How to buy fragrance at Christmas? Where do you even begin? Well, right here with The Perfume Society‘s everything-one-click-away guide! From nervous noses to designer divas and scented gents or even fussy family or friends.
Christmas is always the most scented season, but present-buying panic can set in (we all know the feeling), so we’ve collated a guide to help you start (and finish!) your shopping right now…
When you’re not sure exactly what scent to get them for Christmas, or are sick of giving loved ones the same old thing, our overwhelming feedback from happy customers suggests a Discovery Box is definitely the way forward. Bursting with luxurious and often hard-to-find mini, try-me size scents and decadents beauty extras, each box is specially curated around a theme or with a particular kind of perfume-lover in mind.
At The Perfume Society, we’ve something to suit everyone, no matter how picky about perfume they are! From designer name divas to scented gents about town, millennials desperate to discover what suits them best and those keen to branch out with something different – see how many gifts you can tick off your shopping list in one fell swoop (and all from the comfort of your sofa/desk/bed…)
The perfect treat or gift filled with a curated edit of those fragrances we believe men simply must have, this collection of male and unisex fragrances features globally adored best sellers and just launched scents from THoO, Jeroboam, DSquared2, Paco Rabanne, Bentley, Jean Paul Gaultier, Versace & Initio! Those wishing to expand their collection will delve and get ready to be truly addicted to their new favourite fragrance(s)….
Featuring fragrances chosen to make your gift recipient feel truly special (particularly for someone who’s had a tough time and deserves to feel their best again) this box is bursting with newness from Floral Street, Comme des Garçon & Caroline Herrera, plus the incredible artistic beauty of Sarah Baker Parfums. Let them dive into the best scents the fragrance world has to offer (and extra pampering treats for the colder weather from Skinsense and Stories Parfums).
Know someone who’s been seriously stressed? (Maybe even YOU deserve a treat?) Recent world events have left us a little off kilter, so here at Perfume Society HQ, we decided to put together the perfect gift box of fragrance to help everyone achieve a better sense of equilibrium. We’ve brought together fragrances that have been purposely designed to induce a sense of calm and help cope with all life has to throw at us, perfumes for grounding us in natural surroundings, and there are also scents for boosting inner strength. Click on the link to discover each item individually…
For the most suave and chic of your perfume-loving pals, here’s a box that swaggers with charm and sophistication. Filled with fragrances from some of Britain’s finest brands – both classic and utterly contemporary names – to help them find their new fragrant passions. Indulging in these voluptuous, classic scents and new launches all from within the UK will keep them feeling confident (and let them know how much they are loved!) Smart…sexy…elegant – this is a box that has it all, and then some, in scent appeal.
Celebrating International Women’s Day, in previous years we’ve flagged up female perfumers who’ve shaped the scent world. For 2022 we wanted to give a particular high-five to some amazing women who’ve founded and continued to successfully run some of our favourite fragrance houses, during what has been one of the most challenging periods for retail – and the world! – in history.
So, let’s raise our glasses and support just some of these incredible and entrepreneurial women who strode their own paths in the world of perfume…
Imogen Russon-Taylor – Kingdom Scotland
From a distinguished career in the aromatic world of Scotch whisky, Imogen founded Scotland’s first fragrance house. Using perfume to share old narratives in new ways, tapping into the rich stories associated with perfume and natural ingredients, she’s also inspired by the Arctic explorer and Scottish botanist Isobel Wylie Hutchison – a woman ahead of her time, whose own tale inspired one of the initial trio of fragrances, Albaura.
Kate Evans – Angela Flanders
‘I’ve inherited this incredible legacy and I want it to live on,’ Kate Evans explains, having been bequeathed the award-winning London perfumery her mother, Anglea Flanders founded. Angela was a fragrant phenomenon: an utterly incredible woman with a life-long passion for perfume, who was still working – and creating beautiful scents – into her eighth decade. A costume designer turned interior designer turned perfumer, she passed her knowledge of ingredients and exquisite sense of style to Kate, who proudly continues at their Columbia Road boutique.
Amanda Connock – Connock London
Born of a love and respect for ‘nature, native folklore and family’, Amanda’s parents supplied hare to find ingredients to the perfumer industry – growing up surrounded by the world of scent, ‘‘I would sit in Dad’s office while he worked and smell the different bottles of fragrance on his desk’ she remembers. Blending samples and making bath salts as a child progressed to earning a business degree. Only four years after joining the family company, sadly her father died, but Amanda’s perfume passion blossomed afresh within her own fragrance house.
Marina Barcenilla – AromAtom
Part perfumer, part Space Scientist, having won awards for her aponymously named perfume house; after completing her studies in Planetary Science and Astronomy at the University of London, Marina created the house of AromAtom, because ‘As a Planetary Scientist and Astrobiologist I have thought deeply about what kind of strange and alien experiences humans might have on another planet. As a Perfumer, I know that memories and olfaction are intrinsically linked, and I have always found it easier to express my deepest thoughts and emotions through fragrance…’
Tonya Kidd-Beggs – Stories Parfums
A full-time mother of four, with two boys and twin girls to keep her busy, Tonya’s family played a significant role in her scent story: the twins inspired the brand name, that Tonya explains, ‘…pays tribute to the stories that shape our lives, from pain to beauty and from struggle to freedom.’ Having been born into the heart of Northern Ireland’s ‘troubles’, herself, and struggling to come to terms with thinking about the future curated each blend personally as a testament to the power of fragrance in her own life; Tonya’s turned her fragrant story-telling into a successful business – an inspiration to us all.
Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed – Sana Jardin
A former social worker whose c.v. includes time with the Bill Clinton Foundation, the Robin Hood Foundation and the Cherie Blair Foundation; Amy set about ‘changing the world, one bottle of perfume at a time.’ Working with perfumer Carlos Benaïm, she sources ingredients via a women’s co-operative where, locally, they can now market orange flower water, candles made from flower wax, and compost made from the waste flowers.
Mona Kattan – Kayali Huda Beauty have been wowing the world for over a decade, building an empire that went from a humble beauty blog to a blockbusting makeup and beauty business. Believing ‘scent is our most transformative part of our beauty routine, It has the power to completely change how we feel’, Mona and sister, Huda, are American-born to Iraqi immigrants, both now running their businesses from Dubai, embracing diversity and often opening up about the bullying they faced in childhood. Truly inspirational.
Holly Hutchinson – Memoize
On her seventh birthday, Holly was gifted her very first set of miniature perfumes. As her mother was ‘an avid collector of unusual scents’, perfumes were almost indelibly linked to scented snapshots of her childhood memories. Having joined a prestigious niche fragrance brand, after several years Holly says she ‘knew immediately’ what her own concept should be: sharing the emotionally evocative memories that launched her own fragrant career, while helping perfume-lovers explore their own scented memory banks.
Olivia da Costa – Olfactive O
From Chelsea College of Art, Olivia went on to become fascinated by scent as a literary device in turn of the century novels, while then studying English Literature. The psychology of perfume led her to working her way up from shop assistant to buyer at John Lewis, and when a friend introduced her to a distinguished perfumer, the passion became reality in her personality led, story-telling scents.
Michelle Feeney – Floral Street
Following her time at the Estée Lauder Companies, then revolutionary tanning name St Tropez, the always enterprising Michelle Feeney unveiled a fragrance line ‘built on the streets of London’. With an ethos of sustainability, the vibrant fragrances celebrate florals in a so-modern way, and from a flagship Covent Garden boutique to huge success in Sephora, these bouquets are blooming.
Having discreetly created fragrances for many famous private clients, she made the famous Grapefruit candle for Jo Malone (which Jennifer Lopez loved so much, she bought 300 for her hotel room). The first perfumer to use advanced micro-encapsulation (in a scented bathrobe) she now has her own fabulous fragrances evoking treasured memories, perfectly balanced and captured forever.
Sarah McCartney – 4160 Tuesdays
Having written for LUSH for 14 years, Sarah studied essential oils, acquired a small kit of rare ingredients and made her first fragrance. She then wrote a novel about ‘a woman who makes perfume to remind people of a time when they felt happy’ and turned her hobby into a business. There are 4160 Tuesdays in the average lifetime, and Sarah squeezes the scented juice out of every single one.
Emmanuelle Moeglin – Experimental Perfume Club
Completing her extensive training at the French perfumery school of ISIPCA, Emanuelle worked as a Scent Design Manager for various global fragrance brands, then become an independent perfumer based in London. Wanting to make the fragrance world more inclusive, she runs incredibly popular workshops which led to her own line of exceptionally exciting scents, including kits to make your own.
Rebecca Rose – To the Fairest
Inspired by storytelling and female strength, Rebecca first explored perfume via treasured vials from her grandmother. Later, still scent-obsessed, meeting fragrance expert Lizzie Ostrum encouraged her to launch her own company. Dedicated to giving back, Rebecca donates funds to charities, including a horticultural project working with vulnerable people; and during the pandemic, Head to Toe, who support people receiving mental health, community and social care.
Apprenticed to one of the UK’s experts in custom perfumery, Nancy began her career creating bespoke fragrances, she took her dream and made it reality – all the while, dividing her time between town and country and raising a family. Now with her own artisanal line, she has the knack of conjuring emotional responses with lyrical fragrances that are contemplative yet so effortlessly sophisticated.
Whichever of their fragrances you choose to explore, you will be amplifying and applauding the hard work and bravery of these female founders, every single time you spritz…
With an attention-grabbing name like Damn Rebel Bitches – a scented homage of blood orange, hazelnut, pink peppercorn, clary sage and malt, to the fearsome females of the Jacobite uprisings who were given this nickname – it’s obvious that REEK Perfume were bursting with passion to portray inspiring women in fragrant form. A proudly Scottish niche fragrance house, Molly Sheridan describes starting the brand so she could ‘…memorialise heroic, unapologetic women through scent. We want to celebrate our heroines.’ Damn right, and here at The Perfume Society, so do we!
Following hot on the fragrant heels of the Bitch, the equally flagrant Damn Rebel Witches celebrated those women who dared to be different, and were punished for it. You can read a full review in our guide to bewitching Halloween scents, but truly this is a fragrance suitable for any time of year, and whenver you feel like asserting your strangeness.
Molly says wearing REEK scents should be ‘…an everyday rebellion, a reminder of female achievement, much of which has been forgotten.’
Using unconventionally honest images (completely un-photoshopped images of women that celebrate beauty in all forms, including some of Molly herself) and deliberately provocative names to make people think a little more deeply about how women have been classified – often by their scent and the things a ‘virtuous women’ is supposed to smell of – throughout the centuries, we were already intrigued by their Instagram account, and so were thrilled to meet up with Molly and get to know her by asking for her five favourite smells…
1 – Chanel No 5: ‘The reason I’m picking this is because at every stage of my life, a lady of significance to me has worn it. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have an older relative, or teacher, for example, who hasn’t worn it! It’s one of those absolute staples, a smell that everyone knows. It’s a classic – I wouldn’t wear it myself, but I love the smell of it on other people. Especially when they wear too much – I love that!’
2 – Elnett Hairspray: ‘It always reminds you of somebody or a particular time in your life when you used it. One whiff and you’re straight back there! And it’s just got this really distinctive smell – something that I can’t quite put my finger on or even describe – but it’s so evocative…’
3 – Petrol: ‘I love the smell of petrol, and I find that a lot of perfumes I like to wear has something like that in the scent for a split second – I’m not sure what it is, exactly, but something that reminds me of it and draws me to it. I want to keep smelling it to get more, more to get the petrol smell back. Weirdly I find that with both fragrances and food – the things I like most have something that reminds me of petrol.’
4 – 4160 Tuesdays Maxed Out: ‘Ohhh… it smells like chocolate limes to me. For ages this was the only perfume I wore, and I wouldn’t wear it during the day, but for some reason I like wearing it at night. Even if I’m just staying in.
5 – Bread: ‘It’s one of those smells that’s the same everywhere in the world. You can be in India or Paris and it all smells the same. Bread is one of those habitual smells that’s so comforting, and makes you hungry to smell it, even if you’re weren’t beforehand. I really like the fact that bread has such a social history, too – it’s a staple of life, we talking about “breaking bread” with people or say something’s “the best thing since sliced bread”. I went to Italy with my little sister and asked her what her favourite thing about the holiday and she said ‘The bread and butter!’ which just about sums it up for me.
Can I just say, I think these are absolutely brilliant questions to throw at someone! It’s so psychological… and I really like not having time to ruminate on the answers, otherwise you’d come up with some perfectly balanced list of things you’re supposed to say. Not like me – petrol and Elnett, haha!’
As it’s International Women’s Day, can we take a moment to collectively cheer the world’s first recorded chemist – a woman named Tapputi – and a perfume maker whose existence we only know about thanks to being recorded on a 1200 BCE Cuneiform tablet, found in Babylonian Mesopotamia.
Tapputi was granted the title “Belatikallim” which suggests she was regarded as a high-ranking scientist, and her role would have held great sway in both the Mesopotamian government and their religion, because she was overseer of the Mesopotamian Royal Palace.
But think of a perfumer or famous ‘nose’ now and, chances are, the picture that comes to most peoples’ mind is a man in a white lab coat, or – if you’re more romantically inclined – a man in a velvet jacket plucking rose petals at sunrise and being struck by artistic inspiration. My point is: it’s probably still a man you’re thinking of.
In the Fashion, Feminism & Fragrance edition of our magazine, The Scented Letter, we devoted the issue to looking back to the women we have to thank for shaping the way we smell today, and focussing on the current crop of women perfumers shaking up the scent world.
Here, we pay tribute to just some of these remarkable and talented women, and urge you to seek out their work as a way celebrating International Women’s Day 2019…
Daniela Andrier’s CV now stretches endlessly: triumphs include Bottega Veneta Knot, the daring Maison Martin Margiela Untitled and Guerlain’s Angélique Noire – but the name which continually crops up on her list of creations is that of Prada. She clearly has a fantastic working relationship with Miuccia Prada, which has brought us such blockbusters as Prada Man (2006), Prada Candy (2011), and every single one of the Prada ingredient-focused Infusion series, so widely adored by bloggers and perfume-lovers alike.
Christine Nagel says the first time she met a ‘nose’, that’s what she knew she wanted to be. So she trained as a research chemist and market analyst, and in Paris, in 1997, launched a seriously distinguished career that’s included creations like the blockbuster Narciso Rodriguez for Her (with Francis Kurkdjian), Jimmy Choo Flash and Guerlain’s Les Elixirs Charnels collection. After several years at Jo Malone London, Christine joined Hermès, to work alongside the legendary Jean-Claude Ellena in 2014. When he retired two years later, Ellena named Nagel his rightful successor, and she took her place as the esteemed Head of Perfumery. Nagel’s pared-down style with innovative twists has composed Eau de Rhubarb Ecarlate, Galop d’Hermès and the much-admired recent addition of Twilly d’Hèrmes – some of the Hermès’ most critically acclaimed and commercially successful fragrances to date.
Mathilde Laurent is widely considered the ‘rock ‘n roll superstar’ of contemporary perfumery, having been encouraged to become a perfumer by a family friend who noticed from a young age she’d been ‘encountering the world nose first, whether to describe a plate of food or the atmosphere of a new house,’ as Laurent puts it. Trained at ISIPCA after gaining a degree in chemistry and physics, she put in a call to Jean-Paul Guerlain himself, asking for an internship. After three months, she was offered a permanent position and stayed for the next 11 years. Joining Cartier to become their in-house and bespoke perfumer, Laurent has tirelessly worked to promote the creative use of quality synthetics in modern perfumery, in order to ‘shatter the idea that the result had to be hard, abstract, aggressive.’ Her work is by turns contemporary with a classic touch, surprising yet ultimately, sublimely wearable.
Camille Goutal studied Literature at ‘A’ Level then took courses in art, photography and design at the Louvre Museum School. It led to a career in photography, but it was scent that ultimately beckoned. Her mother, Annick, had founded the now renowned house in 1981, being joined by equally talented nose Isabelle Doyen in 1985 and watching as the name spread like wildfire around the world. By the 1990s, the collection was in the ‘top five’ in leading department stores like Saks and Nieman Marcus. When Annick sadly passed in 1999 aged just 53, Camille – who’d been the inspiration for both the inspiration for both Eau de Camille, and Petite Chérie – the baton was passed from being muse to Aromatique Majeur: honouring her mother’s legacy while continuing to drive the house – now re-branded as Goutal – ever onwards, to the delight and relief of millions of fans worldwide.
Alice Lavenat was a young perfumer working for Jean Niel in Grasse. Entering the prestigious French Perfumers Young Perfumer of the Year Competition in 2014. Inspired by her family’s wine business, and creatively interpreting the brief of using blackcurrant bud, the judges’ decision was unanimous: Lavenat was awarded first prize. One of Jean Niel’s clients was Marie Lise Bischoff – founder of the perfume house, Nejma – and she’d not only smelled Alice’s fragrance and fallen in love with it, but was determined to nurture the talent of this young perfumer. Naming the creation Parfum d’Alice, her talents have developed Nejma’s incredibly successful fragrance collection, including a collaboration with a French rap star for KoEptYs, and an exclusive range of Extrait for Harrods.
Fanny Bal is apprenticed to none other than Dominic Ropion – regarded by many as one of the greatest perfumers of our time – who says her approach to perfumery is ‘curious, tenacious and bold’ and predicts she has ‘all the best qualities to become a great perfumer.’ Another ISIPCA alumni, going on to work at IFF, Bal’s currently storming the expectations of the fragrance world with Sale Gosse for Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle (inspired by a mixture of bubblegum, cheeky ‘enfants terribles’, old-fashioned sweets and ‘doodles on the blackboard’). According to Malle, Fanny Bal is known for ‘constantly surprising her seniors’, and having recently smelled her utterly majestic (homage to) Hemmingway for Masque Milano (a trio of vetiver that had us swooning for hours), we say: watch this space. The name Fanny Bal will soon be on every fragrance fan’s lips, and her scents surprising your nose for years to come…
Have you got people to buy presents for this Christmas whose tastes you’re not absolutely certain of? There are always some, it seems, and we have the perfect gift idea: a selection box of sumptuous scents in Luxury Boxes!
We pride ourselves on offering a beautiful range of luxury niche and hard-to-find fragrances, each box comprising a wonderful selection of scents your loved one can try. We always say the only way to buy fragrance is to live with it a while on your skin, to see how the notes unravel as it warms with you, to explore how each one makes you feel… and the best way to do this is by having a variety of try-me sizes – a scented something for every mood!
Consider giving these gift boxes as an initial ‘taster’ present, and then asking which their favourite was, to buy the full size later on (now safe in the knowledge they’ve tried and adored it!) And of course they make fantastic standalone presents for any perfume lover, with something for every budget.
Why not tick off some more gift buying right now, from the comfort of your home, and let us do all the hard work for you? Or if you’re already done (our congratulations and sheer envy, if you are!) why not put your feet up and treat yourself for a change…?
Now this set represents a HUGE bargain, boasting a £15 voucher given with every box, to put towards a full size of your choosing. Each scent was developed by a different master perfumer – think: Fanny Bal,Thomas Fontaine, Michel Roudnitska, Christian Provenzano, Beverley Bayne and Randa Hammami – true experts and alchemists in the world of fragrance. From stunning florals to exquisitely fresh fragrances and a mystical woodiness that’s captivated everyone who’s worn it, we think you’re going to be as excited as we were to discover this collection. Learn all about this exciting new house with an explanatory leaflet and ten scent strips to fully explore and get to know the fragrances in depth – it’s ideal for those who crave something truly different, and for people just learning the delights of perfumery. Anima Vinci Discovery Set£15
A fantastic second curation of Tom Daxon fragrances (the first one is still available, if you prefer) continues the exploration of the signature collection from this rising star of the perfume world. Five fabulous fragrances – all shareable, all delectable, a celebration of dark and mysterious scents that we think are just perfect for the colder months. Each fragrance is meticulously created with perfumer Jacques Chabert – who, during his career, has spent time working on scents for Chanel and Guerlain (and who twentysomething Tom Daxon has known since childhood). Tom Daxon Discovery Collection Two£45
With creations by one of the world’s leading perfumers, the new perfume house Floral Street pride themselves on shaking up your opinions about floral scents, with their distinctly modern spin on a classic perfume category. Put basically, Floral Street’s fragrances are about as far from your granny’s florals as it’s possible to get – each one created by the star perfumer Jérôme Épinette, who is known for his mastery of natural ingredients. As Floral Street put it: ‘These are bunches – not bouquets. Ingredients, not notes. And it’s about ease, modernity and joy.’ Using unexpected combinations beautifully blended, they’re affordable luxuries to indulge in at any time, and especially suited to those new to exploring niche perfumery. Floral Street Discovery Set £14
In an age where we hear a lot about conscious consumerism, Sana Jardin is looking to change the world – one utterly exquisite bottle of perfume at a time… The scents in the Sana Jardin collection are strikingly beautiful – a magic carpet ride in every bottle. And – enhancing their feel-good factor – this socially-conscious, luxury fragrance house offers flacons created entirely from recycled glass, along with a sustainability program to help the Moroccan women who pick the orange blossoms used in several of perfumer Carlos Benaïm‘s stunning creations for Sana Jardin. The perfect pick for someone who’s socially conscious but still wants to smell utterly sublime! Sana Jardin Discovery Set £30
Discover British master perfumer Ruth Mastenbroek‘s collection in one brilliant box. After years of creating scents for iconic brands like Jo Malone London and Jigsaw, Ruth set about creating her own range. Each of her perfumes is a masterpiece that takes two or three years to make, crafted using some of the best ingredients the world has to offer and seeking to capture fragments of a life well lived within each composition. Expect to find your new scent love right here, with a truly mesmerising modern take on Chypre (surely the most sophisticated fragrance family), along with luscious florals and intriguingly contemporary (and definitely sharable) scents. This selection (with lovely travel-friendly sprays) is a must-try for anyone who has a love of perfume – or would make a great gift for someone wanting to discover, explore and enjoy a unique perfume house. Ruth Mastenbroek Discovery Set £17.95
The Merchant of Venice invites you on an enchanting journey through the different olfactory families to discover their Murano Collection. A unique set that reinterprets the art of Venetian Perfumery, it is inspired by its craftsmanship and age-old trade with the Orient. Encompassing the exotic ingredients that Venice traded, the perfumes and packaging evoke the rich traditions and history on which this noble city was founded. It’s an incredible collection with each fragrance encompassing a fascinating story and a snapshot of historic influneces composed with the contemporary fragrance-wearer in mind. Did you know The Merchant of Venice found a unique rose in the grounds of a Venetian palace, and used this for one of their scents? For travel, history and scent-lovers alike… The Merchant of Venice Discovery Set £30
Cochine is Vietnam’s first luxury fragrance brand – and one that we are totally obsessed with! Created to inspire you, Cochine’s collection of eaux de parfum captures the romance of a sun-warmed garden as its enchanting scents unfold into the evening air. The Cochine Floral Collection has been specially selected from Cochine’s portfolio of unique botanical scents, including the newest fragrance, Tuberose & Wild Fig. To wear these is to be transported to exotic climes and a heavenly scented, balmy air. The fragrances are presented in sizes that mean they’re great to have for spritzing at home, popping in your handbag or even taking on holiday – completely perfect for that unashamed floral lover in your life. Cochine Floral Collection £35
We were lucky enough to be invited to the launch of the French Connection Femme & Homme fragrances last week, and were seriously impressed at their sophisticated (yet pocket-friendly) duo…
French Connection’s in-house team worked on the project with renowned perfumers Philippe Romano and Corinne Cachen as the noses, and flipping their roles so that Philippe worked on Femme and Corinne on Homme – resulting in a dynamic, contemporary take on a ‘male’ and ‘female’ pairing.
Quite frankly, we’d be happy to wear them both. Seek them out in-store at French Connection now, and also at Boots nationwide.
So… how do they smell?
French Connection Woman/Femme is all come hither creamy jasmine with a lusciously juicy mandarin and crisp apple up front with hints of luminescent neroli, then a dry-down that gets all smoochy with soft musk and warm amber. Impressive staying-power, too – we could still smell this wafting in our hair the following day!
French Connection Femme from £14.99 for 30ml eau de toilette Try it at Boots
French Connection Man/Homme is dark and moody, a contemporary fougère that’s cool and shady with frosted sage, green violet leaves and lavender mossy-ness. The base is smothered in sandalwood with an addictively gourmand touch of tonka bean that’s sure to prove an all-day wrist-sniffer (or neck snuggler).
French Connection Homme from £14.99 for 30ml eau de toilette Try it at Boots
There are reportedly more women now joining the famous French perfumery school, ISIPCA, than men – an about-face for the time women in the perfume industry were either not employed at all, or remained somewhat faceless behind-the-scenes as their male peers were lauded as genius perfumers in gleaming white lab coats, then the respectable (and respected) face of fragrance.
The perfume world – and all fragrance fans – have many pioneering women to thank for the centuries they spent, tirelessly working their way to the top. So, for International Women’s Day, here are just a few we’d like to put our hands together for, and whom we should all celebrate, not just today, but every single time we spritz…
Germaine Cellier was a pioneering nose from the 1940s who created scandalously daring scents such as Balmain‘s Vent Vert – overdosed with galbanum and considered the first “green” perfume of its kind – and Robert Piguet‘s Fracas, a bombastic, room-filling, man-slaying tuberose. Cellier believed in doing her own thing, and as such it’s often reported her male colleagues found her ‘difficult to work with.’ For ‘difficult’ read ‘opinionated’ and just wonder if those male colleagues were similarly chastised for daring to disagree. Here’s to ‘difficult women’ everywhere.
Had she been male, or growing up in an age of equality, Patricia de Nicolai might have become the next generation of the Guerlain family’s master perfumers (the title traditionally being passed from father to son). Undefeated, de Nicolaï has gone on to found an eponymous fragrance brand – Parfums de Nicolai – is a member of the technical committee of the French Society of Perfumers and now president of the prestigious Osmothèque scent archive. Having won the International prize for Young Perfumers (Prix International du jeune Parfumeur Créateur – Société Française des Parfumeurs) in 1988, her fragrance Number One garnered her the position of their first female laureate. Top that? She did. In 2008 going on to be decorated as a knight of the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur. It’s fair to say de Nicolai is one of the all-time (if mainly still unsung) great perfumers.
Josephine Catapano is considered a mentor by many female perfumers working today, and when you read her list of accolades, it’s not hard to see why. In 1980 Capatano was granted the Cosmetic Career Women’s Award followed by a Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Society of Perfumers in 1993. Working during an era when perfumers were kept firmly within their labs, no names emblazoned on bottles, and most especially if they were female; creating the all-time classic Youth Dew for Estée Lauder, the original Shiseido Zen and Fidji for Guy Laroche; it is only now truly Catapano’s name has even begun to be truly acknowledged.
There are certainly more historical female pioneers we should hoist the bunting for, but we’d also like to pay tribute to just a few of the contemporary noses who’ve risen in the ranks to become distinguished perfumers we follow the careers of with fascination, and much respect.
Sophie Labbé spent her childhood between Paris and the Charente-Maritime area of France, encountering contrasting smells: the odours of a capital city, against the scents of the countryside, living to the rhythm of grape-picking and harvesting, swept with a salty breeze… She studied at IPSICA, and at the Givaudan Perfumery School in Geneva for six months. In 1992 she joined IFF as a junior perfumer, and since then Sophie has worked on fragrances including Bulgari Jasmin Noir and Mon Jasmin Noir, Calvin Klein Beauty, Estée Lauder Pure White Linen, Salvatore Ferragamo Signorina and Signorina Eleganza. We asked whom she’d most loved to have created for. Her answer? ‘Cleopatra – a powerful female figure whose legendary status is drenched in perfume!’ And which, we wondered, was her favourite bottle of all the perfumes she’s composed? ‘Givenchy Organza, with its beautiful feminine, goddess like curves.’
Ruth Mastenbroek was born in England, spent some of her childhood in America, and graduated with a Chemistry degree from Oxford University. Having been classically trained in Grasse, she’d studied alongside brilliant perfumers such as Olivier Cresp, who created Angel, and Jacques Cavallier who created the Jean Paul Gaultier ‘Classique’ fragrance. In the late she 70s worked as a perfumer in the UK and Netherlands with Naarden International (which later became Quest and is now Givaudan – one of the largest perfume suppliers in the world…)Ruth worked in Japan and in the perfume capital Grasse before returning to England to work for a small company, where she created fragrances for up-and-coming brands like Kenneth Turner and Jo Malone – including her Grapefruit candle. Ruth set up her own perfumery company, Fragosmic Ltd., in 2003 – the year she became president of The British Society of Perfumers. In 2010 Ruth launched a capsule collection of scented products featuring her signature fragrance – RM – and also became the first perfumer to use advanced micro-encapsulation technology… in a scented bathrobe! Inspired by her travels, ingredients she grew up with and most of all by her seemingly tireless zest for life, Ruth’s perfumes are shamelessly romantic, but still with a contemporary edge, and we’re always thrilled (and proud!) to wear them.
‘I didn’t want to make perfume as a child; I wanted to be a witch,’ says Sarah McCartney, founder and perfumer of the gloriously unconventional 4160 Tuesdays. ‘I started to blend my own essential oil combinations after I joined Lush as a writer in 1996; I’d been dabbling from 1999 and started seriously making fragrances when I left in 2009.’ The ‘dabbling’ as a hobby combined with her marketing experience, bag loads of energy (and bravery!) led to Sarah becoming an entirely self-taught perfumer with boundless imagination. Having written a novel about perfumes, readers asked if she could create the scents she’d invented, ‘This turned out to be impossible – and pretty expensive – because no one was making exactly what I wanted, so I started another quest to see of I could make them instead.’ And so she rolled up her sleeves and did just that. Her guilty pleasures include ‘playing on the swings at the park [in fact, she’s installed a swing at 4160 Tuesdays HQ, and invites visitors to have a go – did we mention unconventional?], red lipstick, watching Nashville, and drinking champagne…’ Now winning acclaim the world over, Sarah still delights in having fun with fragrance, and in making scents that work the way she wants them to. Bravo.
From the first time she met a ‘nose’, that’s what Christine Nagel knew she wanted to be. So she trained as a research chemist and market analyst, and in Paris, in 1997, was launched on a seriously distinguished career that’s included creations like the blockbuster Narciso Rodriguez for Her (with Francis Kurkdjian), Jimmy Choo Flash and Guerlain’s Les Elixirs Charnels collection. After several years at Jo Malone London, Christine joined Hermès, to work alongside the incredible perfumer, Jean-Claude Ellena. Strongly believing that fragrance should be genderless, she asserts that ‘In reality, anyone can wear whatever he or she likes – even if the fragrance is supposedly “masculine” or “feminine”. There’s no right or wrong…’ Her desire to ‘pare down’ fragrances chimes perfectly with Jean-Claude’s, and she describes her scent style as ‘characterised by simplicity, which mirrors their philosophy’. ‘Favourite’ notes go in cycles: ‘I’ve phases when I’m deeply into a single type: woody, ambrée, green facets. It can turn almost into an obsession, until I have the feeling I’ve found what I’m looking for, and then I move on.’ And move on she certainly did, for in 2016 it was announced that Nagel would now succeed the much-beloved Ellena. With enviable shoes to fill, she began not at a trot but full gallop – Galop (a stunning blend of leather and rose) proving a huge hit and ensuring the perfume world is on tenterhooks, and our noses are primed, for whatever she next creates…
For more female pioneers of perfume, read a selection of our exclusive ‘working nose‘ interviews by searching for that term, above, or browse our perfumer interview archive – that just happens to be bursting with talented women, and which we’re constantly adding others to.
And how shall we give thanks? Seek out some of the perfumes created by these women, or treat yourself to a new one by an up-and-coming star. Now there’s an on-going reason to celebrate. Yaaas, sister! *fist-bump*
Jean Paul Gaultier has never been a designer to shy away from the risqué, the clothing and fragrances both reflecting his cheeky *wink wink* personality, and everything – from Madonna’s infamous ‘cone bra’ to ground-breaking perfume ads showing same-sex couples kissing – show his exuberant attitude to life and utter delight in creating provocative statement pieces.
The corset-clad bottles of his first female fragrance, Classique, have become true icons in the flacon Hall of Fame, with the scent itself more than standing the test of time by reinventing the curvaceous torso bottle with seasonal changes of wardrobe, so to speak, as highly collectible limited edition bottles and ramped-up versions of the original juice.
Now, Jean Paul Gaultier are launching a brand new fragrance with legs of its own – literally. We think the high-kicking limbs atop the Scandal bottle are rather reminiscent of the once banned cancan dancers at the Folies Bergère, don’t you?
‘Jean Paul Gaultier knew how to disrupt, only he could create… Scandal! The fragrance of a woman who is free and strong. First Gaultier gave us the corset dressed torso bottles; now here are the legs! ‘
Perfumer Daphné Bugey worked with Fabrice Pellegrin and Christophe Raynaud to create ‘…a perfume that could entirely embody day and night,’ fusing blood orange, honey, patchouli and gardenia to a musky base reflecting the light and shade found in ‘the endless fun of Paris.’ At first the gardenia shines through, diffusing the honey as though backlit by golden sunshine and punctuated with the darkly glimmering juice of a fleshy blood orange. As the sun dips lower, the patchouli comes out to play, weaving a honeyed, chypre trail that still billows with the gardenia’s flirtatiousness.
‘The heart of this fragrance is about life. In the daytime, it is a gourmand, fresh honey with a floral heart of Gardenia and the sparkling hook of Blood Orange. At night it is a sensual and seductive honey blended with the woody base of patchouli.’
The advertising campaign is suitably saucy, mixing sex and politics (how very French!) featuring model Vanessa Axente playing a character who apparently leads a rather scandalous double life…
‘By day, our Madam Minister is consumed in serious matters, head buried in her highly confidential files. By night, she creates her own classified, private files. Two worlds that should have remained separate… until the day the paparazzi snapped the picture that flooded the social networks … Scandal!‘
Jean Paul Gaultier Scandal from £44.50 for 30ml eau de parfum
Buy it at The Perfume Shop
Written by Suzy Nightingale
What comes to mind when you picture concrete? Urban cityscapes are bound to be involved, but for design-led style leaders, Comme des Garçons, they always like to play with traditional expectations, and their latest fragrance is anything but conventional (but oh-so wearable, we’re glad to report!)
We had the pleasure of being present at the press presentation of CONCRETE – the new CDG scent launching today and exclusively first available at Selfridges. ‘A versatile material finds an unpredictable form’, they say, and from the pleasingly tactile concrete-clad bottle that will age as flagstones do – leaving a part of yourself imprinted every time you touch it – to the intriguingly soft juice inside (as we said: unexpected!) we have to concur…
So what does CONCRETE smell like? Well there’s the CDG signature of peppery notes, though this time very much white pepper, we’re thinking… then a mineral-ic waft of slightly metallic mistiness, but the framework here is bound to the rich, soothingly creamy essence of sandalwood and the most transparent rose, created by synthetic rose oxide – a molecule that turns old-fashioned rose on its head and adds acres of crystaline lightness and air to the mix. CDG say that ‘…layers of resinous warmth are lacquered with metallic seams’ – by which we understand that the scent smells somehow both warm and cold at the same time. And it really does! We’re super-impressed and see this as a totally sharable fragrance you could easily wear every day.
CDG are renowned for collaborating with ground-breaking contemporary artists and Graham Hudson has been working with the house for 10 years, this time creating an exclusive installation in the Beauty Hall (and window) of Selfridges, Bond Street.
Comme des Garçons CONCRETE has been imagined as a kind of love story in scent and its artistic expression through all the senses. Music plays on records as sculpted figures and textural shapes abound. The installation is only up for a week, so do pop along and see it while you have the chance!
Fume Chat is one of our favourite podcasts (for the uninitiated, think of podcasts as online radio shows you can subscribe to and download to listen later), from the offset aiming ‘…to have fun with fragrance – after all, it’s just perfume, so why it take it so seriously?’ Regular hosts Nick Gilbert and Thomas Dunckley (a.k.a. fragrance blogger The Candy Perfume Boy) may be perfume experts in their own right, but they genuinely bring a sense of the joy of discovery along with down-to-earth accessible information to their weekly show.
Most episodes sees the fragrant twosome sniffing exciting new scents both old and new or discussing topics relevant to the world of perfumery – a brilliant recent episode was dedicated to Aroma Chemicals (or Synthetics) and exploring what the giddy hell they actually are and where best to sniff them out.
Our favourite episodes have to be the ‘Battles’, in which Nick and Thomas each bring to the table their favourite examples of a particular perfume genre. Often they’ll get a guest to decide the outcome (and overall winner of the battle!) and the latest – The War of the Roses –featured none other than our very own co-founder and editor, Jo Fairley as the judge. We wont spoil the surprise, but suffice to say it was a close battle and you’ll be wanting to scatter rose petals at the feet of the victor…
Do go and have a listen by clicking the Fume Chat logo, above – who do YOU think will win? – and have a pad handy, because the way Nick and Thomas so breathlessly describe their favourites makes us want to go and sniff (and douse ourselves in) them immediately…
(If you’re not an Apple user, you can find the Fume Chat RSS feed here).
Written by Suzy Nightingle
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