Trend alert: the note du jour for perfume brands at the moment is osmanthus. This humble little flower, which possesses a very complex and unique odour profile, whilst also appearing sunny and pretty to look at, is working its way into many fragrances, both mainstream and niche. But what is it? What does it smell like? Why is it having a moment? And where can you smell it? Well, read on to find out…
Please note that this post may contain indirect references to trauma and abuse that certain readers may find triggering.
I can recall the image so vividly. She stood there, framed by the deep oak of our front door. Her hair, bobbed and big in that ’90s style (not quite a ‘Rachel’, but almost), fizzed with hairspray. The dress was an event – a floor length Lacroix gown, in black with panels of lace (also black, of course). Her ears and her left shoulder sparkled with giant Butler & Wilson spiders – costume jewels that made me think of Morticia Addams. I can see their diamond-cut shapes catching the light, even now. But what I remember the most is the scent – an atomic cloud of Chanel’s Allure that announced her arrival and made sure she was present, in some way, long after her departure.
This is the most prominent memory I hold of my mother. It is bathed in scent – she is framed by a silhouette of Chanel, and if you remove the dress, the jewels and the person, what’s left is still a vivid picture of the person I remember. The shadow of a person painted by the fragrance she wore, almost like an olfactory negative of the space she filled at that time. In this image she is glamorous, she is smiling, she is kind, she is a mother.
Love it or loathe it, the power of instagram cannot be denied. The platform has become a massive force in setting the trends of what we do and buy. Sure, there is lots of fakery and over-polished world views, and don’t get me started on the influencer culture, but what I admire about instagram is that it has become a really fantastic way to communicate fragrance.
Translating fragrance into a visual medium can be really effective and can take something so intangible and make it real. Some fragrance brands are really adept at getting the spirit of their scents (not to mention their brand) across, creating entirely unique visuals that are fun and exciting. Here are five fragrance brands that I think are killing it on instagram right now.
Madonna turns 60 today – Happy Birthday, HRH Madonna! To celebrate, I thought I would resurrect my much-loved ‘Scent a Celebrity Series’, in which I ‘scent’ (pick fragrances for) some of my favourite celebrities. So let’s jump right back in with none other than the Queen of Pop!
Madonna; no other name is more instantly recognisable and no person is more likely to divide opinion. Arguably the most famous woman on the planet and factually the best selling female recording artist of all time, Madonna is a force that is hard to define; singer, dancer, performer, entertainer, provocateur, feminist, business woman, calculating she-devil – love her or hate her, whatever moniker you throw at her will most likely apply. She has done what many other icons fail to do – achieve longevity and on her 60th birthday, we celebrate her phenomenal four decades in music.
The fascinating thing about Madonna is that her ratio of talent to fame is perhaps slightly off balance. She’s not the greatest singer or dancer in the world, or even the best looking, but she has that je ne sais quoi that makes a person a star – the x factor, as they call it. Some say that she’s just a good business woman and I’m sure she is but that does not make for such longevity. By pushing people’s buttons and having something to say (and saying it well) Madonna has ensured that she is more than a just a star, she’s that rare commodity: an icon.
Today I want to share a piece of writing that is very personal to me. A few months ago, my younger brother and his lovely fiancee (now his wonderful wife) asked me to write and read a reading during their wedding ceremony in July. I was touched and honoured to be asked and spent months writing, deleting and rewriting my thoughts on marriage. I got very frustrated putting something together because everything I wrote either came off as cliched or failed to capture the importance of the union they were about to enter in to. Then I had a revelation…
I realised I was approaching it from the wrong angle, so I decided to write about how I feel about my marriage and how that can perhaps give them some guidance for theirs. So, for their beautiful wedding ceremony held in a clearing in the woods, I wrote about growth. I hope you enjoy it and join me in wishing the newlyweds every happiness in their marriage. Here is to Oliver and Melissa!
The most fascinating aspect of perfumery is the building blocks – the familiar (and often unfamiliar) materials that come together to create something entirely new. For me, I am endlessly beguiled by the way in which a singular material can, not only be so versatile in its use, but also add nuances to a fragrance that are so far removed from the material when experienced in isolation. One could call this magic, but it’s not, it’s chemistry, and perfumery is a fusion between art and science, where the latter is used to convey meaning and emotion from the medium of smell.
For me it’s always been the synthetics that hold more interest than the naturals. Without synthetic materials (incl. isolates, captives and aroma chemicals) modern perfumery would smell a heck of a lot different. We just wouldn’t have the perfumes that we’ve had for the last 100 years or so – what we’d have is inconsistent naturals that, due to their own density and complexity, often lead to an opaque soup when blended together. Synthetics give the space and definition to these materials allowing them to compliment, contrast and extend each other. They pull the naturals apart and bring new dimensions into play.
One of my favourite synthetic materials is Ambroxan. OK, so it’s not a fancy material, nor is it a particularly expensive one. It doesn’t take 3,000 years to mature under moonlight on an exotic island. No, it doesn’t have to be expressed from the anal glands of unicorns (perfumery has always had a weird fascination with the contents of animal butts, tell me I’m wrong) by golden-locked virgins in the dead of night. But it is an incredibly useful and popular material, and it finds way into many modern fragrances in both prominent, and stealthy ways. I see it as a bit of a ninja – it swoops in quietly, bringing dimension and space to dense compositions allowing them to expand, giving them tremendous lift but also a fascinating mineral facet. To put it simply, Ambroxan is ‘the nuts’.
To celebrate National Fragrance Day today, The Perfume Society is encouraging perfume lovers across the land to share a selfie with a fragrance – something that they call a ‘smellfie’. Now in its fourth year, the idea of the smellfie is simple: one takes a snap of themselves with a fragrance, whether that be a favourite or simply the scent one happens to be wearing, and share it on social media. Easy, right? Other than the fact that we all adore a selfie, there’s also further incentive to share your smellfie in the form of a competition. To enter, you just need to do the following:
I’ve become a bit obsessed with working out. 12 months ago I worked out once approximately every, well, 12 months. Now I’m on a regular cycle of six workouts a week. The transformation in my physical and mental health has been tremendously positive and I generally feel much better about how I look, and how I feel, despite the fact that I still have a long way to go to meet my goals. So every week I run 5K twice (not bad for someone who previously despised running), do two days of weights, one day of core strength and on my sixth day, a mixture of all of these things dependent on my mood. I may ache pretty much all of the time but I feel fantastic for it.
Since I’ve been going to the gym regularly I’ve turned my life into one of routines. I have routines for working out, for eating, for the clothes I wear (basically EVERYTHING is Superdry, I don’t know why, I must like the colour orange) and for the scented things I use. So, in this article I want to briefly take you though the contents of my gym bag to show you some of the scented (and non-scented) things I swear by. There are things for the skin and for the shower, and of course there’s scent too, because I’m The Candy Perfume Boy and I kind of have a thing for fragrance… Anyway, into the gym bag we go!