Romano Ricci – founder of niche perfume house Juliette Has a Gun – was born to be creative, with roots in both fashion (his great grandmother was renowned couturier Nina Ricci) and perfumery (his grandfather Robert created the famous L’air du temps); but though grateful to his heritage, Romano was driven to make a name for himself and learn the basics for himself rather than resting on his laurels and hoping the prestige of the family name would carry him through.
Romano became an apprentice in the perfumery world, studying for four years and learning from the greatest noses, eventually persuading Francis Kurkdjian – a master of perfumery – to allow him to work with him. Juliette Has a Gun say: ‘In the creator’s mind, 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, the “Gun” essentially symbolizes the liberation of women towards men…and sometimes with an aftertaste of revenge…’
Wryly humorous names like Another Oud, Mad Madame, Not a Perfume and Anyway, along with intriguing blends of notes are the hallmark of Juliette Has a Gun – a house that pays no regard to the traditional way of doing things just for the sake of it, but creating some truly great perfumes that have been blowing the socks off press and public alike since their launch in 2006.
And we are thrilled to now stock the JHAG Discovery Kit in our shop – filled with EIGHT NICHE FRAGRANCES, including a 4ml Not A Perfume, so you can explore layering all of these wonderful fragrances at your leisure (and pleasure). We think this kit creates a WONDERFUL GIFT and is perfect for when you are on the go. All yours to explore and treasure for only £25.
But before we wonder what your favourite smells of their Discovery Kit will be, we caught up with the stylish maverick Romano, and once cornered, got him to reveal the smells he just cannot do without in his life. What, we wondered, makes his nostrils quiver with delight?
Romano Ricci: My five favourite smells…
1. Tomato leaves ‘There is something about it. Without any explanation, I am just totally attracted and addicted to this poisoning green smell…’
2. Cetalox ‘This is one of my favorite ingredients, I even created a fragrance [NB: it’s called Not a Perfume] made 100% of it. I love the fact that some people can smell it and others cannot. It is the beauty of this pure ingredient.’
3. Castor Oil Plant ‘It reminds me my passion – car racing. Whenever I enter the garage of my racing team, I smell this odour which immediately puts me in a racing mood.’
4. Lavender ‘As a child we used to spend our vacations in our summer house in Grasse. It was called “la Renardiere” and I loved it very much. It was surrounded by lavender fields. You could smell it all over the place. I should mention, though, that I kind of had a bad experience with the bees! So, it has a bad side to it too…’
5. Play-Doh ‘I used to love the smell of it as a child and still do, I am deeply jealous of perfumers like Demeter for instance, who created a fragrance around it!’
With the notoriously unpredictable British summer weather and the general gloominess of the political climate, we could all do with a hit of happiness right now. Enter Juliette Has a Gun – serving us sunshine in a bottle with their latest scent, Sunny Side Up.
‘The idea was to propose something that inspires happy and positive feelings. I started with sandalwood essence, a woody note with unctuous tonalities. I simply accentuated it with some musks, and a jasmine and coconut milk facet,’ explains perfumer, founder of the house and resident rebel, Romano Ricci. Juliette Has a Gun say: ‘ Like a happy therapy, the fragrance recalls those moments of freedom, insouciance and letting go – those warm balmy days when the sun never seems to set and time is suspended.’
Amusingly enough, the day we attended the press launch it was raining (typical!). But walking in to the room dominated by a towering arrangement of bright blooms cunningly constructed in to a giant ice-cream cone of flowers, and surrounded by the charmingly bright, Beatles-esque artwork of illustrator Jamie Cullen (see above for his portrait of Romano), already the smiles began breaking out – a feeling further magnified by actually smelling the fragrance itself… Top notes: amyris, sandalwood, jasmine, lactone, vanilla absolute Heart notes: sandalwood accord, iris butter absolute, jasmine sambac absolute Base notes: ambrette, Iso E super, salicylate
Just before breathing in, can we take a moment to appreciate to playfulness of the bottle? Viewed from above, the yellow cap represents the yolk against the white of flacon – exactly the kind of whimsical touch beloved by this brand. And don’t worry, there’s no messing about waiting for the happiness to kick in, here – an immediate blast of sparkling jasmine escapes like a suppressed giggle in church, followed swiftly by a fluffy snuggle of sandalwood and the delectable creaminess of that iris butter – seemingly soft enough to slather on toast to accompany your eggs, should you wish.
Close your eyes and imagine an impossibly perfect beach: warm sand, warm skin, an omnipresent hush of crystal waters massaging brightly coloured pebbles and your own deep, contented breaths. Sunny Side Up is all blissfully relaxed limbs glowing with the retro-smelling scent of suntan oil, the softness of the blanket beneath you and a waft of vanilla ice-cream on the breeze as the sun dips its toes in the ocean. If your holiday is already a distant memory or you haven’t managed to get away so far this year, an instant hit of happiness awaits… Juliette Has a Gun Sunny Side Up £110.00 for 100ml eau de parfum
Exclusive to Harvey Nichols
Written by Suzy Nightingale
Into the Void is the latest addition to the Luxury Collection of the ever-quirkily named and uniquely inspired Juliette Has a Gun – scented brainchild of self-taught perfumer Romano Ricci (great-grandson of the iconic Nina Ricci) and now at the helm of one of the original ‘niche’ houses that changed the face of the fragrance world.
Humorously titled they may be, but these are wonderfully wearable perfumes that invite you to explore all sorts of character facets…
Launching exclusively in Harrods, the intriguing Into the Void is… ‘Inspired by space, black holes, gravity and forces beyond our control, it is a perfume of dark energy.’
‘The harmony opens with an ultra woody cocktail, essence of guaiac wood, papyrus, cedar, norlimbanol, ambroxan, patchouli, to name but a few. Partly eclipsed behind this devastating veil, the black orchid absolute is yet vital to the balance blending with the Tonka bean and an infusion of liquorice, all its sensuality is brought forth into the composition. A cosmic fluid with golden reflections. Once released it hangs in the air like star dust in space, diffusing its gravitational power, invisible and yet so ravishing…’
Ravishing is the word. This is a deeply intense swirl of vivacious smokiness that beguiled us from the second we sprayed. We were lucky enough to be invited to the press launch, and there we caught up with the flamboyant Romano Ricci himself – firstly to ask about Into the Void, and then to plunge deeper…
Romano Ricci: ‘We call them ‘black holes’ and ‘dark matter’ because we are the ones in the dark, not knowing much about them, grasping for information. It’s all so elusive, but we can feel the effects of these forces, we can see them, but we don’t know exactly how to define them. I’m just fascinated with these mysterious things, and that’s why I wanted to use that inspiration for Into the Void. It’s something that lurks deep within us all… wanting to know more.’ Tell us about your first smell memory?
‘I guess it was really one of Nina Ricci’s creations, which my grandfather wore. I’m not sure if it was a fragrance called Phileas, or my Grandfather wearing Signore Ricci – his house was full of the stuff, the soap the shower gel, the whole collection. It’s smelled really good, but I guess it can’t have been a best seller. It’s discontinued now. But I loved the smell of it.’
When did you first become interested in working in the perfume industry?
‘Actually, I swore, myself that I would not go into perfumery, seeing the disaster it can make of family relationships – my father and grandfather were always shouting at each other! When you mix business and family it can be very dangerous, I think… But then the more I escaped it, the stronger it came back. The harder you try to get away the more violently you’re attracted to the thing you run away from, sometimes.’ What’s your favourite (and worst!) thing to smell right now?
‘It depends entirely on the time. If you’re asking me right now, the best at the moment, I’m very much into tuberose. I used to be a lot about Chypre, patchouli, then musk, transparency and now I’m so into tuberose. The three last luxury collections are about tuberose, the white flowers in Gentlewoman I adored… As for the worst, I really hate the smell of grapefruit. I think it’s just terrible, to me grapefruit essence smells like sweat.’ Is there one fragrance you wish you had created?
‘I have one fragrance I really love and keep coming back to. The original Narcisso Rodriguez, the first one. I have a weakness for it. It’s one of the very rare interesting mainstream compositions.’ It’s the 10th Anniversary of Juliette Has a Gun, what has changed in the perfume world since then…?
‘A lot. The whole world in fact. When I first started there were maybe four or five niche brands or in total ten brands that could be considered niche. Now there are, what, hundreds, even thousands? It’s incredible. I’m always looking at how we can expand but stay true to ourselves. It’s exciting. Challenging, exhausting… but it makes us stay on our toes. It means now that we employ a number of people and are larger than I thought we’d be, really – I think it’s a real challenge to be in charge of so many people, not only working for yourself. But it’s a challenge that drives me, too.
We have a humour about us at Juliette Has a Gun. I hate that seriousness of people who lack humour in this industry, it’s so boring! Perfume should express your personality, and hopefully the people who wear ours have a real fun side to them!’
How many perfumes do you work on at any one time?
‘I find it’s usually good to work on two, side by side, which is also how we tend to release them. Because if you get too much into something you can lose perspective, wheras if you switch from one to another, you gain perspective on both. Your inner critic is the engine of the creation.’ Does your nose ever switch off?
‘No no, it’s always there. You know when I’m in the lab, I’m like a child in a toyroom. What’s next?! What can I do with this?’ When you’re creating a fragrance, how do you go about it? Do you use a mood board?
‘No it’s all about the smell, I don’t use visual stimulants for inspiration, it’s always the smell, and I know exactly how I want it to be, it’s just about getting there. There’s fifty ingredients I love the most, and I know very well how they combine, but I discover new ones all the time. It took me fifteen years to reach the stage where I just knew how the differing combinations would smell in my head, it takes time, but then the fun begins… How can each of us go about improving our sense of smell?
‘It’s a lot about training. Even I re-smell all the ingredients all the time. And still I cannot tell you exactly if you make me smell a fragrance, what are all the ingredients in here? I’ll know some of them, but not all. You know, people should go and buy fifteen, twenty raw ingredients and just smell, smell, smell. Memorise them. Once it’s locked into your head it stays, but you can’t rush it, there’s no shortcut. It’s all about the training. Composing is another matter altogether, of course, but you can train yourself to memorise them at least.’
Juliette Has a Gun Into the Void £200 for 75ml eau de parfum
Buy it exclusively at Harrods
Written by Suzy Nightingale