French couture and perfumery have always been interconnected. Paul Poiret was the first couturier to blend fashion and fragrance with Rosine, a fragrance house that opened in the early 1910s on Paris’ rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré. Coco Chanel and Jeanne Lanvin soon followed. Contemporary couture houses from Christian Dior to Thierry Mugler have carried on this tradition. Marc-Antoine Barrois is a Paris-based couturier who launched his first fragrance earlier this year, called B683. Barrois now directs his own Masion de Couture for men after a decade of experience working in the rarified world of French haute couture. After completing studies in textile engineering he refined his craft working for haute couture designers Dominique Sirop, Jean-Paul Gautier and Jean-Claude Jitrois. In 2013 his first Marc-Antoine Barrois boutique opened in Paris. From this address on rue de Budapest, Barrois designs bespoke clothing from unique suits to one-off handcrafted accessories.
When he looked for a perfumer to collaborate with for his first fragrance, he was introduced to Quentin Bisch, a young perfumer who trained under Givaudan master perfumer Jean Guichard. Those with a deep interest in perfumery might recognise Bisch from the perfume documentary the BBC released around six years ago. At the time of filming, Bisch was still a student at Givaudan’s highly competitive Perfumery School. When he told his story of how he wanted to become a perfumer, it was clear that he would be someone to watch out for in the future. Since graduating from the school, he has created fragrances for Thierry Mugler, Azzaro, Missoni, Van Cleef & Arpels and Loewe. Two of his more interesting creations are La Fin du Monde for Etat Libre d’Orange and Fleur Narcotique for Ex Nihilo.
For this collaboration, Marc-Antoine Barrois and Quentin Bisch journeyed through their boyhood memories in search of smells. There they found memories of firewood, a leather briefcase and the crisp paper of an immaculate desk blotter. These ideas were interpreted into a fragrance with notes of spices, leather and wood.
B683 is a scent of the most delicate aniline leather underscored by dry woodiness. It could potentially be a flat-smelling fragrance but it is lifted and given dimension with an unusual chilli accord, which is green and fresh (not dried chilli) and violet leaf that smells cool and wet. B683 opens with fresh crushed chillis and green violet leaf. The other spices remain subtle while the cistus note smells of fresh resin and church incense. There is a sharp green note that sustains all the way through to the heart notes at which time the fragrance mellows and the supple leather accord comes into focus. The accord is slightly bitter but it is mostly soft and buttery leather. A hint of moss offers a masculine elegance against woody and amber notes. The animalic notes help ground the fragrance on skin and remain clean smelling. In fact the entire fragrance is clean despite the list of notes, which are often used by perfumers to communicate something a little bit dirty. B863 is refined in the way it smells and the way it cordially unfolds on skin. Its smooth unveiling doesn’t put a foot out of line; not one hair is out of place. It doesn’t seek attention. It is one of those fragrances you could easily forget you are wearing until someone new to the room asks what fragrance you are wearing because it smells amazing. As Marc-Antoine Barrois is a menswear designer, it is easy to assume this is a men’s fragrance but I think it would also smell very interesting on women who like refined leather perfumes.
Olfactive direction: Marc-Antoine Barrois
Perfumer: Quentin Bisch (Givaudan)
Release Date: 2017
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Dry woods
Notes: Black pepper, chilli, saffron, nutmeg, violet leaf, amber, cistus absolute, musk, patchouli, sandalwood, oakmoss, Ambroxan
Australian stockist: www.peonymelbourne.com.au