scents evoking some of our all-time favourite smells, so of course they have a duo of sumptuously fresh fabric-scented Colognes that somehow manage to bottle not only the exact smell of clean laundry, but the ‘texture’ of the fabric itself. Genius!
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‘This is simply the cleanest, most comfortable scent imaginable. Our Fresh Laundry fragrance captures that moment when just-washed bed sheets are pulled straight from the tumble dryer and you just can’t resist hugging them right up to your nose, and breathing in their warm aroma. As with those moments, this scent is like a reassuring hug that reminds you of home…’

The Library of Fragrance Fresh Laundy £15 for 30ml Cologne
Buy it at Boots
clean-sheets
The Library of Fragrance Clean Sheets £15 for 30ml Cologne
Buy it at Boots
Written by Suzy Nightingale

Softly (scented) does it: Bamford's Knitwear Wash is cashmere, bottled…

Fashion and fragrance go hand in [scented] glove, and with super models strutting their stuff on the catwalks of London Fashion Week, our thoughts turn the array of beautiful fabrics on display. Us being us, of course we want everything to smell fabulous – and our just-published Fashion & Fragrance edition of The Scented Letter magazine features an in-depth sniff into the secretive world of fabric conditoners and the perfumers who work on them.
But we didn’t want to stop there. Not everyone likes washing in a machine – particularly those luxuriously delicate hand-wash only fabrics that require a bit of tender loving care, and the sensorial delight of slipping them on is further heightened by the scent of the washing liquid ‘matching’ our perception of what the particular fabric should smell of. So what does wool smell like to you…?
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Fabric care products for hand washing clothes – particularly those aimed at the cashmere and silk market – tend on the whole to be far more delicately fragranced. Indeed, you may have seen ‘cashmere’ listed as a note in many perfumes. But what does it smell of? The untreated wool alone is certainly not what we may dream of when imagining burying our faces in kitten-soft materials, and in fine perfumery each perfumer may compose their own interpretation within an accord to create the smell of fluffy luxury.
Within this market, organic and natural brands thrive, with many highlighting the purity of their products and selling them alongside their body and skincare lines. The organic brand Bamford sell beauty products along with knitwear and cotton clothing, and we asked why they decided to develop their own knitwear wash, soothingly fragranced with cedar extract (which really does smell as you imagine cashmere should!)
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As Merchandise Director Karen Leck explained: ‘It encourages you to wash knitwear by hand, which is the very best way to care for it. We chose not to use a strongly scented wash as they can be too overpowering and fragrance is very personal. Knitwear is an emotional purchase, it’s our best-selling category – most of us have a favourite sweater – they’re comforting as well as comfortable and the scent adds to the whole sensual experience of natural fibres against the skin. I also use a Bamford Pebble Soap in my knitwear drawers, as it gives just enough natural fragrance to personalise my sweaters.’
Bamford Knitwear Wash £15 for 350ml
See bamford.co.uk for stockists
Written by Suzy Nightingale

Etro to weave a touch of luxury with Shantung at Liberty

Etro are one of those word-of-mouth fragrance ranges doing marvellous things under the radar – interesting perfumes beautifully packaged, but whispering about their charms rather than shouting from the rooftops.

Inspired by and named for exotic regions, traditional patterns and luxurious fabrics, they are whimsically unique poetic perfumes and fit perfectly into the brand’s fashion-led history of delicately intricate yet impactful designs.

Etro say: ‘A textile of words, a landscape of colours, a whisper of iconic style in each perfume. Each essence evokes a new place, a new frame of mind, the rediscovery of forgotten myths and memories… a treasure trove of associations, words, colours, moments and memorable places. Abandon convention, the challenge is rediscovery: the sensuality of a floral bouquet, the nocturnal notes of wood and spice, and, above all, the unique nuances that speak to individual style. This originality and unconventionality has characterised the entire Etro perfume collection for a quarter of a century.’

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Founded by Gimmo Etro in 1968, the house is built on a lifestyle concept with exquisite materials being their mainstay, and perhaps most widely known for their use of the paisley pattern – since 1981 a motif the brand has cleaved to and made their symbol.

The latest to join the expanding fragrance collection (now burgeoning with over 25 fragrances) will be  Shantung – a symbiotic relationship with the scent being exclusive to Liberty in the UK – a store known for their love of luxurious fabrics. Inspired by the beautifully rich yet flowing silk, Etro give the scent a kind of sub-heading of ‘Fairie Flowers’ – a reference to the gossamer-light touch of peony woven through with a sheer rose, fresh mandarin, blackcurrant and cedar with the whole composition kissed by the softness of cashmere woodiness in the dry-down. Launching in the coming weeks at Liberty, we think this will be a fragrance to transition you through from Spring and right through the warmer months of Summer ahead…

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Etro Shantung £118 for 100ml eau de parfum
Exclusively in-store at Liberty

Written by Suzy Nightingale