Jean Paul Gaultier’s iconic and mischievous little sailor, Le Mâle, is 25 this year. If that doesn’t make you feel old, then I don’t know what will (it certainly made me feel rather ancient, I tell you). That’s a quarter century’s worth of men soaking themselves in far too much of Le Mâle’s distinct and devilish minty barbershop beauty. I can say that, because for 15 of those 25 years, I have been one of them. I still wear it now and I still love it, and for me, Le Mâle will never go out of style.
The success of Le Mâle is really unrivalled in the world of mainstream masculine perfumery and it’s due, perhaps, to the distinct nature of the juice, but also to the marketing which managed to be unashamedly queer enough to set the gays into a frenzy (the advertising heavily references the Fassbinder movie Querelle) whilst also butch enough not to put the straight boys off (they weren’t in on the joke, but they loved its macho nature anyway). So the beauty of Le Mâle really is the fact that it has been worn by all kinds of men (and women, actually) whether they identify as femme, masc or neither of these things. Long may this mighty Mâle reign – that’s what I say!
To celebrate 25 years of sailor shenanigans, Jean Paul Gaultier is treating us to Le Mâle Le Parfum, which appears as a richer, warmer and more intense version of the original. If you think of Le Mâle as the fresh-faced rookie then Le Parfum is the weather-worn captain, but like Le Mâle, he’s still buff af (the rock hard abs and pert bottom on the bottle remain as tight as ever) and very, very hot. So, let’s jump on board and take a good look at this incredibly sexy fragrance that definitely deserves his promotion to admiral of the fleet.
As far as mainstream lines go, Prada is one of the very best. Everything about the many fragrances in their collection, which stretches from the likes of Candy, Les Infusions de Prada, L’Homme Prada and La Femme Prada, and Luna Rossa, feels finely curated and created in their inimitable house-style. Where many brands would take a cynical approach to masculine perfumery, Prada seeks to incorporate quality and a distinct signature to create fragrances that stand out from the crowd, but not so much that they don’t appeal to the average consumer. The result is something like Luna Rossa, which is a minty fresh blend of lavender, musk and spices inspired by the brand’s professional sailing boat. It’s an accessible fragrance made with a high degree of excellency.
With their latest launch in the Luna Rossa franchise, Prada seem to be innovating. For Luna Rossa Carbon they are exploring the clash of natural materials and synthetics to represent the olfactory idea of carbon. They call it “a set of intriguing, engineered-contradictions” and describe it as an “iconoclastic fougère”. Well, them some pretty big words you got there, Prada – let’s hope that this fragrance lives up to the hype. What I will say, before we get to the sniff test, is that it’s always refreshing for a mainstream brand to talk about the use of synthetics so openly. In an age where ‘natural’ is valued more and more, it’s encouraging to know that the technology and innovation of the industry can be promoted in such an open manner. Anyway, let’s sniff.
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.
If last year’s Misia was anything to go by, perfumer Olivier Polge is definitely finding his feet at CHANEL, having taken over the position of perfumer-in-residence from his father, Jacques Polge, the man behind the likes of Antaeus, Coco, Coco Mademoiselle, Égoïste – need I go on? Big boots to fill, most certainly, but M. Polge Jnr certainly has a fair few hits under his own belt, scents such as Dior Homme, which, lets face it is already a modern classic, so perhaps those shoes aren’t quite so big after all?
For his second outing in CHANEL’s niche line, ‘Les Exclusifs’, Olivier Polge pays homage to Arthur Capel, Gabrielle Chanel’s patron and lover. ‘Boy’, as he was called, lends his name to the fragrance, which is a feminine take on the typically masculine fougère inspired by Chanel’s clothing, couture that borrowed heavily from the codes of menswear and tailoring. BOY the fragrance has been created to capture Capel’s “irresistible elegance” and “virile strength” and is a gender-bending scent that borrows from the olfactory codes of men and women. As CHANEL describe it, BOY is the “mark of a man on the skin of a woman”.
Sometimes I look at the present state of masculine perfumes in the mainstream and I let out a big sigh of despair. Many are reminiscent of Lynx-soaked (or Axe-soaked if you are a US reader) school changing rooms, often capturing the same fresh and sporty nature that has been done to death, and is as far from the high end as physically possible. The perfume loving men of the world, or just the perfume wearing gents of this good, green Earth deserve better than that, even if they don’t know it just yet!
Of course I am tarring everybody with the same brush here and for every two or three naff mainstream masculines there is one tremendous one, but these greats certainly aren’t in the majority. With this in mind, it’s always refreshing when a designer brand offers up a masculine fragrance that is elevated above the hoi polloi, and offers something unique, high quality and dare I say, beautiful. I mention all of this because Bottega Veneta’s latest masculine offering, Pour Homme Essence Aromatique is one such fragrance: a scent from the mainstream but leagues above it.
Created by perfumer, Amandine Marie (Mugler’s Angel Eau de Toilette), Essence Aromatique is technically a flanker to Bottega Veneta Pour Homme from 2013, joining their Essence Aromatique Pour Femme as a counterpart. It’s a strange hybrid of a fragrance, somewhere between a classic cologne and a modern fougère, playing with bracing freshness and supple softness to create something that is well, strikingly pretty for a masculine fragrance. Bottega Veneta state that Essence Aromatique PH exudes a “relaxed masculine elegance” describing it as an “unexpected take on a classic cologne”. That pretty much sums it up for me, but let’s take a closer look!
As I walked up the Crawford Street in Marylebone, London, towards the new Perfumer H store, I must admit that I had a fair few butterflies in my stomach. I’m a nervous person at the best of times, but I was especially so on this occasion because I was on my way to meet Lyn Harris, the nose that puts the ‘Perfumer’ and the ‘H’ into Perfumer H. Harris’ CV precedes her, having built the hugely successful fragrance house, Miller Harris, from scratch in her early twenties, to the global lifestyle brand that it is today, Harris has a knack for making unfussy perfumes with a spirit of clarity. This spirit is not lost in Perfumer H however, it is presented in an entirely different way.
Stepping across the threshold of Perfumer H, I needn’t have been worried or been nervous at all, as the whole experience was an entirely relaxed affair, from the setup of the shop to the rather insightful chat I had with Harris herself over a cup of hot bergamot tea. As I enter the store, I’m greeted by a dog snoozing calmly on the chair. His name is Pop and he’s a handsome border terrier who, quite rightly, appears rather at home amongst the inviting, yet surprisingly minimal decor of the store. The presence of Pop cements the fact that Perfumer H is not a brand in the typical sense, with a pre-defined personality or ethos. Instead, Perfumer H is an extension of Lyn Harris, and its personality is Lyn as she is today, and it says what she wants to say, all through the medium of olfaction.
Two of my favourite things in the world have finally joined forces – perfume and pirates. Can you tell that this makes me happy?! The man to link these two excellent forces is none other than the cheekiest chap in fashion, Jean Paul Gaultier, who is just about to launch limited pirate editions of his flagship feminine and masculine fragrances, Classique (Jacques Cavallier; 1993) and Le Mâle (Francis Kurkdjian; 1995).
These two rum-swigging classics certainly know how to dress, rocking tattered striped garb marked with the must have centrepiece for any self-respecting pirate – the skull and cross bones. The scents remain the same masterpieces as ever, a glamorous and sensual floral oriental for Classique and a steroid-fuelled fougére for Le Mâle, with the swashbuckling bottles making for a must-have collector’s item.
So, if you’re looking for a little bit of an adventure on the high seas, then look no further than the fashionable shores of Island Gaultier.
“The intrepid couple. The legendary couple sets out on an exciting treasure hunt, which will take them to the far reaches of the open seas. Determined to face any sort of danger, the pirates raise the black glad and set sail.”
At the recent launch event for Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s latest duo of fragrances there was a lot of discussion around art and its relation to the world of perfume. Kurkdjian, who is ever a frank and fascinating speaker, asserted that perfume is not art because it is created to please consumers and where art is given a value by the market, perfume prices are set by their creators. This isn’t to say that Kurkdjian is belittling perfume by any means, in fact it seems that he takes a purely practical view of the subject, comparing his collection to an olfactory wardrobe, containing a plethora of pieces ranging from the everyday staple of the white T-Shirt (Aqua Universalis) to the more occasionally worn leather trousers (Absolue Pour le Soir).
Also at the event, Art Curator, Karine Giannamore spoke at length about what constitutes a masterpiece, piecing together simplicity, hard work, innovation and emotion, as the key ingredients that create a timeless work of art. Giannamore states that a masterpiece “has to be new [and] has to be original” but also must be “cemented in tradition”. This collision of the innovative and the traditional is exactly what Francis Kurkdjian has played with for his two new fragrances – féminin Pluriel and masculin Pluriel.
“What makes a work of art? A masterpiece? A Timeless work of art? Something so good or beautiful that it cannot be affected by changes in society or fashion.”
– Karine Giannamore
The Pluriel (Plural) duo has been created as a mirror image – two fragrances that perfectly capture the essence of femininity and masculinity, or as the brand puts it; “the eternal feminine and masculine.” With each fragrance, Kurkdjian takes a traditional theme and adds a contemporary twist to create a pair of perfumes that feel thoroughly modern and very much in keeping with his clear and radiant style. For féminin Pluriel and masculin Pluriel, Kurkdjian has crafted two new pieces for his olfactory wardrobe – two fragrant garments that are as modern, chic, timeless and elegant as anything a couturier could construct.
In a continuation of my bite size fragrance family guides on Escentual, my column this week takes a look at the dapper, debonair and definitely manly world of the fern-esque Fougère. Despite my love for all things feminine, floral and ridiculously over-the-top I do happen to quite like a good Fougère, whether it be something as abstract as Guerlain’s Jicky or a scent as handsome as Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fleur du Mâle. In my world the Fougère is the best kind of masculine.
This Guide to Fougère takes a whistle stop tour of the genre, taking a look at three key examples; one classic, one modern and one contemporary. Amongst these interpretations one will find something elegant, something rebellious and something altogether more brooding. If you fancy reading the piece (and topping up on your Fougère fix) please click here to head on over to Escentual. Don’t forget to let me know what your favourite Fougères are whilst you’re there!
It would be hard to argue that Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Mâle released in 1995, isn’t one of the most popular modern masculines on the market today. As far as scents go it’s a pretty hard metrosexual beast to escape and perhaps suffers from a bad case of over exposure (I love it but don’t often wear it due to it’s popularity – stupid I know), you literally cannot move for it in gay bars, straight clubs and on the streets.
Due to its success Le Mâle, with it’s barbershop accord of lavender, mint and vanilla, has seen many incarnations over the years, with many summer editions, a huge floral version (the fantastic Fleur du Mâle) and a more mature grapefruit and vetiver rich ‘Terrible’ fragrance. In continuation of the fragrance’s evolving nature 2013 sees the release of a brand new Mâle, ‘Le Beau Mâle and this particular dude is as cool as a cucumber.
Created by Francis Kurkdjian, the perfumer responsible for penning the original Le Mâle and all of it’s subsequent editions, Le Beau Mâle is simply described as “the freshness that makes men hot” (if the scent doesn’t make you hot the above ad image certainly will – my oh my) and is an ice cool rendition of the sweet fougère made popular by Le Mâle: “the sensual sailor with a soft heart.”
This time the soft heart of that handsome sailor has turned cold, nay glacial and bitter. Yes he’s a ‘beau mâle’ but his beauty lies within his sharp, angular lines that say you can look but don’t you dare think to touch…