I have a soft spot for CHANEL fragrances – I always have and it’s likely that I always will. They are made with excellent technical expertise and from high quality materials, with each one perfume something specific about the brand they originate from. They are commercial, yes, but that doesn’t mean they are without interest and being honest, I’ll reach more for the likes of Nº5 L’EAU, Nº19 POUDRE, BEIGE, and my favourite, BOY, than I will some of the weirder things in my collection. CHANEL is wearable, beautiful, and consistent – that’s what makes the brand so great.
The one CHANEL I haven’t spent that much time with is CHANCE and it’s three flankers (EAU TENDRE, EAU VIVE, and EAU FRAICHE). CHANCE has always been CHANEL’s fragrant entry point – the CHANEL that is likely to be a woman’s first, and whilst I don’t want to assign ages to particular fragrances, CHANCE’s modern fruity-floral-chypre has always been bang on trend for a younger perfume-wearing crowd. So CHANCE is pretty fun and chic in a modern way, but its flanker CHANCE EAU TENDRE is even more so, and now, CHANEL have launched a new Eau de Parfum interpretation of EAU TENDRE – a scent they describe as an “intensified whirlwind of femininity”. I don’t know about you, but I always appreciate my femininity served in an intensified whirlwind!
One can accuse the perfume industry of many things, but one cannot call it unproductive. There are now over 2,000 launches per year and it feels almost as if a new brand comes into being every single day. Now, I’m not sure how I feel about all this olfactory noise – part of me thinks the more the merrier, after all, it’s exciting to smell new things all of the time. But the other half – the grumpy cynical half (sometimes he’s not a half and verges on a whole, I’ll be honest) – thinks that all this noise makes it difficult to discern what is good or not. How can one find the magic needle in all that hay? Sometimes it’s hard.
Perfume brands come from all sorts of places; from perfumers who want to go it alone and perfume fanatics who stumble into the industry wide-eyed and ambitious. My cynical side tells me to include the fact that brands can also come from entrepreneurs who have no passion for the subject but an eye for making money too, so let’s indulge him for a moment. In my experience though, the brands that work most successfully are those that come from people who are passionate about perfume (whoever they may be, perfumers, industry insiders or outsiders) but also understand the realities of the industry and retail. Ostens is one such brand – it comes from two industry veterans, two people that not only love perfume, but understand it too – two people who understand the challenges consumers have relating to perfume and have crafted a brand that makes it both accessible and experimental.
There are a few perfume ‘genres’ that I have never really ‘got’: green, woody and amber. Well, with time (and through this blog) I’ve learned to appreciate green and to love woods, but for the most part amber still eludes me. Amber, for those of you not familiar with it, is a blend of benzoin (a balsamic resin obtained from the bark of a number of trees within the Styrax genus), labdanum (a sticky brown resin sourced from shrubs) and vanilla that creates a warm, glowing sweetness that is soft, fluffy and gauzy in texture. It is the backbone of big oriental fragrances such as Shalimar, but it’s also used as a standalone theme in many modern perfumes.
More than being an iconic perfume genre, the amber is also the perfect scent for this cold weather. I like to think of ambers as winter warmers – those gloriously toasty and enveloping scents that get stuck in one’s winter scarf, wafting a hedonistic aura around the wearer. So as the winter draws in, it makes sense for everyone to have an amber in their wardrobe. But what happens when you don’t really like amber? Or, you think that you don’t like amber?
Ever since couturier Paul Poiret launched the perfume house Parfums de Rosine in 1911, fashion and fragrance have always had an unbreakable link – a seam and a stitch that has brought them together. Today fashion houses, high street brands, and all that sits in between, have fragrances in their portfolio, attempting to, with varying degrees of success, distill their brand identities into scents that provide an accessible entry point for the consumer.
Founded in 1994, AllSaints, the London-based fashion brand, has always moved to the beat of their own drum, so it’s no surprise that it has taken them a long time to get into the fragrance market. AllSaints is all about a free-spirited coolness – an easy, ‘I wear what I want’ spirit. With a price point elevated above many high street brands, AllSaints has always struck me as a place one goes for pillars in their wardrobe – investments like a leather jacket that goes with anything, perhaps. It’s a brand that favours neutral colours, with an aesthetic that enjoys contrasts – juxtapositions of hard and smooth, of wood and metal.
With their debut collection of fragrances, AllSaints has captured the laid back, London-spirit of their brand in three scents that “contrast, complement and contradict”. The fragrances – Sunset Riot, Metal Wave and Incense City – are housed in structured square bottles topped with concrete caps. The boxes and labels each feature a polaroid negative of a flower – a design touch intended to showcase the link between fragrance and memory. It’s a collection that has been put together with clear thought and vision, and truthfully, this shows in the fragrances themselves.
CurioNoir is a fragrance brand created by New Zealander, Tiffany Jeans. It’s a brand based on craftsmanship with fragrances presented as Extrait de Parfums and scented candles in handblown glass jars. Each of the fragrances have a personal connection to the founder and it shows – they are all distinct, different and showcase an entirely new point of view, that of Jean’s Maori heritage. When i sniffed through the collection there was one fragrance that really stood out, both because of its striking concept, but also because of its olfactory beauty. That fragrance was Pūroto Rose – the handsome rose.
The concept behind Pūroto Rose is really quite beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that I feel as if the only way to give it justice is to quote it directly:
Three distinct scents filled the air at Ngatihaua Witehira, Tiffany’s great grandfather’s, tangi (funeral). The celebration of life with hot soil, the smell of smoke from the hangi (a traditional Maori meal cooked in the ground), and roses which adorned the tables in the food hall.
I told you it was beautiful.
Harmony is balance, and balance is something we often look for in perfumery. After all, perfumery is the harmony of individual ingredients – separate elements made into a harmonious whole. It is through the idea of harmony and balance, through proportion and nuance that the art of perfumery presents odours that smell beautiful, interesting and new.
Niche brand The Harmonist is all about harmony. Following ancient Asian philosophies they present fragrances based on the elements (Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, Water and Metal) in two versions: a Yin and a Yang. The idea is that an individual can be guided to their fragrance using the date, time and place of their birth – through this the dominant element is defined. It’s certainly an interesting way on taking a person on an olfactory journey – one that no other brand is doing.
My fragrance of destiny was Guiding Water – a fragrance defined as “a peaceful and natural source of vitality”.
The Luxury Collection is where rebellious niche house Juliette Has a Gun stretches its olfactory legs. Their other offerings sit comfortably between mainstream and niche – they’re made with good quality materials and bring unique twists to very accessible, affable fragrances. The Luxury Collection however, is a bit more serious and has a touch more of an abstract feel to it, bringing a strong sense of niche-ness. It’s where Juliette Has a Gun ditches the cool air and the fun names in exchange for some serious perfumery.
Liquid Illusion (good name – after all, perfume is just a liquid illusion) is the latest addition to the Luxury Collection. It takes its inspiration from heliotropin – a fragrant material that is also found in the drug ecstasy. The idea here, is to present a stimulating fragrance that pairs heliotropin with the luxurious note of iris – something as intense and electrifying as the inky-blue bottle it comes in. The result is something quite intriguing indeed.