'Savage Beauty' - A retrospective of Alexander McQueen's Work at the V&A, London
‘Savage Beauty’ – A retrospective of Alexander McQueen’s Work at the V&A, London

“You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition”.

– Lee ‘Alexander’ McQueen ¹

Whether one is a follower of fashion or not, it cannot be denied that the work of the late, great Alexander McQueen is art. McQueen paired exceptional tailoring (forged after an apprenticeship on Saville Row) with violence, romance and often alien beauty to create pieces that shook, and more importantly, challenged the world of fashion. Whether it be his early collection, ‘Highland Rape’, which had a name as controversial as its clothing, or the 3D printed and H.R. Ginger inspired ‘Alien’ footwear from ‘Plato’s Atlantis’, McQueen demonstrated that he was a fashion renegade – always courting controversy, but never losing sight of beauty.

This weekend I visited the Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A in London. Running until 02 August 2015, the exhibit is a tremendous showcase of McQueen’s work, spanning his illustrious career from his MA Graduate Collection (‘Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victims, 1992) to his final, and incomplete collection (Autumn/Winter 2010). The whole thing is impeccably staged, with each room transformed to capturing the theme of each body of work. Perhaps the most captivating part of the exhibit is the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ – a room that spans two storeys and is filled with a dazzling array of pieces, from accessories such as bags, shoes and head pieces (many of which are collaborations with milliner, Philip Treacy), to gowns and metal spines. There’s simply so much to look at and the whole thing serves as a true testament to the talent, nay, the genius of one of the world’s greatest fashion designers.

Leaving the exhibition I felt incredibly inspired. It was fascinating to literally walk through the evolution of McQueen’s aesthetic, encountering the divine and the macabre along the way. There will never be another talent like his and to celebrate this stunning exhibition and body of work, I thought I would pick out some of my favourite McQueen pieces from his greatest collections, and ‘scent them’ with some perfumes that embody the spirit of these remarkable pieces of fashion. Here you’ll find some deeply intriguing clothing and scents, all of which are tailored to perfection and challenge one’s perceptions. They are works of fashion and olfactory art.

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Neela Vermeire's Fourth Fragrance - Ashoka (Photo: Mike Tassy for Neroli)
Neela Vermeire’s Fourth Fragrance – Ashoka (Photo: Mike Tassy for Neroli)

It must have been a rather daunting and unenviable task for both Neela Vermeire and perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour when creating their fourth perfume together and the first to be launched since the initial trio of India-inspired fragrances in the Neela Vermeire Collection. These three perfumes – Trayee, Mohur and Bombay Bling! – were so well received and critically acclaimed that the pressure really must have been on when the time came to add a brand new fragrance to the series – a fragrance named Ashoka. Luckily for us, this pressure does not seem to have phased this dynamic duo one bit…

“Inspired by a legendary ruler, Neela Vermeire Creations’ new release Ashoka, is a tribute to an emperor who was conquered by his own compassion at the moment his victory was assured. He converted to Buddhism and devoted the rest of his life to spreading the Buddha’s teachings, to truth, to justice and to compassion for all living creatures  beneath the sun. His own evolution from ruthless conquerer to benevolent emperor is reflected in Ashoka’s journey from the fierce opening to a softly floral heart & the gentle embrace of its richly complex drydown.”

Ashoka is Neela’s fourth perfume and first to be released outside of her initial trio of perfumes inspired by different eras of Indian culture. It would make sense then, that Ashoka strikes a slightly different chord from the others in the collection whilst managing not to stick out like a sore thumb. The fragrance is a continuation of the historical Indian narrative but in an olfactory sense, Ashoka leads Neela Vermeire Creations in an entirely new and exciting direction.

Summer
A Summer Collage – Bottle in Sunlight, Banksy in Bristol, Boys in St Pancras and Beauty in Vaara

As we head into September with the knowledge that the remainder of the summer season is short lived, I have found myself looking back over the last few months and thinking what a generally lovely time it has been. So much has happened already this year and I find myself feeling a strong urge to simply stop and take it all in.

Perfume has obviously played a big part over the summer and the fact that I’ll soon be retiring some of my summer scents in favour for my winter wardrobe has made me feel more than slightly melancholic about those scents which have carried significant favour through the hotter months.

In this post I’m taking a look back on the events of summer 2013 and the scents that have made it so fabulous. When I say scents, I don’t just mean the fragrances I have worn but also the odours that have accompanied many a wonderful occasion and have helped cement each day as a wonderful, joy-filled memory.

The Candy Perfume Boy
The Candy Perfume Boy

Last night I hosted another Summer Special with the lovely Lila Das Gupta of Perfume Lovers London. The theme of the evening was an ‘olfactory summer holiday’ and all who attended strapped themselves into the seats and set off on a fragrant journey around the world, smelling fragrances that were evocative of specific times and places.

The evening was great fun and it was wonderful to yet again meet with like-minded perfume nerds and discuss all things olfactory. As I was the evening’s host I won’t post a blow-by-blow account of the event, but I would like to briefly share with you the perfumes I had selected and the places they represent. You can look out for Tara’s full write-up of the evening on Olfactoria’s Travels soon.

Update: You can read Tara’s wonderful write up here.

On our olfactory world tour we stopped in:

Summer Survival Scents
Conquer the Heatwave!

The heatwave is finally here and as we all enjoy (or suffer in) the heat now is a good time to pull out those fragrances that refresh, revitalise & defeat the blazing heat of the sun and stuffy, humid air. It’s a time where perfume can be your greatest weapon when attempting to conquer the unrelenting enthusiasm of the sun.

My Escentual Post last week looked at two new releases that are perfect for summer (Guerlain Nerolia Bianca and Dior Homme Cologne 2013) and it got me thinking about those fragrances that I swear by in the summer – or as i like to call them: ‘my summer survival scents’.

Some days it seems almost too hot to do anything, but these scents can be an essential part of your summer survival kit. All you need is some cooling citrus, a few fresh fancies, a couple of manly mints and a generous dose of flowers and fruit, and you’ll be all set to tackle the heatwave of 2013!

Festival of Colours

Neela Vermeire is a new Parisian based Niche line that explores the history of India through three vibrant and colourful fragrances. Each fragrance has been created by the very talented Bertrand Duchaufour and is representative of a particular period in India’s history, they are as follows:

Trayee
Vedic Period

Mohur
Moghul British Raj

Bombay Bling!
Modern India

With her first three fragrances, Neela Vermeire offers a festival of colour, fragrances that showcase exotic ingredients and smell as vibrant, lively and diverse as the country that inspires them.

“This diversity has inspired Neela Vermeire to create and dedicate the first trio of fragrances to India – her native country – while living and working in Paris, her adopted city and perfume capital of the world. Neela’s education in social sciences and training in law, may not have any direct connection to perfumes but her formative years in India have had a great and lasting impact on her “olfactory development.” [1]