Lipstick scents: the alluring history of the perfume pout

Lipstick scents have always been a huge part of cosmetics’ glamorous allure – from the boudoir to the boardroom and beyond – but now you can also wear va-va-voom versions of the pucker-up in perfumed form…

With so many of us masked-up to the eyballs (literally), unless you find your perfect bullet-proof formula, an actual lip colour sadly seems more unneccessary for the time being. Fear not: fragrances that smell exactly like the most glamorous kind of vintage lipsticks are out there, and there’s something about that so-distinctive smell that really does give the same feeling of a vixenish vermillion or scarlet slick of courage.



I got that red lip classic thing that you like,’ Taylor Swift sings. But have you ever wondered exactly why so many classic lipsticks smell the same? ‘In France, until the Revolution, people of the court would spritz their wigs with a blend of crushed iris roots and rice powder. This “iris-y” sillage remained,’ Juliet Has a Gun tells us – diving deep into the history of scented lipsticks to celebrate the launch of their Lipstick Fever fragrance (read on for our review…)

‘Violet made its appearance later, at the end of the 19th century, in the first solid sticks, but became the norm in the 1920s when lipsticks were flavored with a violet candy aroma, which was fashionable at the time. As lipsticks came in contact with the mouth, the beauty houses tended to perfume them with comestible ingredients. And the harmonies of iris, violet and raspberry have the advantage of being rather lovely when you run your tongue over your lips…’



There’s no doubt about it – the lipstick is a powerful symbol of self expression, celebrating the strength of femininity – and the scent of a lipstick only adds to its charms. We’re reminded of special occasions, of borrowing our mother’s lipsticks as a child, and reaching into a handbag to swipe on a bit of spirit-lifting colour when you’re feeling anxious. So if you’re missing a slick of courage, why not dress yourself in these fabulously lipstick-inspired scents…?



Juliet Has a Gun Lipstick Fever Oh this is joyous! ‘Iris, Violet absolute and Raspberry. Enhanced with woody notes (Patchouli, Cedarwood) to give it a little refinement and to echo the leather of the handbag so often inseparable from it,’ they say. We say: contemporary gourmands just got all the more desirable. Its wonderfully frivolous to wear, a scented accessory to twirl through the streets in!
£85 for 50ml eau de parfum



Cartier Basier Fou ‘Mischievous and feminine soliflor whose delicious accents evoke the aroma of kisses with lipstick,’ Baiser Fou is developed by the in-house perfumer Mathilde Laurent, who chose the flower of orchid as the main ingredient. Playfully charming but exuding a gamine chicness nonetheless, this one’s a kiss-chase in a bottle.
£76 for 50ml eau de parfum



Guerlain French Kiss We’re invited to succumb, with this scent, to ‘the charms of French Kiss, a glossy floral that celebrates the French art of kissing with a sexy rose, litchi and raspberry accord.’ The boudoir-inspired bottle echoes the scent itself – the kind of ultra refined va-va-voom only the French can do. Find yourself a chaise lounge, don your prettiest peignoir!
£185 for 75ml eau de parfum



Histoire de Parfums 1889 Inspired by the luscious red lips of Moulin Rouge dancers, this shamelessly naughty scent evokes layers of frilly petticoats and a Carmine smile. Swirls of sugar melt in Absinthe, a sprinkle of cinnamon amidst a plumptious booziness calms to a warm-skin snuggle of soft musk and something vaguely pain-au-chocolat-ish in the base.
From €38 for 15ml eau de parfum



Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose Ralf Schwieger’s Hollywood glamor, ‘Lipstick Rose smiles at you, like a dash of lipstick with its rose and violet-flavoured candy scent.’ Grapefruit sparkles up the fragrance’s central rose note, while musk and vanilla, with a hint of vetiver and amber, smoothly drapes the base. Flirtatiously fabulous, it feels grown up yet prone to giggles.
£180 for 100ml eau de parfum



Estée Lauder Modern Muse Le Rouge A pout-laden provocative contrast of distinctively different accords – rich roses drizzled by ripe fruits, with a seductive velvet creme. Its an intriguing kiss of a scent to seduce every day, described as ‘a true innovation in fragrance design, as complex and fascinating as the woman who inspires it.’
From £52 for 30ml eau de parfum


By Suzy Nightingale

Superstitious? That's us, as Frederic Malle unveils his collaboration with Alber Elbaz

The wait’s over.
Ever since Frederic Malle announced a forthcoming collaboration with genius designer Alber Elbaz – a three-way project with Dominique Ropion, unquestionably one of the greatest noses on the planet – perfumistas have been on tenterhooks, longing to smell it.
We’ll confess: we had a teeny vial, which were allowed to sniff secretly, given to us after our event with Frederic at Selfridges last autumn. Suffice to say it long ago spritzed its last, and we’ve been impatient for a full-size bottle.
It’s here. Right here, right now, on our desks and on our skins. And our Senior Writer Suzy Nightingale describes it thus: ‘Fresh from the shower, straight into bed.’ Thanks to a rush of aldehydes, Superstitious starts out clean and soapy – and then gets very dirty indeed. It continues to veer between prettily innocent and phwoar!, on an olfactory rollercoaster. There are definite resonances of Ropion’s Portrait of a Lady (if you love that, this is going straight on your dressing table) – but this deliberately dares to go up against extravagant and complex aldehydic white florals like Chanel No.5, Arpège, Ma Griffe.
Can a fragrance become a ‘classic’, from the moment it is first un-stoppered…? It seems so. And from today (Friday 24th March 2017), the Frederic Malle boutique within Liberty (on London’s Great Marlborough Street) has a one-week exclusive on the fragrance – so you can make up your own mind. Superstitious? We don’t think Frederic needs to keep his fingers crossed that this will become a massive success.
And in Frederic’s own words, here’s how the fragrance came about…

Unusually for Frederic Malle, the bottle and box are black and gold

‘For years I’ve admired Alber Elbaz, whose work I discovered in the late ‘90s when Pierre Bergé chose him to take the helm of Yves Saint-Laurent. It was a brand worn by my mother throughout my childhood, like many women around her, and one whose aesthetic shaped my own taste. It came as thus a happy surprise to discover Saint Laurent’s genius not only respected, but reinterpreted for a new generation.
When Alber arrived at Lanvin, my wife Marie often donned his designs – to my great pleasure. I admired him from afar, attracted by both his talent and the tender space he held in the hearts of our many mutual friends – that space for those we truly love…
It was just months ago, however, that – overcoming my reserve – I asked our mutual friend Élie Top for his number and invited him to lunch. We spoke at length, discovering not only friends in common but also a certain way to look at life and our respective professions.
With Alber, I realized that roles could be reversed. As a perfume editor, it’s my job to push others to outdo themselves. Yet there I was, face to face with someone who made me want to outdo myself. Someone whose extreme generosity – with his ideas, his designs, his attention – made me eager to return the favor a hundred times fold. I was full of ideas and rather than make a careful selection, I bared it all.
In a world where life seems programmed, organized and logical, Alber sees the irrational – neglected everywhere we are and in everything we do – as essential. Beyond words, images and reason, we must let ourselves be guided by a sixth sense – by our superstitions – free from judgment and unsuppressed. We must let ourselves go. We must trust our instincts.
If we were to create a fragrance together, we said, it would possess this mysterious element. Like a book open to interpretation, it would let the imagination run free. And like Alber’s own fashion designs, it would empower whomever wore it, leaving an indelible trace long after it passed. Almost immediately we knew if we were to create such a scent, it would bear the name Superstitious. And that is how it began.
A work in progress – Alber Elbaz’s own sketch for the Superstitious bottle

Unabashedly, I showed my ideas to Alber, who chose one or two to develop further. In the spring, I suggested a black bottle, flanked by a golden eye – a symbol of superstition. Taken by the idea, he casually sketched three eyes with my red felt-tipped pen. One of them – forceful yet modest – reminded me of Alexander Calder’s jewelry. His favourite as well, it became our symbol.
And so it went for everything, guided by a spirit of friendship: I gathered ideas and sketched out a thousand options with my team in New York, then sat down with Alber for lunch, fearlessly showing him everything we’d imagined in a back and forth that cleared away the excess and further developed the ideas that felt right. At the end of our conversations, I often reminded myself: it’s for moments like these that I do what I do…
Alber was born in Tangiers, Morocco, grew up in Tel-Aviv, Israel, and lived in New York. Yet he is somehow the most Parisian of all my friends – the citizen of an eternal Paris of black and gold. To illustrate this deep, timeless elegance, I took a page from the city’s own book, transforming Alber’s eye from red pen on white paper to antique gold on deep black lacquer.

Like Alber’s dresses, a mystery of construction and design, I wanted to create a true “classic” – a perfume whose quality is unmistakable but whose ingredients are indefinable. What could be more beautiful? As luck would have it, I’d been working with the great Dominique Ropion for over a year on such a scent: a “grand aldehyde floral” with a classic architecture completely reinterpreted and comprising the most precious of raw materials. After convincing the ever-generous Dominique to give up “his” fragrance, I revealed it to Alber, who immediately fell in love. The two then met and Dominique finished the scent with Alber in mind.
Superstitious was thus created like the great classics – fragrances composed at a time when perfumers worked alone, only unveiling their work upon quasi-completion to the designers who would lend their name. Like a couture gown, Dominique adapted his masterpiece to Alber’s wishes, creating a perfume beyond definition, a perfume at once modern and evocative of the great scents of times gone by. It’s a perfume crafted from the most luxurious of raw materials: essence of Turkish rose, Egyptian jasmine, velvety peach and apricot skin, labdanum resinoid, sandalwood, Haitian vetiver, patchouli, musk… each unrecognisable, save for the most fleeting of instants.
An abstract piece of art, Superstitious is infinitely deep and endlessly enhancing. In it lies the reflection of a woman’s own complexity. Of her emotion and seduction. Of her mystery.’
Frederic Malle Éditions de Parfums Superstitious £158 for 50ml
Exclusively at Liberty until 1st April 2017 (then at Frederic Malle stockists nationwide)
Written by Jo Fairley (well, mostly by Frederic Malle)
Alber Elbaz’s description (reach for your French dictionary!) of the fragrance


The clue was in his Instagram: Frederic Malle announces a designer collaboration with ex-Lanvin Alber Elbaz

Yesterday was quite a day for Alber Elbaz, whose designs – with their far-reaching impact on fashion – we so loved during his tenure at Lanvin. He picked up the Légion d’Honneur, one of France’s highest honours.
And Frédéric Malle announced that his second-ever designer collaboration (the first was Dries van Noten) for Éditions de Parfum Fréderic Malle will be with Elbaz.
The clue as to the identity of his collaborator was in Malle’s recently relaunched Instagram account on Sunday – with the photo below. There are few more distinctive spec frames in fashion, so we certainly had a hunch ourselves.
But it’s still an exciting moment in perfumery, not least because this latest Malle creation will be worked on by Dominique Ropion. Its name? Superstitious.
To quote Frédéric, ‘I have always admired Alber for making the women who wear his clothes appear even more beautiful. It is all about them and not about himself. Like perfume “Classics”, Alber’s dresses are the result of an invisible architecture. Like Alber’s dresses, Superstitious elevates the women that wear it; it empowers them.’
“The word “Superstitious”,’ he continues, ‘was the starting point of it all, something we agreed upon immediately. We are both superstitious’. And, he concludes, ‘It’s not about a collaboration, it’s about friendship and respect.’
See below for a note from Alber about his fragrance. Yes, it had us reaching for the Anglo-French dictionary to figure out the odd word, too, but the gist is: ‘For women with love… Dressing with a perfume, in a programmed world, there is always the chance, the meetings, the surprise, superstition! A perfume like a track… The essence of women, their tears their laugher, their freedom, their strength…’
Can’t wait. (Though we’ll all have to – till February, we’re told.)