Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Beauty trend: Perfume’s new era

Vengeance Extreme, the fragrance by
Juliette has a Gun
I have a shameful beauty secret: perfume baffles me. Always has done. I understand the traditional way in which scents are combined using the ‘fragrance pyramid’ of top notes, middle notes and base notes, but the sheer enormity of fragrance notes and families, and indeed the sheer enormity of fragrances available, is overwhelming.

As if to deliberately confuse matters further, it is de rigour for fragrance houses to market their scents with whimsical abandon. Any beauty journalist or blogger will know that when a press release for a new fragrance lands on their desk, it will most likely weave a story of fairytale and fantasy about the story and character of the fragrance, with a fleeting mention about the actual perfume sandwiched somewhere in amongst it all.

During my years as Editor of Pure Beauty magazine, it became an art form to decipher a fragrance press release and translate the core facts about the fragrance to our readers. One press release that sticks in my mind was 6 pages long and only gave the information about the actual fragrance in the last paragraph. That was a bad day.

So when I came across a fragrance feature in Vogue magazine by Kathleen Baird-Murray entitled All Shook Up, I rejoiced - not only at the news that ‘a new generation of perfumers is putting the sexy back into scent and turning the industry on its head’, but also at the wonderfully descriptive yet understandable language in which Kathleen wrote about scent. Perhaps there is hope for me and my understanding of fragrance after all!

Here are a few excerpts of All Shook Up that I wanted to share with you:

"...So what does new-generation smell like? Be warned, it’s not for everyone – and that’s precisely the point. Forget sniffing perfume strips while being elbowed by shoppers in a mad rush of traditional department store perfumery testing – you need to make time. 
'The top notes of most fragrances, that initial hit, is usually very good, but often the heart and drydown are lost,' explains Penot [Fabrice Penot, co-founder of Le Labo], speaking of your average fragrance. 'Whereas we don’t give a damn about the top note. We’re not here to please you straight away; we’re here to form a relationship. If you give our fragrance a chance for a couple of hours, you get it.'

As such, Vengeance Extreme by cult label Juliette Has a Gun tantalises me when I apply it to go out one evening, an alluring thread of Bulgarian rose, patchouli and vanilla – but it is even better when I wake up in the morning, the perfume equivalent of just-got-out-of-bed hair."

"...Thanks to Mona di Orio, a thirtysomething perfumer who trained with the legendary Edmond Roudnitska when she was only 16, and her scent Les Nombres d’Or Tubereuse, I finally ‘get’ tuberose. Robert Piguet’s Fracas, the classic tuberose fragrance created in 1947, never did it for me, sacrilegious as it is to admit, but Mona’s blend of heliotrope, amber and benzoin is ethereal, dusty, mysterious and then, whoosh! Just when you’re least expecting it, there’s that little kick of Fracasness coming through, and I’m hooked.”

"...The actual construction of scents is getting simpler too. You'll find fewer ingredients - Illuminum fragrances have a maximum of eight, while Ormonde Jayne sticks to a maximum of 20 in strark contrast to the classics: 'If you look at a fragrance like Fracas, and all the iconic perfumes of the past, they had around 70-90 ingredients,' says Linda Pilkington [Ormonde Jayne's] founder."

You can read the feature All Shook Up by Kathleen Baird-Murray in full in the November 2011 issue of Vogue.

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