Renegade Faces
Renegade Faces

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.

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Caron Parfum Sacré - My Winter Warmer
Caron Parfum Sacré – The Scent of Cold Winter Nights

I am in full-on winter mode, and just as well really, seeing as the temperature dials have been twisted firmly towards the blue and the season of frost has started. As you may have noticed from Monday’s post, I’m rocking as many scarves as I can, but I’ve also got myself a snazzy new coat and the heated seats in my car have never seen so much use. In short: it’s officially winter.

At this time of year, I tend to pull out much warmer and heavier perfumes, as I’m sure many of you also do. One of my absolute favorites is Caron’s Parfum Sacré, a most beautiful floral incense that sits somewhere smack bang in the middle of France and Oman. Parfum Sacré is the olfactory equivalent of a hot water bottle, or a purring feline on the lap. It’s simply divine and for that reason, I’ve dedicated this week’s Escentual column to it. Click here to read about one of my favourite winter fragrances.

Marni Eau de Parfum
Marni Eau de Parfum

Too often us perfume lovers (and bloggers) can don our snobby caps and declare that all designer fragrance output is trash. This is more than just simple misconception, it is in fact a big fat lie, after all most of the perfumes that one would laud as a ‘classic’ are from designer outfits such as Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior – the most ‘designery’ of brands.

That said, there is still a lot of dreck out there and the general modus operandi appears to be to create inoffensive fragrances that cater to the tastes of the mass market. But it seems that there is a small revolution taking place, where some designer brands are changing the game by creating enjoyable and easy to wear creations with more than just a little hint of ingenuity. We’ve seen it from Bottega Veneta, we’ve seen it from Prada and we’ve seen it from Maison Martin Margiela. Now we’re seeing it from Italian fashion brand Marni.

Marni Eau de Parfum is the brand’s first fragrance outing and they are in safe hands, having picked esteemed perfumer Daniela Andrier (Prada Infusion d’Iris & Candy and Maison Martin Margiela Untitiled) to pen the project. The fragrance intends to capture the playful spirit of Marni’s fashion and is described as “the opposite of the standard concept of femininity”, a description that fills this fragrance gender-bending nerd’s heart with nothing but joy.

Sahara Noir
Sahara Noir by Tom Ford

I like Tom Ford – not because he is incredibly handsome (although I’m not denying that he is more than a little bit dishy) – but because when it comes to perfume he has a keen sense of volume and seems to favour that which is rich, sturdy and loud. To put it simply he is the king of what I like to call ‘perfume writ large’.

His signature collection (Black Orchid et al) in particular displays satisfyingly loud levels of sillage and many are bold, divisive creations that provoke nothing but strong reactions. The latest addition to the collection – Sahara Noir – is no exception and it is perhaps one of Ford’s loudest and dare I say butchest fragrances to date.

Taking inspiration from “the mystery and luxury of the Middle East” and “evoking the untamed beauty of the arabic peninsula” Sahara Noir speaks of an exotic and wealthy world where bold statements in both fashion and perfume are the norm. This is Tom Ford’s domain and if there is one thing the man knows how to do more than anything else it is make a bold statement.

H.R.H. The Queen of Pop

Madonna; no other name is more instantly recognisable, no person is more likley to divide opinion. Arguably the most famous woman on the planet, 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.

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. 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 rather noisily) Madonna has ensured that she is more than a just a star, she’s that rare commodity: an icon.

Madonna is well-known to be a lover of perfume and is reported to be a loyal wearer of Fracas and practically anything containing tuberose, including her very own (and rather good) fragrance ‘Truth or Dare’ which was released earlier this year. A diva needs her diva-fumes y’all and in honour of the Queen of Pop and her love for perfume I present to you some of my favourite Madonna albums, each with their very own olfactory accompaniment that captures the spirit of the music and all that is ‘Madonna’.

[Please also head over to Persolaise, Eyeliner on a Cat and Fragrant Moments to see their takes on Madonna and perfume]

Lutense

In 2010 the king of dark, brooding orientals and baroque florals, Serge Lutens, decided to launch an ‘anti-perfume’, a perfume that was designed to give you “a lasting sensation of wearing a ‘clean’ scent” [1]. Cue a huge outcry from the perfume community and hardcore Lutens fanboys (and girls); “He’s doing WHAT?! A clean scent?! Looks like Uncle Serge has finally lost it” they said.

Aristotle said “There is no great genius without a mixture of madness” and It is clear to me that Uncle Serge hasn’t lost it, instead it seems that he has quite the sense of humour. I can just see him sat in his office above his flagship boutique in the Palais Royal, chuckling away at the thought of the die-hard Lutenites trying L’Eau for the very first time. In my head he utters Miranda Hart’s catchphrase “such fun” as he tries to stifle his giggles.

This year Lutens has decided to take the joke that little bit further with the addition of L’Eau Froide, and as the name suggests, this time the water he is playing around with is is cold. Where L’Eau is described as a new kind of clean, L’Eau Froide is “Some fresh air in the rusty old water pipes.” [2] I told you he had a sense of humour! L’Eau was an essay in cleanliness and purity but L’Eau Froide is an essay in austerity and is just as gothic and Lutensien as you would hope it to be.

Hurricane Grace

To me, Grace Jones is the Queen/King of androgyny, she tiptoes the line between masculine and feminine so perfectly and either way she is absolutely striking to look at. Like Ms Jones, Nu is androgynous, it is neither wholly masculine, feminine or unisex, it creates its own rules about gender and takes facets from both sexes.

I have no idea which fragrance(s) Ms Jones wears but if I were to pick a perfume just for her, I would pick Nu.

Nu (this review refers to the Eau de Parfum) was released in 2001 and was created by Jacques Cavallier under the art direction of Tom Ford. I mentioned in my review of Gucci Rush that everything Tom Ford did whilst at Gucci, YSL and Lauder was pretty much epic, and I stand by that. With Nu, he and Jacques Cavallier created something unique and way ahead of its time.