Criticise Paco Rabanne all you want, but you can never say that they don’t have a knack for tapping into the zeitgeist. Their fragrance launches are a perfect example of how marketing drives the success of a modern perfume, with irresistible packaging and expensive advertising campaigns drawing the consumer in. Take 1 Million for instance – a perfectly decent woody amber fragrance that most likely wouldn’t have had the phenomenal success it has if it weren’t packaged inside a faux piece of gold bullion and marketed with a club-culture inspired ad that tapped into the image and money-obsessed nature of modern youth. They are anything, if not clever.
Their latest launch for women, ‘Olympēa‘, which arrives as the feminine counterpart to 2013’s Invictus, comes with all of the trappings of a typical Paco Rabanne launch right from the show-stopping bottle shaped like a laurel crown to the high-budget visuals, but the scent itself appears to have a bit more depth than one would usually expect. Created by perfumers Anne Flipo, Dominique Ropion and Loc Dong, Olympēa is described as the “fragrance of a modern day goddess” and a “statuesque idol of conquest and victory”. That is quite the description, I must say, and in truth, the fragrance is more intimate and cuddly than the concept would lead one to expect, but that’s not to say that Olympēa is without interest, in fact, it’s really quite intriguing.
“The fragrance of a modern day goddess, Paco Rabanne Olympea Eau de Parfum makes a statement of strength, power and seduction. Between myth and reality is where you’ll find Olympēa, a statuesque idol of conquest and victory. Her fragrance is just as commanding as she is, featuring a legend-inspiring salted vanilla accord that elevates her above the clouds.”
Few artists are as iconic and confrontational as Frida Kahlo. From her dominant monobrow to her flirtation with androgynous clothing, Frida was never afraid to challenge preconceptions. Her work, which comprises of many self-portraits, is often brutal, displaying herself or her subjects in pain, or with their organs exposed, representing in some ways, her own damaged body that was catastrophically injured in a bus accident early on in her life. She challenged the world’s idea of what it means to be a woman, and defined her own idea of feminine beauty. Frida was a renegade and a free spirit, but she was also a prisoner of her own physical presence. Most of all, she was an artist with a fearless form of expression
The other Frida, the fragrance created by Shelley Waddington for En Voyage Perfumes, that is, also questions our preconceived notions. It takes the familiar note of tuberose and presents it as something otherworldly. It’s still recognisably ‘tuberose’ (which is music to the ears of this particular tuberose fiend), but it is so much more than just another take on a popular note, in fact, I would call it a detailed essay into the psyche and inspirations of one of the most unique artists ever to have lived. Frida was a rare bird and a unique voice from a richly cultured nation. Frida, the perfume is as complex and fascinating as its muse, and for that reason, it’s most definitely a worthy sniff.
“Viva la Frida Vida! This perfume celebrates the life of Frida Kahlo; the woman and artist, her suffering, her Mexican heritage and her love of nature. Frida was feminine, fearless and a revolutionary; she cross dressed, smoked cigars, and has been a part of pop culture for over 50 years. A world-travelled sophisticate who had love affairs with both men and women, Frida remained happiest at Casa Azul, her traditional family home. Tuberose, a flower that the Aztecs called the Boneflower, is an important note in this perfume as an homage to Frida’s brutal calamities and artistic transformation.”
I interrupt our usual programming of new perfume reviews for something that isn’t entirely brand new – MAAI by Bogue Profumo. I actually received my sample of MAAI quite a while ago. It was generously sent to me by a very lovely perfumista (she knows who she is) and with so many things, it got caught up in my sample pile and didn’t receive too much attention. You know how it is, fellow fragrance nerds, there’s simply so much out there to smell that not everything can receive the attention it deserves. Anyhoo, a few weeks back I was prepping my review for Papillon Artisan Perfumes’ marvellous Salome, and very much felt in the mood for modern fragrances with a classic or vintage feel. MAAI immediately sprung to mind and here we are…
MAAI comes from the Italian niche house, Bogue Profumo, ‘bogue’ being French slang for ‘bug’, as in a computer virus. Founded by perfumer Antonio Gardoni, Bogue offers “neo-classic perfumery through experiments: through infusing resins, woods, roots and metals in alcohol” and MAAI (which is named after the Japanese martial arts term that describes the distance between two opponents, translating as ‘interval’)is his boldest work. In a fortuitous coincidence of events that aligned rather nicely with my rediscovery of my sample of MAAI, I recently found myself at Bloom Perfumery, Covent Garden experiencing Gardoni unveil the hidden secrets of fragrance. The experience was rather enlightening.
Believe me when I say that Gardoni is an incredibly affable and creative individual who approaches perfumery from a completely different angle to most. His approach seems entirely experimental, right from the way that he infused the alcohol used in MAAI with resins, incense and juniper, to the intense multi-aldehyde accord he created for the fragrance, the results seem to come together in a completely organic manner. I admire his spirit and enthusiasm, and the fruits of his olfactory projects, as evidenced in MAAI and his other fragrance ‘O/E’, are really quite something!
Amouage has put out some great work under the creative direction of Christopher Chong. With his innate ability to pair the traditions of classic French perfumery with artistic inspirations from the worlds of opera and dance (amongst many others), he has a flair for bringing out the best in the perfumers he works with, drilling down into their talent to create symphonically beautiful fragrances that range from the staggering to the bizarre. Amouage may have started as a house steeped in Middle Eastern tradition, but Chong has made it an international brand that absorbs a multitude of cultures from a wide variety of places.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the brand is the Library Collection, which houses a number of ‘opuses’ (now nine in total) that present compositions that celebrate ingenuity, the search for knowledge and the arts. The range from the wispy and ethereal violet of Opus III, to the harsh cracked, black leather of Opus VII, with a whole world in between. The collection strikes me as a space where all that matters is the composition and the inspiration behind it. The scents don’t need to find a huge audience and can therefore, be as unique and challenging as they need to be. It’s a refreshing direction from such an established house.
This year, Amouage is adding Opus IX to the collection. Inspired by La Traviata, the fragrance is described as a “soulful interpretation of the camellia flower”¹. In all honestly (and I could be being totally ignorant – stranger things have happened), I’ve not known camellias to have much of a fragrance however, they do have a wonderfully showy and flamboyant appearance, and Opus IX captures this bravado in a brightly coloured fragrance that utilises unusual ingredients.
Perfume lovers across the world have been watching the New Forest studio of Papillon Artisan Perfumes with bated breath. Last year, Papillon launched with three fragrances; Angelique, Anubis and Tobacco Rose – three perfumes that boldly said that a scent should be beautiful and unique, rather than awash with gimmickry. Papillon Artisan Perfumes have been a refreshing addition to the world of perfume that, along with Sarah McCartney’s hugely important 4160 Tuesdays, has put independent British perfumery on the map – a fact reflected by the nomination of all three Papillon scents for Best New Independent Fragrance at this year’s Fragrance Foundation Awards. It stands to reason then, that Papillon’s latest scent ‘Salome‘, launches in a veritable cloud of fragrant excitement.
You will hear a lot of talk about Salome and her erotic, and animalistic tendencies over the coming months. “Pure filth” is what they’ll call her and perfume lovers here, there and everywhere will revel in her raunchy and primal ways. But there’s more to Salome than meets the eye, and there’s another facet that deserves praise – her golden sheen and glittering sense of movement, to be specific. Salome is a dancing diva moving methodically and mesmerisingly through the many hypnotic motions of the dance of the seven veils.
Salome takes its name from the biblical character – the daughter of Herod and the dancing woman from the New Testament. In a recent interview on The Candy Perfume Boy, Papillon Perfumer Liz Moores explained how a vintage photograph of a 1920s flapper girl was the inspiration for Salome; “I have an original vintage photograph of a 1920’s flapper girl in a state of undress; she’s positioned side on to the camera with her breasts bared and the lower half of her body only slightly covered with ostrich feathers. The woman in this photograph fascinates me; I have often wondered who she was, where she lived in the world and what her name might have been. In my head I called her Salome, a name befitting such a beautiful and daring woman of her time.” This photo, which potrays the seductive dancer partly nude informs Salome’s vintage tones and erotic escapades. This is a fragrance made in a style seldom seen in this modern, post-IFRA age, and it acts as a startling reminder that perfumes can still be richly textured, gloriously complex and absolutely, downright filthy.
I must admit that I have a little bit of a soft spot for Jo Malone London. In my opinion they do what they do and they do it very well, specifically, they create pleasing, low-key fragrances for scenting both people and their homes, and package them all beautifully. Jo Malone London sell a lifestyle, one that is housed within the simplicity of their structured bottles, placed carefully in gorgeous boxes and tied with beautiful bows. It’s a life that looks and smells good.
Over the last year or so, the brand has started to become a little bit bolder with their offerings. Rain & Angelica, a limited edition from their London Rain collection was weird and glassy, like crystallised drops of summer rain. There was also last year’s Wood Sage & Sea Salt, another unusual blend that was somewhere between salted caramel and sea spray. Oh and we mustn’t forget Incense & Cedrat, the latest addition to the Cologne Intense collection and an absolutely gorgeous benzoin-heavy incense that begs to be snuggled. They’ve been very busy making some intriguing scents, it must be said.
The hard work of Jo Malone London continues this autumn as September sees the launch of a brand new pillar fragrance for the brand. Focusing on the rich notes of Mimosa & Cardamom, this new launch (unsurprisingly called ‘Mimosa & Cardamom‘) created by perfume Marie Salamagne is an ode to word travel, eclectic fabrics and a mixture of cultures seen through the lens of a bohemian blend of flowers and spice. Without offering too many spoilers for the rest of the review, I will say that Mimosa & Cardamom really lives up to its inspiration and I for one think that it’s great to see such an underused yet fascinating note as mimosa being used front and centre in a mainstream fragrance. Good work, JML.
I would never claim to possess any from of synesthesia, but I do often think of colours when I smell a fragrance. Sometimes these ideas are led by the presentation of the fragrance, for example, despite how its ingredients are more brown and amber-coloured, it’s difficult to think of Mugler’s Alien as any colour other than purple. The scents themselves possess colourful characters too. Take Malle’s Portrait of a Lady as another example – has any fragrance ever been so ruby red? I think not!
So yes, perfumes have colours, whether they be pre-determined by the shade of the bottle or the juice, or even the fashions rocked by the ‘face’ in the advert, they are cast in one hue or another. Pichola, the latest fragrance from Neela Vermeire Creations is blue. Well, to be precise, its a deep, expansive body of sapphire-coloured water. It’s big, blue and beautiful, with great depth and complexity. Subtitled ‘majestic reflections’, Pichola takes inspiration from the lake of the same name in Rajasthan, India and attempts to capture its “timeless beauty” whilst adding a “new twist” to Neela’s incomparable range of India-inspired fragrances.
“A myriad of colourful historic, architectural and spiritual reflections fall on this splendid body of water – the sunlight and moonlight of each season bringing out the eternal and timeless beauty of Lake Pichola. Our latest fragrance captures such countless reflections on the lake from the past to the present – showcasing the splendour of opulent and vibrant flowers, princely spices and precious woods taking us on an unforgettable and hypnotic fragrant journey. Once you have experienced the diverse and stunning beauty of these indescribable reflections you will understand the true meaning of timeless luxury and effortless beauty….”