A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a virtual masterclass with Frederic Malle and perfumer Anne Flipo all about the brand’s latest launch Synthetic Jungle. I was intrigued by the fragrance, of course (we will get on to that soon – patience please) but I was also curious about the name. Given all of the scaremongering around materials in perfumery – you know what I mean, the false narratives around chemicals being bad (literally everything is a chemical, oy), that natural is better (simply not true) and that clean beauty is a thing (I don’t even know where to start with this one) it seems somewhat brave to release a fragrance with “synthetic” in the name. I asked M. Malle whether the name was a statement and he, without hesitation said yes, it is.
In response, he told me that there is a misconception that synthetic materials are bad and naturals are good, adding that people don’t understand that interesting perfume started because of synthetics (it’s true, we wouldn’t have modern perfumery as it is today without aroma chemicals). As he explains, Synthetic Jungle’s name seeks to remind people that perfume is a paradox, and that synthetic materials are required to recreate the smells of nature. This is exactly what Synthetic Jungle achieves – a beautifully natural smelling perfume, evocative of a lush jungle, and made with a mixture of both natural and synthetic materials.
Now, moving past the name, what about Synthetic Jungle the perfume? This is the result of a long creative flirtation between Frederic Malle and Anne Flipo, where the former spent quite some in the corridors of IFF convincing the latter to work with him. The starting point for their fragrant collaboration was the green fragrances of the 1970s, specifically Estée Lauder’s Private Collection, which served as inspiration. Synthetic Jungle is Frederic Malle and Anne Flipo’s rendition of the green chypre accord – a simplified, modernised version that isolates the green accord and amplifies it with intense floralcy. The result? An accessible take on green that feels operatic in its execution.
We’re just over a week into 2021 and we already have the first big perfume launch of the year, which means this is my first perfume review of the year (exciting!) and it’s for a brand new CHANEL fragrance (very exciting!!) – a CHANEL Exclusif, no less (ARGH SO EXCITING!!!). This CHANEL fanboy is very please to be kicking off the year with something so wonderful – so, let’s take a few moments away from the world and enjoy a spot of scented beauty.
The latest addition to Les Exclusifs is Le Lion and it’s a long-awaited one, having launched in some territories almost one year ago! But now it’s here! As with all of the Exclusifs, Le Lion takes inspiration from the house itself, and this time the lion, the fifth sign of the zodiac and Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s astrological sign, is the theme. In the 1920s, Coco fell in love with the city of Venice, being inspired by its art and culture, and like Chanel herself, the city existed under the guardian sign of the lion. The lion became an emblem for Chanel, both in her personal spaces (her apartment at 31 Rue Cambon was filled with lions crafted from marble, bronze and wood), but also in her clothing, with the symbol engraved on the buttons of tweed suits or the clasps of bags. The lion is a symbol of Chanel’s tenacity and endurance and this is the theme that the fragrance explores.
Le Lion the perfume, seeks to capture this tenacious personality but also the rich and exotic spirit of Venice, the city of the lion that Coco loved. CHANEL perfumer Olivier Polge was intrigued by the emblem of the lion rather than the animal itself, crafting a warm amber fragrance (I’m not using the “O” word, this is my replacement) with a “solar aura” and a “gentle strength”. Le Lion stands out as a uniquely intense and warm fragrance within Les Exclusifs, which tend to lean light, ethereal, abstract, and it is quite surprising in its richness. The big question though, is whether it was worth the wait? Well, read on and you shall see!
Comme des Garçons is a brand that gets a pretty regular rotation in my wardrobe. In fact, I’d go as far saying that it would would quite be odd for a week to go by without me picking out one of their scents to wear. For me, they strike that perfect balance between novel and innovative, and pleasant and wearable, which means that I reach for them quite a lot, mostly for those in the regular lineup such as the original Parfum, 2, 2 Man (I just topped up on my bottles of both the 2s, in fact), Amazingreen and Blackpepper. Long story short, I enjoy the brand and the scents are staples for me.
With that in mind, a new Comme des Garçons fragrance is somewhat of an event for me – I’m always intrigued to see what they do and whilst not all are ones I adore (see Floriental, Copper and Concrete), I do always enjoy how they subvert expectations. A Comme des Garçons fragrance always has something to say and their latest launch, Rouge (currently exclusive to Dover Street Market and launching nationwide next year), is no exception. Described, in typical CdG style as an “encounter between religious fervour and earthen reality”Rouge attacks the the colour red from surprising angles, using a central note of beetroot to present something so familiar in an entirely unfamiliar way. To say it’s interesting and unique is somewhat of an understatement…
Through deliberate overdose and rapturous expression, Rouge presents an unexpected unison. an olfactive congregation of desire archetypal associations of the colour Rouge seen and subverted through the distinctly disruptive gaze of Comme des Garçons.
“Perfumed escapism” – that’s what Nick Steward, founder of indie brand Gallivant, aims to bring to the world with his collection of city-inspired scents, and let’s be real, if there ever was a time when we needed to be transported elsewhere by perfume, now is it. With so many people under lockdown or working from home, and unable to travel, all because of the global Covid-19 pandemic, Gallivant provides virtual tours of faraway places, all through the medium of olfaction. Gallivant makes this big old world a much smaller and more accessible place, all with just one spritz of their transportive perfumes.
With their latest launch, Gallivant whisks us away to Uzbekistan and the noble city of Bukhara. This “fairytale city on the Silk Road”, as Gallivant puts it, is home to beautiful, colourful architecture, talented artisans, welcoming people and a melting pot of spices, fabrics and fruits. Gallivant worked with perfumer Ralf Schweiger (Lipstick Rose by Frederic Malle; Eau des Merveilles by Hermès, and so many more iconic scents) to distill the city of Bukhara into olfactory form. Together they chose the luxurious and elegant note of iris as Bukhara’s core material. To be honest, they had me at “orris”.
The success of Coco Mademoiselle took CHANEL by surprise when it launched in 2001. Created to rejuvenate the ageing Coco, which had launched 17 years prior but aged double in that time, Coco Mademoiselle’s purpose was to keep the Coco name on the shelves, which it more than did. In reality, Coco Mademoiselle’s popularity isn’t that surprising, after all, it plays a familiar tune (fruity patchouli a la ANGEL) and does it well, all whilst bearing the name “CHANEL” on its bottle. That’s pretty much a recipe for success, if you ask me.
Coco Mademoiselle presented a chic, yet bombastic, blend of sticky citrus (orange, bergamot, mandarin), sweet rose and contrasting patchouli. It riffed on ANGEL, of course, but pushed everything in a more luxurious, less challenging direction becoming a fruitchouli for the masses. I cannot deny that it’s a great fragrance, it’s just one that I’ve never personally gelled with, but then again, as a 33 year old, bespectacled and slightly stocky gay man (OK really stocky), I’m hardly the target market (“Mademoiselle” I am not).
So since 2001 we’ve had Coco Mademoiselle Eau de Toilette (2002) and the Eau de Parfum Intense (2018) (which I liked more than the original). Now we have Coco Mademoiselle L’Eau Privée, a lighter, more sheer fragrance that is meant to be worn at night time. The mood is very much satin sheets and silk lingerie in a blush shade of pink. Perfect for spritzing on when you’re wearing your flannel PJs and bunny slippers from Primark, I say. Let’s sniff.
Let’s talk about Atelier Cologne. For me they are a brand that very much fits into the category of ‘mainstream niche’, which means they are a niche, exclusive brand that has a sort of mainstream appeal and is on the more accessible side of the luxe fragrance world. You won’t find anything particularly challenging there, but you will find quality and luxury. Juliette Has a Gun is another example of a mainstream niche brand, but we’re not here to talk about them.
What I love about Atelier Cologne is that they are successful in their mission to create enjoyable, long-lasting colognes, and it would be fair to say that they do citrus fragrances better than anyone. Scents like Orange Sanguine (basically a shower of juicy oranges – cover me in it now, please), Bergamot Soleil (the closest you’ll ever get to an Earl Grey scent) and Pomelo Paradis (unf, so good) show just how euphorically beautiful and long-lasting citrus can be.
Their latest fragrance isn’t actually a citrus cologne (well, it kinda is but we’ll get there), instead it’s a sunny floral called Love Osmanthus. Inspired by the story of love in a secret garden, Love Osmanthus shines a spotlight on the unique flower from Asia, playing up its fruity, peach-like aroma into a fragrance that creates the impression of an “exotic garden under the moonlight”. Colour me intrigued….
Colonia Futura is a perfume that comes with a loud message of sustainability. This is no surprise, of course, as over the last two years or so, consumers have been demanding more sustainability from their products, and perfume is no exception. There are two key elements to consider when thinking of sustainable perfume; the juice itself, and the packaging – Colonia Futura aims to address both.
So, how exactly is this new cologne from the historic Italian brand sustainable and eco conscious? Acqua di Parma are billing Colonia Futura as their “declaration of love for nature” and in that vein, it contains 99% ingredients from a natural origin. The packaging has also changed to fit this new drive of friendliness towards nature – the traditional Bakelite cap has been replaced with one made from recycled and recyclable plastic, whilst the bottle (excluding the spray mechanism, which can be removed) can also be recycled. Perhaps the coolest innovation is the label on both the bottle and box, which is fashioned from scrap dust from marble quarries. That’s pretty neat if you ask me.