Prada is one of few fashion houses that have successfully transferred their visual aesthetic into an olfactory one. If you make a comparison, most other fashion brands do not have a strong olfactory fingerprint and independent of whether their perfumes are considered good or not, many fashion perfumes could easily bare the name of another brand and you would be none the wiser. Most Prada perfumes however, smell distinctly Prada. The brand’s approach to creation uses modern design ideas that are executed with traditional know-how. For their perfumes, raw materials are reworked into modern olfactory ideas; ideas that are housed in rectangular glass, boasting modern graphic shapes and references to the tradition of perfume such as the rarely used atomizer bulb. The brand’s Ephemeral Collection uses historic prints from the house’s archives to decorate the bottle and outer carton. My favourite example of this is Infusion de Vetiver with its geometric shapes in greys, black and pastel green that are reminiscent of Art Deco printed silks. To date, most of Prada’s perfume projects have been entrusted to the highly talented perfumer, Daniela Andrier. For the past 9 years, the perfumer has worked with Miuccia Prada to create a line of artisanal parfums known as the Exclusive Scent collection. Composed of highly prized and costly materials, Andrier commented that when she works with Prada, there is a strong focus on gathering the right raw materials, a focus that is not necessarily demanded by other brand’s design briefs. “Mrs Prada hates things that smell of cheap, synthetic ingredients”.
Each perfume in the Exclusive Scent collection concentrates on a singular flower or raw material, valued for its distinct personality. Finding information on the collection is just as hard as finding the perfumes themselves. One Prada boutique I recently visited had no idea the collection existed and even Prada’s website has no mention of it. The only official acknowledgement of the collection I have, comes from a catalogue the boutique made available to clients in 2009. This catalogue introduces the collection with the words:
“The Exclusive Scents is an ongoing experimental scent project that reinterprets the traditional art of perfumery. Ten scents are composed of the most precious, high-quality natural ingredients that are available in traditional perfumery and were sourced in Grasse, the berceau of perfumery. Each scent is the purest essence of a fragrance at its highest concentration, yielding a beautiful, undiluted sillage (seductive scent trail) and a rare, powerful resistance (long-lasting fragrance presence, lingering well after the wearer has left). Distributed in a very confident way, just like traditional perfumes, for people who appreciate the poetry of rare and absolute luxury”.
The presentation of these Exclusive Scents is highly minimal. The outer packaging is a simple white box with only the brand’s name and perfume title printed on the front face. The perfume is housed in a rectangular bottle reminiscent of early 20th century apothecary bottles, capped with a simple screw top that could be Bakelite or another modern, harder plastic.
Fleur d’Oranger may sound like a soliflore but closer inspection reveals an accord composed from a variety of flowers. The fragrance weaves notes of orange blossom, muguet, rose, jasmine sambac and tuberose absolute creating the overall impression of an antique orange blossom. Enough of the leafy greenness found in natural neroli or orange blossom oil is retained giving Fleur d’Oranger the feel of an eau de cologne. The added white floral notes emit the scent of orange tree blossoms, as they are found in nature- sweet and narcotic. Unlike traditional eau de colognes that fade quickly into nothing, Fleur d’Oranger is bound to skin with sandalwood, myrrh, patchouli, vanilla and musk – less oriental than it sounds, more baby powder than you would expect. Many of these exclusive materials have later been reworked to become part of Prada’s ongoing Infusion series known as the Ephemeral Infusions Collection. In 2009 Prada launched Infusion de Fleur d’Oranger. Comparing the two you can see the similarities. Prada’s Infusion has an airy soap-like quality you do not see in the No. 4 parfum. No. 4 feels much warmer and grounded. Although there are differences both fragrances have a place in the hands of orange blossom fans. The infusion is naturally great for daytime wear and the parfum for evening.
Prada’s Exclusive Scents are aimed at a unisex audience. Orange blossom was used extensively in men’s toiletries many decades ago and Prada’s orange blossom has a vintage feel that almost makes you do a double take as you question yourself, “Am I smelling my grandfather here?” Prada are clever enough to sex this scent up, so although it does feel a little bit like a World War I relic, perhaps Mussolini may have worn; this is still the smell of a well-dressed 21st century man, dressed in Prada no doubt.
Prada Infusion de Fleur d’Oranger, Santa Maria Novella Zagara, Tom Ford Neroli Portofino, Atelier Cologne Grand Neroli
Perfumer: Daniela Roche-Andrier (Givaudan)
Release date: 2003
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Floral