Fragrance (but make it fashion!) – Scents inspired by fabrics

The trend-fuelled worlds of fashion and fragrance have been hand-in-glove for centuries – quite literally by 1656, when the perfumery and leather industry had become intrinsically linked, the fashion for exquisitely crafted gloves, popularised at court by Catherine de Medici, somewhat at odds with the disgustingly pungent reality of curing leather in urine. So, the Corporation of Glove-makers and Perfumers – the ‘maître-gantiers’ – (master glove-makers/perfumers) was formed in France, importing ingredients from all over the world to scent the gloves; with acres later given to growing and distilling them, such was Queen Catherine’s passion for perfume, and an entire industry was born in Grasse.

Since then, where fashion has led, so fragrance has followed – and just as hemlines go and up down, and silhouettes dramatically alter from era to era, so too do scented ‘shapes’ change with time. And perumers have long been inspired by fabric in their creations – a peculiar thing, you may think, as most fabrics don’t have their own distinct smell. Yet as we imagine a white sheet drying in sunshine, or the plush eroticism of velvet stroked beneath our fingers, we can also imagine the scent these textures might have. Such is the alchemical magic that fragrance can create – an overlapping of the senses, and in this first of two parts looking at fragrances inspired by fabrics, we pay homage to scents evoking satin, cashmere, leather and cotton…

Satin drapes. It clings to the body. It moves in the most sensuous way… And you definitely need to try draping yourself in this from prolific and gifted ‘nose’ Francis Kurkdjian. We’d call this an after-dark fragrance, one for oudh-lovers, for sure – but busting any prejudices against that ultra-woody material, for in Francis’s hands it never, ever overwhelms. We’re getting Turkish delight – a sugar-dusted rosiness that blends Bulgarian rose essence with Turkish rose absolute, while genuine Laotian oudh melts into benzoin from Siam, and the sweetness owes much to a soft, powdery accord of violet and vanilla in the heart. There’s almost a chocolate-y element swirling seductively around the patchouli, while the oudh underpins everything with its animalic smokiness. Mesmerising.

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Oud Satin Mood £200 for 70ml eau de parfum
harveynichols.com

 

 

Tom describes Iridium as ‘the fragrance equivalent of charcoal coloured cashmere.’ We always enjoy a description that makes you imagine a smell from a texture and colour, don’t you? And this really is a cool-toned cashmere, exuding effortless chic with all the powdery sophistication of precious iris concrète, but granted a strong silvery spine. The iris is dosed with carrot seed to amplify the dry, root-y yet so-refined character, and the synthetic note of Iso E Super wafts forth a deliciously grown-up gourmand ‘your skin but better’ dry-down – the kind that has people asking ‘what’s that delicious smell?’ and a secret smile is stifled when you know it’s you… Now also available as an extrait formula, poured at 71% strength, for even longer lasting enswathement.

Tom Daxon Iridium £105for 50ml eau de parfum
tomdaxon.com

 

 

Reminding us of our beloved leather jacket, a stack of books or the wood-panelled, boozily infused surroundings of a members’ only club, leather fragrances evoke a particularly voracious and luxurious sensuality, favouring deep base notes that linger the whole day long. Russian leather fragrances have a long heritage, the intense smokiness of birch the vital scent ingredient giving ‘Russian’ leather it’s characteristic smell. Here, Molton Brown curl swirls of smoke through a Siberian pine forest, infusing leather-bound books with a campfire’s glowing ember scent. Magnificently done, it’s an especial pleasure in colder weather, though I love layering it at times with a rose that needs some extra oomph.

Molton Brown Russian Leather £60 for 50ml eau de toilette
Buy it at moltonbrown.co.uk

 

 

Like burying one’s nose in sunny-day line-dried linen, a gust of pure, clean ozonic notes greets us at this fragrance’s first spritz, only made more refreshing by a rush of watery notes and pinch of ginger. Mint and green accords carry this clean and fresh feeling into the fragrance’s heart accord, which then softens into florals, cushioned by skin-like musk and vetiver. Magically capturing the comforting sensation of crispness, and featuring elegant white lilies, floral cotton accords and a vanilla-speckled, benzoin-infused amber glow in the mix: this is one to spray when you need to be reminded of home, of lazy sundays and lie-ins and snuggling up in bliss. (See below to get a luxury try-me size!)

CLEAN Reserve Warm Cotton [Reserve Blend] £82 for 100ml eau de parfum
spacenk.com

 

 

Warm Cotton was the perfect addition to the Luxury Layering Discovery Box – featuring THIRTEEN layerable scents and three fragrant body treats to try at home for £19 (£15 for VIPs) – use it to freshen up a perfume without resorting to the usual citrus, to soften a scent you feel is too harsh or simply to luxuriate in the sebsation of that clean, soft white fabric dried in the sunshine.

Whether vintage or modern – evoking an era or an archetypal fabric – the fingers of fashion are still firmly within those fragrant gloves, and together they work their alchemical magic to embolden us: seducing several senses while enhancing our own sense of who we are – or whomever we want to be that day…

By Suzy Nightingale

6 of the sexiest leather scents you should try…

Reminding us of our beloved leather jacket, a stack of books or the wood-panelled, boozily infused surroundings of a members’ only club, leather fragrances are generally not for the scent-shy. Scintillatingly smoky, they evoke a particularly voracious and luxurious sensuality, favouring deep base notes that linger the whole day long.

Russian leather fragrances have a long heritage, recently enjoying something of a revival as we crave perfumes that are bigger, badder and bolder than before, and it’s the intense, relentless smokiness of birch that’s the vital scent ingredient giving Russian leather it’s characteristic smell.

In order to process birch for perfumery, the bark of the tree is peeled off in papery strips and soaked in a water/alcohol mixture until it forms a ‘liquor’, which is then evaporated to leave the oil behind. Perfumers can use any number of ingredients along with birch to compose a ‘leather accord’ – echoing the history of the leather trade and tanning process itself, when animal hides are treated with strong-smelling oils to mask their naturally foul odours.

Over time, the smell of ‘Russian leather’ became shorthand for luxury goods and an exoticism lusted over by wealthy travellers who wanted to waft forth their fortunes in scent form, too. And this eventually led to a piece of that history being present in practically every bathroom in the UK, including, perhaps, your own…?

 

The Russian soap-opera in your bathroom…

Cussons’ Imperial Leather soap has been a staple of British bathrooms since 1938, but you might well wonder where it gained the name. According to their heritage story, ‘In the 1700s Bayleys of Bond Street were challenged by Count Orlof to create a perfume which embodied the distinctive aroma of the Russian court, and as a result they developed the scent of Imperial Leather.’

In 1921 Bayleys was acquired by Cussons Sons & Co, and it wasn’t until 1938 that Cussons conceived the idea of launching a soap based on their archive scent, initially called ‘Imperiale Russian Leather’, but soon renamed to ‘Imperial Leather’.

During the 40s, soap was heavily rationed in Britain, so Imperial Leather was marketed as being the best choice because it lasted far longer than other brands, with the world’s tallest man apparently being a fan, presumably because, well, he got through a lot of soap!

In 1975 the Cussons Group was acquired by Paterson Zochonis, now renamed PZ Cussons – currently boasting an extraordinary range of fragranced body products (along with the ever-popular Imperial Leather), including soaps and shower gels scented like sherbet lemons and even cherry Bakewells, for perfume-lovers of a certain age, the name of Cussons will forever evoke the comforting smell of Imperial Leather.

Six Russian Leather scents we love:

We think winter is the perfect time to explore this fascinating fragrance family, and we’re certainly not short of recently released scents to try. Read on to see how the many moods of Russian leather can go from the masculine to feminine, from the softest caress to the sizzlingly opulent…

Curls of smoke swirl through a Siberian pine forest, leather-bound books infused with a campfire’s glowing ember scent.

Molton Brown Russian Leather £45 for 50ml eau de toilette
Buy it at moltonbrown.co.uk

Butter-soft leather liberally dusted with baby powder, the comfort of warm skin embraced with an open heart.

Evody Cuir Blanc £84 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at houseoffraser.co.uk

Chic aldehydes bely smoky scandal insinuated beneath – supple leather waited for with baited breath.

Les Exclusifs de Chanel Cuir de Russie £140 for 75ml eau de parfum
Buy it at chanel.com

Violet leather ballet shoes, cinnamon-dusted bon-bons eaten at Nijinsky’s performance while writing love-letters.

Le Jardin Retrouvé Cuir de Russie from €35 for 15ml eau de parfum
Buy it at lejardinretrouve.com

Frosty air tinged with lavender, frozen herbs gathered at dusk in a fur-lined leather coat, ice-crystals on eyelashes.

MEMO Paris Russian Leather £205 for 75ml eau de parfum
Buy it at harveynichols.com

A buxom bouquet thrust forcefully into a leather-gloved clasp, hot coffee clutched to warm the fingers, a woodland romp to warm the soul.

Zoologist Civet £135 for 60ml eau de parfum
Buy it at bloomperfume.co.uk

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Leather's the traditional gift for a third anniversary – so to celebrate our birthday, here are leather fragrances to lust over…

For each year of marriage, a gift based on differing materials is traditionally given – we all know diamond and ruby celebrations, but did you know the third year is symbolised by leather, which has come to represent the durability of marriage?
We’re actually celebrating our third birthday all month, here at The Perfume Society, but we’re certainly wedded to our love of fragrance and in any case it’s a marvellous excuse to lust over our favourite leather scents. Of course leather and perfumery go way back together ç hand in scented glove, you may say…
The links are rooted in the tradition of the ‘gantier parfumeurs’, a guild of glove-makers in Paris who fashioned gloves for royalty and the aristocracy as far back as the 15th Century.  The whole tanning process smells utterly repulsive, though, so leathers were treated with oils, musk, civet and ambergris, to mask the smell of the animals’ skins. The very first ‘leather’ scent, so far as records show, was worn by King George IIICreed’s Royal English Leather.  He was so taken with the smell of scented gloves that he asked Creed to make it into a fragrance, and thus a whole fragrance family was born.

Fragrances can be ‘leathery’ but not always easy to love – yet it’s not really essence-of-leather in that bottle, as Andy Tauer explains below.  It might be from birch tar (which has a leathery smokiness), or juniper, aldehydes or other synthetics, designed to give a skin-like scent. Patchouli, black tea and tobacco can also conjure up that old library/leather-jacket sensuality.  Women’s chypres, and men’s fragrances, are most likely to have a leathery sensuality, but perfumers can take leather on all sorts of fragrant journeys:  woody, aromatic, floral, even gourmand.

Here’s what leather means to perfumer Andy Tauer, and how he uses it in his creations. ‘The first association, when you tell me “leather”, honestly, is “Swiss Army” and me serving there as soldier: my generation had the privilege of serving in thick leather shoes that were made to endure a Swiss invasion of Moscow, including the way back. Solid and as uncomfortable as can be. Every evening we had to brush them, polish them. As mixed as my memories of proudly serving in the Swiss Army are, I loved the scent of my leather boots. Rough leather, made from Swiss cows, with a thickened skin due to a happy but rough life in the Alps (we can dream, can’t we?). Leather in perfumery is not a natural essential oil that you buy.’
Reminiscent of a favourite, battered biker jacket, curling up on a Chesterfield sofa or surrounded by leather-clad tomes in the library of your dreams – bedecked with flowers for a feminine balance or positively exuding a snarl, we urge you to explore and indulge leather fragrances with a few of our favourites, below…

The Queen of feminine leathers, originally created by Ernest Daltroff in 1919 for (shockingly, at the time) women who smoked. A refined descent in to layers of leather powdered with tobacco and carnation, through lime blossom, ylang ylang and iris – then deeper down to a bone-dry vetiver and ambergris base that lingers like a slap’s tingle. Think furtive cigarettes smoked in a leather-clad starlet’s dressing room amidst mounds of maribou feather boas.
Caron Tabac Blond £105 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Fortnum & Mason

A classic American image of a cowboy sipping coffee by a campfire after a long day on the saddle, Andy re-imgines this scenario in a delightfully ambiguous way. Seasoned leather is richly infused with smoke from the fire, an intriguing hint of carrot seed that almost seems iris-y with geranium juxtaposed by clary sage, jasmine with vetiver, and a myrrh-rich tonka dry down. Beaneath the bluster, this cowboy reads poetry and weeps openly.
Andy Tauer Lonestar Memories £90 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Les Senteurs

A hyper-sophisticated chypre blends warming saffron with iced raspberries plucked straight from a cocktail glass garnished with thyme. Richly resinous olibanum sinks in to heady clouds of night blooming jasmine and the smooth leather seats of an expensive car. Suggestive of the nefarious limousine antics of A-List celebrities involving chocolate-dipped fruit and cigars.
Tom Ford Private Blend Tuscan Leather £155 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at House of Fraser
The sense of black ink languidly swirling through opalescent water with soul-warming West Indian spiced rum intermingling with leather-bound books lining a library wall and the immediately evocative notes of vanilla pipe tobacco all following the trail of a dark heart laden with birch tar and labdanum. This is truly a fragrance with a story to tell…
BeauFort London Coeur de Noir £95 for 50ml eau de parfum
Buy it at BeauFort London

Deceptively nonchalant, this is a leather to wear when you want it to be your saucy little secret rather than up front and personal for all to see (and smell). The leather here is subtly slipped in to a bouquet of roses, with a background of lime, pink pepper, clary sage, juniper and a rounded, woody base. We see this spritzed by a Gallic muse sipping a G&T, who enjoys communicating via exaggerated pouts and deftly arched eyebrows.
MEMO French Leather £195 for 75ml eau de parfum
Buy it at Harvey Nichols
Written by Suzy Nightingale