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

Behind the scenes at Diptyque

We go behind the scenes at Diptyque, famous for its elegant scented candles, as the French label celebrates the 50th anniversary of its first fragrance

BY AMY BRADFORD

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In 2018, Diptyque celebrates the 50th anniversary of its debut fragrance, the ground-breaking 'L'Eau', launched in 1968. The first unisex scent, inspired by its heady revolutionary era, it drew on a Renaissance recipe of spices, clove and cinnamon. To mark the occasion, the French luxury label has launched two new perfumes: 'Fleur de Peau' (a seductive floral featuring iris, musk and ambrette seeds) and 'Tempo' (a woody mix of patchouli and violet leaf), nods both to the Sixties and that original feisty fragrance. What better time to go behind the scenes at this much-loved perfume and home fragrance brand, respected as much for its iconic designs as its artfully crafted scents?

Diptyque’s jumbo-sized scented candles, packaged in ceramic holders, are probably the most covetable of all its many products. An investment buy at €230 (or £200 in the UK), they weigh a hefty 1.5kg and burn for up to 150 hours. Recently, Diptyque has updated the colours of these candles to make them even more beautiful, with ‘Tubéreuse’ available in a glossy plum-coloured vessel and ‘Figuier’ in a vivid green. There’s also a new large version of the brand’s best-selling ‘34’ fragrance in matt and glossy white.

TOP: Diptyque's two new scents for 2018, 'Fleur de Peau' and 'Tempo', channelling the swinging Sixties; £115 for 75ml. ABOVE RIGHT: This year is the 50th anniversary of the brand's first fragrance, the genderless 'L'Eau', adorned with a signature illustrated label.

As with everything at Diptyque, the story behind the product is as interesting as the end result. We were lucky enough to travel to the South of France to see the ceramic candle vessels being made, at the factory of Virebent, a pottery that has been making porcelain and stoneware since 1924. Set in the picturesque Lot valley, on the outskirts of the historic town of Puy-l’Evêque, Virebent started off making industrial ceramics, but branched out into decorative pottery in the 1960s (it now makes porcelain lighting and tableware for cult French brand Tsé & Tsé Associées, among others; if you’re in Puy-l’Evêque, be sure to visit its excellent factory shop).

ABOVE: Diptyque recently updated the colours of its large scented candles, adding plum-hued 'Tubéreuse' and white '34 Boulevard Saint Germain' to the range. BELOW: Outsize scented candle 'Figuier' now comes in gorgeous green, or opt for investment buy 'Baies' in black. All are suitable for indoors or outside.

At the Virebent workshop, a small band of dedicated artisans lovingly craft the candle vessels by hand, pouring liquid stoneware into moulds and then leaving them to air dry once they have set (this process takes at least two days, even in warm, dry weather). After that, the vessels are spray-enamelled and taken off to the kiln to bake – any that don’t emerge with a perfectly rich, even depth of colour in their glaze are ground down and recycled as sand (Diptyque inspectors approve or reject every single one). As for the scented wax? That is poured at another factory altogether, which means each giant candle has been on its own long journey before it makes its way to the shop floor and, in turn, to you. If you buy one of these candles, you’re investing in not just one kind of French craftsmanship, but several. Why not splash out? Perhaps for your own special anniversary...
diptyqueparis.fr  diptyqueparis.co.uk  virebent.com  tse-tse.com

BELOW: A video celebrating the 50th anniversary of the brand's first perfume. We also liked these Diptyque Facebook videos sharing the artwork behind 2018 scents 'Fleur de Peau' (illustrated by Dimitri Rybaltchenko) and 'Tempo(illustrated by Safia Ouares); click fragrance names to see the films

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

Taxi Fabric

The Fizz goes for a ride in Mumbai and Delhi's incredible pattern-tastic taxis and rickshaws. All aboard!

BY DEE IVA

If you’ve caught a taxi in Mumbai or Delhi in the past year you might have noticed that the interiors have moved on from worn out plain leather, velveteen and traditional intricate illustrations. There’s now a whole new wave of Indian designers putting their stamp on India’s taxis, bringing a bright, fresh and contemporary vibe to your ride around town.

Based in Mumbai, Taxi Fabric was founded in 2015 by art director Sanket Avlani to form a platform for local designers to use symbols and stories from the city to create new designs for its fleet of taxis. Artful typography, Bollywood stars, Mumbai art deco architecture and heroic female figures are just some of the images that now adorn the interiors of both Mumbai and Delhi’s taxis. 

ABOVE: 'Bombay Deco' by Sarah Fotheringham and Maninder Singh of Safomasi is the result of a collaboration with Architectural Digest India and Taxi Fabric
ABOVE RIGHT: Taxi Fabric founder and curator Sanket Avlani

ABOVE FROM TOP: 'Pitter Patter' by Chithkala Ramesh references India's rainy season; Aniruddh Mehta's monochrome 'Auto Chaos' rickshaw designs; Under the influence of ultraviolet lighting with 'Nocturnal' by Aditi Dash

Each design is digitally printed on fabric and then applied to seating, doors and ceiling to create an immersive design experience. Whether you’re feeling the force of Chithkala Ramesh’s Indian monsoon,  or tripping out under Aditi Dash’s psychedelic UV installation, it’s one cab ride you won’t forget in a hurry. Unusually for a continent known for its searing colours, monochrome has also made its mark in striking geometric designs by Aniruddh Mehta, who used a mix of rhomboids, triangles, stripes and dots to create an optically stimulating architectural interior in one of Mumbai’s motorised rickshaws. To celebrate the fourth anniversary of Architectural Digest India, Mehta was one of four designers chosen by ADI to devise architecturally inspired interiors with Taxi Fabric.  

ABOVE FROM TOP: Inspirational female activists and freedom fighters are captured in 'Celebrating Women Leaders' by Kruttika Susarla; Taxi Fabric's first collection of textile designs for the home

Originally started as a Kickstarter campaign, Taxi Fabric is now branching out into textiles for the home, with colourful graphic fabrics suitable for upholstery and soft furnishings. Beautifully drawn, we're hoping to see them popping up around the globe in 2017. Keep your eyes peeled and watch this space…
taxifabric.org

Pictures: Architectural Digest India, Amey Kadam, Sanskar Sawant, Pulat Bhatnagar, Taxi Fabric

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.