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