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Tis the season to be jolly, almost, which means one thing and one thing only: Candy Crush becomes Christmas Crush as I share a few of my favourite gift ideas for the upcoming holidays. These are the fragrant things I’d like to find under my tree this year and perhaps, you would too!

Red is the colour of passion, danger, and blood.
The colour of lipstick, anger, and roses.

But now, this Christmas, red is the colour of CHANEL Nº5. Now, I don’t know about you but when I think of the iconic Nº5 my mind instantly moves straight towards the colour gold. Perhaps it’s the amber-coloured juice, or maybe it’s just the olfactory sparkle of the fragrance, but Nº5, to me at least, has always smelled of shimmering flecks of gold. But Nº5 and the colour red red actually have a bit of a history, and more than just a touch of chemistry…

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I love Prada. I think their fragrance output is one of the most consistent, both in terms of quality and when it comes to projecting a strong house identity. You can smell a Prada fragrance and know that it’s a Prada, and this comes down to two key elements; Daniela Andrier as the unofficial house perfumer (who has created the entirety of the collection); and the key ingredient of orris. Combined, these two elements make a Prada fragrance by crafting a house signature that is distinct, luxurious and beautiful. Whatever they do, whether that be a classic like Infusion d’Iris or a contemporary like Candy, Prada never compromises its signature, nor its quality.

Speaking of signatures, Prada launched their flagship fragrances La Femme & L’Homme Prada in 2016. They have since become staples of the brand, epitomising the Prada woman and man. After receiving the intense treatment last year, La Femme & L’Homme are now subject to the ‘l’eau’ treatment, resulting in two fragrances that take a lighter approach. We have one which is a golden, sparkling floral and another that stretches iris powder into something fresh and cool. Both smell absolutely great and show just how versatile that inimitable Prada signature is.

Structural Integrity - Nº5 L'Eau by CHANEL
Structural Integrity – Nº5 L’Eau by CHANEL

There’s always a sense of unease amongst the perfume-appreciating public when a brand announces that they are tinkering with a classic and presenting it in a new guise. Teeth are clenched, short breaths are inhaled and noses are on guard, all held in hope that whatever this new fragrance child turns out to be, it lives up to the high standards set by its forbearer. Personally, I’m not so precious about the classics and I view these remixes as being similar to the remake of an iconic film. Just because something is being remade, doesn’t mean that every single copy of the original will be deleted. The classic will still be there so if the new version doesn’t resonate, that’s fine, one still has their classic to enjoy. So yes, brands can remix and remake as much as they like because you know what? The results can often be quite interesting indeed (case in point: Shalimar Parfum Initial).

I say all of this because CHANEL are just about to launch Nº5 L’EAU, an entirely new interpretation of none other than Nº5, arguably the most famous perfume in the world. L’EAU comes as the first rehash of Nº5 under the penmanship of Olivier Polge, CHANEL’s latest in-house perfumer, who took the reigns in 2015. This however, is not the first rebirth of Nº5, which has seen a number of incarnations in its time, starting as an Extrait composed in 1921 by Ernest Beaux before the perfumer revisited the composition to create an Eau de Toilette just two years late in 1924. Under perfumer Jacques Polge’s tenure, we saw an Eau de Parfum concentration composed in 1986 in addition to an ‘Eau Première’ version which followed in 2007 as an introductory scent for a younger audience. Now we have L’EAU, a fragrance that is being billed by CHANEL as the Nº5 of today.

“A fragrance for here, now and always” – that’s how CHANEL describe Nº5 L’EAU. The fragrance is a “complete reinvention” of the original but at the same time, the brand is quick to point out that Olivier Polge has been respectful of Nº5’s history whilst he has dissected the formula to see just how it ticks, and rightly so. Nº5 L’EAU looks to the future to create a new Nº5 – a Nº5 for the modern generation. The trick here is to create something new from something so instantly recognisable, to make the known surprising and to not lose the spirit of the composition along the way. So how successful has the exercise in modernising and lightening an olfactory icon been? Well, you’ll just have to read on to find out!

Laine de Verre
Laine de Verre – Image via grey-magazine.com

It’s a strange paradox that the king of non-mainstream perfumery’s most divisive fragrances are those that are the least unusual – the L’Eau series. This is evidenced by the fact that there was practically a public outcry when Lutens launched his first ‘eau’. Die hard perfume nuts were found weeping in the street, bell jars were burned and bottles upon bottles of Ambre Sultan were smashed in moments of despair.

OK, I accept that I may have dramatised the situation a bit there but the truth is that many were disheartened that Serge Lutens, the man behind so many of perfumery’s modern greats, was going against his own grain by releasing anti-perfumes that were evocative of cold water and clean linen as opposed to life’s darker and more dangerous aspects. But people need worry not, both perfumes in the collection so far (L’Eau and L’Eau Froide) have turned out to be pretty decent, acting as a welcome change from Lutens’ usual oeuvre and showing how clean fragrances really should be done.

The latest perfume to be added to the L’Eau collection is ‘Laine de Verre‘. Taking its name from everyone’s favourite mode of loft installation – fibreglass – this new L’Eau penned by perfumer Christopher Sheldrake is as unusual as it is fresh and relaxed. Serge Lutens, in his usually riddle-filled way, states that the perfume is inspired by “complementary opposites” [1], elaborating further that the conflict is himself and the masculine and feminine. With that in mind, it’ll be no surprise that Lain de Verre is a genderless, inhuman fragrance that piques interest.

“With Laine de Verre, it is the metal which, physically, takes shape within its fragrance…” [2]

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.