Perfume's Literary Muses

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The Fizz takes a look at three creative perfume houses sourcing design inspiration from cultural icons and literature. Think stylish scent stories!

BY CLAIRE BINGHAM

Perfume has long since taken an open-arms approach to inspiration. Sunny climes, nostalgic moments and time spent in the great outdoors can result in any number of olfactory creations. But some of today’s pioneering independent perfume labels, keen to align with individual stories, are taking a more scholarly route. Be it a poem, song or author, these cerebral reference points are an aspirational springboard for conjuring up an imaginative lifestyle – by way of scent.

TOM DAXON
London perfumer Tom Daxon recently collaborated with Mayfair art deco hotel The Beaumont for London Craft Week. Tasked with making a fragrance for one of the famous figures featured in guest room portraits, Daxon chose writer and political activist Nancy Cunard. He presented a rich version of his bestselling fragrance ‘Iridium’, with its notes of juniper, cedarwood and vetiver, in a new formula ramped up to a concentration of 71% fragrance oil. The Cubist-style bottle was hand-painted by London-based sign painter and friend Archie Proudfoot.

For the design, Daxon spoke with Proudfoot about the idea of interpreting the logo and fragrance name in an art deco, Cubist way, mirroring the style of the hotel, the iconic Antony Gormley structure on the side and Cunard’s own love of Cubism. ‘He immediately got it,’ says Daxon. ‘As for the fragrance itself, I had been curious about creating an ultra high-strength version of ‘Iridium’ ever since I had seen it was a possibility. The regulatory body, IFRA, sets the maximum concentration one can use in a fragrance according to its specific ingredients. For ‘Iridium’, its ‘IFRA max’ was 71% which is a rarity for us, as concentrations are normally much lower. We had a sample made up and I was surprised how much I fell for it; it’s not brash or harsh smelling. It’s still totally wearable but with a character all of its own.’
tomdaxon.com

ABOVE: A selection of unisex perfumes from New York fragrance house Imaginary Authors
ABOVE RIGHT:
Tom Daxon ‘Iridium’ eau de parfum, £155 for 100ml

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CLOON KEEN
Irish fragrance house Cloon Keen creates scents that are deeply entwined with Irish landscape, history and Gaelic tradition. Based in the heart of the medieval city of Galway, the atelier combines Ireland’s rich oral, literary, craft and design traditions to produce beautiful, meaningful work. Perfume ‘Róisín Dubh’ (Little Black Rose) takes its name from a subversive 16th-century song, which has become an enduring emblem to Irish artists. Candle ‘Autograph Tree’, with its heady fragrance of oud, exotic spices and incense, gets its moniker from the magnificent copper beech tree in the walled garden of Coole Park on which the faded initials of Irish writers Lady Gregory, W. B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Seán O’Casey and J. M. Synge linger. Here, literature very much sets the tone.
cloonkeen.com

ABOVE LEFT: Cloon Keen ‘Autograph Tree’ candle, £40


IMAGINARY AUTHORS
In New York, unisex perfume brand Imaginary Authors is raising olfactory narratives to library level. The delicious sweet mint and bourbon-based ‘Saint Julep’ takes us on a trip through Mississippi to a ramshackle church, a refuge not for worship but a secular place for jukebox times. For the woozy, orange popsickle ‘Sundrunk’, their imagined author is called Clementine Cope, who set out from rural Montana in search of Californian surf.

‘I got into perfume through my business partner Josh Meyer,’ says co-founder and creative director Ashod Simonian of his personal journey with Imaginary Authors. ‘He was obsessed with niche perfume and taught himself how to mix, whereas my background is in design and brand building.’ Explaining the story-focused, mix-and-match collages that define each of their perfumes, Simonian says: ‘I used to play in bands and my introduction to design was through album covers. I've always appreciated the way a good album cover connects not only to the contents within but also to your heart. Books and dust jackets work the same way. I just love the way the right words over the right images can charm their way straight into the core of someone’s heart.’

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ABOVE FROM LEFT: Imaginary Authors’ ‘Saint Julep’ and ‘Sundrunk’ eau de parfum, both US$95 for 50ml

‘I enjoy a white perfume label with simple black type as much as the next person but our perfumes are not that,’ adds Simonian. ‘There are so many layers and unexpected twists in our scents that they demanded a more artful approach to the branding. We built Imaginary Authors around the confluence of exceptional scents, alluring words and beautiful imagery. Because the language surrounding perfume has grown so tired, we wanted to separate ourselves from the pack. It was quite intentional to bake storytelling and design into our process rather than slap it on as an afterthought – or ignore it altogether.’

Each of the studio’s perfumes comes together differently – some start with a unique scent combination, others with a story or maybe a catchy title, but one of the main goals is to destroy the idea of a signature scent and, instead, treat perfumes like books. ‘One can never have too many books,’ Simonian continues. ‘After you've been exposed to one or two of our perfumes, our hope is you'll be hungry for more, that you'll keep expanding your bookshelf – not just with our products but with whatever scents might catch your nose. We want people who didn't even know they liked perfume to stumble onto our line and fall in love.’ We’re smitten…
imaginaryauthors.com

Ormaie

Meticulously crafted from the juice to bottle top, new French perfume brand Ormaie has roots in art and nature

BY CLAIRE BINGHAM

Family-run French scent label Ormaie has all the markings of a key perfume player, with a collection of seven fragrances made solely from natural ingredients.

Firstly, there is the beautiful blend of high quality, non-synthetic ingredients that sing through each perfume. For example, masculine ‘Le Passant’ is a sensual lavender and ambrette that reminds Ormaie co-founder Baptiste Bouygues of his father. ‘Le passant means the man passing by,’ explains Bouygues, who started Ormaie with his mother Marie-Lise Jonak in late 2018. ‘My father used to wear a beautiful lavender perfume, so it was important for me that Ormaie would have a chic lavender.’ Jonak, who has always worked in perfumes, favours the rose and sandalwood-based ‘Yvonne’, so-named after her mother who loved classic feminine perfumes. Also in the collection, ‘Les Brumes’ is a burst of fresh citrus with notes of jasmine and cedar, ‘Papier Carbone’ has essences of bergamot, vetiver and sage, and ‘28°’ is designed for hot summer nights with heady scents of mandarin, tuberose and vanilla. ‘L’Ivrée Bleue’ is an exotic fragrance featuring notes of rum, iris and vanilla while incense, sandalwood and vetiver make ‘Toï Toï Toï’ perfect for cooler spring and autumn evenings.

ABOVE: Ormaie’s sculptural eau de parfum collection, from €190 for 100ml, with geometric wooden tops inspired by modernist art
ABOVE RIGHT: Co-founder Baptiste Bouygues
BELOW FROM LEFT: Masculine scent ‘Le Passant’ and feminine ‘Yvonne’

Beyond the fragrance, it’s the design of the bottles that delivers on all cylinders from the elegant typography to the 12-sided glass vessels and geometric hand-carved wooden tops. Collaborating with Parisian creative director Jade Lombard, Bouygues’ interest in midcentury design was key to shaping the look. ‘We both love art and design,’ he says. ‘I love the sculptor Brancusi, for example. Jade loves the graphics of Jean-Paul Goude. We really wanted the bottles to be something that people could display in their living room or an atelier.’

The duo also wanted to combine great craftsmanship with natural materials. ‘The organic feel of the wood was important for us,’ says Bouygues. The caps are made from beech wood sourced from renewable forests in France. The faceted glass bottle comes from one of the finest French glassmakers and the luxe label is hot-stamped in Paris by heritage Heidelberg machines. Boxes and labels are produced by renowned fine-art print shop Imprimerie du Marais.

BELOW FROM LEFT: ‘Les Brumes’, ‘L’Ivrée Bleue’, ‘Papier Carbone’, ‘28°’ and ‘Toï Toï Toï’ eau de parfums. from €190 each for 100ml

It all adds up to an elegant, organic and wonderfully crafted perfume – that looks as nice on your dressing table as it smells on your wrist.
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Ormaie fragrances are available directly from the website in Europe, €190 each for 100ml; elsewhere in the world, you’ll be directed to online stockist Barney’s, US$270 for 100ml

Portrait of Baptiste Bouygues: Vincent Desailly

Turning Japanese

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Captivating Japan is the inspiration behind three recent fragrance and beauty line launches, with elegant zen-chic design and oriental packaging to match. We spy a trend!

BY AMY BRADFORD

FLORAÏKU
Poetry, perfume and design come together in 2017-launched fragrance line Floraïku, created by French-Irish couple Clara and John Molloy (also the founders of cult scent brand Memo Paris). The collection of 12 fragrances, created with noses Alienor Massenet, Sophie Labbé and Sarah Burri, is inspired by Japanese culture: each bottle features a patterned stopper that recalls traditional lacquerware, and is presented in a bento-style box decorated with trails of cherry blossom and an evocative haiku.

TOP: Ginger, white tea and cardamom 'I Am Coming Home' eau de parfum by Floraïku
RIGHT: Floraïku's eau de parfums 'My Love Has the Colour of the Night', patchouli, gaiac wood and vetiver; 'Sleeping on the Roof', lily of the valley, orange blossom and amber musk
BELOW: 'First Dream of the Year', grapefruit, orange blossom and iris; 'In the Rain', bergamot, cedar and woody musk (a twelfth scent launched this March) 
£250 each for 50ml, 10ml refill and purse spray

Floraïku's range is divided into three themes or ‘ceremonies’: Enigmatic FlowersSecret Teas and Spices and Forbidden Incense, housed in navy blue, white and black bottles respectively. Highlights include ‘My Love Has the Colour of the Night’, a dusky blend of gaiac wood, patchouli and vetiver, and the ethereal ‘First Dream of the Year’, which combines grapefruit, orange blossom and iris. Offering clever layering, two 'Shadowing' scents, in red bottles, are intended to be sprayed near any scent in the collection to either lighten and freshen it ('Sleeping on the Roof') or darken and intensify the fragrance ('Between Two Trees').

ABOVE: Sample the scent range over a cup of seasonal tea at the perfume bar at Floraïku's Japanese-influenced London boutique at Harrods' Salon de Parfums. All fragrances contain more than 50 per cent natural ingredients and are refillable

We love the individual illustrations designed for each scent by French artist Victoire Cathalan, drawing on watercolours and Indian inks and printed on the bottle's fabric-covered cap, which doubles as a travel or purse spray. The brand opened its first boutique at Harrods’ Salon de Parfums, based on a traditional Japanese ryokan, or inn, and decorated with straw, silk and marble. New York's Saks Fifth Avenue also welcomed Floraïku to its new beauty floor this May, bringing zen serenity to the city that never sleeps.
us.floraiku.com


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SHIRO
We’ve long admired Japanese design for its ruthless simplicity and attention to detail – but it’s not just its furniture and buildings that display these qualities. Japanese skincare is growing in popularity in the west, and in response stylish brand Shiro has opened a boutique on London’s Kings Road – its first anywhere outside Japan. Recently two more stores launched on Covent Garden's Monmouth Street and St Christopher's Place off Oxford Street. The pale white and wood spaces display products beautifully packaged in frosted and white glass: the body and fragrance range is our highlight, in particular the jasmine-scented fabric conditioner (£25). Skin-softening ‘sake kasu’, a by-product of the sake production process rich in rice protein, is a key ingredient for the brand, alongside other traditional oriental extracts like adzuki bean, known for its cleansing properties, and moisterising 'gagome kombu', derived from kelp.
shiro-shiro.jp; shiro-shiro.uk

ABOVE: Japanese skincare brand Shiro's minimal products including 'Adzuki Soap', £16; 'Kombu Skin Serum', £68; and 'Sake Kasu Facial Cream', £78


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'HWYL' BY AESOP
Given the array of wonderful aromas in Aesop skincare products, it’s surprising to think that it only has three perfumes in its collection. But the Australian-born brand works at its own pace, only launching new scents when it is ready. Accordingly, the third fragrance, 'Hwyl' (pronounced ‘hoo-will’), has only recently emerged. Created with hip young French perfumer Barnabé Fillion, it’s a real cultural mishmash, with the name coming from old Welsh – a somewhat intangible word that variously means emotional fervour, nature, and temper or mood – and the composition influenced by Japan. ‘My inspiration was walking among 300-year-old Hiba trees in an ancient Japanese forest and experiencing the country’s lush temple moss gardens,’ says Fillion, who has conjured an intensely green scent with notes of thyme, cypress, woods, vetiver and frankincense. ‘It captures the feeling of solitude and refuge in nature,’ he adds. Unassumingly packaged in amber glass with seductive plant imagery by Australian generative artist Jonathan McCabe inside the sleek grey-green box, this cool, verdant scent is sure to be a hit.
aesop.com

ABOVE: Minimal, unisex 'Hwyl' eau de parfum by Aesop features smoky notes, subtle spice and dark green earthy accords. £83 for 50ml eau de parfum
BELOW: A film shares the fragrance's Japanese forest inspirations

Paul Schütze Perfume

Powerful memories of place and time inform the perfumes of Paul Schütze. Savour the moment...

BY AMY BRADFORD

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London-based Australian artist Paul Schütze is a bit of a Renaissance man. Originally a film composer and musician, he moved into the art world in 2000, when he created a sound and film installation for the Hayward Gallery’s 'Sonic Boom' exhibition. In 2015, Schütze crafted three fragrances for the city's Sir John Soane's Museum, diffused into the historic interior during a candlelit nocturnal event.

TOP: Paul Schütze Perfume's trio of new eau de parfums including 'Behind the Rain', 'Cirebon' and 'Tears of Eros', £135 for 50ml
ABOVE RIGHT: Composer-turned-perfume creator Paul Schütze
BELOW:
Glad to be grey... the smart minimal packaging sports a flash of colour to match the coloured labels on the elegant glass bottles; purple for 'Behind the Rain', black for 'Tears Of Eros' and mandarin for 'Cirebon'

Now he’s changing tack again, launching the Paul Schütze Perfume label. He’s designed three wearable unisex perfumes by employing the same technique he uses as an artist. Each scent is an attempt to embody a memory: 'Tears of Eros' recalls an evening in Schütze’s Paris studio, when incense had been burning and a discarded clementine peel and a blooming hyacinth sat on his desk; 'Cirebon' evokes a trip to Java with the aroma of lemongrass and tamarind; and 'Behind the Rain' remembers a visit to Greece when a rainstorm released the scent of fir trees. Simple grey and clear glass packaging, teamed with graphic labels in purple, mandarin and black with silver, allow these modern masterpieces to speak for themselves.
paulschutzeperfume.com 

Paul Schütze Perfume is available now from Liberty London libertylondon.com

Penhaligon's – 'Portraits'

British fragrance house Penhaligon's has used animal heads to characterise a fictitious aristocratic family in its new 'Portraits' collection. Lady Mary would approve...

BY AMY BRADFORD

You wouldn’t be surprised to spot a classic Penhaligon’s fragrance on the dressing table of any of the Downton Abbey ladies, so it feels fitting that the British heritage perfumer has taken inspiration from a similar aristocratic sphere for its new ‘Portraits’ collection. Described by the brand as ‘the first olfactive fiction’, it’s a set of four perfumes, each of which embodies the ambivalent character of a member of an imaginary family. Thus the patriarch ‘Lord George’ is a masculine mix of rum and tonka bean, while his wife ‘Lady Blanche’ is a ‘green floral narcotic’ reflecting her secret scheme to poison her unfaithful husband! Each character in this colourful universe is represented by a different golden bottle stopper that might be said to represent their animal spirit – Lord George, for instance, is a majestic stag. Last but not least, the ornate packaging by Icelandic-born, UK-based artist Kristjana S Williams conjures up a magical world by interweaving fragments of Victorian engravings with contemporary illustration.

ABOVE AND ABOVE RIGHT: The 'Portraits' Collection, £175 for 75ml

Find this extravagant collection at Penhaligon’s newly unveiled flagship store in London’s Regent Street, designed by architectural studio Al-Jawad Pike. It came about after the studio created a window display for the store, which won a RIBA Award for Best Window Installation in 2014. Inspired by the brand’s original boutique in St James, English panelled rooms and the art of fragrance making, it features an elegant curved frontage, intricate floor and wood-clad walls.
penhaligons.com