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

Fragrance Notes to Follow for 2024 (& how to get ahead of the trend)

January is a time the fragrance industry looks forward to new trends ahead of the spring and summer scent launches, and we’re fascinated by how many are following on from last year’s huge hits (and offering new twists on previous perfumery themes). Which of these do you think you’ll be most interested to try this year, we wonder? Whichever you are drawn to, we’ve also some insider-tips on the scents to wear right now to get ahead of the game…

 

 

Cherry:

Ripe and luscious, evoking carefree youthfulness and innocence via cherry lollipops and desserts or the high-shine glam of cherry lipgloss vibes, the cherry crop keeps coming for 2024. Expect to see cherry combined with contrasting notes to cut through the sweetness – such as sharp citrus or even sizzling spices and dark woods or tobacco – and combined with fluffy, creamy and sweeter ingredients to lean into the gourmand aspect of this trend.

Get Ahead of the Trend With…

 

 

Creed Carmina

Modernity is infused with charismatic elegance in this succulent scent, with rich black cherry’s piquant ripeness rippling throughout. Rose de mai and cashmere wood are joined by the succulent seductiveness of black cherry, pops of pink pepper and a richly resinous base of precious myrrh, frankincense and ambroxan; and the saffron tingles from first spritz to the lasting trail, we found. A passionate fragrance to add extra lipgloss while wearing.

(Try a sample in the Fabulous Fragrances Discovery Box – 14 x samples £19 for VIPS / £23 RRP)

 

 

 

Peach:

As we reported in our Pantone Colour of the Year feature, 2024 is all about the tone of ‘Peach Fuzz’ colour trend, and we’re noting some similarly peachy fragrances in store. Succulent yet nurturing, peach can be velvety (like the soft caress of the peach’s fuzzy skin) or dripping with realistic juiciness for an instant drench of ripely refreshing notes. Peach makes us think of softness, comfort, a slightly retro scent that plays so well with florals, gentle spices, and fluffy musks.

Get Ahead of the Trend With…

 

 

Sarah Baker Bascule

Succulent peach juice sizzles on hot leather, tobacco gently smoulders amidst hay while a hint of saddle-soap, lily of the valley and cut grass are contrastingly clean. Certainly not your average peach, it retains immense nostalgia while proudly remaining rambunctious and rebellious in spirit. You could swear at time this was a vintage scent, and yet it’s so brilliantly modern. We know many who’ve long been under the spell of Bascule, and suggest you saddle up this peach pronto!

£95 for 50ml eau de parfum

 

 

 

Pear:

Though pear has been sniffed in several notable launches already, it’s not gained as much olfaction-traction as the mega-trending cherry thus far. For a still nostalgic yet perhaps slightly more grown-up take on the fruity vibe, we’re looking forward to pear paired with [sorry, we had to] honey, woods and even floral notes for a fun yet still sophisticated scent. Used in citrus-fresh summer scents or adding juice to warmer autumnal fragrances, it’s a year-round

Get Ahead of the Trend With…

 

 

EAU.MG Flor Funk

Dripping with the kind of cool nonchalance we all aspire to, there’s something super happy-making about this scent that feels radiant and filled with a scented sashay. The trend of pear is up first, bursting from the top notes and then drizzling down through heady orange blossom, to nestle within the mossy chic of the sandalwood-swathed dry down. Such a delight to wear as it travels from fresh to funky, we say get your glad rags on and show them how it’s done.

(Try the sample in our Fabulous Fragrances Discovery Box – 14 x samples £19 for VIPS / £23 RRP)

 

 

Vanilla:

This was THE major trend of last year, and it’s another predicted to continue apace all through 2024. Having seen brand new vanilla extractions become available for perfumers, which are far less sweet and sugary than previous evocations, we expect to see more interesting and innovative takes on vanilla. From the super soft yet sensual ‘skin scents’ trend (see below), to the contemporary twists and indulgent nostalgic takes, they’re sure to be deliciously addictive.

Get Ahead of the Trend With…

 

Parfums de Marly Althaïr

Vanilla naysayer? You’re going to need to try it to believe us, but oh wow this is a MUST have. Swoony Bourbon vanilla (deliciously dark, decadently delicious) will be to blame for your new addiction, generously swirled through tobacco smoke rings, which seduces orange blossoms to embrace praline, convinces sparkling citrus to kiss sizzling spices and swathes guaiac wood in butter-soft leather. Go on, we dare you to succumb….

(Try a sample of Althaïr in the Fabulous Fragrances Discovery Box – 14 x samples £19 for VIPS / £23 RRP)

 

 

 

Skin Scents:

In the past we’ve seen so many ‘your skin but better’ fragrances, which offer the feeling of being wrapped in the arm of someone you love, or smelling clean, neutral, fresh from he shower or like white cotton bedlinen. Now, we’re noting the trend is for more sensual come-hither skin scents, where the muskiness is ramped up and the suggestion is more of the skin-against-skin caress kind, which can also be layered. Still ultra-soothing, but radiating self-confidence? Sign us up!

Get Ahead of the Trend With… 

 

4160 Tuesdays The Sexiest Scent on the Planet. Ever. (IMHO)

Beginning life as a bespoke fragrance for a VIP event, with a journalist declaring it to be ‘the sexiest scent ever!’ Thus, a star fragrance was born. Hints of citrus, smooth vanilla, soft woodiness and gorgeously musky ambergris form an unassuming but utterly addictive blend that will have you sniffing your wrist (or nuzzling closer to someone special) all day.

£65 for 50ml eau de parfum

 

 

 

Tea:

Although tea has been a popular ingredient for many years, we’ll see many major and niche fragrance launches this year really showcasing tea as the main inspiration. Why might that be? Apart from the fact this note is wonderfully versatile – it can be green and refreshing, smoky, herbaceously soothing and floral in character; the tea trend is part of the bigger trend for comforting fragrances combined with uplifting and soul-reviving properties (which we all need, more than ever…)

Get Ahead of the Trend with…

 

BDK Parfums Gris Charnel Extrait

An intensified version of the original, patchouli has been invited to the party, a seamless ripple of noir that nuzzles at the silkiness of sandalwood and nutty tonka in the base. Cool cardamom slinks throughout, combined with smoky black tea, Bourbon vetiver, a lick of fig milk and dusting of orris. Wearing this, we know those who’ve been followed around supermarkets, begged to reveal their addictive scent.

 £220 for 100ml extrait de parfum

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Issey Miyake – a fragrant tribute

It was with great sadness that we learned Issey Miyake had died today, August 9th, 2022, at the age of 84. The word ‘iconic’ is often attributed to designers and fragrances alike, but rarely have we seen such a designer who seemed to effortlessly span both worlds, becoming legendary in his own lifetime while greatly contributing to the innovation of each.

Known for his masterclasses in ‘simplicity’ (in fact, so intricately designed fabric seemed to want to naturally fall in the shapes he sculpted from them), the fragrances from the house of course followed suit – these are scents that seem to drape the skin in softness, nature tamed to match his purity of vision within each perfume.

 

 

 

The most beloved of these has to be L’Eau d’Issey, first launched in 1992, with Jaques Cavallier composing a seamless silkiness via a silvery ripple of aquatic notes – Miyake’s inspiration being a scent that smelled ‘as pure as a waterfall’ – atop delicate, dew-dappled blossoms such as lotus flowers and powdery peonies.

Even the bottle has become iconic in its own right, for the design of which, say Issey Miyake Parfums, ‘he imagined a sharp and slender silhouette, whose lines recall a suspended drop. The metal cap, topped by a ball, evokes a personal memory: a night in Paris where the moon was shining at the top of the Eiffel Tower.’

 

 

For L’Eau d’Issey Homme, meanwhile, which launched in 1994, Cavallier crafted an herbaceous breath of fresh air that floated freshly crushed leaves of lemon verbena, tarragon and sage within a wave of juicy citrus; notes of water lilly melding with a misty woodiness that married this more masculine version with that of the original fragrance. Again, a scent that wasn’t just ahead of its time but feels timeless to wear.

Juxtaposed with the tail-end of those shoulder-pads-in-a-bottle fragrances that had swaggered their way through the 1980s, it was clear (as a waterfall) that Miyake had drawn a line under excess, marking a new era of paired-back perfumes that still resonates and feels fresh to this day.

Our Co-Founder Lorna Mckay spoke about his innovation, and more than this, the importance of Issey Miyake’s vision of truly entwining the worlds of fragrance and fashion:

‘Issey Miyake was an icon of cool and creativity in fashion AND fragrance. L’Eau d’Issey was groundbreaking in 1992 for its fresh aquatic smell in a simple and stunning bottle, reflecting water and waterdrops as well as being a “uniscent” fragrance loved by so many. His fine Japanese culture resonated with so many people looking for something different from the hedonistic culture of the 80’s. So many happy memories… and I am still a fan of wearing the fragrance and clothing today! Thank you Issey Miyake for your stylistic contribution to the world of fragrance and fashion.’

Fellow Co-Founder Jo Fairley had the honour of being present at the press launch of L’Eau d’Issey, meanwhile, and recalls:

‘It was a pinch-me moment as a fragrance writer to be at the very launch of L’Eau d’Issey, at a breakfast event hosted in the basement of Issey Miyake’s store in Brompton Cross. Perfumer Jacques Cavallier was there, as was the hugely inspiring Mr. Miyake himself, and what we smelled was like nothing that had gone before. Airy, liquid, seemingly ephemeral, it lasted on the skin: cool, woody, truly gender-neutral – and in the most exquisite bottle. Issey Miyake proved that less really can be more…’

 

 

 

 

As for tributes, we can think of none more fitting than to wear one of the Issey Miyake fragrances you love most, or perhaps to seek one out and try it for yourself if you’re yet to discover them. We’re certain they will still be talked about, worn and treasured for many years to come.

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Manfred Thierry Mugler 1948 – 2022 Written in the Stars

Legend has it that before he became famous, the artist, ballet dancer, designer and all-round creative visionary Manfred Thierry Mugler, once visited a fortune teller. So the story goes, she gazed intently at his palm and noted the lines formed a star. Telling him to incorporate the shape in all his designs to ensure his success, he did as she suggested and, well, the rest is history. Whatever the truth of this tale, the star emblem can be found woven throughout the cosmos Mugler created, and forms the shape of what continues to be one of the best-selling fragrances of all time…

Manfred Thierry Mugler died at the age of 73, on January 23rd. Shockwaves have rippled through the fashion and fragrance worlds alike. A message posted on the official Mugler fashion house Instagram account read:

‘It is with deep sadness that the House of Mugler announces the passing of Mr Manfred Thierry Mugler. A visionary whose imagination as a couturier, perfumer and image-maker empowered people around the world to be bolder and dream bigger every day.’

On the catwalk, Mugler’s designs might burst forth in a froth of feathers and acres of pastel tulle, cocooned in form-fitting armour and cinched-in waspie waists or swathed in fetishised, curve-accentuating fabrics on gleefully strident fembot style models. Never expected, always extraordinary, his clothes were vibrant, unapologetically fun and totally unforgettable.

Mugler was also the man behind countless signature looks of celebrities – including outfits for the Too Funky music video by George Michael and Demi Moore’s dress in the 1993 film Indecent Proposal. He also dressed the likes of Grace Jones, David Bowie, Celine Dion, Kate Moss and Diana Ross, with Ross paying tribute to him on Twitter, writing: ‘I will miss you Thierry Mugler this was a wonderful time in our lives.’

Mugler designed costumes for Beyonce’s I Am… World Tour, and the iconic singer paid tribute to Mugler on her official website, posting a black and white picture of the designer with the words ‘Rest In Peace’ above; while Kylie Minogue posted a comment on his Instagram, saying: ‘Deepest condolences (heart emoji) A true visionary. Thank you for your art Manfred.’

Thierry Mugler Angel

His art didn’t stay put on the catwalk, or in high-end clothing boutiques. It burst free again in the massive way his fragrance, Angel, shook up and forever changed the fragrance industry.

What makes an iconic fragrance? To bring about a scented shift, to become a true icon, it can never be a ‘me-too’ crowd-pleaser, it must do something new, take risks. Those ‘classics’ we revere and nod sagely at nowadays were once the punk rock of the perfume world. Angel was an olfactory ‘shock’, when it launched in 1992 – causing a sensation. It was also, crucially, given the gift of time.

In the early 1990’s the fragrance world was all about beachy, clean aquatic scents (now making a comeback in a new wave of water-inspired releases), so the emergence of a brashly swaggering, chocolate-dipped fruity funfair-inspired concoction was all the more shocking.

It should be noted that Angel wasn’t an immediate success. Indeed, one wonders if it had been launched in today’s more impatient marketplace if it would have been allowed to survive that first year. Thank goodness Mugler had the vision to stick with it, and Angel waited until the world caught up with what was the first true ‘gourmand’ or food-inspired fragrance.

To create Angel, Thierry Mugler approached Jacques Courtin-Clarins, head of the celebrated Clarins skincare and fragrance empire. Having revolutionised the world of fashion, the designer was seeking a partner who could bring his brand to life through a fragrance. So Angel was born, with its good-enough-to-eat notes, and an unprecedentedly high concentration of 30% ultra-rich, woody patchouli, added to keep the fragrance from becoming overly sweet.

 

 

The patchouli was the brainwave of perfumer Yves de Chiris, who knew he needed something to counterbalance the heart of sugary confections – the candyfloss, caramel and chocolate – which were inspired by Thierry Mugler‘s vivid, fairy-lit memories of a childhood fairground. Together with renowned perfumer Olivier Cresp, they created something more than a mere perfume.

On his personal Instagram account, Olivier Cresp wrote: ‘Thierry Mugler was a true genius in fashion, photography and shapes in a broad sense. I’ve always been amazed by his ability to project through his many projects, he was a great visionary. 2022 is the year of Angel’s 30 years, so let everyone honour her by staying in touch with her through perfume. Working alongside him was a privileged and unique moment that I am very proud and happy of.’

Thomas Dunckley (a.k.a The Candy Perfume Boy) once wrote about his first experience with Angel, saying ‘The very first time I smelled Angel, right at the beginning of my perfumista journey, I was shocked, appalled and disgusted all at once. Who would want to wear this? I thought. But I kept finding myself coming back to Angel, there was something about her, she lured me in and wouldn’t let me go, I was helpless. I became obsessed and after many sniffs I finally bought a bottle, wore it with pride and didn’t look back.’

In later years Thomas commented that Angel ‘is always the perfume that I come back to, and it’s the only fragrance that I can wear for weeks on end without thinking of anything else.’ He continues:

‘Angel isn’t just your typical perfume, she is a legend, a legend in exactly the same way that N°5 and Shalimar are legends. She’s also not just a legend, she is a fierce vixen and a complete diva.’

As Pierre Aulas, Mugler‘s Olfactory Artistic Director comments: ‘What makes Thierry Mugler fragrances successful? The power of the unexpected, the force of audacity and unbridled creativity’.

Angel will always remain an iconic fragrance, with new generations similarly discovering, being shocked by and eventually falling in love with her. Even if you’d never smelled the scent itself, the bottle will be forever emblazoned in our collective consciousness – one of very few flaçons to be instantly recognisable the world over from its shape alone.

As those in the fashion and fragrance spheres continue to mourn Manfred Thierry Mugler’s death, social media is filled with images of celebrities wearing archival pieces and fans lovingly clutching their bottles – ensuring his name, and Angel’s perfumed presence, will be eternally written among the stars. So, if you’re already a fan, fling caution to the wind and douse yourself in an extra spritz; or, if you’ve never quite dared wear it, now’s the time to don that fragrant armour and swagger-forth, deliciously scented and celestially blessed.

Written by Suzy Nightingale

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
selfridges.com

 

Like a sweet, balmy breeze rising from the walls of ancient Palermo, the Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Ambrée 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 Ambrée Musk £200 for 50ml eau de parfum
harrods.com

 

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
boots.com

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

Get #FROW for Suzy & Carson’s unboxing extravaganza

Take your front row seat and get ready to smell-along with our very own Suzy Nightingale and Carson Parkin-Fairley in our #FROW Discovery Box unboxing extravaganza!

In this fashion-forward box, timed to launch alongside our Couture edition of The Scented Letter Magazine, we explore each fragrance in-depth, and there are so many samples in the box – THIRTEEN fragrances in all – that we had to split the video into three parts.

STOP PRESS! If you purchase a box before 25th October 2019 you’ll be entered to win a full size fragrance from the box!  

Here’s what you get in the box:

Banana Republic Neroli Woods  1.5ml eau de parfum (full size £55 for 75ml)
Ermanno Scervino Ermanno Scervino for Women  2ml eau de parfum (£52 for 30ml)
Hugo Boss BOSS The Scent for Her  1.5ml eau de parfum (£49 for 30ml)
Kenzo World Power  1ml eau de parfum (£46 for 30ml)
Les Eaux Primordiales Couleur Primaire  2.5ml eau de parfum (£180 for 100ml)
Michael Kors Wonderlust Sublime  1.5ml eau de parfum (£46 for 30ml)
Mihan Aromatics Mikado Bark  3ml eau de parfum ($190 AUD for 100ml)
Mihan Aromatics Sienna Brume  3ml eau de parfum ($190 AUD for 100ml)
Molton Brown Bizare Brandy  1.5ml eau de toilette (£85 for 100ml)
Narciso Rodriguez Pure Musc  1ml eau de parfum (£45 for 30ml)
Oscar de la Renta Extraordinary Pétale  2ml eau de parfum (£85 for 90ml)
Paco Rabanne Lady Million Empire  1.5ml eau de parfum (£47.50 for 30ml)
Salvatore Ferragamo Signorina Ribelle  1.5ml eau de parfum (£50 for 30ml)

The Fragrance #FROW Discovery Box also features these fabulous extras…

Molton Brown Muddled Plum Bath & Shower Gel 30ml (£22 for 300ml)
INC.redible Puh-lease Semi Matte Lip Click (worth £10 for 1.8g)

Which will you fall for first, we wonder? Watch below to see which made us gasp, and grab your very own #FROW Discovery Box for only £19 (£15 for VIP Club members) + P&P.

Part One:

Part 2

Part 3

Ermanno Scervino: the fashion house wowing with their new fragrance

Ermanno Scervino is one of the hottest fashion houses around, and with the catwalks of the world having been freshly strutted, we wanted to pay tribute to the house currently wowing the perfume world, too, with their just-launched first fragrance…

‘As a boy, I was immediately attracted to the world of beauty and aesthetics,’ Ermanno Daelli admits, and even his childhood was full of fashion fantasies, as he reminisces spending the summer ‘…in Forte dei Marmi and the Cote d’Azur and winter in Cortina. These places were always crowded with the great divas of Italian and Hollywood movies, such as Monica Vitti, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor or Kim Novak.’

Rather more fabulous-sounding than our own childhood holiday memories of wet weekends in Bognor, we have to say! Among such glamorous icons, he ‘…dreamed, one day, to be the one who dresses such beautiful, talented and inimitable women.’ That dream came wonderfully true, as his clothes have been worn by Amal Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie to name but three.

There’s an airiness of the materials the designer favours in his collections and an insouciance in the way they are styled: exquisitely gauzy gowns worn with precisely (yet so-relaxed looking) Italian tailoring. Now, this refined but playful aesthetic is translated perfectly in the first perfume from the house. And with his love of strong, brilliant women, Ermanno chose a trio of female perfumers – Julie Massé, Véronique Nyberg and Mathilde Bijaouo – to compose it.

Ermanno Scervino for Women encapsulates the frothy frivolity of a couture dress, opening with an irresistible gourmand Giaduia (chocolate and hazelnut) accord shot through with the sunshine of neroli and the sharpness of green mandarin, balanced against a fluff of white flowers.

The trio of perfumers visited the Ermanno Scervino boutique to get closer to the couture while creating the fragrance together, and you can see a video of that trip, below…

Julie Massé notes that ‘…composing a fragrance is like tailoring: mixing and matching raw materials, readjusting the formula, until it’s the right fit.’ Véronique Nyberg adds that Ermanno’s juxtaposition of fabrics, ‘…inspired us to create a multi-textured fragrance.’ Agrees Mathilde Bijaoui: ‘Giving texture to a fragrance is key,’ explaining: ‘In this creation, we created it from the top to the dry-down.’

That white heart simply billows with hushed, velvety tuberose absolute, a transparent jasmine and the coconut-water like Jungle Essence extraction™ – an exclusive formula from the fragrance house MANE. Set against the creamy vanilla, cashmere wood and white musk of the base, the overall effect is of white tulle on a backdrop of sunshine: sparkling, refined, and simply beautiful.

We are thrilled that Ermanno Scervino wanted to give you the opportunity to try a sample of this new fragrance in our #FROW Discovery Box!

There are THIRTEEN fragrances to sample at home, from the chic and uplifting Banana Republic Neroli Woods to dazzling Oscar de la Renta Extraordinary Pétale via creations by the hot new niche brands Mihan Aromatics and Les Eaux Primordiales. There’s a fragrance for every look with Michael Kors, that fabulous Ermanno ScervinoKenzo – and so many more...

The box also includes a FULL SIZE INC.redible Semi Matte Lip Click (worth £10 alone) and an invitation to wind down into colder nights with the shimmering, decadent new Molton Brown Muddled Plum Bath & Shower Gel.

The entire box is only £19 + P&P (£15 for VIP Club members), so if you want to get front row to be in the know – and make sure you’re dressed in the best that fragrance has to offer – you can get your hands on the box right here

By Suzy Nightingale

Dior Prêt-à-Portea: fragrantly inspired afternoon tea

Inspired by the magnificent Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition we reported on from the press day at the V&A, Dior have now launched an afternoon Prêt-àPortea at The Berkeley, and it really sounds like a treat for all the senses…

‘The Dior Couture Collection transforms landmark pieces into exquisite biscuits, bakes and fancies. From the Junon Dress worn by Theo Graham at Le Pré Catalan in Paris 1949 to the Bar Jacket which has been synonymous with Dior since it took to the catwalk in 1947 as part of the ‘New Look,’ each piece this season takes inspiration from Dior’s fashion history.

Your tea also includes a flavoursome collection of miniature savoury skewers, taster spoons, elegant canapés and tea sandwiches. To drink, choose a loose leaf tea from our extensive collection…’

Or you could go all-out and add some bubbles to the perfumed proceedings – a special treat for their Mother’s Day sitting on March 31, perhaps – or simply a way to celebrate the scents and treat yourself?

Prêt-à-Portea is priced at £60.00 per person.
Champagne Prêt-à-Portea, with a glass of Laurent-Perrier, £70.00 per person.
Signature Mocktail Prêt-à-Portea, with a glass of a refreshing Mango & Rooibos mocktail, £70.00 per person.
Couture Champagne Prêt-à-Portea, with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Rosé, Bollinger Rosé or Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, £76.00 per person.

Take a look at the full menu, here

This menu will be refreshed every six months, to reflect the catwalk trends, but right now we’re salivating over the thought of the rose pink Miss Dior cake and the Muguet pavlova, both directly inspired by the perfumes… Perfume and cake, could it honestly get any better?

Written by Suzy Nightingale

We j’adore Dior – Designer of Dreams at the V&A

Perfume is the indispensible complement to the personality of women, the finishing touch on a dress.’ – Christian Dior

Showcasing couture gowns worn by Princess Margaret, Margot Fonteyn and Jennifer Lawrence, in Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, the V&A has opened the world’s largest exhibition ever staged in the UK on the House of Dior. We went to gawp at the gowns, and of course, to swoon at the scent bottles…

How telling that – amidst room after room of sumptuous designs and rainbow walls of vivid colours, unless one peered at the labels – it was practically impossible to accurately date the array of garments and accessories. And how welcome that so many iconic fragrances are displayed as part of the overall design aesthetic of Dior.

‘The exhibition highlights Christian Dior’s total design vision,’ explain the V&A, ‘encompassing garments, accessories and fragrances. Flowers are emblematic of the Couture house and have inspired silhouettes, embroidery and prints, but also the launch of Miss Dior in 1947, the first fragrance created alongside the very first show.’

Fragrance and fashion have always gone hand in (scented) glove, but never more so than with Dior. No designer has simultaneously launched a new brand new fashion line and a fragrance. It was an audacious act that marked their groundbreaking, breathtaking course to this very day.

Lined-up in cabinets, perched on plinths or variously housed within a stand resembling a miniature palace; the Dior fragrances are shown as being vital to the overall development of the house, and their continuing success shows how warmly we have clasped the scents to our (in our dreams) Dior-clad chests.

Arranged into eleven sections, the exhibition traces the skill and craftsmanship of the ateliers, along with highlighting many of the designers who have worked under the Dior banner, always pushing the boundaries while keeping an elegant insouciance that remained true to Dior’s ethos.

Noses pressed against the glass, oh how we would have loved to smell some of the originals – an impossible task at such a large exhibition, of course, but merely gazing at the original sketches for the bottles, a saved invitation from that orginal fashion and fragrance launch, and the most lust-worthy flaçons you’ll see all year – it’s enough to transport most of your senses. We advise wearing your favourite Dior fragrance and inhaling deeply as you get giddy with the glamour of it all…

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams runs from now until 14th July 2019, with tickets from £20. All concessions £15.

We highly advise booking your tickets now, as a day after opening they were sold-out until April. Even so, believe us, it’s worth the wait.

Written by Suzy Nightingale