For International Women’s Day this year, we’re celebrating some of the incredible women who are not only perfumers, but who’ve founded their own independent houses; who haven’t merely survived one of the most difficult times in living memory for small businesses, but are, quite frankly, thriving!
There’s no doubt things have changed a lot in recent years.
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 strong, creative, amazing women we’d like to put our hands together for – and whom we should all celebrate, not just today, but every single time we spritz…
Maya Njie (pronounced ‘Maia N-Jai’) has diverse familial and artistic roots, having been born in Västerås Sweden, with a West African heritage, and moving to London in her teens where she went in to study at the University of the Arts. Weaving together these threads via the medium of the senses, Maya began experimenting with smell alongside the the visual mediums of colour and photography. Gaining global fans around the world, and offering Pocket Size perfumes, we are thrilled to welcome Maya Njie at The Perfume Society, and know you’ll adore exploring her creations.
Ruth 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. Having travelled extensively, and been president of The British Society of Perfumers; Ruth launched a capsule collection of scented products before weaving scent memories we could all wear. Ruth’s perfumes are shamelessly romantic, but still with a contemporary edge, and we’re always thrilled (and proud!) to wear them.
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 expending line of so-clever, utterly wearable (alone, or to mix your own signature) exceptionally exciting scents; and now (since lockdown) opened the world out further by crafting perfume courses online, suited to every level of experience.
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. 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. Always inventive, collaborating with artists, appearing at festivals – here energy and creative output is astounding.
Apprenticed to one of the UK’s experts in custom perfumery, Nancy began her career training with that esteemed perfumer and creating bespoke fragrances for private clients. Many might have stuck to that path, but Nancy dared to chase her dream and make it reality – all the while, dividing her time between town and country and raising a family. Now with her own exquisite artisanal line, and a beautiful boutique in Brighton, she has the knack of conjuring emotional responses with lyrical fragrances that are contemplative yet so effortlessly sophisticated. And yes, she still makes custom fragrances for clients, too!
When we were curating the Limited Edition Niche Discovery Box, we wanted to include the most exciting niche fragrances we’ve come across lately. It can be really difficult to find these houses if you don’t happen to live in London or near an independent perfumery – and even if you do, it would take ages to seek out all these scents – FOURTEEN in all! – so we’ve saved your legs and done all the pre-sniffing to find the hottest niche brands right now…
Have a look here to read all about the fragraces, with three huge luxury size samples and the entire contents worth over £75, but costing you only £23 (or just £19 forVIP Club members ); but right now let’s focus on why we think you should be excited about exploring these niche houses, now.
One of the things that truly sets a ‘niche’ house apart is their founders hands-on approach – and the unique personalities they bring to their brand’s creation. At The Perfume Society, we truly believe perfume lovers want to know more than merely ‘this is new’ – it’s one of the reasons we started! – and that’s why we dedicate entire pages to houses’ histories, from tracing heritage and discovering why they’ve embraced niche, to finding out what makes their founders tick, and what drives their perfume passions…
Showcasing fragrances created by some of the world’s most renowned perfumers, Anima Vinci is the creative expression of one woman’s strong belief in the power of fragrance and the positive effect it can have on your heart, mind and spirit. With a background at the very first ‘niche’ perfumery house – and years at the creative helm of one of the UK’s most historic fragrance names – Nathalie Vinciguerra brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. But it’s her passion for authenticity and sustainability within the world of fragrance that finally drove her to create Anima Vinci.
Oh, what a wonderful fragrant story this is: a traditional British perfume house, restored to its glory in the 21st Century – with the 2013 niche-focused relaunch of Atkinsons fragrances. A sleeping beauty of a tale, actually, interwoven with the names of heroes and heroines, princes and dandies. And as if that wasn’t enough, a rags-to-riches story, too.In spring 1799, an enterprising young man named James Atkinson set forth from the wilds of Cumberland for London. In his suit pocket were recipes for fine fragrances and toiletries he’d created himself. And next to him sat a generous amount of rose-scented bear grease balm. (Yes, really.) Even more extraordinarily, next to the balm sat a real, live bear who – so the tale goes – was utterly devoted to James…
One of the city’s newest niche perfume house, BDK has its roots firmly in Paris’s perfumed history, while its design is even inspired by an iconic Parisian building. Unlike the names Guerlain, Creed or Dior, Benedek isn’t one you’d immediately associate with perfume. But in its own way, 29-year-old David Benedek‘s family has also played a pivotal role in sharing the love of French fragrance within France and beyond its shores.
There are few fragrance houses still as ‘relevant’ after almost 200 years as the wonderful Paris-based house of E. Coudray – which can trace its roots back to the reign of Louis XVIII, no less, and the year 1822. The Paris-born founder was a doctor-chemist, Edmond Coudray (the ‘E’ in E. Coudray), who went on to enjoy a spectacular career, creating eaux de Cologne, pomades, creams and soaps for the crowned heads of France, Italy and England – including Queen Victoria, for whom the perfume ‘Reine Victoria’ was made. Now enjoyed by niche fragrance-lovers who appreciate their unerring quality and dressing-table worthy bottles, no wonder this heritage house is proudly thriving.
Fragrance du Bois
With their headquarters in Paris and a number of privately owned sustainable plantations in Asia, Fragrance Du Bois are world experts in the protection and harvesting of oudh – sometimes known as ‘liquid gold’. And they have mastered the blending of this fabled ingredient, using some of the best ‘noses’ in the world. Fragrance Du Bois are, quite unashamedly, so oudh-obsessed. And are we surprised? Derived from the dark resinous wood of the Aquilaria tree, oudh (often spelled ‘oud’) is an utterly fascinating material – a resin that occurs in less than 7% of trees, in the wild. Which explains why the material is so precious – and, sought-after. And not all oudh, it transpires, is harvested with the focus on sustainability that Fragrance Du Bois are renowned for.
Juliette Has a Gun Romano Ricci has perfume in his DNA. His great-grandmother was the legendary couturier Nina Ricci and his grandfather Robert was creator of the equally iconic L’Air du Temps. He launched Juliette Has A Gun in December 2006: a brand devoted to women, offering a new type of elegance within niche perfumery: ‘The innocent Juliet of Shakespeare is transposed to the 21st Century with a gun… Metaphor for the perfume, weapon of seduction, or simple accessory of bluff. “Gun” essentially symbolises the liberation of women towards men… And sometimes with an aftertaste of revenge.’
Kingdom Scotland Imogen Russon-Taylor has created the very first Scottish fragrance house – capturing the history and majestic landscapes of her home country in a portfolio of utterly contemporary fragrances…The worlds of whisky and fragrance have much in common, believes Imogen Russon-Taylor. And she should know: after a distinguished career in the aromatic world of Scotch whisky, Imogen has now gone on to create her own fragrance house – the very first to be based north of the border. ‘Both whisky and perfume are produced by traditional distillation methods,’ she explains. Both evoke a complex sensory experience and both rely upon the innovative use of ingredients or flavours to distinguish themselves from competitors.’
Merchant of Venice
When the princess Teodora Ducas – daughter of the Emperor of Byzantium – married the Doge Domenico Selvo in 1060, it can be said the grand Venetian tradition of perfumery (and the accompanying products with which the royal court liked to adorn themselves) truly began. Later centuries would come to see Venice as a centre for the art of European perfumery – a vibrant city that never shied away from revelling in the finer things life has to offer. Surrounded by such beauty, it seems only natural the aristocrats would wish to look – and smell – just as fabulous. Skip forward several centuries to 2011, and the Vidal family – already renowned in the world of perfumery for more than a century – decided to pay homage to this glorious cultural tradition.
It’s easy to look back and think the timing was spot on,’ says John Evans, founder of Modernist Fragrance and (perhaps somewhat surprisingly) former financier. ‘That was true to a degree,’ he admits, ‘but the rest was like anything you’re passionate about: hard work, perseverance, some setbacks, a bit of luck.’ Through books, involvement with industry organisations, meetings with perfumers, as well as a research to Grasse – global epicentre of perfume creation – he immersed himself in the techniques of fine perfumery, painstakingly experimenting with building his own compositions. ‘Time and space change once compounding begins,’ John explains, ‘like being enthralled by something you’re writing or reading.’
Rising star fragrance house Prosody London believe that plants are more than just useful ingredients on which we rely, saying ‘they are the basis of human wellbeing, the silent friends without which our planet would be bare and our lives unthinkable…’ With a green ethos that flows through every fragrance, Prosody London take equal delight in their scents being so beautifully composed, so harmoniously sophisticated, that many people don’t even realise they are – gloriously, unashamedly – all natural and organic… Taking the beauty of plants – their stems, leaves, petals, and even the their cycle of growth and maturing beauty – as their guiding inspiration, Prosody London talk passionately about how ‘some of the earliest cultures saw plants as a grammar, a code and a cosmology.’
When David and Julia Bridger decided to combine the ruling passions of their lives – art, gardens, travel and perfume – and gather a team of experts (literally) in their field, they set in motion a series of events that is poised to change the face of British fragrance forever. And put Parterre on the map… Embracing the concept of ‘from seed to bottle’, David and Julia not only set out to to grow, harvest and distil many of their own ingredients – but they also had a longing to try growing crops that had never before been grown on British soil. (Even including – astonishingly – vetiver.) The fragrances, made by world-renowned perfumer Jacques Chabert, evoke the idyllic setting and, in strictly limited, hand-numbered bottles, are truly ‘niche’.
Parle Moi De Parfum Michel Almairac has created award-winning, world-renowned blockbusters for just about every perfume house you’ve ever heard of. And now, to the delight of perfume-lovers, he has launched his own fragrance house (with his family) – and opened a boutique in Paris’s Le Marais. His astounding CV encompassing a literal A-Z of perfumes from Dior Fahrenheit to Le Labo Ambrette 9, via Gucci Rush, Chloe Eau de Parfum (2007), Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum (2011), Burberry for Woman and Burberry for Men – and so the list of hundreds goes on. But Michel found that he was having literally to shelve his most treasured creations because they didn’t quite work for the corporate briefs. He could never forget about them, however – and sometimes would take a scent home for his family to smell. Now these ‘lost’ fragrances have been completed, and are available for you…
Enigmatic, talented and exceptionally creative – it’s no exaggeration to say that Serge Lutens helped pioneer ‘niche’ perfumery. He once told an interviewer that ‘Morocco gave me the taste of perfume. It is very difficult to detach the olfactory sense from the other senses; however, I can say that before my arrival in Morocco in 1968, this fifth sense was largely fallow for me… The aroma of Morocco is linked to a form of life that allows you to be an individual in a dense crowd. The crowd here is a movement, a sound, a laugh, a game. By the end, smell was united with the other senses…’ Today, he lives in Marrakech, Morocco: a city of colour, exotic fragrances and mystery – the place where he discovered the creative potential of the world of scents. And the rest of the world waits eagerly, always, for his next olfactory vision, his next scent ‘dream’.
I grew up in fragrant surroundings,’ Tom Daxon recalls. That’s something of an understatement, for Tom began sniffing around the business as a child, when his mother – creative director for a leading fragrance and cosmetics name for over 30 years – ‘would often give me new shower gels to try, fragrances to sniff.’ Where Tom’s story may diverge from most is that he was lucky enough to accompany his mother on many of her working trips to Grasse, the epicentre of perfumery – aged just four, on that first visit. Truly modern, other-worldly, imbued with texture, beautiful ingredients and a wealth of creativity, they’re modern luxury redifined.
Whichever of these fragrances you most enjoy exploring in your Limited Edition Niche Discovery Box, we defy you not to fall madly for at least one, and begin a life-long love affair with these niche houses that we feel everyone deserves to try…