Project Renegades is definitely a brand that packs a punch. I mean, let’s talk about the avatar in the room here and just acknowledge the fact that the bottles are presented with detachable magnets fashioned into caricatures of three iconic perfumers. The visual impact is cacophonous and bold, with shiny kaleidoscope-printed boxes, bullet holes and of course, those detachable magnetic caricatures of the perfumers… All of this comes right out to say that this brand and its perfumers are gonna do whatever the heck they like. In an industry that often relies on the same old formulaic way of making and launching perfume, we can only give Project Renegades kudos for bucking the trend.
With Project Renegades, three of the industry’s most iconic cult perfumers have teamed up to create a trio of olfactory cowboys who are going to swagger into town to teach them there locals about how perfume should be done proper, you hear. They are Mark Buxton, the man behind so many of Comme des Garçons’ cult fragrances, Bertrand Duchaufour, the world’s most prolific and varied perfumer, and Geza Schoen, the nose responsible for Escentric Molecules (I like to call him ‘Molecule Man’). The idea is to do something exciting with perfume and allow the perfumers to just make whatever the heck they want to without the constraints of marketing briefs, focus groups or trends. The results are unexpected.
Top: Bergamot, Pink Pepper, Cardamom, Gin, Cassis, and Galbanum
Heart: Red Berries, Frankincense, and Hinoki
Base: Fir Balsam, Driftwood, and Amber
How Does it Smell?
I’m a huge fan of the the ‘Big Bad BD’ (and if you are too you should check out our Battle of the Bertrands episode of Fume Chat), but my tastes have always leaned more towards his floral or gourmand creations (when don’t my tastes lean towards the floral and gourmand TBH?), you know, the likes of Séville à l’Aube & Traversée du Bosphore for L’Artisan Parfumeur, and Ostara & Amaranthine for Penhaligon’s. But it’s hard to deny that Bertrand is at his very best when he plays with incense and woods, and some of his greatest scents, I’m thinking Dzongkha for L’Artisan Parfumeur, Copal Azur for Aedes des Venustas and Avignon for Comme des Garçons, are all incense-focused. It’s incense that Bertrand Duchaufour has picked for his Renegade fragrance – and it’s incense with an unusual twist!
This Renegade fragrance is billed as an essay in pink pepper and that’s definitely the case however, I’d say that this fragrance is as much about incense as it is pepper. It opens with an oily, minty incense note that has a real bite to it, almost as if it is tinged with the crisp bitterness of a grapefruit devoid of sugar. The pink pepper adds a piquant fruity quality that is vibrant and sharp. Underneath all of this is a rocky, mineral quality that gives the impression of sea spray. There’s nothing calone-like or aquatic here but the impression is definitely marine and it lends an airy transparency to the fragrance that elevates the pepper and incense into the air like waves crashing against sharp rocks.
To put it impolitely, I have been wearing the shit out of this fragrance over the last couple of weeks. It’s just so satisfying to wear. The clash of resins, marine notes and pepper create something that is more than the sum of each of these parts. It smells abstract, like a pink frankincense that doesn’t exist in the wild. Bertrand Duchaufour’s entry to the Project Renegades collection is as cacophonous as its branding and it feels new too. Pink pepper and incense may not sound that innovative on the surface but trust me when I say that this unusual melange of marine incense is most definitely something worth sniffing. In fact, I can’t seem to stop doing so.
Top: Pink Pepper Oil & Absolue, Cassis, Lemon, Lime and Bergamot
Heart: Fir, Juniper, Osmanthus Absolue, Hedione, Hedional, Orris Absolue and Maté
Base: ISO E Super, Cedawood, Sandalwood, Labdanum, Incense, Moss, Myrrh, Castoreum and Musk Ambrette
How Does it Smell?
Geza Schoen is famous for Escentric Molecules – a brand that creates binary pairs of perfumes; one that presents an aroma chemical in isolation; and one that showcases that same material within a composition. The success of Escentric Molecules and the fact that it’s so against the general codes of perfumery makes Geza a true renegade within the industry. Like Bertrand, Geza Schoen has also focused on the note of pink pepper for his Renegade fragrance to create a scent that represents the whole tree, including the berry, the bark and the leaves. It’s a stark contrast to Bertrand’s icy marine affair, let me tell you…
The opening of Geza Schoen’s Renegade scent is tart, tangy and juicy. It smells like bright green citrus fruits, serving up a melange of kiwi, lime and bergamot. The texture is decidedly jelly-like with a chewy, almost aqueous feel to it. Next to this is a white hot pepper note that gives the impression of dust burning from the top of a hot lightbulb. The base is soft and woody, with lots of white musk for elevation. The tangy quality of the citrus seems to last forever and as it progresses it sours into something slightly booze-like. Whilst I don’t get the impression of a tree in its entirety, I do feel that there are shades of nature here, albeit ones that have been recreated using a means that is utterly artificial.
This scent is weird. Like, really weird and I’m totally here for it. Masterfully, Geza Schoen has created something entirely unique – a fragrance with a masterful array of textures, colours and contrasts. It simply does not smell like anything else I’ve sniffed and it manages to present olfactory impressions that are novel but also entirely wearable. On the surface one could see it simply as a refreshing woody citrus for summer, but as one sniffs deeper the fascinating intricacies reveal themselves. To me Geza Schoen’s fragrance for Project Renegades feels like a stark white wall that has been spray painted with wild graffiti. The canvas that was once blank now showcases a wide variety of colours and shapes, oh and a few offensive words too. I wish all perfumes were this much fun.
All three fragrances within the Project Renegades collection are available in 100ml Eau de Toilette for £155. In the UK they can be found at Harvey Nicholls.
Samples, notes and quotes via Project Renegades. Images are my own.