Perfume addicts know what it is like to experience fragrance burnout; there is simply a point in time where you feel like you’ve been there, done that and sniffed it all. With hundreds of fragrances released each year (and 90 percent of them smelling identical) the search for something original can be long and arduous. Byredo Perfumes provides a welcome break from the usual suspects; their lineup of atypical scents with names like Baudelaire, Gypsy Water and Bal d’Afrique, is easily among the most exciting range of scents I’ve come across recently. Factor in the collaborations with both Fantastic Man and Acne and you have the makings of the hippest niche brand on the scene.
Byredo & Acne Candle, Lilla Nygatan 23
Cool points rarely mean gravitas, but Byredo has both; there are many lines that boast unusual ingredients or strange combinations, none can match the crisp freshness of Byredo; one spray of the aptly titled, Green is akin to walking through a garden of sage, spritz Pulp and you can almost taste the sweetness of ripe blood oranges. There is something wholly addictive about the way in which they manage to radiate that rawness that comes with natural smells.
The bottle of La Tulipe sitting on my dresser
Created ex-basketball player Ben Gorham (read the fascinating story of his move from sports to perfuming here) the line is chock full of winners. Personally, I am partial to the zest of the aforementioned Green, as well as their quintessentially Spring fragrance, La Tulipe, but there really is something for everyone.
With every celebrity and design house rushing to get into the fragrance game, the thought of yet another new perfume seems mundane. Does the world really need another indistinguishable flanker or tepid, pink pepper filled blend? Probably not. Outside of the niche sector there have been only been a handful of releases worth talking about. There are however, a few labels who can still capture our imagination; the news of a Balenciaga fragrance, the first under Nicolas Ghesquire’s direction, is something compelling.
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Editions de Parfums, has made a place for itself in the niche perfume market creating scents that encapsulate the personalities of their wearers. Rather than going for the populist satisfaction of creating a crowd-pleaser Frederic Malle and his coterie of renowned perfumers have dedicated themselves to the art of individuality. Every fragrance within the Malle line is a study in contradiction. From the powder coated, syrupy girlishness of Lipstick Rose to the sharp almost fermented sparkle of Angéliques sous la pluie – these are perfumes with presence and as such they provoke strong, often divisive reactions.
Reaction to the brand’s latest offering, the complex Das Tes Bras is sure to be polarizing – some will find it’s heady skin scent unforgettable while others will find it unforgivable. There is something wonderfully intimate about the composition of Dans Tes Bras, unlike it’s hot-blooded sister scent Musc Ravaguer, it doesn’t automatically scream sex. There is a carnality to be found in the combination of cashmeren (a woody molecule that gives DTB it’s mystery), musk, violet and bergamot – a ribald yet hidden factor that makes the aroma sensual but it refrains from ever becoming overt. The pleasures are real but they are exceedingly personal – the scent stays close to the body and mimics it’s rich intricacy. There is salt, there is sweat and then there is the delicate sweetness and familiarity of a lover’s embrace. It may seem histrionic to call a perfume an emotional experience but for some wearers it may be just that.
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Designer perfumes rarely live up to their hype – millions of dollars worth of ad space and purple prose copywriting can make even the most banal scent seem scintillating but the proof is in the juice. No matter how many celebrities or big name brands associate themselves with the product it all boils down to the personal interaction of fragrance and body chemistry – the nose knows.
One designer who recognizes the importance of actual quality in fragrance is Tom Ford. His first solo scent Black Orchid, was an uncompromising love it or hate it sensual gourmand that stood out like a beacon amidst the seemingly endless parade of fruity florals. Even those who didn’t like Black Orchid had to respect its visionary commitment. Not since Thierry Mugler’s inimitable Angel has a mainstream fragrance conjured such a glaring image of candied carnality.
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Celebrities invading fashion advertising space is not a new phenomenon, particularly in the world of fragrance. In the 80s Catherine Deneuve represented Chanel No. 5, while Carole Bouquet repped the brand’s signature scents throughout the 90s. Fashion has always enjoyed borrowing a little celebrity glamour to hawk its more mainstream goods – however in the past the connection between brand and representative was relatively clear cut. Who better to embody the quintessentially French glamour of Chanel than two iconic Parisians? The advertisements didn’t rely on the celebrity of their pitchwomen – instead they capitalized on the implicit connection between the brand’s vision and the allure of its representatives.
This brings us to Justin Timberlake’s new collaboration with Givenchy for the soon to be released “Play” fragrance. With its iPhone-esque bottle and musical name Timberlake seems like a fairly adept choice. However, once you scratch the surface one finds the collaboration is hollow. What if anything at all does Justin Timberlake have to do with Givenchy? With his suits with sneakers aesthetic and b-boy poseur look he does little to conjure either the neo-goth meets couture stylings of Ricardo Tisci or the more pared down look of Givenchy’s current menswear line. Even the Tom Munro photographs with their shots of J.T. in a leer jet and at the recording studio have little to do with the house and its look. If anything the entire campaign calls to mind not the unforgettable Hubert de Givenchy and his successors but rather the monotonous mall wear of Timberlake’s own line – William Rast.