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

Byredo – 'Unnamed'

Created in 2016 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Swedish fragrance house Byredo, the limited edition ‘Unnamed’ perfume is back. Enjoy it while you can…

BY CLAIRE BINGHAM

The paradigms of perfume are shifting. It’s less cool to buy into a campaign image. It’s cooler to buy into niche. It’s extra cool to buy into a perfume when you don’t even know its smell. Or at least you do, but you have to identify it for yourself.

Always ahead of the curve, Swedish cult brand Byredo has relaunched its limited edition fragrance ‘Unnamed’. Back by popular demand, the perfume is literally unnamed – the point being to create olfactory associations of your own. Scent is subjective, after all, so this allows for your own thoughtful interpretations to flex their might. Minus ingredient cues, minus advertising, simply how does it make you feel?

Clever to the core, Byredo founder and creative director Ben Gorham has left the white label of ‘Unnamed’ blank, so you can call it whatever you like. The scent comes with a set of chic black transfers, including the letters of the alphabet, numbers, punctuation marks, symbols and signs, so you can add your own monogrammed title or just handwrite a name in the space. This is hyper-personalisation, courageous, creative and open to ideas. 

‘The names of the Byredo fragrances often describe the origin of an idea, a thought that leads to a brief presented to the perfumer,’ explains Gorham. ‘With fragrance being completely subjective these names spark the imagination of the perfumer and finally the customer. They each experience the fragrance even before they smell the ingredients in the bottle. We still find it fascinating that people interpret our fragrances in so many ways.’

Gorham continues: ‘To celebrate Byredo’s 10-year anniversary we created an unnamed fragrance that allows our customers to choose a name meaningful to them, and customise the label of their bottle. This is our way of celebrating the notion and uniqueness of smell and an opportunity to thank our partners, retailers and staff as well as the loyal customers who have supported and grown Byredo to what it is today.’

For people interested in the different messages it is possible to get across through perfume, and the effect it has on how we live and think, this concept is for you. For me, this fragrance is all violets and soft suede. I just need to work on the name…
byredo.co.uk

‘Unnamed’ eau de parfum re-edition, £160 for 100ml, is available now from select retailers and byredo.co.uk

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

Abel – 'Vita Odor'

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Design the world's best natural perfume? Amsterdam-born scent house Abel was ready, willing and able

BY AMY BRADFORD

Is it possible to create a completely natural perfume that’s as sophisticated as conventional scents made using synthetic ingredients? That was the question New Zealand former winemaker Frances Shoemack (top right) asked herself when she decided to devise Abel’s ‘Vita Odor’ (Living Fragrance) collection.

After seeing a film of Isaac Sinclair (below right) – the only master perfumer ever to hail from Australasia – talking about the similarities between wine-making and perfumery, she enlisted the Auckland-born, Sao Paulo-based talent as her creative partner. Together, the pair have crafted five extraordinary scents that take the concept of natural fragrance beyond the realms of hippiedom and elevate it to the status of haute parfumerie (the understated bottle design amplifies the effect).

BELOW: Abel's collection of five 'Vita Odor' eau de parfums combine 21st-century technology with fine natural ingredients. From left, 'Grey Labdanum', 'Cobalt Amber', 'Golden Neroli', 'White Vetiver' and 'Red Santal', from £45 each for 15ml; £98 for 50ml

All have short formulas that showcase the fine quality of the ingredients used: 'Cobalt Amber' is a delicious gourmand fragrance with cardamom, cacao and tonka bean, while 'Red Santal' captures the spiciness of clove and ginger and the milky freshness of sandalwood. Our favourite, though, is 'Golden Neroli' (left), a luscious honeyed floral with a top note of matcha tea. The genius of the perfumer lies in using isolates – fragrance notes extracted from natural ingredients using fractional distillation – that stand in for synthetic aromas. For example, an isolate from the ambrette seed smells like deer musk, now banned in its natural form and toxic in synthetic imitations. This new, natural musk note enables the perfumes to last all day on the skin. Clever, non?

Minimal packaging design (above) for the unisex 'Vita Odor' collection is equally chic, created in collaboration with Amsterdam's Atelier Joachim Baan, with subtle glimpses of colour on white boxes tying in with each scent. The sleek, modern bottles pay homage to Abel's commitment to natural materials, and are an exercise in low-key luxury.
abelodor.com


Abel's 'Vita Odor' range is available in the UK from roullierwhite.com