I recently had the pleasure of discussing flowers and perfume with internationally acclaimed florist, Saskia Havekes, at her flagship Grandiflora store in Sydney. A Grandiflora project can range from a bouquet of flowers for visiting British royalty to composing floral arrangements for the pages of Vogue or Harpers Bazaar. Last year Saskia and her team decorated Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall stage with flowers for a special dinner party hosted by Italian jeweler Bulgari. Regardless of the project size, flowers are at the heart of every Grandiflora creation. Saskia talks passionately about her medium in the same way people talk about family members and close friends. She describes the personalities of her flowers in great detail, the way they open, their silhouettes and textures. In 2013, Saskia launched her debut perfumes Sandrine and Michel, two different interpretations of the Magnolia grandiflora flower. During our first meeting in 2014 we talked about her new adventure into perfumery and the challenges she faced, not only as a newcomer to the industry but also because one of the perfumers she was working with, Sandrine Videault, sadly passed away. Saskia named their creation Sandrine, in honour of the perfumer. Since that meeting, Saskia has been busy at … Read More »
The list of classics is much shorter for men’s fragrances than it is for women’s. It’s more a numbers game instead of being a question of creativity. Every year new fragrance launches for women significantly outnumber those for men. Statistics aside, every decade there are a select few fragrances that define a generation of men. One of these definitive moments happened in 1965 when Guerlain launched Habit Rouge. In her book about Guerlain, author Colette Fellous writes: “It was an immediate success and there was a time when Habit Rouge was so popular in Paris, that it was virtually impossible to tell father from son.”
These magical moments in perfumery require a collision of factors to be produced and they are never predictable. If they could be predicted there would be far more of them. I wasn’t around in the 1960s to give a personal account of Habit Rouge but I remember 10 years ago when I smelled newly launched Terre d’Hermes. It was unlike anything I had smelled before but it made complete sense to me, as though it had always been part of my life. It was pure magic. I had a similar experience when I discovered Habit Rouge long after … Read More »
Bringing bygone brands back to life is not a new concept in fashion and beauty. Many leading designer names belong to individuals who departed the world long ago. In perfumery, Frapin (1270), Lubin (1798), Grossmith (1835) and Oriza L. Legrand (1720) are a few recent examples of brands that have been resuscitated under new management.
Last year I met Nicolas Chabot, the entrepreneur responsible for the revival of Le Galion, a perfume house that was founded in Paris at the height of the city’s Art Deco period. Le Galion was hugely successful for many decades but the house inconspicuously dissolved into the fabric of history when Le Galion’s owner, Paul Vacher, passed away in the late 1970s. Vacher was one of the 20th century’s most talented perfumers and despite his Le Galion perfumes barely surviving into the 21st century; his name lived on through his commissions for some of France’s most famous couturiers. Arpege (1927) by Lanvin and Miss Dior (1947) by Christian Dior are his most celebrated commercial successes.
To awaken what Nicolas described as being a sleeping beauty, he selected nine fragrances from Le Galion’s archives to be relaunched using formulas he acquired in the sale of the brand and firsthand … Read More »
One of the great storytellers in contemporary perfumery is Arquiste. I’m conscious of the gravitas a description like this carries, particularly now that a lot of perfume brands are marketing their greatness without any tangible measures. Describing themselves as the most luxurious, the most exclusive, the most artistic and using only the finest raw materials, these self-proclamations often go unquestioned. But I feel completely at ease with my description of Arquiste being one of the great storytellers in contemporary perfumery having talked about the creative process with Arquiste’s founder Carlos Huber on a number of occasions, and I have published several interviews with one of the two perfumers Carlos monogamously works with, Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Givaudan New York’s Vice President of Perfumery. There is clearly a lot of passion and skill behind the Arquiste brand.
Carlos draws from his experience as an architect and historic preservationist to meticulously research the stories that inspire his fragrances. Each one is like an amorous rendezvous with a point in time. Boutonniere No.7 places its wearer in the foyer of the Paris Opera in 1899. The Architects Club evokes dark wood and leather, a hotel fumoir at the height of London’s Art Deco period. It is an … Read More »
Tacit is Aesop’s new fragrance for 2015. It follows the brand’s recently adopted method of working with leading perfumers on new olfactory product design. In 2014 Aesop collaborated with Mane perfumer Barnabe Fillon to create Marrakech Intense, and perfumer Celine Barel, one of IFF’s rising stars, created the formula for Tacit. Barel has been acquainted with Aesop for a decade and Tacit’s concept was first discussed almost three years ago, a testimony to Aesop’s careful approach to all new product launches. At the heart of every Aesop product is a love of nature, travel, the arts and the tacit knowledge those experiences yield. Australian generative artist Jonathan McCabe also collaborated on the project providing a visual element for the new fragrance. His artwork for Tacit consists of molten digital patterns that feel to me as though they are abstract forms born from the mind of Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempika. These forms are displayed inside Tacit’s box and McCabe’s work with Aesop is being exhibited at Sydney Contemporary on 10-13 September.
The formula of this new eau de parfum came from two key inspirations, the freshness of Eau de Cologne and the Mediterranean Coast, its culture, topography and perfumed vegetation. … Read More »
Perfume is a relatively new venture for Frapin, one of the great cognac making families of France. Cognac has been in the family blood for more than twenty generations and Frapin’s first cognacs date back to the 13th century. In 2002 Beatrice Cointreau, a family descendent, began exploring the relationship between scent and cognac making. Five years later she launched the house’s first perfume. Today Frapin has nine perfumes, which are in the care of Parisian entrepreneur David Frossard. Frossard came to Frapin with a wealth of experience in the niche perfume industry and under his business and creative direction, Frapin continues to evolve. Frossard follows the brand’s founding values and like a fine cognac, Frapin’s perfumes are produced in small quantities from ingredients of a high caliber as are the perfumers Frossard chooses to work with. Craftsmanship and innovation rate highly and each perfume tells a different story linked in some way to cognac and spirits. Terre de Sarment draws from Frapin’s own story and Speakeasy conjures imagery of a smoky 1920s bar.
This winter I have been wearing the perfume Frapin launched last year called Nevermore. Like garden mulch I love the way rose fragrances protect and insulate the skin … Read More »
Aesop is undeniably one of Australia’s most successful exports in the beauty industry. When Melbourne hairdresser Dennis Paphitis founded Aesop in 1987, he began by mixing essential oils into his colour treatments. He believed the concept could be taken further and he employed the help of a chemist to formulate a simple line of hair and body products. The premise of his line was the same, using fewer but better quality botanical ingredients. This ethos still holds true and today the brand is renowned for its natural grooming products, simple design aesthetics and unique retail spaces. Aesop is a praiseworthy example of how successful small businesses can grow into global brands without losing the unique identity they were founded on. I remember Aesop’s first retail store, which opened in 2004, the same year I moved to Melbourne from New Zealand. It was around the corner from my apartment in St Kilda. Sandwiched between a bakery and The Prince of Wales pub, I remember the long corridor-like store getting attention from pedestrians and weekend brunchers. The store’s employees would leave an aromatic hand balm tester just outside their door and a scent trail of essential oils wafting down Carlisle Street drew … Read More »
Amouage’s Library Collection is Christopher Chong at his most experimental. When I interviewed him in Sydney last year he described the collection as being his “couture.” As Amouage’s Creative Director of nine years, Christopher recently adjusted the brand’s compass and all new perfumes now include a more personal narrative. The next “cycle” emerged last year with the release of Journey Man and Journey Woman, and Opus IX is the first Library Collection perfume to imbibe the brand’s new spirit. Naturally my interest was piqued to smell Amouage couture reborn.
To create Opus IX, Christopher collaborated with Firmenich perfumers Nathalie Lorson and Pierre Negrin. Both perfumers come with impressive resumes and Negrin is no stranger to the brand having engineered a number of Amouage perfumes prior to Opus IX. This ninth Opus draws from Christopher’s passion for Opera. It is an art form that influenced Christopher’s perfumes before the Journey duo; the former student of opera dedicated Honour Woman to Madama Butterfly. The way Amouage perfumes are constructed could also be described as operatic with their rhythmic olfactory punctuation that separates notes into clearly defined scenes. Linear is not part of the Amouage vocabulary. The story of Opus IX is told in three scenes that form classic head, heart … Read More »
In April 2013 I published my first post about Arquiste perfumes, which was a review of L’Etrog, a perfume from the brand’s initial collection. Arquiste’s founder, Carlos Huber, was in Australia at the time and we talked about his brand’s story. Story telling is one of the elements I love about what Carlos does. Through the medium of modern perfumery, each Arquiste perfume takes its wearer on a journey through space and time. L’Etrog was set in the Mediterranean amongst the citron groves of medieval Calabria. The year was 1175. Collaborating with Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasnier, two of Givaudan’s leading perfumers, Carlos made a perfume about the annual harvest of Calabrese citron fruit. It is a region of Italy that is famous for the quality of citrus fruit it produces. Bergamot from Calabria is of particular importance to the perfume industry. Using a number of Italian citrus oils, Arquiste’s L’Etrog showcased the natural beauty of this region. During these medieval harvests, farmers built temporary cabins out of branches and palm fronds. Here they slept before rising early in the morning to collect the harvest fruit. L’Etrog used woody notes to reference the palm frond cabins and a novel date fruit accord referenced a … Read More »
A decade on, Jean-Claude Ellena continues his work as Perfumer of Hermes. His mandate from the luxury French brand has always been to launch a new scent when he feels ready. In the time-pressured world of fashion and beauty, it is unusual for perfumers to have this level of freedom in their work. Cuir d’Ange is the 11th Hermessence perfume. Speaking with press last year when the perfume launched, Jean-Claude Ellena spoke about it being an idea he developed over a period of 10 years. When he was recruited in 2004, he visited a room in the Hermes atelier where leather is laid out in storage. It is a place where precious hides, tanned by master tanners, are stored in a controlled environment. Here they await transformation into some of the world’s finest leathergoods. He was enamoured by the scent of the tanned leather, which to his surprise smelled of flowers. Ellena often draws parallels between his work and the work of other artists. On this occasion, he drew a link to the world of literature and the words of writer Jean Giono, who in his autobiography, described his father working in his cobbler’s workshop, “making shoes in angel leather … Read More »