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

Collectively obsessed with scent: you have to see this mega mini perfume collection!

Obsession isn’t just the name of a perfume – it’s a very good description of the fragrant madness that creeps in to every perfume collector’s life sooner or later. And there are many differing types… The completists – those who absolutely must have every single version of  particular scent; the vintage fans who insist on owning (and sometimes wearing, if they’re in good enough condition) history, bottled. Talking of bottles, perhaps the largest collecting community within the perfume world are those who fill their homes (and garages, and sheds) with particular types of flacon – from ultra rare examples that reach eye-watering prices to retro scents in charmingly bizarre shapes – for these collectors, the perfume itself is actually secondary: they’re alllll about the bottle.

For the latest edition of The Scented Letter magazine, we focused on the mysteriouly enticing world of collectors and their collections – and one of the main images we used was kindly supplied by a VIP Subsciber, Phoebe Tan, who happened to mention ‘Oh yeah, my mum collects minis. She has quite a few…’ For “quite a few” please see the featured photo, above, and you’ll understand why we just had to interview Phoebe’s mum, Lindsay Yeo, to find out more.

Lindsay: ‘I first became interested in perfume when I went shopping in a department store about 30 years ago. There was a promotional event for Lancôme where I did a questionnaire that proposed one of their perfumes to match my personality. The winning one was… Magie Noire. I really loved it. Before this, I used to hate perfumes because people around me wore very heavy fragrances (this was in the 70s). But this event made me discover that I just hadn’t found a perfume I truly liked! That same day I bought my first full size perfume which came with a miniature bottle that caught my eye…’

Once the fragrant bait has been taken, it’s a short step to full-on perfumista status, we’ve long known. And Lindsay mused how it was ‘…funny I still have the full size bottle long after it was emptied.’ Of course we had to know how many she had stashed, and Lindsay confessed: ‘I just went to count and I currently have close to 500 bottles (most of them are minis!). This is the first time I’ve counted and I am quite shocked, actually.’
When asked what set her on this miniature-perfume collecting path, Lindsay explained ‘I really only wanted to collect the miniatures so initially I would buy full-size bottles for the minis. The first few I bought were: Magie noire by Lancome, Paloma Picasso , Lou Lou, Anais Anais by Cacharel, Ysatis by Givenchy, Ruffles by Oscar De La Renta, Gucci No.3, Beyond Paradise by Estee Lauder. Years later I found shops that sold the minis on their own – without the need to buy the full-sizes – and that is how I started collecting. It’s kinder on the pocket!’

So what exactly does a collector look for in a bottle – what catches their eye and makes them think “I MUST have that!”? For Lindsay… ‘I look out for interesting designs. [NB: The “lighter” shaped bottle, above, is a particular favourite of Lindsay’s.] To me, perfume bottles are pieces of art! They are so beautiful. Miniatures are not easy to come by so I really treat them all as treasures.’

Phoebe Tan with her miniature-bottle collecting mum, Lindsay Yeo.

Clearly, the passion for perfume runs in the blood, as Phoebe Tan first became interested in chemistry and then – when she made the connection between science and the art of perfume – she was totally hooked. Now setting her heart on a career in fragrance, Phoebe has been studying (and is soon to graduate from) for her MSc Cosmetic Science’ at London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London. And having sniffed some of her “course work” examples, we’re pretty sure Phoebe’s own fragrances will be added to future collector’s scent stashes…
Written by Suzy Nightingale