I’ve embarked on a new series within my weekly Escentual column. It’s called ‘From the Archives’ and it aims to shine a spotlight on hidden gems – those fragrances that are neither new or iconic, but are still pretty damn good. My first dip into the archives is a modern curiosity: YSL’s Cinéma. Cinéma interests me because it’s a classic case of subverting expectations. It serves Hollywood glamour, yes, but it’s far from a noisy blockbuster, in fact Cinéma celebrates an unconventional screen siren in the form of mimosa. Click here to read my full review.
The district of Peckham in south-east London isn’t the first place that springs to mind when one thinks of the house CHANEL, but that’s exactly where the world’s most famous couturier decided to host a five-day pop-up scent installation inspired by their fragrances. The location was chosen because it is home to the studio of Es Devlin, the Stage Designer picked by CHANEL for their first collaboration with i-D under their ‘The Fifth Sense’ partnership.
Es Devlin creates “kinetic sculptures meshed with light” and is famous for piecing together elements of the London 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony, Béyonce’s Formation World Tour (having created a gigantic “monolith” of a video screen for the tour), Adele’s BRIT Awards performance of “When We Were Young”and pretty much all of Kanye West’s performances in recent years. With such an illustrious and frankly fascinating body of work, it’s no surprise that Es was the perfect artist to work with for CHANEL’s very first pop-up scent installation.
Entitled ‘Mirror Maze’ this installation takes themes of navigation, gravity and memory, and links them to fragrance. The physical aspect sees a mirrored maze reminiscent of Coco Chanel’s famous mirrored staircase intertwined with video installations and soundscapes. Fragrance comes into play in the form of a specially-created scent crafted by CHANEL in-house Perfumer, Olivier Polge – a fragrance that scents a special space within the installation. The fragrance and installation (which closed yesterday) will last for five days, after which they will only exist as memory.
“I began to think about scent as a means of finding my way and measuring myself – not in space but through time. I thought about the smells that take me back – burning street tar, Vicks inhaler, Christmas tree resin, freshly cleaned school corridors, printer ink, chlorine, sunscreen, baby milk, mosquito coils, Indian jasmine mixed with street cooking, diesel – and I began to see them as landmarks for who I was when I first and last smelled it.”
– Es Devlin
I don’t mean rhinestones!
But diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”
– Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Marilyn Monroe knew a thing or two about glamour, I’d say, and in her iconic performance of the Carol Channing-composed ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in Gentleman Prefer Blondes she said it best when she said that, when it comes to diamonds, a man better get you the real thing, or else. Like diamonds, niche perfumery should be subject to such a discerning set of rules because, let’s face it, there are many pretenders out there – tons of cubic zirconia brands that offer a pretty package but not much in the way of honest olfactory beauty. Niche fragrance is all about offering something special, something unique and something more luxurious than the mainstream fair, and many brands provide sparkle, but none of the lasting interest that they should.
One brand that I recently discovered with both style and substance is Orlov Paris. I’m a sucker for a good story and theirs is one that is refreshingly devoid of tacky gimmicks. Brand founder Ruth Méaulle is a Gemologist who loves fragrance as much as she does diamonds. Having worn some cracking scents in her life, the likes of Carnal Flower and having gifted equally wonderful fragrances to her mother (Amarige) and husband (Vétiver Extraordinaire), Méaulle realised that she had followed one perfumer with each of these fragrant choices: the legendary Dominique Ropion. So it makes sense that, when Méaulle decided to start her own fragrance house, Orlov Paris (Orlov being Russian for ‘Our Love’), Monsieur Ropion was the only nose she could work with.
Each of the fragrances within the Orlov Paris collection is inspired by a legendary stone, with the first five taking their inspiration from iconic diamonds. The best seller, Flame of Gold, is named after the Diamonds International award winning canary yellow diamond of the same name, which weighed in at a whopping 29 carats. Originally set in a necklace but later purchased by Texas oilman E.E. “Buddy” Ogelmen for his wife, Oscar-winning actress, Greer Garson, the location of the diamond today is unknown. Like the stone, Flame of Gold the fragrance is mysterious and dazzles with warm light in shades of yellow, glowing with amber, vanilla, leather and cedar wood. Talk about divine.
I do like a bit of Prada, it’s true. Their fragrances are so in synch with their brand, offering modern luxury, innovation and often a splash of humour, right from the elegant Infusions all the way to the mischievous Candy. In fact, one of my current summer obsessions has been their Infusion de Cedre, which is that rare thing: an aldehydic floral for men. Anyway, I digress. Prada have just launched two new pillar fragrances: La Femme Prada and L’Homme. The Femme is a wonderfully voluptuous white floral in a golden sheen, whilst the masculine is much softer, warmer and greyer. Click here to head on over to Escentual to read my full review.
For my column this week, Escentual asked me to delve into the world of Montblanc Legend, a fragrance created to capture the illustrious spirit of the Montblanc brand. I was also tasked with sniffing the two flankers in the series; Legend Intense and Legend Spirit. All three are well-composed masculines that throw in a few intriguing twists, especially Spirit which has a wonderful fresh banana note! Click here to head on over to Escentual to read my full review.
I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll say it again: I’m a big fan of Jo Malone London. To me, they do what they do very well and what they do is create easy wearing fragrances that feel comfortable both on the skin and in the home. Sure, they’re not pushing the known boundaries of olfaction, but they often add a contemporary and eccentric twist to their fragrances, taking the familiar and making it novel. Most importantly though, Jo Malone London fragrances tick the box that should be first and foremost on every perfume lover’s priority list: they smell good.
Seeing as I enjoy the brand so much, it’s understandable that it was with both excitement and trepidation that I uncorked my sample of JML’s latest scent ‘Basil & Neroli‘. Why? Well, they’ve been on a bit of winning streak lately. Last year’s Mimosa & Cardamom was a triumph – one that has crept its way into my top ten fragrances of all time (quite an accolade, if I do say so myself), not to mention the fact their recent additions to the Cologne Intense series, specifically Incense & Cedrat and Orris & Sandalwood, have also been exceptionally good, and quite unique. So yes, I wondered whether Basil & Neroli would be the one to break this streak or whether it would be yet another success. You’ll have to read on to find out the answer…
Basil & Neroli was created by perfumer Anne Flipo, the nose behind L’Artisan Parfumeur’s La Chasse Aux Papillons and Jo Malone London’s Herb Garden Collection. She describes the fragrance as “a fresh, sophisticated, sensual floral with green facets” adding that it is “stunning in its simplicity”. The brand however, calls it a “London lark”, positioning Basil & Neroli as something much more fun, playful and quintessentially British. Whether it be refined or rowdy, what’s for sure is that Basil & Neroli is a fragrance created in the Jo Malone London school of thinking, meaning that it serves up an unusual twist on two familiar ingredients, juxtaposing the savoury & the sweet, and the green & the white.
On my list of things I’ve always wanted to own, a Fornasetti candle is right up there. Or ‘was right up there’, I should say, because I now own two. Now, the reason I have lusted after one of these candles so desperately is down to the simple fact that they are just so darn beautiful and dare I say, a little bit kitsch too. Fornasetti candles are as much ‘objet d’art’ as they are vessels for home fragrance, meaning that they can make one’s home smell beautiful whilst drawing the eye to something decorative too. They do what many candles don’t, which is smell good whilst also creating a talking point, adding a touch of something unique to any room.
Piero Fornasetti was a Milanese artist who painted, made sculptures, designed interiors and engraved books, amongst many other things. He is arguably one of the most prolific artists of the 20th century, having created over 11,000 decorative products within his lifetime. Following Fornasetti’s death in the 1980s, the artist’s son, Barnaba has continued the brand, reviving and reinterpreting his father’s designs, placing them on a number of items, ranging from plates to umbrellas and of course, candles too.
Fornasetti’s signature design centres around the artist’s muse: opera singer, Lina Cavalieri. The classical features of her distinctively beautiful face have been reproduced in over 350 designs, showing her in range of guises, many of which have been abstract, whimsical and humorous, to say the least. Fornasetti candles boast numerous designs, many of which see Cavalieri’s form presented as a range of characters, or simply focusing on her features. The designs also verge on the wacky with candles printed with sardine and fountain pen designs. Yup, that’s right, Fornasetti certainly knows how to make the sublime out of the ridiculous!