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!
Cultivating a love for niche fragrances is a thrilling exploration of what those independent houses are creating – a bit like the catwalk shows in fashion, often showcasing exciting new trends years ahead of the mainstream. But, as many of us know all too well, it can become somewhat injurious to one’s wallet if you want to try several all at once (and we always, always do!)
Last week we suggested some that were Thrifty but Nifty, while this week we focus on the ‘indie’ or more artisanal scents that could be your next guilt-free perfume purchase. Because, yes, there areniche fragrance houses with more afforable perfumes for you try. So whether it’s your first foray into the world of ‘niche’, or you’re simply looking for a treat-to-self; here’s some seriously wonderful creations that wont make a huge dent in your budget, but could become your next fragrant fixation…
Skandinavisk Kapitel 12£43.20 for 50ml eau de toilette
Celebrating the Scandinavian right of ‘freedom to roam’, let’s throw on a warm sweater and stride onwards through banks of purple heather and frosted thyme, foraging for berries and herbs nestled in hedgerows. That glorious just-snapped stalks fresh-airiness evokes leaf sap and spring just about to unfurl, a sense of freedom we so need, now. skandinavisk.com
4160 Tuesdays Amberama£32 for 15ml eau de parfum
Sometimes you might just long for a bit of frivolity in a fragrance, one that smells good but doesn’t take itself too seriously, perhaps? Presenting an 80s girl-band-inspired scent that relishes the glow and longevity of amber with a fun raspberry / iris /sandalwood heart that gets woodier and warmer as it wears, but with no bananas to be found… 4160tuesdays.com
ånd fragrance Sånd £35 for 10ml parfum
If it was bananas you were after, find them (surprisingly) within this ode to sandalwood. A strikingly modern take on the ‘old dependable’ wood of perfumery, as they put it, this wraps you in the most comforting blanket of creamy, dry, cardamom-infused deliciousness; cuddling down to a rich, resinous base. One to wear when you so want a hug it hurts. andfragrance.com
Maison Matine Warni Warni£50 for 50ml eau de parfum
Journeying through cosmopolitan cities encompassing diverse cultures, this niche French brand jofully encourage us to be ‘a bit daring every day’. Wearing this takes us somewhere warm, the smell of grass scorched by the sun and crickets chirping in the languid heat, a delicious orange-blossom breeze as you sip tea and contemplate the better things in life. harveynichols.com
Floral Street Arizona Bloom£24 for 10ml eau de parfum
Perfumer Jérôme Épinette captures a feeling of freedom – something we’ve sorely missed, lately in our now even more tech-heavy lives. Queen of the Night flower is spiced by black pepper, lush with Balinese coconut and tethered by woody oakmoss; the amber-y desert-like dryness conveyed by salted musks. Truly one to make the heart soar! floralstreet.com
Niche V Discovery Box£27 (VIP price £23) for 19 fragrances + 2 beauty extras
Because we understand you’re missing browsing, spraying and smelling, we curated a selection of some of the finest niche fragrances out there to try at home. Showcasing an incredible cross-section of what’s happening niche right now, you’ll find houses such as Trudon, Ostens, Moresque, Mihan Aromatics, Maison Matine, the entire Storie Veneziane by Valmont and Bentley Beyond collections, and always forward-thinking Molton Brown and DSQUARED2. It’s a whole niche perfumery experience from the comfort of your sofa – what’s not to love?! Buy your Niche V Discovery Box here
And if after all that you’re still up for exploring more pocket-friendly niche perfumes, do have a browse of these Brand Sets – niche fragrance collections from only £8…
Yesterday we found Amanda Carr experiencing Part One of her fragrance shopping in ‘the new normal’ adventure. Today, we continue her olfactory odyssey, as she makes her way to some of London’s most-loved independent perfume boutiques to find out what’s in store…
‘By the time I left Jovoy, I was both skipping and singing my way along the near-deserted London streets. A quick stop at Penhaligon’s had me admiring its smart and witty advisory graphics, aiming to ‘Keep you as fit as a fiddle” while you browsed. They were undoubtedly the best I saw all day, providing reassurance for any unsettled customers and also added a much needed touch of humour to the newly weird normality of shopping. Bravo Penhaligon’s and well done on the regal musky-mimosa launch, The Favourite.
Covent Garden, normally a bustling haven of fragrance testing opportunities, is an altogether more subdued place currently, with many still-to-reopen stores and few tourists – perhaps because the tube station had yet to reopen. But Floral Street, one of the most cheerful fragrance shops you’ll ever enter, was its usual colourful self. The staff were wearing covetable and very cute floral masks that coordinated with their heavily flower-printed aprons, both styles I think Floral Street should consider selling. [NB: we agree!]
I was here to try the newest scent, Arizona Bloom, a deliciously sunny, salted musk launched at the end of lockdown and inspired by ‘wilderness, neon skies and eternal sunshine,’ according to Natalia, my helpful Floralista. It riffs on the sense of grounded contemplation founder Michelle Feeney experienced on a recent trip to the Atacama Desert, and aims for a slower, more thoughtful vibe, one we can all relate to after the last few months.
Once again, the shopping experience here was almost better than normal, with Natalia happy to help me try as many fragrances as I wanted, as well as pointing out some excellent value deals the store was offering, such as the make up bag, a 10ml perfume of your choice and body cream for £30, while I sat and enjoyed the personalised sales treatment.
I luxuriated in being the only person in the store, and because I’d slowed down a touch, I noticed more, including the new refill service available, with 20% off if you take your bottle in for refilling, which is definitely strong motivation for visiting.
For customers who can’t come to Covent Garden, there is an innovative Virtual Florista experience available, where you book in for an online meet-up with one of the experienced in store Floralistas. One of its discovery boxes is sent to your door and you are then talked through the fragrances while inhaling at home, so do contact the store if this might appeal. How heartening to see a bit of scented innovation for those of us who have to self-shield more seriously.
My final stop – with my step count now well into five figures – was Bloom Perfumery, tucked away in Langley Court, where there’s always something interesting to sniff from its roster of hard-to-find brands. Careful hygiene and common sense prevails here, explained founder Oxana Polyakova, who told me “When you need to use your nose you can use it’, so masks can be discreetly dropped and potions inhaled with enthusiasm.
Customers are encouraged not to touch the bottles too much – there’s always someone around to help you spray- and the store does an excellent sampling service so you can take tiny bottles home to try. I inhaled Bee, the newish launch from Zoologist Perfumes, an extraordinary, honeyed smudge of waxy, powdery loveliness, featuring ginger syrup, Royal Jelly accord and a warmly mimosa-ish drydown, it was almost worth the trek across town just to inhale this.
So tired but happy, I finished my day with renewed enthusiasm for scent shopping.
If you are able to visit then stores are very pleased to see you and you may even find you prefer the quieter, more personalied service you receive. Remember that these new shopping rituals are new for everyone, and the slower pace will require patience from all of us.
If you are considering visiting any of the smaller independent stores I’d recommend a quick phone call beforehand to check the lay of the land, as some services – such as Jo Loves Tapas Bar and Les Senteurs Private Consultations [mentioned in Part One] – are restricted.
We hope that you will carefully and thoughtfully emerge back in to the wonderful world of fragrance shopping in ‘the new normal’ – and thank you, Amanda, for conducting such an encouraging report for us!
[Words & pictures by Amanda Carr, edited by Suzy Nightingale.]
Earl of East‘s ‘Scents of Normality‘ just-launched candles have the tagline ‘Buy for charity. Burn for Normality.’ They promise to evoke the ‘places we miss the most during lockdown’ – and you just HAVE to read the so-witty descriptions!
This limited-edition series sees Earl of East partnering with Uncommon Creative Studio to create an exclusive range of candles, with ALL proceeds from sales of the candles donated to the charity, Hospitality Action. And Earl of East say they chose the charity because, ‘While the impact of Covid-19 continues to affect many businesses across the UK, the hospitality industry faces a particularly uncertain future, having sustained lasting impact from the pandemic including widespread closures, job losses, reduced hours and reduction in pay. We are honoured to be able to lend our support in collaboration with Uncommon Creative Studio to help support these workers who are suddenly facing hardship‘
Available in three evocative scents, ‘reflecting some of the nation’s favourite hangouts’ – The Local, The Cinema and The Festival‘ – we love the colourful imagery, by a group of artists collaborating together around the world, but we have to admit falling particularly hard for the hilarious tongue-in-cheek descriptions of each candle…
‘Scent has a unique way of conjuring memories and transporting us to places we’d love to be. From the cobbled streets of Copenhagen to the Onsen baths of Japan, our scented candles are all inspired by travel. Whilst we can still dream about these far flung destinations it’s actually the places closer to home that we miss the most.
Having the opportunity to recreate the essence of these familiar haunts whilst also supporting an industry that has been hit so hard by the crisis is a real honour.’
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…
The beautiful Les Senteurs Belgravia boutique is currently bursting with blossoms – swagged with the most stunning flowers (currently ‘spraying’ forth from a huge perfume bottle outside!) and drawing Instagram selfie-hunters and scent lovers the world over.
There, they regularly host Meet The Perfumers events, allowing guests to discover some of their most unique and captivating houses in a truly privilleged way – by meeting the very people who founded the brands, and the perfumers who create their scents (often the founders and perfumers being one and the same in niche, artisanal fragrance houses!)
We were honoured to be invited to their most recent meet-and-greet, to hear first hand how the houses were launched, and the inspiration behind their fragrances, on this occasion Jeroen Oude Sogtoen and perfumer Frederik Dalman of Mona di Orio, Margaret Mangan and perfumer Meabh McCurtin of Cloon Keen, and Sylvaine Delacourte of Sylvaine Delacourte Paris (formerly Creative Director with Guerlain).
The discussion ranged from asking the brands how they began, ‘what is niche now?’ and ‘what does luxury mean in perfume?’ through to smelling some of their incredible creations – all displayed on the large, tiered table at the front of the shop (kind of a ‘lazy Susan’ for scent, which we desperately wish we owned!)
With spring very much in the air, we couldn’t resist also asking them what smells instantly mean spring for some of them…
The wonderful young Irish perfumer, Meabh, immediately replied, “Wisteria! It’s just everywhere this time of year and I love it’, and when we asked her to explain what it smells like to her… ‘Creamy, spicy, with a definite warmth at the centre. There’s something about that smell that just makes me feel happy, it’s a comforting scent. And of course it looks so cheering when everything else is a bit grey.’
For Sylvaine, her favourite scent of spring also revealed the next note to be explored in her forthcoming new collection of fragrances – each collection focusing on one main ingredient and exploring the incredibly differing characters that can be coaxed from that starting point. ‘For me it has to be orange blossom. It reminds me of being in Morocco when it’s everywhere in the air, in your food… I have four candles coming, one for each season, and for spring of course I chose orange blossom for those happy memories.’
Indeed, Sylvaine loves orange blossom so much she revealed it will be that next raw material she works with. ‘One of my perfumes will be leather with orange blossom… I cannot wait for you to try it, to see how different it can be.’ And for the future, Sylvaine will be experimenting by working on something entirely different… ‘I want to to use a note a don’t like. I wont say what it is now. I don’t hate it – for me that would be impossible – but I really don’t like it. I want to challenge myself!’
These events are a complete privillege to attend – there’s nothing quite like hearing directly from the perfumer and the founders of a house to get a more complete understanding – and new found love – for their work, and what they’re trying to accomplish.
Even when the perfumers aren’t there, it’s always worth making a trip to Les Senteurs, because (as all the houses noted) nothing competes with talking to experts in perfumery – like the incomparable James Craven, the scent archivist of Les Senteurs – if you’re looking to learn more about perfume, or just to try a new scent for spring. You really couldn’t be in better hands…
There’s a plethora of British niche perfume houses to be excited about these days – how many have you heard of and got to try thus far…?
Niche-lovers have surely never been so well served as right now – there’s a continuing bubble of enthusiasm in the rise and rise of niche perfume brands; and thrillingly, British houses are surging in popularity, much of it spread by word-of-mouth.
The personal recommendations are from hushed whispers of industry-insiders right through to fans declaring their love through social media. These houses are ‘indies’ (independently owned) and don’t have access to huge marketing budgets; so we wanted to share and celebrate just some of those our noses are currently loving…
Holly Hutchinson founded Memoize London in 2016, but her heart started beating faster for fragrance far earlier – at the age of seven, to be precise. On her birthday, she was gifted her very first set of miniature perfumes… the way many of us are reeled in to the world of fragrance fever! Following a career at a prestigious perfume house, Holly branched out to create her own niche brand, believing that perfumes should evoke memories, so drawing on her own, such as ‘a French holiday in the sun, a ride across the waves by boat, venturing through trees in a garden of ferns and Laurels…’
There’s eight fragrances, currently, from the provocative, smoky passions of Era to the lazy Sunday morning of Tristitia, cocooning you in floral and vanilla scented sheets with an amber snuggle. One of our favourites has to be Superbia – created for self-confidence, encompassing rose bushes, the smell of a leather satchel and a mother’s proud hug.
From 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, Anima Vinci was born. That insightful and passionate founder is Nathalie Vinciguerra, and her background as creative CEO of what many consider the first true ‘niche’ house, L’Artisan Parfumeur, along with British heritage house Penhaligon’s, gave her great grounding (and the best contacts) in the business. ‘Anima Vinci is the creative expression of my strong belief in the power of fragrance,’ she says, ‘and the positive effect it can have on your heart, mind and spirit. I believe that scents have the power to immerse us in the universe’s energy and nature’s beauty.’
With Rose Prana you’re fully immersed in the rose fields of Grasse, smelling the earth below the bushes abundant with fresh, almost raspberry-scented Rose de Mai blooms, and a sense of the sky above. Jasmine Ylang is symbolic of divine hope with sandalwood and frangipani, a holiday for the soul; while Wood of Life is our go-to de-stress scent – a meditative whisper of mint atop sublimely smooth palo santo, sandalwood and vetiver. It’s truly other-worldy and totally wonderful to wear.
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. Perfumer and founder Keshen Teo has worked tirelessly to ensure his scents have this aesthetic quality as well as the ethical purity they strive for. As he explains: ‘The intrinsic complexity of naturals means you have to work hard to keep things well structured and balanced,’ because it’s vital the fragrances are stunning on first sniff. ‘I like the challenge of this,’ he smiles, going on to admit: ‘We know that sometimes people buy Prosody London without even realising they’re organic and 100% natural. I’m perfectly happy with that!’
Their voluptuously feminine Jacinth Jonquil entwines hyacinth with that mesmerising jonquil itself – think daffodils in sunshine, a crispness to the air like the first breath of spring, flecked with juniper berries and nestled on a softly woody base. Mocha Muscari uniquely blends the richness of coffee with a surprisingly seductive twist of mango, jasmine and lavender on a base of black agarwood and sandalwood, and Rose Rondeaux is decadently laden with fresh raspberry and juicy blackcurrant, dusted with iris and warmed with patchouli: all of them all-natural, and all-beautiful to wear.
Angela Flanders was a fragrant phenomenon: an woman with a life-long passion for perfume, who was still working – and creating beautiful scents – into her eighth decade. Now, through her daughter, Kate Evans, Angela’s legacy endures… From her career as a television costumer designer to opening a store in the heart of the bustling Columbia Road market in 1982, the perfect restoration of a Victorian shop featured bowls of scented pot pourri made by Angela, beautiful fabrics and all manner of desirable things. The pot-pourri fragrances were so popular, customers begged her to make room scents and perfumes, and Angela’s world soon became exclusively fragrant as her perfume selection grew notoriety – Precious One, an exquisite jasmine/tuberose that softens to a green chypre – winning a Fragrance Foundation Award for Best New Independent Fragrance in 2012.
From the golden tobacco and spice of Ambre Noire to the perfect white flower wedding fragrance of Bouquet D’Amour, Angela excelled at seamlessly blending precious ingredients. Now, inspired particularly by her mother’s history with and love of fabrics, Kate uses those years spent at her side (learning the craft of perfumery and often advising) to continue their line of so-unique scents. Lawn captures the smell of crisp cotton sheets drying in a dewy floral-scented summer breeze, while the more recent Taffeta evokes decadence with heady hyacinth, soft iris and a fruity rose. What’s more, it’s up for another Fragrance Foundation award this year, so the family talent fully blooms.
Modernist Fragrance founder, John Evans, entered higher education, as he says, ‘late and non-traditionally’. Embarking on what he calls ‘an accidental corporate career’, trying his hand as a successful novelist before finally settling on his sense of smell to guide him. ‘My dad installed and restored wooden floors,’ John recalls, ‘early memories of fresh cut pine and newly sanded mahogany. Somewhere along the way these merge with the smells of church, incense especially, when I was an altar boy – capped off by a six week spell in hospital when I was five years old and all sorts of odours pervaded my life.’ Travelling to Grasse, he immersed himself in the techniques of fine perfumery, painstakingly experimenting with building his own irreverantly mischevious compositions.
Designed to be genderless, they’re inescapably memorable but never allow the integrity of the wearer’s character to be compromised. So for The Modernist, expect succulent citrus, then greenness dripping with juice, freesia , a hazy flicker of dry frankincense and labdanum before a smoothly woody base. In Nihilism, get ready for a majestically bombastic rose that’s up close and personal with icy aldehydes and a definite sense of a furry embrace in the bezoin base; and for Geist, lemon freshness is suffused by a seamless blend of honeysuckle, musk and gentle amber. Transformative and complex, utterly intriguing, these will all keep your nose hooked all day.
For the founder of Stories by Eliza Grace, Tonya Kidd-Beggs, being born into the heart of Northern Ireland’s ‘troubles’, and struggling to come to terms with thinking about the future for her children, curated each blend’s inspiration as a personal testament to the power of fragrance in her own life. And Tonya’s own appreciation of fragrance began early. As she recalls: ‘My grandmother’s pearl necklace hung on my tiny neck and I rubbed one of her furs across my cheek. It was laced with Chanel No.5. I breathed in the scent of a woman I would never know. A courageous businessperson who paved the way for Northern Irish women to succeed in a male-dominated market place.’ Named for her twin children (Eliza and Grace), inspired by precious memories, the fragrances feel remarkably like part of your own life as soon as you wear them.
Stories No.1 is all luminescence: bergamot, grapefruit and orange blossom leading to the deep, warm embrace of cedarwood, with delicate touches of jasmine, heliotrope and a fig-tea accord along the way. Ultimately, snugglesome amber swaddles sandalwood and the earthy cool of the so-grounding vetiver. For Stories No.2 Tonya drew on childhood memories of her grandparents’ garden, and it evokes the exuberance of running barefoot on dew-flecked grass, exploring flowers face-first, curls of tobacco smoke exuding from a steamy greenhouse. So special, and so personally evocative to experience.
The worlds of whisky and fragrance have much in common, believes founder of Kingdom Scotland, Imogen Russon-Taylor. After a distinguished career in the aromatic world of Scotch whisky, Imogen has now gone on to create her own fragrance house – incredibly, the very first to be based in Scotland. 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.’ And thus was born her vision to ‘bottle Scotland’ – using perfume to share old narratives in brave new ways, tapping into the rich stories associated with perfume and natural ingredients in Scotland.
Composed in a thoughtfully contemporary way, they unfurl as fragrant tales alive with possibility. Gusting with outdoorsy botanicals and fresh bergamot, in Portal verdant florals rest on a forest floor of shady vetiver and soul-soothing aromatic pine; while for Albaura the landscape’s conjured through the freshness of snow and ice, blended with berries and botanicals in a scent that is bold, fresh and independent in spirit. Metamorphic‘s geology is composed by black pepper, tobacco, incense, minerals and rose absolute infused with a splash of whisky and amber-rich leather. Before long, Kingdom Scotland will be a fragrance name on the lips of perfumistas-in-the-know, far beyond that country’s borders…
We like to offer as many opportunities to try new niche brands as possible, and are aware that (unless you live within walking distance of a niche perfumery) it can be really difficult to try samples for yourself. That’s why we offer the chance to explore these houses through their own Discovery Sets in our online shop, – a selection of niche brands we think deserve to be celebrated and available for everyone to try.
If you love niche, here’s a teaser to keep your eyes peeled and your nostrils primed, as we have a VERY exciting and ultra-exclusive Limited Edition Niche Discovery Box worth OVER £75 (but costing you FAR less!) coming your way TOMORROW (Friday 26 April)… It’s expected to sell-out quickly, so do be sure to grab yours ASAP.
The heart of artistic perfumery throbs strongly in Los Angeles, home to the Institute for Art and Olfactionsince 2012, and as founder Saskia Wilson-Brown explains, the pulse for perfumery is changing, too.
‘New, self-educated perfumers are thriving, the scents themselves are becoming progressively more audacious, and the art of perfumery as a whole is going through a deep re-examination.’ With this in mind, she launched the IAO as a means of support for perfumers and artists working in and exploring this medium, with the aim ‘…to highlight the innovation and artistry in perfumery, to instigate greater engagement with the art and science around scent, to juxtapose it with other creative practices, and to bring it into the big bad world.’
With an on-going diary bursting with creative, interactive projects, talks and workshops, each year the IAO celebrate independent perfumery with an awards ceremony – the fragrances blind-sniffed by an array of knowledgable judges – and the awards themselves (known as ‘The Golden Pears’) handed out at a differing city each year.
This time, celebrating their fifth year, it was London’s turn to host the awards, and you can see the list of the winners, below; but we were especially thrilled to attend this year’s twist – an ‘Experimental Scent Summit‘, which saw guest speakers from all over the world coming together to talk about their artworks dedicated to exploring our sense of smell. A full two days of talks, performances and discussions, you can read about what went on in greater detail here, but suffice to say we left truly inspired, and buzzing with ideas!
Do take time to have a look at the winners’ websites, and see what your nose might have missed…
[P.S: We must admit to cheering extra loudly for this one – Amanda’s a Perfume Society V.I.P Member! She’s visited us at two of our How To Improve Your Sense of Smell Workshops – one in London, and one in Hastings – and we shall be interviewing her shortly to find out the full story of this incredible win, so watch this space…]
Club Design by The Zoo
CD/Perfumer: Christophe Laudamiel
We’re rather thrilled the Art and Olfaction Awards are coming to London in April 2018! The awards (aka ‘The Golden Pears’) are a program of The Institute for Art and Olfaction, a non-profit organisation based in Los Angeles, USA.
An annual event showcasing the very best niche and artisan perfumes from around the world, independent perfumers and small-scale brands are invited to submit their fragranced wares (closing date is November 1st though, folks, so you need to get a wriggle on!) by filling in the online form, and then sending a 20ml bottle of the perfume for judging.
The rules are as follows…
‘For the 5th annual awards, we accept submissions from independent and artisan perfumers, and experimental practitioners with scent from all countries. Brands must be independently owned, or owned by a parent company with no more than four fine fragrance holdings in its brand portfolio. In the independent and artisan categories, we accept perfumes first released to market between January 1 and December 31, 2017. In the Sadakichi Award, we accept projects that had or will have their public début between December 1, 2016 and December 31, 2017.’
The Institute for Art and Olfaction say: ‘Awarded to just four perfumes and one experimental project a year, The Golden Pears is designed to raise interest and awareness for independent and artisan perfumers – and experimental practitioners with scent – from all countries. By shining a spotlight on perfumery’s most outstanding creators, we hope to help generate support for independent practices in perfumery as a whole.’
Submissions close: November 1st, 11:59pm PST
Physical submissions must be received on or before November 14th, 2017
Round one judging : November 14, 2017 – January 15, 2018
Round two judging: January 15 – March 1, 2018
Finalists Announcement at Esxence: April 5, 2018
5th annual Art and Olfaction Awards at The Tabernacle in London: April 21, 2018
Niche perfumery was once viewed somewhat sneeringly, but the larger brands have had to sit up and take notice in the last few years (indeed, acquiring a few of them along the way to add to their existing portfolios), because those brands have ploughed the way for new trends to emerge, a fresher breath of air that provides a barometer for the rest of the industry. Whether perfume-lovers are directly seeking out more unusual and under-the-radar brands because they ‘don’t want to smell like everyone else’, or perhaps we’re all just getting a little braver in our fragrance choices; it’s become clear that niche is the new black.
And we can’t wait to see what the awards uncover next…
Written by Suzy Nightingale