Olympēa - Paco Rabanne's new Goddess
Olympēa – Paco Rabanne’s new Goddess

Criticise Paco Rabanne all you want, but you can never say that they don’t have a knack for tapping into the zeitgeist. Their fragrance launches are a perfect example of how marketing drives the success of a modern perfume, with irresistible packaging and expensive advertising campaigns drawing the consumer in. Take 1 Million for instance – a perfectly decent woody amber fragrance that most likely wouldn’t have had the phenomenal success it has if it weren’t packaged inside a faux piece of gold bullion and marketed with a club-culture inspired ad that tapped into the image and money-obsessed nature of modern youth. They are anything, if not clever.

Their latest launch for women, ‘Olympēa‘, which arrives as the feminine counterpart to 2013’s Invictus, comes with all of the trappings of a typical Paco Rabanne launch right from the show-stopping bottle shaped like a laurel crown to the high-budget visuals, but the scent itself appears to have a bit more depth than one would usually expect. Created by perfumers Anne Flipo, Dominique Ropion and Loc Dong, Olympēa is described as the “fragrance of a modern day goddess” and a “statuesque idol of conquest and victory”. That is quite the description, I must say, and in truth, the fragrance is more intimate and cuddly than the concept would lead one to expect, but that’s not to say that Olympēa is without interest, in fact, it’s really quite intriguing.

“The fragrance of a modern day goddess, Paco Rabanne Olympea Eau de Parfum makes a statement of strength, power and seduction. Between myth and reality is where you’ll find Olympēa, a statuesque idol of conquest and victory. Her fragrance is just as commanding as she is, featuring a legend-inspiring salted vanilla accord that elevates her above the clouds.”

– Paco Rabanne

Life Through a Lense - Byredo x Oliver Peoples
Life Through a Lense – Byredo x Oliver Peoples

There is no language dedicated solely to the world of smell, arguably our most primal of senses. Instead we opt for words associated with our other senses – taste, sight and feel, to describe something that is for the most part, intangible. Colours, textures and flavours pepper our descriptions and allow the realm of the fragrance to move from the intangibale to something more palpable, combining together as the language of the senses to tell a scented story.

The “joint perception of the senses”, specifically the relationship between colour and smell, is the theme for Swedish niche brand, Byredo’s latest fragrance. The scent is a collaboration with Oliver Peoples, a California-based eyewear brand, and it accompanies a series of exclusive frames, and lenses that have been created and inspired by the fragrance. Housed within a choice of bottles shaded in either indigo, green or champagne, Byredo x Oliver Peoples aims to capture the Caliifornian landscapes through lenses in different colours, each of which highlights a new facet or nuance. This is a Californian life through a lens, and it smells/looks good.

“The conception of the collaboration was achieved through Byredo’s master perfume perceiving the sights of Los Angeles through different coloured lenses, and translating them into various smells, therefore producing a multi-faceted fragrance. This unique effort has resulted in an original frame designed by Oliver Peoples, through which the color of the lenses will correlate with the aroma of the custom blended fragrance by Byredo”

– Byredo/Oliver Peoples

A Sensitive Soul - Carven Pour Homme
The Affable Man – Carven Pour Homme

“Rather than the lover of the Carven Woman, the Carven Man is a brother and a soul mate.”

– Carven

The above quote from the press release for Carven’s brand new masculine fragrance, ‘Carven Pour Homme‘ struck me as quite refreshing. So often, us gents are marketed fragrances on their ability to attract the opposite sex (a strategy that weirdly doesn’t work for me – I wonder why), positioning the wearer as an object of physical attraction rather than a kindred spirit. Carven, whose fashion and fragrance lines have recently been revived, appear to want to do something different.

Carven further describe their man as “a handsome face; even better, an interesting face of undeniable strength and gentleness, calm and determination” – a guy that they can envisage “strolling with a book of poetry in hand, rowing swiftly on the Seine, [and] sipping a coffee on the terrace of a Paris café”. This romanticised notion of the modern man is a break from the steroid pumped, oily chested and fastidiously preened berk one is so used to seeing in perfume advertisements, and for that reason, he sounds rather wonderful indeed.

Penned by perfumers Francis Kurkdjian (Le Mâle, Carven Le Parfum & the Maison Francis Kurkdjian line) and Patricia Choux (Jo Malone Blue Agava & Cacao and Clive Christian X for Women), Carven Pour Homme is the first masculine fragrance from the brand since its relaunch. Positioned as a signature scent for the house, the scent is described as “the very essence of Carven style in a masculine mode” and has been created as an everyday item that intends to be an essential piece in the Carven wardrobe. Carven Pour Homme is a fragrance created in the relaxed and comfortable style of Guillaume Henry, who is now the former Artistic Director of the brand (now at Nina Ricci), and it fits perfectly.

Got Wood - A*Men Pure Wood by Thierry Mugler
Got Wood – A*Men Pure Wood by Thierry Mugler

“An olfactory dedication to the woody note. [..] A*Men Pure Wood is an invitation to a journey to the heart of the woody note, an elegant yet rugged accent in masculine perfumes, boldly revisited for this occasion.”

– Thierry Mugler

Not a day goes by on this blog without me making some sort-of reference to the house of Thierry Mugler. It’s no secret that I am the Mugler fan boy and I consider his fragrances to be as much a part of my DNA as my blue eyes and brown hair. The Mugler fragrances speak to me because they are bold, edgy and entirely over the top – everything that I want to be, and I revel in their distinct and challenging olfactory signatures, the way Mugler’s muses lavished themselves in his structured couture.

A*Men (also known as ‘Angel Men’) is the house’s flagship masculine fragrance. Actually, it’s the brand’s only fragrance solely for men (not that that stops many women from wearing it) and as one would expect from the man that brought the world the motorcycle corset, it’s a bold and daring one. I love A*Men, it manages to throw in just about every note possible (peppermint, tar, lavender, chocolate, coffee, caramel, patchouli and vanilla), including the kitchen sink and manages to somehow work as a fragrance that is wearable. The problem is that I just don’t reach for it that much anymore, perhaps because it is so unique and demanding.

Each year, Thierry Mugler launches a limited edition version of A*Men that showcases one note or theme. Unofficially named the ‘Pure’ series, previous instalments have included; A*Men Pure Coffee, A*Men Pure Malt, A*Men Pure Leather and A*Men Pure Shot, and for this season, Mugler is launching an ode to the ruggedness of wood, cheekily entitled A*Men Pure Wood. Created by perfumer, Jacques Huclier (the man behind the original A*Men in 1996), Pure Wood is one of the most commercial interpretations of A*Men, and dare I say, one of the sexiest.

THIS IS NOT A MOSCHINO TOY
THIS IS NOT A MOSCHINO TOY

It’s impossible to look at TOY, the latest fragrance from Italian fashion brand, Moschino and not smile. I mean, the perfume is packaged inside a cuddly little teddy bear, so one’s initial encounter with the fragrance will usually involve the utterance of noises such as “aww” and “squee” and cries of “OH. MY. GOD. IT’S. SO. BLOOMING. CUTE” and “IT’SSOFLUFFYI’MGONNA’DIE”. It is after all, incredibly cute and that gorgeous little face is adorably cheeky, and impossible to resist.

TOY is the brainchild of Moschino’s Creative Director, Jeremy Scott, who has worked with the likes or Rihanna, Katy Perry, Björk, Madonna, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga, just to name a small sample of the upper echelon of pop divas that he has collaborated with. The scent is being positioned by the brand as a “revolutionary product launch” that offers “a completely innovative way to package, show and sell fragrance”, posing the question whether this bear is a perfume or a toy. It also serves as a nice nod back to Moschino’s founder, Franco Moschino, who famously used stuffed animals on garments in his 1988 Fall-Winter collection.

Created by perfumer Alexandra Kosinski (Etat Libre d’Orange Cologne), TOY displays woody, floral and citrus notes that are intended to be evocative of the bear’s forest home. Whether TOY is exactly that, a toy, or a perfume, or a teddy bear, or all of the above depends on how you approach it. What cannot be denied however, is that this is an attention-grabbing launch that breathes new life into the world of Moschino parfums, and an incredibly cute one at that.

“From the depths of the wild, stuffed animal kingdom comes TOY, Moschino’s latest fragrance. Conceived by Moschino Creative Director Jeremy Scott, TOY smashes every fragrance preconception to bits, boldly redrawing its form, function and fabulousness.”

– Moschino

WILD [Photo: Steven Klein]
WILD [Photo: Steven Klein]
Recently, whilst putting together my guide to masculine fragrance for MANFACE, I realised that I quite like manly perfumes. This may not sound like much of a revelation, I am a man after all (well, at least I was last time I checked), and it would therefore make sense that I was a fan of those fragrances which sit on the masculine side of the aisle, but the truth is that I’ve always thought I found solace in the world of feminine perfumery. That said, a quick look at the number of masculine offerings in my list favourite fragrances contradicts this, so when it comes down to it, I guess my love for perfume spans all gender barriers.

The problem I have with masculine perfumery is that is often boring and clichéd. As a general rule of thumb, us gents are less adventurous with perfume. Add this to the fact that many mainstream masculine fragrances are dull, synthetic and obnoxious, and you don’t exactly have a recipe for success. This isn’t always the case though, and as you’ll see in my masculine fragrance guide (link above), there are more than a good few masculines out there that are generally interesting and beautiful, and I always feel a sense of joy when I encounter a new fragrance for men that simply smells very good.

One decent (and recent) example is ‘WILD’, the latest fragrance from fashion brand DSquared². Created by perfumers Daphné Bugey and Annick Menardo, WILD is a woody aromatic fragrance that is described by the brand as being “an overwhelming perfume that announces a free and wild soul”. Housed within the fetishistic confines of a leather-strapped bottle, and accompanied by a provocative ad campaign shot by fashion photographer, Stephen Klein (a NSFW example can be seen below the jump), WILD certainly makes a statement – one that surprisingly focuses on the idea of freedom, rather than sexual provocation.

“For us fragrance has an emotional connection to who we are, it uncovers a long-held desire or dream, which is why the concept of WILD has such an intrinsic link to us and the ideaology of DSquared2. The ultimate authentic expression of self is to live with complete freedom of speech and mind – we are fascinated with this concept, especially in today’s society.”

– Dean and Dan Caten, DSquared²

Photo: Herb Ritts
Photo: Herb Ritts

It’s a simple fact that the late perfumer, Mona di Orio made beautiful perfumes. Having studied under the great Edmond Roudnitska (Dior’s Eau Sauvage & Diorissimo, and Rochas’ Femme), di Orio had a knack for creating romantic and surprising compositions that often turned a familiar signature on its head. Since her death, Mona’s co-founder, Jeroen Oude Sogtoen has remained faithful to her legacy and has released a number of fragrances from the archives – fragrances created by Mona di Orio before her untimely death. These have included the stunning Eau Absolue and the masterpiece that is Violette Fumée.

It seems that the brand is now turning a corner. There was always going to come a point where di Orio’s back catalogue of unreleased material would run out and an external perfumer would need to be invited in to compose something new. Now is that time and the brand is launching their first fragrance under their new Monogram collection, as well as re-releasing older perfumes (e.g. Nuit Noire and Lux) into the Signature collection. They’re also slowly re-packing the Les Nombres d’Or collection, starting with Oud, which is now called Oudh Osmanthus.

Myrrh Casati is Mona di Orio’s first fragrance composed by an external perfumer. Penned by Melanie Leroux, Myrrh Casati makes a statement as something quite different from the other perfumes within Mona di Orio’s extensive collection. The brand describe this ode to myrrh as being “extravagant, dark, [and] mysterious”, and I’d definitely agree with the latter two descriptors in that sentence – I’m just not entirely convinced that it is extravagant in the same way many of the Mona di Orio fragrances are. Myrrh Casati serves as an interesting diversification for the brand, for sure.

“Inspired by Marchesa Casati, the legendary patron of the arts and muse of eccentricity, known for her extravagant dark fashion and lavish fetes replete with exotic animals, gilded servants, and an infectious waft of incense and mystery that surrounded her.”

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.”

New from Guerlain: L'Homme Idéal
New from Guerlain: ‘L’Homme Idéal’

For my Escentual column this week, I have had the pleasure of reviewing the latest fragrance from Guerlain – the new masculine offering ‘L’Homme Idéal‘. The fragrance is accompanied by the tagline; “The ideal man is a myth. His fragrance, a reality” and is already dividing opinion amongst the perfume loving community – some love it and others see it as a commercial and unimpressive offering from the house. To read my in-depth thoughts you can click here to head on over to Escentual and peruse my review, but I will say now that I’m definitely in the ‘yes’ camp when it comes to L’Homme Idéal.

Created by Thierry Wasser, Guerlain’s in-house perfumer, L’Homme Idéal strikes me as a more commercial offering for the house, yes, but it’s also excellently crafted, as one would expect, and grounded within the rich gourmand heritage that is oh so very ‘Guerlain’. Is it the ideal masculine fragrance? Well as I say in my review, the answer is entirely subjective, and whilst it isn’t as distinct as Habit Rouge or even Homme, Wasser’s first masculine for the brand, it is a robust masculine with a cheeky feminine twist. What’s not to like?

As I’ve reviewed the fragrance over at Escentual (who are going a bit L’Homme Idéal mad for a fragrant takeover), I thought I’d do something a little bit different here and share with you four things I enjoy about the fragrance. So gents (and ladies, because there are no gender barriers here), stick the kettle on, grab a slice of cake (always mandatory), sit back and enjoy my little fragrant guide to the very latest offering from the most important fragrance house in the world.

Jon Kortajarena in Colin Firth & Tom Ford's A Single Man
Sharp Suits & Relaxed Denim – Jon Kortajarena & Colin Firth in Tom Ford’s A Single Man

The debut fragrance from new perfume and skincare brand, Alford & Hoff would have escaped my notice completely if it weren’t for the presence of venerable perfumer, Rodrigo Flores-Roux’s name on the ticket. Flores-Roux is responsible for some exceptional work on behalf of the likes of Tom Ford (Fleur de Chine, for example) and Arquiste (Boutonierre no.7 and Flor y Canto etc.), amongst many others. So it was with a keen sense of interest that I approached this oh-so-masculine-sounding fragrance penned by Flores-Roux, for an entirely new brand.

Alford & Hoff is the brainchild of athletes, Barry Alford and Jefferson Hoff. They aim to create luxurious fragrances and skincare products for “a new generation of men”, positioning their wares at the higher end of the designer market and at the lower end of niche. Their first fragrance, Alford & Hoff Eau de Toilette is described as being “confident, passionate, stylish, successful, [and] masculine in a modern way”, and reportedly contains “95 of the finest ingredients.”

That’s all well and good, but how does this modern ode to masculinity, created by one of the industry’s most exciting perfumers, smell? Well, it’s described as being a “fresh, woody” fragrance, and it most certainly lives up to the standards expected by the genre. Will it be a defining scent for the modern generation of men, or does it ultimately fail to break through the cliches of its style? You’ll have to read on to find out….