'Savage Beauty' - A retrospective of Alexander McQueen's Work at the V&A, London
‘Savage Beauty’ – A retrospective of Alexander McQueen’s Work at the V&A, London

“You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition”.

– Lee ‘Alexander’ McQueen ¹

Whether one is a follower of fashion or not, it cannot be denied that the work of the late, great Alexander McQueen is art. McQueen paired exceptional tailoring (forged after an apprenticeship on Saville Row) with violence, romance and often alien beauty to create pieces that shook, and more importantly, challenged the world of fashion. Whether it be his early collection, ‘Highland Rape’, which had a name as controversial as its clothing, or the 3D printed and H.R. Ginger inspired ‘Alien’ footwear from ‘Plato’s Atlantis’, McQueen demonstrated that he was a fashion renegade – always courting controversy, but never losing sight of beauty.

This weekend I visited the Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A in London. Running until 02 August 2015, the exhibit is a tremendous showcase of McQueen’s work, spanning his illustrious career from his MA Graduate Collection (‘Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victims, 1992) to his final, and incomplete collection (Autumn/Winter 2010). The whole thing is impeccably staged, with each room transformed to capturing the theme of each body of work. Perhaps the most captivating part of the exhibit is the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ – a room that spans two storeys and is filled with a dazzling array of pieces, from accessories such as bags, shoes and head pieces (many of which are collaborations with milliner, Philip Treacy), to gowns and metal spines. There’s simply so much to look at and the whole thing serves as a true testament to the talent, nay, the genius of one of the world’s greatest fashion designers.

Leaving the exhibition I felt incredibly inspired. It was fascinating to literally walk through the evolution of McQueen’s aesthetic, encountering the divine and the macabre along the way. There will never be another talent like his and to celebrate this stunning exhibition and body of work, I thought I would pick out some of my favourite McQueen pieces from his greatest collections, and ‘scent them’ with some perfumes that embody the spirit of these remarkable pieces of fashion. Here you’ll find some deeply intriguing clothing and scents, all of which are tailored to perfection and challenge one’s perceptions. They are works of fashion and olfactory art.

The Ever-Dapper Mr. Ford
The Ever-Dapper Mr. Ford

When it comes to perfume, Tom Ford knows what he’s doing. Not that he doesn’t know what he’s doing in the worlds of fashion and film, mind – he definitely seems pretty good in those fields too, but with perfume it is undeniable that he is a man of extraordinary style and taste. Since the launch of his flagship fragrance, Black Orchid, in 2006, Ford has crafted himself a fragrant empire that has seen the creation of over 50 fragrances. His output is prolific, varied, grand, opulent and fascinating, courting with true luxury through his unique aesthetic. Everything he does is unmistakably ‘Tom Ford’ and therefore, also pretty darn good.

Tom Ford’s fragrance line consists of two collections; the Private Blends and the Signature Collection, the latter of which showcases a more accessible range of masculine and feminine fragrances in that inimitable Tom Ford style. What strikes me as particularly intriguing about the Signature Collection is the excellent quality of the masculine offerings. When fragrances for men are so often dull, tired and unpleasant, Tom Ford’s act as a refreshing surprise that can restore one’s faith in fragrant humanity. They are handsome, stylish, classic and modern, as all masculine fragrances should be.

My favourite of Ford’s masculine fragrances is Noir – a plush, resinous and powdery scent that bears a striking resemblance to the style of the Guerlain classics, but with a modern twist. In a world of ‘fresh this’ and ‘sport that’, Noir is a bastion of hope for those that demand more from their masculine fragrance. Because it is such a breath of fresh air (not literally), Noir has deservedly been very popular, and for 2015 Tom Ford is launching a brand new interpretation of the fragrance (joining the original Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette), entitled ‘Noir Extreme’ – a new chapter in the Noir story that “reveals a new dimension of the “Noir Man”.

Björk Leaves a 'Surprise' on the Red Carpet
Björk Leaves a ‘Surprise’ on the Red Carpet

I like to scent things. It’s true, I do. Also, it’s The Oscars this weekend so it feels only right that I should tie the two things together. In my Scent a Celebrity Series, I try to pick perfumes that represent the personalities, characters and style of some of my favourite celebrities, whether they be real or fictional. This post is an extension of this idea, of sorts, but instead of looking at the celebrities, I’m casting my fragrant eye over something entirely more important – their fashion.

The Oscars mean one thing – the red carpet. And what does the red carpet bring? Fashion, and lots of it. Like most people, I’m not as fussed about the Awards themselves (although I am rooting for Eddie Redmayne and Julianne Moore for the Best Actor and Best Actress gongs this year) as I am the fashion. I may skip through the ceremony, but you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be tuning in to the red carpet in full, not to mention Fashion Police on the following day to get a full post game analysis of who wore what, and whether it was good, bad or ugly.

So, in anticipation of some truly awesome red carpet fashion this weekend (those celebrities better not disappoint), I have put together six of my favourite iconic Oscar looks (I couldn’t settle on five) and have scented them with some decadently glam fragrances to match. It’s all about to get a bit ‘Hollywood’ up in here, so get the popcorn on, throw on your most glamorous onesie and get set to enjoy some truly high-fashion red carpet and perfume moments.

Too Sexy - Tuscan Leather by Tom Ford
Too Sexy – Tuscan Leather by Tom Ford

Leather fragrances all fall somewhere on a spectrum that spans from ‘Expensive Handbag’ to ‘Cow Hide’, with a great distance of space between both polar ends. On one side we have the likes of Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum and Dior’s Cuir Cannage, olfactory interpretations of luxury leather goods, and on the other we have fragrances such as Mona di Orio’s Cuir, which is essentially chorizo in a bottle. Somewhere smack bang in the middle of this spectrum of suede is my favourite kind of leather – the “hell yeah I’m sexy” kind of leather.

To me, the ideal sexy leather fragrance is undeniably Tom Ford’s Tuscan Leather. Even the name is evocative of tumbles in the hay under the hot Italian sun – what could be more enticing, right?. Released in 2007 as part of the original crop of Private Blends, Tuscan Leather is not only dashingly handsome, it’s also the perfect scent for this chilly weather we’re having – it’s warm, enveloping and totally sexy. Too sexy, in fact. It’s use has to be restricted in our house because it is, without being distinctly raunchy, completely and utterly delectable. Did I mention that it’s sexy?

The Candies 2014
The Candies 2014: The Very Best and The Very Worst Perfumes of the Year

Wow, what a whirlwind of a year 2014 was. The perfume industry has, as always, been nothing short of prolific in its output, with new brands popping up all over the place and the same big names releasing perfume upon perfume, and flanker upon flanker. It has, once again been a very busy year, and the hive of activity within the industry has meant that a great number of wonderful new olfactory treats have been unleashed on the noses of perfume lovers and consumers.

For me, this year has been one of great personal significance. In March I won my first Jasmine Award for my Guide to Violet, and shortly after in May, my best buddy and I tied the knot, only a few days before I presented an award at the Fragrance Foundation Awards. Then in August I was promoted at work, and in September my new husband and I headed off to Tokyo for the honeymoon of a lifetime. In short, it has been a fantastic year and one that will always remain truly in my heart as one of the very best.

To celebrate 2014 from a fragrant perspective, I present to you ‘The Candies 2014’. Those of you who have followed The Candies before will know that they are my annual perfume awards, celebrating the very best, and the very worst perfumes of the year (out of the 147 scents I have reviewed in 2014). Under the jump you will find the winners, losers and honourable mentions filed under neat little categories. So please, don your tux or ball down, break open the Bolly and take your seats for The Candies 2014.

[Also, please don’t forget to head on over to my dear perfume pals, Persolaise and Perfume Shrine, who are both joining me in sharing their ‘best of’ lists today.]

Perfume to Wrap Around Your Neck
Perfume to Wrap Around Your Neck

Oooh, I do love a good scarf and now that winter is finally bedding in, it’s the perfect opportunity to step out of the house wrapped within the warm confines of many a piece of neckwear. In fact, leaving the homestead isn’t particularly necessary (nor much fun in the cold) and I have been known to float around the house, scarf wrapped around neck, simply enjoying the fabulous warmth (and aesthetic) that it brings. I am, if anything, a bit of a poser, after all.

Scarves go incredibly well with fragrance and one of my favourite things to do is sniff a well worn scarf and try to identify the many perfumes that are imbued so deeply within the fibres. The truth is that, scarves may be a fashion item, but they also make wearing fragrance more pleasurable, due to the simple fact that they retain odour, as well as almost amplifying a fragrance so that it can be smelled at numerous intervals throughout the entire today.

In this piece, I’ve picked out some of my favourite scarves and paired them with matching fragrances. These pairings identify the synergies between the textures, colours and signatures of fragrances, and neckwear, but also take a look at some fragrances that simply smell great when lavishly sprayed on any old scarf. So, if you’re looking for a nice winter warmer of a fragrance to pair with your very best winter scarf, then read on, dear reader, read on.

The Candy Perfume Boy's Guide to Vanilla
The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to Vanilla

The Candy Perfume Boy’s ‘Guide to…‘ series is an award winning fragrant exploration of the individual notes that make up the vast and multi-dimensional spectrum that is the world of perfume. In each episode, we take a detailed look at a particular ingredient, analysing its odour profile and the ‘must sniff’ perfumes that serve as reference examples within the genre.

So far in the series, we’ve taken a gander at the lusciousness of lily, variety of violet and the tenacity of tuberose. We’ve also ogled at oud, chomped on chocolate and orbited the world of orange blossom. All-in-all, it’s been a fun and fragrant exploration of some of perfumery’s most beloved ingredients, but our journey is far from over and we have many more smells to sniff. So buckle up as we take off for our next fragrant expedition – a mission to Planet Vanilla.

In this latest instalment of The Candy Perfume Boy’s Guide to, we’re going to explore all that is vanilla – a note that is as well-known as it is delicious. The use of vanilla in perfume is most certainly plentiful and to serve you, dear reader, I have separated the wheat from the chaff to present you with eight vanilla perfumes that are absolute must sniffs on your fragrant journey. I promise you that they all smell absolutely fabulous!

Tom Ford's Patchouli Absolu - Serving up 'Tom of Finland' Realness
Tom Ford’s Patchouli Absolu – Serving up ‘Tom of Finland’ Realness

The trajectory of the use of patchouli in perfume is a sad one. Most associate the earthy, oily and sour smell of the note with the hippy head shops in the 1970s however, one would find it almost impossible to come across such an impression in a modern fragrance, as it seems that all of the mirk and filth has been extracted from today’s perfumery landscape, leaving behind a sea of sanitised patchouli notes that are nice, but certainly not a patch on the real thing.

Tom Ford is a man that likes patchouli. Since he launched Tom Ford Beauty with Black Orchid in 2006 he has treated us to not one, not two, but three patchouli-based fragrances. His patchoulis, Purple Patchouli (2007), White Patchouli (2008) and the latest, Patchouli Absolu, present a diverse array of blends that showcase the marvelous versatility of an age-old note. Whether he be showcasing the sweet and fruity tones of Purple Patchouli or the high-class floral tones of White Patchouli, Tom Ford refuses to offer up a clean or unrealistic take on the note, and for that he must be applauded.

Patchouli Absolu takes patchouli back to its roots and displays a multi-faceted take on the note that it is extremely complex and thoroughly modern. At the core sits a trio of patchouli ingredients – Patchouli Oil, which gives a “raw and primal texture”, Patchouli Coeur, the “absolute extract of the plant” that provides a “refined earthiness”, and a “breakthrough iteration of patchouli” called Clearwood, that offers a pure rendition of patchouli. Patchouli Absolu is a true patchouli delivered in the signature opulence and luxury of Tom Ford’s Private Collection.

“Patchouli Absolu is Tom Ford’s personal ode to an ingredient that is intertwined with his own story. The iconic olfactive note of the 1970s, it evokes louche sensuality and after-dark glamour, as well as the heady blending of masculine and feminine that defined the era. This Eastern oil perfumed the skin of late seventies’ glitterati and bohemians alike, pervading the air of jet-set parties with a provocative, dark glamour. Patchouli fragranced the world that was to shape Tom Ford’s singular vision of style.”

Cara Delevingne for Tom Ford Black Orchid
Cara Delevingne for Tom Ford Black Orchid

American Beauty and Fashion brand, Tom Ford have announced British model, Cara Delevingne as the face of their flagship fragrance, Black Orchid. Shot by Director and Photographer, Mario Sorrenti, the new campaign shows Delevingne, in true Tom Ford-style, floating naked amongst a pool of purple orchids whilst clutching a bottle of the brand’s iconic perfume.

This new campaign is a more sensual and sexy take on the Black Orchid image, which in its previous incarnations took on a more vampish and glamour puss aesthetic. As always, Ford looks to push buttons, and tasteful nudity aside, Delevingne is a clever choice of face, as she is very much the ‘it’ girl of the moment, traipsing the catwalk for a number of designers as well as courting the worlds of film and music.

What do you think?

Tom Ford's Neroli Portofino Collection
Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino Collection

If there ever was a time for Tom Ford to launch two new colognes, now was it. The relentless heat of summer appears to be continuing, well, relentlessly, and light, citrus-centric and floral colognes really are the genre du jour at this time of year. When the sun beats down indiscriminately in the sky and the muggy air really starts to the take the biscuit, the humble eau de cologne really is the only way forward.

Of course, Tom Ford’s fragrances are generally contemporary and high-fashion twists on traditional themes, therefore any eau de cologne launched by the brand isn’t likely to be conventional. Just take Ford’s Neroli Portofino, for example – a vibrant and clean neroli-based cologne that does the unthinkable – it lasts, and lasts. Tom Ford’s colognes may tip their cap to history, but as with all things he touches, they are exceptionally modern.

Much like last year’s Oud Wood Collection, Tom Ford is capitalising on the phenomenal success of Neroli Portofino to create the Neroli Portofino Collection. This capsule collection within Ford’s series of Private Blend consists of the aforementioned Neroli Portofino and two new colognes as stable mates – Costa Azzurra and Mandarino di Amalfi. One represents the early morning sun over a glimmering ocean, whilst the other is that same ocean scene as the sun dips below the horizon.