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.
There is no perfumery quite like Papillon Artisan Perfumes. Situated within a peaceful lodge tucked just inside the New Forest, this perfumery doesn’t march to the rapid beat of the perfume industry, choosing instead to move at its own pace. “It’s hard not to be inspired here”, says Papillon perfumer, Liz Moores, and I can see what she means. In a space surrounded by the natural beauty of expansive woodland, and a practical menagerie of animals (I counted two cats, two dogs, an owl, an assortment of snakes, a bearded dragon, a tortoise, and a horse, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t catch them all), and not to mention Liz’s very own family clan, one can see that Papillon is very much a unique outfit where fragrances are hand made as and when the inspiration comes.
Working from home, Moores is able to set her own schedule, balancing duties of motherhood with perfume-hood. But Papillon is a growing business. The brand now has four fragrances on the market (Angélique, Anubis, Salome and Tobacco Rose) which can be found at a number of points of sale across the globe, so expectant noses around the world are pointing towards the New Forest hoping for more. On a recent trip to Liz’s home studio, I asked her what he release schedule will be and she firmly says that she will only release another perfume when it’s right and won’t follow a set pattern of a scent or two per year, as is often driven by the industry. It’s admirable to see a perfumer work in such a way and it’s clear from the four fragrances within the Papillon line that this particular nose is a perfectionist who strives to create beautiful and unique fragrances without bowing to market pressure.
In the office of Cartier’s in-house perfumer, Mathilde Laurent, there sits a proud statue of a velvet panther. Serving more than ornamental purposes, this handsome wild cat stands guard over something really quite precious – not expensive perfumes, extravagant jewels or fastidiously crafted timepieces, no, this panther protects something altogether more priceless – the heritage of the house of Cartier. It seems to be working too, because in the modernist glass cube of the Jean Nouvel-designed Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain building that houses Laurent’s laboratory (i.e. where the magic happens) as well as a conceptual art space, this spirit of the brand is alive and kicking.
Cartier is not a house hung up on the past, however. They acknowledge their heritage and look firmly forward to the future, seeking to create perfumes that bring something new to the industry as well as to express emotion. Currently, the house has an extensive back catalogue of scent which is widely available (Eau de Cartier, Déclaration and Le Baiser du Dragon etc,) as well as an exclusive collection entitled Les Heures de Parfum. Since joining the house, Laurent has taken Cartier in a new direction, most notably creating the thoroughly modern Baiser Volé and La Panthère, as well as the aforementioned Les Heures de Parfum. In these new fragrances, Cartier and Laurent fuse tradition and heritage with a thirst for pushing the boundaries and adding something new, and worthwhile to the industry. This marriage between history and modernism, and Cartier and Laurent, serves to preserve the spirit of this legendary house – to protect the soul of the panther, as it were, and drive it forward for the years to come.
Recently, I was lucky enough to be invited to Paris to meet Mathilde Laurent and sit down with her, and a group of fellow journalists at the Fondation Cartier, to discuss her work for the house. During the enlightening discussion Laurent spoke about IFRA and the impact reformulations are having on the industry, as well as covering her creative process in detail, in addition to discussing the inspirations behind fragrances such as La Panthère and L’Heure Perdue, the latter of which is the latest addition to Les Heures de Parfum and a gorgeous condensed milk cuddle of a scent. I left Cartier with a new-found respect for the house and a desire to discover Laurent’s work in more detail. In the ensuing discussions, you will see that Laurent is refreshingly candid and a marvellously talented and creative individual – a true representative of the ideals of Cartier.
“Rubbing Noses is a series, in which I, The Candy Perfume Boy, grill the most important members of the perfume industry – the perfumers. These are the brains and noses behind the perfumes we know and love, and their unrivalled insight into one of the world’s most ancient of arts is something to be treasured, enjoyed and shared.”
In celebration of the launch of Dunhill’s latest masculine fragrance, ICON I put some questions to the scent’s creator – legendary perfumer, Carlos Benaïm – the man behind such awesome scents as; Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle’s Eau de Magnolia, Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds, Dior’s Pure Poison and Polo Ralph Lauren. He is a perfumer with a varied body of work, leading one to wonder what he will come up with next.
ICON (which I shall be reviewing this coming Friday) is a bold statement for Dunhill and the brand is pegging it as an important launch for men. In our interview Carlos and I chat about ICON, and how it was composed, as well as an array of perfumery topics, including IFRA, his origins in perfumery and his scientific background. As far as perfumers go, he’s a interesting talent with intriguing things to say, as you will learn if you read on…
In the perfume industry there is a lot of emphasis on things being natural and people tend to be sceptical of fragrances that aren’t literal in their representation of nature. There’s a thirst for realism and more often than not, people want ‘real’ flowers in their juice, rather than ‘synthetic’ ones. Natural doesn’t always mean better though and it’s a known fact that the use of synthetic ingredients or isolated materials has allowed the industry to move forward in leaps and bounds (it’s also a fact that synthetics are generally more stable and long-lasting than many naturals). Without a mixture of the two, perfumes often feel flat and two-dimensional. Chemophobia may be the moral high ground (or complete, utter craziness, if you ask me), but it’s the embracing of new materials and technologies that allows for true innovation and artistry in the world of fragrance.
One of the most fascinating examples of innovation in perfume is Headspace technology. Developed in the 1980s, Headspace acts as a fragrant camera that captures and decodes the molecules in the air surrounding a particular material or object, providing a perfumer with raw data they can use to piece together a familiar smell using other notes and ingredients. Without Headspace, our perfumes would be devoid of such wonderful things as lily-of-the-valley, caviar and nail polish. It’s an important tool that allows perfumes to truly represent the world around us, and in some instances, an imagined world that is greater than our own.
‘Rubbing Noses’ is a new series, in which I, The Candy Perfume Boy, grill the most important members of the perfume industry – the perfumers. These are the brains and noses behind the perfumes we know and love, and their unrivalled insight into one of the world’s most ancient of arts is something to be treasured, enjoyed and shared.
For my very first episode of ‘Rubbing Noses’ I am posing questions to a perfumer whose body of work includes such gems as; Etat Libre d’Orange’s Jasmin et Cigarette, Comme des Garçons’ Stephen Jones, Aqua di Parma’s Magnolia Nobile and Bottega Veneta Pour Homme. I am of course referring to Antoine Maisondieu and I think that we can all agree that his fragrant back catalogue is quite impressive, with a wide variety of perfumes that make him a perfumer that cannot be pinned down to a particular genre or style.
One of Antoine Maisondieu’s latest creations is the beautiful California Rêverie for Van Cleef & Arpels’ Collection Extraordinaire (a perfume that I’m quite smitten with of late). In our Q&A, we discuss this new fragrance, the inspiration behind it and how this talented perfumer manages to take heavy materials and make them feel as light and soft as a summer breeze. We also talk IFRA and the smell of California, so all-in-all it’s a very intriguing read with a well-respected perfumer who is undeniably interesting in a varied number of ways.