St Giles

We chat to scentaholic Michael Donovan, champion of cult fragrance labels, about his own London perfume brand St Giles...

BY AMY BRADFORD

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Passions run high in the perfume world: spend half an hour talking to a serious scentaholic and you’re likely to encounter a level of knowledge and enthusiasm that might be considered geekish if it weren’t so chic. One such person is Michael Donovan (right), who, as founder of perfumery Roullier White and PR firm Profile, has championed an array of cult scent brands including Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, D.S. & Durga and Ideo Parfumeurs (all of which you have read about in DesignFizz's Looking Glass beauty section over the years). Now, Donovan has poured 20 years of love and expertise into his own perfume collection, St Giles (named after the London parish of St Giles where he was born), launched in December 2017.

Created with French master nose Bertrand Duchaufour, it consists of five scents, each designed to answer this thorny question: how does a fragrance make you feel? ‘Having listened to the difficulties that journalists face when writing about fragrance – and owning a perfumery myself – I realised that this important question is almost never addressed,’ Donovan explains. ‘It’s what we all really want to know. Perfume is not a shopping list of ingredients nor an ephemeral title hinting at desirability. We are all multi-faceted personalities and need an olfactory wardrobe that is multi-functional and fulfils the needs of our daily lives – a scent to make us feel empowered and successful, inspired, glamorous or stylish.’

Donovan’s elegance and wit come through in all five scents, which also exude originality – when you’ve smelled as many perfumes as he and Duchaufour have, you know how to bring something new to the party. ‘The Actress’, for instance, is an alluring narcotic floral based on oriental lily. Gorgeously creamy from the outset, it gradually reveals layers of sensual warmth in the form of jasmine, honeysuckle, sandalwood and musk. What makes it unique, though, is the addition of pear and vanilla-custard notes, which bring a truly addictive sweetness. If the Dance of the Seven Veils could be incarnated as a scent, this would be it.

At the other end of the scale is ‘The Writer’, a woody-leather accord with a cool, dark intensity. A tribute to great prose, it includes notes such as rosemary, rhubarb and clary sage that are reputed to stimulate the intellect (tests have shown that exposure to rosemary essential oil improves performance in memory tests by several percentage points). ‘It’s not aromatherapy, but I like the idea of being cleverer when I wear it,’ says Donovan.

The remaining scents take their place in your scent arsenal thus: ‘The Mechanic’ is, as Donovan says, the magnetic ‘sex scent’, a feverishly erotic blend of geranium, patchouli, leather and musk, with allusions to hot rubber and engine fuel. ‘The Tycoon’ is the ‘power scent’: a fizzy green chypre with dynamic citrus notes and a steely heart of black pepper, woody cypriol, tea and labdanum. Last but not least, ‘The Stylist’ is all about feeling well put-together, with a dash of eccentricity. The opening of sparkling aldehydes and bitter-orange bigarade is as clean and crisp as a tailored white shirt, but notes of mango, rum and creamy vanilla inject real flamboyance.

Donovan designed the Twenties-influenced grey glass flacons himself, as well as the black crystal stopper, which he had sandblasted for extra tactility ‘and to stop it from slipping out of your hands’ – too many expensive scents are spoiled by cheap bottle caps, he says. All in all, this is a very impressive debut – we counsel you to spritz it and see.
stgilesfinefragrance.com

'St Giles' eau de parfum, £130 each for 100ml; also available at Selfridges selfridges.com

Graham & Brown

Tempting damasks, prints with attitude and a new angle on trompe l’oeil. It’s time to dust off your decorator’s trestle – patterned walls are back as we turn our spotlight on Graham & Brown...

BY CLAIRE BINGHAM

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It isn’t entirely a coincidence that as our autumn wardrobes are going all seductive with richly textured fabrics, dark florals and a whole lot of bling, our homes are similarly morphing into something more spectacular. Velvet has surfaced as an important trend, as have jacquard brocades and romantic prints. So, it is perhaps no surprise that damask, despite its vaguely housewifey air, has unexpectedly begun to creep back into our homes. A velvet and damask cushion here, a silk-tasseled lampshade there... In fact, it was only after a recent trip to Graham & Brown, the British wallpaper powerhouse, that we were realised how fashionable the old Dame had become.

Damask, like a good velvet blazer, is opulent without being OTT. Often in silver and a pleasing ornamental design, it adds splendour to a room in an easy, normcore way. To be fair, we have long been admirers of damask – ever since the cool duo at Glasgow-born design studio Timorous Beasties added their subversive twist to the pattern – so it is with glad tidings we (tentatively) welcome it back.

ABOVE: 'Portuguese Tile' (middle print) is a sea of rich greens
ABOVE RIGHT: Trompe l'oeil reigns in 'Creased Up'
BELOW: 'Burlesque White' damask by Julien Macdonald

ABOVE: 'Paradox' wall mural by Kelly Hoppen and Dynamo

Graham & Brown has stacks of knockout looks for Autumn/Winter 2016. The UK wallpaper company’s wide-reaching style stems from the passion of Mr Graham and Mr Brown who founded the business in 1946. Never losing sight of its family-run values – today, two of their grandsons still lead the firm – an impressive 50% of its workforce has been with the company for over 25 years. Rolling out wallpaper from its Blackburn-based HQ to a global clientele, G&B also collaborates with luminaries, including Kelly Hoppen and Marcel Wanders, whose contemporary designs bring a little 21st-century sparkle to the mix.

ABOVE: 'Brian Eno Flower Mask' abstract prints; 'Fresco Palm' 

Of the designer cahoots, the new Brian Eno abstract print is one of our faves. There’s a cool new green 'Portuguese Tile' print, a fab gold spot and hidden away in the design studio, the Spring 2017 Kelly Hoppen designs are looking extremely swish. The company has also started doing murals which, at a starting price of £80 for a 3 x 2.5 metre piece, we think is really good value for a picture wall.  

BELOW FROM TOP: 'Dotty Gold'; 'Marbled Black and Grey'

Lose your fear. Try the heavily embossed, silver 'Metallic Tile' on the ceiling. Impress your floral-obsessed friends at dinner with the tropical 'Fresco Palm', or opt for opulence with the gloriously swirly 'Marbled Black and Grey'. Whether you go for graphic, glittery or a mash-up of damask and encaustic tiles, now's the time to get your wallpaper swag on...
grahamandbrown.com

Creative CoOp

Promoting yourself isn't easy when you're a young designer with big ideas but strapped for cash. The Fizz meets Creative CoOp who are helping up-and-coming design and crafts talents make their mark...

BY DEE IVA

You can be an amazing designer with beautiful products that astound the eye or promise to enrich our lives, but in the 21st century you also need your work to be seen in the best possible light. In the age of social media the image is king and a great shot is a powerful marketing tool. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter et al are full of selfies and phone snaps, but there’s nothing like a professional picture to separate the wheat from the chaff. However, if you’re a start-up or in your first year of business a professional shoot can be beyond your means as the cost of a photographer, stylist, set builder and set is very expensive.

Step forward the London-based Creative CoOp, a philanthropic collective dedicated to providing young UK creative businesses with professionally shot, art directed and styled photographs for a nominal fee. The team consists of photographer Anders Gramer, stylist Melinda Ashton Turner and her husband, art director Grant Turner. Having worked for a raft of international magazines and retail brands, including The World Of Interiors, Homes and Gardens and ELLE Decoration, they decided to pool their respective talents and volunteer their services to help up-and-coming design talents get a foot on the ladder.

ABOVE RIGHT: A handcrafted leather bag by Ted Jefferis of TedWood gets the Creative CoOp treatment
BELOW: Textile designer Maxine Sutton's graphic lampshade and cushions; Minimal styling and Expressionist lighting bring drama to Young & Norgate's 'Animate' writing desk 

‘The idea came about during a conversation about the UK design industry and how there are so many talented up-and-coming designer-makers, crafts people and brands who struggle to be seen or heard above the noise of big established brands,’ says Ashton Turner. ‘We are talking about designers who in addition to their core training have to learn to market and publicise their products. Big brands have the financial means to employ or hire a team of people to take on these responsibilities. It was at this point we asked ourselves what we as a photographer, stylist and art director could do to level the playing field and help young, small brands be seen.’

Having worked together on numerous shoots over the years, she and Gramer decided to set up the Creative CoOp with her husband Grant to do exactly that. The CoOp was formed in 2013 and began to invite young brands to apply for their services.

ABOVE FROM LEFT: The Creative CoOp founders: Melinda Ashton Turner, Grant Turner, Anders Gramer

‘We had to be very clear about the criteria that applicants had to meet in order for us to work with them,’ says Ashton Turner. ‘In essence, the CoOp is aimed at brands and designer-makers who don’t have the financial means or support to create styled imagery or branding. We often have to ask in-depth questions about how a brand is structured to ensure we are offering our services to those who need us most.'

ABOVE: Simple and elegant bone china vessels by ceramicist Hannah MorrowDesinature's 'Lily' lampshade

For a flat fee of £200 those lucky enough to be selected receive a package that includes not only the photography, styling, design and art direction of the Creative CoOp but also studio hire, transport of products and props, set building, and materials like paint and wallpaper. The CoOp has a network of like-minded companies, such as Shoot Services and London Art Makers, which donate their services or materials for free in return for a credit and publicity on Creative CoOp’s social media channels. In addition, the final images are then given to Elizabeth Machin PR which compiles press releases ready to be sent out to members of the media.

The CoOp's first client was Margate-based textile designer Maxine Sutton who approached them after seeing a post on the Cockpit Arts blog. 'This is wonderful professional nurturing,' she says. 'Such a high level of expertise, providing this type of support at the start of your career or when relaunching, could make a real difference. The shoot was also a very enjoyable day – lovely people who are really good at what they do'. Sutton’s graphic textiles are now stocked by big retail brands including Liberty, Heal’s and Anthropologie and she has her own standalone store in UK coastal town Margate, itself a rising design hotspot.

BELOW: This overhead shot for British paper goods and homewares brand HAM brings the hand of the maker into focus

It’s an inspiring concept that makes a huge difference to emerging talents. Design graduates in particular can find it hard to make ends meet in their first few years in business, and marketing and publicity is something that many struggle with. What Creative CoOp offers would otherwise be out of reach for most young creatives as a day’s shoot can often amount to well over £1,000 before the first image has even been taken. Even more incredible is that none of the CoOp’s members make any money themselves from the business.

‘Individually we are lucky enough to make a living working in our respective fields for international publications and brands,’ says Ashton Turner. ‘We wanted to give back to the community we loved, so the simple answer was to volunteer our services.'

We think it's an admirable idea deserving of an award for services to the design industry. Ma'am, are you listening?
creativecoop.co.uk

New Faces for 2015

In an uncertain world one thing is for sure, UK design talent continues to deliver fresh ideas and energy to a diverse and rapidly expanding market. We take a look at some of the brightest new designers in town...

BY DEE IVA

Every year a new army of design talent is unleashed on the world. The colleges and universities exhibit their graduates and then turn to the next batch of hopefuls. Now 2015's shows have been and gone and the dust has settled, we profile those designers whose work made us stop, look and listen.

Part 1 features eye-catching wallpaper, lighting and accessories and thought-provoking furniture. The future is already here...


HEBA ALHAWSAUI Birmingham City University

Two worlds collide in the work of Saudi Arabian wallpaper and textile designer Heba Alhawsaui. For her final year project 'Planning Geometrics', Alhawsaui harnessed the beauty of Islamic geometrics and infused them with a massive dose of modern European flair. 

Her abstract compositions are held together by a strict colour palette of black, white and yellow. Some designs are simple monochromatic fields displaying sketchy shapes and almost rubbed-out lines while others are very sharply drawn with kaleidoscopic precision. We love the way she adds 3D elements to some of her wallpapers; one multi-layered design, with barely glimpsed faces and a hazy mix of textures and patterns, drops enigmatic hints of tales yet to be told. 

'I enjoy creating designs that tell a story. I chose black because it emphasises the mystery of the Islamic geometric system and added accents of yellow for contrast and to give the collection a very contemporary feel.' 

Alhawsaui is hoping to work in Saudi Arabia for a couple of years before returning to the UK to do her Masters degree. With work like this, we don't think she'll need to...
Course: BA (Hons) Textile Design
heba.alhawsaui@gmail.com


GERALDINE BIARD Central Saint Martins

'Jardin d'Hiver', which means Winter Garden, is a range of furniture by French designer Geraldine Biard that tackles a serious and growing problem in society today. Her collection consists of a bedside cabinet, sideboard and console table that aim to alleviate the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer's disease through the use of light and aromatherapy.

Each unit is made from walnut with copper handles and feet but the main attraction is the softly moulded Corian surface designed to resemble a wintery mountain range. This snowy landscape contains a glow-in-the-dark illustration of a peaceful rural scene. A small diffuser emits bursts of soothing scents from the sculpted peaks on the top.

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Biard hopes that this combination of aromatherapy and light therapy inside simple and familiar pieces of furniture will help to ease anxiety and offer comfort to people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's. 'I worked with people with dementia in a psycho-geriatric hospital in Switzerland,' says Biard, 'and I noticed that in addition to anxiety caused by the disease, the care environment itself can be another source of stress for the residents. It appeared to me that with no medical cure, the best way to address the problem was to provide a better way of life through design. With this collection I aim to establish new standards for design excellence in dementia care and to invite designers across the globe to reflect on this growing problem.' 

Stylistically 'Jardin d'Hiver' ticks a lot of boxes but what we love about it most is that it shows design has a heart. Geraldine, we hear you, and this ingenious collection definitely deserves to go into production.
Course: MA Ceramics, Furniture & Jewellery
geraldinebiard.com


BEN SMITH Nottingham Trent University

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Ben Smith's 'Apex' desk lamp is a simple, effective and witty study in folded Corian. Its low centre of gravity makes it seem slightly off balance, the pale folded sheets echo the art of origami while the retro red flex gives a nod to lighting fixtures from a bygone age.

At first glance it appears to be one piece of Corian folded three times but closer inspection reveals it to be two separate pieces jointed together allowing its height to be adjusted easily. A single line of embedded LEDs provides clean, even lighting.

Smith's streamlined, geometric style has surfaced before in designs for sofas, clothes rails (for Paul Smith) and staircases. He's a fan of A-list starchitect Zaha Hadid, whose use of abstract geometry often serves as a starting point for Smith's own creations.

Smith is hoping to put 'Apex' into production in time for Christmas. We're already looking forward to eagerly unwrapping one on Christmas morning, aren't you?
Course: BA (Hons) Furniture & Product Design
www.bensmithdesign.net


ELIZABETH HANDFORTH Sheffield Hallam University

South America and Sheffield might be poles apart but both cultures have played a major part in Elizabeth Handforth’s life. Originally from Whitstable, at the age of five she visited her mother’s family in Argentina and Paraguay where she encountered colour and strong geometric patterns. In her late teens, she moved to Sheffield where she came under the spell of the city's modernist architecture. Handforth's subsequent fascination with all things metallic has been informed by these early influences which can be seen in the way she presses and moulds precious metals to create unusual yet beautiful pieces that retain the marks of the manufacturing process.

'Metal has 'out of space' characteristics,' says Handforth. 'Objects that I cherish include a stainless steel kidney dish, which has such a sweeping, modern, utilitarian beauty, and my grandfather's red copper ashtray, which is rough and meteoric. Metal makes me ask questions about what man- made is, and leads to other questions such as 'Is that possible?', 'Is it natural?', 'Is it supernatural?''

Where other designers might take time to smooth out any trace of the production process, Handforth often embraces the imperfections and makes a virtue of them. She loves the way the metals flow into and over casts, playing with form and texture, allowing the tools to leave their imprint on the finished pieces. Her 'Britannia' dish (first image above) is the result of pressing the silver into two mis-aligned squares at an angle. Simple and effective, no further embellishment is needed.

Handforth will be setting up shop at Yorkshire Artspace in September, where she'll have her own studio to carry on shaping and mis-shaping metal to her heart's content. Between Friday 20 and Sunday 22 November, Artspace's Open Studios welcomes the public so stop in and say hello. You're bound to come out with a unique hand-finished design from Sheffield's newest star.
Course: BA (Hons) Jewellery & Metalwork
elizabethhandforth.wix.com


SHERIF MAKTABI Central Saint Martins

The proliferation of smartphones and tablets with their ever increasing appetites for energy has spawned a secondary industry in charging devices. Portable chargers have been with us for a while now but there’s a growing trend towards ‘invisible’ chargers that masquerade as furniture or accessories in the home. For his final year project on the BA Product Design course at Central Saint Martins, Sherif Maktabi tackled the problem of unsightly cables and sockets by designing a sleek tray that charges your smartphone or tablet while also providing storage for other small everyday items.

The tray was Maktabi’s response to a brief set by Japanese lifestyle retailer MUJI which asked students to design products for urban living where space is at a premium. The tray is designed to integrate with MUJI’s existing storage containers and to be discreet and unobtrusive. Made of ABS plastic, it cleverly conceals the USB charger and can double as a small side table when used with a chrome-plated stand. 

Maktabi is currently working as a designer and strategist for Kano.me which develops kits so you can make your own computer. We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled to see what this tech-savvy designer does next as he’s obviously sooo on trend right now.
Course: BA (Hons) Product Design
sherifmaktabi.com

See our previous post on IKEA's recent range of wireless charging furniture here.