Alberto Morillas: A Lifetime Of Creativity

Fragroom Interview - Alberto Morillas

I usually go easy on the hyperbole. But I reckon it’s safe to say that Alberto Morillas is one of the hardest-working and most revered noses in the perfume biz. In his 45 years as a nose, the Spaniard has created many of the most successful fragrances of the last few decades.

Fragroom Interview - Alberto Morillas

LIVING LEGEND: There’s a good chance you’ve owned at least one Alberto Morillas fragrance. Pic courtesy of Firmenich.

How’s this for a roll call of achievement…. Panthere de Cartier (1986). Estee Lauder Pleasures (1995). Tommy Hilfiger Tommy (1995). Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio (1996). Lanvin L’Homme (1997). Kenzo Flower (2000). Mugler Cologne (2001). YSL M7 (2002). Marc Jacobs Daisy (2007). Versace Pour Homme (2008). Bulgari Man (2010). No wonder, Alberto Morillas was recognised by the Fragrance Foundation with the Perfumer of the Year Lifetime Achievement award in 2013.

Alberto Morillas Fragrances - CH 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition

PROLIFIC CREATOR: CH 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition, one of Alberto Morillas’ 2017 fragrances.

My first Alberto Morillas creation was the vanilla-laden Givenchy Pi (1998). To this day, it’s one of my favourite fragrances. Driven by his love for his work, Alberto Morillas continues to be a prolific creator. This year alone I have come across several of his creations. These include cK All, CH 212 Men Aqua, Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night, Gucci Bloom and D&G Light Blue Eau Intense Pour Homme, among others.

Alberto Morillas Fragrances - Gucci Guilty Absolute

LEATHER REPORT: Alberto Morillas created the superb Gucci Guilty Absolute.

The master perfumer has not lost his touch. His unusual treatment of leather for Gucci Guilty Absolute proves that he has also not the ability to surprise and confound.

Alberto Morillas is the nose behind Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Summer 2017 and Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme Summer 2017. When they were recently launched in South Africa, I thought I would try again to get an interview with Alberto Morillas. I was thrilled when the South African distributor got the go-ahead to send him some questions by email. I asked him about his fragrances for Issey Miyake, his creative process and what excites him most about modern perfumery. This is what he had to say….

It’s not the first time you have created an Issey Miyake fragrance. What attracted you most to this particular project?

In 2007 Issey Miyake first invited me to bring my own vision to the iconic signature I admired from my dear friend Jacques Cavallier [who created the original L’Eau d’Issey and L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme]. This was for the limited edition Une Goutte sur un Petal. At that time I could impart a fresh new vegetal touch as delicate as a dewy drop on a fresh petal.

Each time I work on a new L’Eau d’Issey fragrance I pay homage to the Japanese designer and his amazing work. More specifically on this project, I translated his unique vision into a pure, modern freshness for the summer editions.

Alberto Morillas and Issey Miyake Fragrances

PAYING HOMAGE: Visionary designer Issey Miyake.

How do you bring something new to L’Eau d’Issey while staying true to such a modern classic?

Both the masculine and the feminine Eau d’Issey personalities remain so distinctive I can play with new modern freshness by inviting novel ingredients into the composition, while staying true to their unique signatures. Pineapple and kiwi bring the new exotic twist to the masculine scent. Summer is also played by exotic fruits for the feminine version. I introduced a new invigorating brightness throughout the colourful cocktail of dragon fruit, mango and guava.

Alberto Morillas Fragrances - Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey Summer 2017 Pour Homme

NOVEL NOTE: The pineapple note in Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Summer 2017 Pour Homme adds an exotic new twist.

Were there any challenges when creating these new Issey Miyake fragrances?

Since 1997 Issey Miyake first innovated on the market by offering summer fragrances as new fresh interpretations of the Eaux d’Issey Miyake. Always providing an abundance of joy, the seasonal creations have been regularly renewed and are supported by different original graphics and concepts. As a Mediterranean man I like to explore new sophisticated fresh universes inspired by my vivid summer memories. I am very attached, for example, to the citruses, sea notes and sunny flowers I married in these two opuses with joyful exotic fruits.

“As a Mediterranean man I like to explore new sophisticated fresh universes inspired by my vivid summer memories.”

Alberto Morillas Fragrances - Issey Miyake L'Eau D'Issey Summer 2017

What’s always the most important element in your creative process?

Looking for inspiration and new ideas when I work on a new perfume project is the most exciting part of my job. Behind every fragrance is a unique story emerging from a lot of sources, but above all from a direct dialogue with the people. As a perfumer, my inspiration comes from meeting with the brand. Their words are very important. Proximity makes all the difference when creating a perfume.

I confess I can hardly stop working and almost all my formulas are written by hand. My handwriting is my emotion. When I write the formula, I can smell the perfume. Like a craftsman, I have an indestructible passion for creation. All my fragrances come from this devotion to creation and have consumed all my days and nights for the past 45 years. I can easily imagine the fragrance without smelling it. For me, perfumery is an emotion. The technique is intellectual, but every perfume has to have a soul, a story and be an emotion.

Fragroom Interview - Alberto Morillas

WINNING FORMULA: Alberto Morillas says almost all his fragrance formulas are written by hand.

How long on average does it take you to create a fragrance?

It really depends on projects. Some only last a few months and others may continue for a few years.

“Creation is all about intuitive inspirations. Fragrances call for our deepest instincts and emotions.”

How important is intuition when creating a fragrance?

Creation is all about intuitive inspirations. Perfumers create abstract pieces from moments, emotions, sensations, people, places. Fragrances call for our deepest instincts and emotions.

With over four decades in the fragrance business, what advice would you give to aspiring perfumers?

If you want to become a perfumer, it is very important to be passionate, sensitive, enthusiastic, determined and extremely conscientious. You need an inquiring mind and a creative streak. You should be able to marvel at things as you did as a child. And of course, you should love the job of creating perfumes.

Alberto Morillas Fragrances - Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey Pour Homme Summer 2017

What trend in modern perfumery excites you the most?

Fragrance is the mirror of society; it has evolved a lot throughout the years. Today we have entered a time of high perfumery. Traditional perfumery codes are more and more revisited with a modern twist. But there’s also a strong focus on high-quality, statutory ingredients, texture and sophistication.

Alberto Morillas Fragrances - Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey Summer 2017

Do you do anything to protect your gift of smell?

I don’t even think about it.

Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Summer 2017 EDT, R995 for 100ml.  Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme Summer 2017, R965 for 125ml.

 

Seduction Scents: Gentleman Givenchy, Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night, CH 212 VIP Black, Boss The Scent Intense For Her Reviews

Seduction Scents - Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night EDP

If I am to believe all the b-r-e-a-t-h-y advertising, there’s a whole lot of seduction going on down at fragrance counters. Keeping up with this steady procession of new seduction scents is a job in itself. Here’s my round-up of the new arrivals that range from the come-closer-compelling to the oh-dear-trying-too-hard!

Gentleman Givenchy EDTSeduction Scents - Gentleman Givenchy EDT

The complex and highly regarded Givenchy Gentleman (from the 1970s) is reworked for a modern market. Sweet and floral-y, Gentleman Givenchy features a wilted take on iris (an increasingly popular note in men’s fragrances).

I really wanted to like this new EDT, but some classics are best left well alone.

Gentleman Givenchy EDT, R1 010 for 50ml and R1 400 for 100ml.

Yves Saint Laurent La Nuit de L’Homme Eau Electrique EDT

The latest addition to the L’Homme range is not the best in the line, but still has enough sensual oomph to warrant a spray or three. Make sure, though, to sniff out the classic seduction scents: Yves Saint Laurent L’Homme and Yves Saint Laurent La Nuit de L’Homme.

YSL La Nuit de L’Homme Eau Electrique EDT, R1 177 for 100ml.

Seduction Scents - Yves Saint Laurent La Nuit de L’Homme Eau Electrique EDT
Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night EDP

Alberto Morillas delivers a well-executed dose of glamour and mystery with Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night. Featuring notes of black mulberry, black peony, night-blooming jasmine, tuberose, black musk, patchouli and vetiver, it’s one of the year’s better seduction scents.

Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night EDP, R925 for 30ml, R1 380 for 50ml and R1 655 for 75ml. 

Seduction Scents - Bulgari Goldea The Roman Night EDP

Carolina Herrera 212 VIP Black EDP

The shot of top notes (absinthe, anise, fennel) is intriguing (a vital element of seduction). But then makes way all too quickly for notes of lavender, musk and black vanilla husk. Not bad (another round of absinthe please!) and the solid glass bottle is pure eye-candy.

Carolina Herrera 212 VIP Men Black EDP, R955 for 50ml and R1 200 for 100ml.

Seduction Scents - Carolina Herrera 212 VIP Black EDP

Jacques Bogart Club 75 EDT

Sure, this cocktail of fruits, lavender and woods is not the most original of seduction scents. But Jacques Bogart Club 75 more than compensates with a potency and quality that puts many big-name designer fragrances to shame. And the value for money can’t be beat!

Jacques Bogart Club 75 EDT, R695 for 100ml.

Montblanc Emblem Absolu EDT

Are men’s designer fragrances getting sweeter? Montblanc Emblem Absolu, a fruity woody oriental, is another sweetie. Not particularly distinctive on my skin, but I did hear two women at a fragrance counter proclaim they would give their husbands “a second child if he wore this”. Va-va-voom!

Montblanc Emblem Absolu EDT, R1 295 for 100ml.

Seduction Scents - Montblanc Emblem Absolu EDT

Boss The Scent Intense For Her EDP

Boss The Scent For Her gets the intense treatment, with peach, honey, osmanthus, cacao and vanilla notes in the mix. The initial peach opening is quite overpowering. So best give it time to settle before deciding if this is going to be added to your repertoire of seduction scents.

Boss The Scent Intense For Her EDP, R1 010 for 30ml and R1 360 for 50ml.

Seduction Scents - Boss The Scent Intense For Her EDP

Out, Damned Spot! The Pigmentation Blues

Lady Macbeth was lamenting something very different when she uttered this famous line in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I have been muttering, “Out, damned spot!” a lot in the last six months. 2017 has been the year that pigmentation has paid me an unwelcome visit. Mostly, on my forehead and a scattering on my cheeks. In the space of six months, it has gathered pace on my face.

Pigmentation Face

DARK (SPOTS) MOOD: I got the pigmentation blues.

Pigmentation is ageing and I am vain enough to care about such things. So I have been educating myself over the last three months or so about pigmentation.

“I have been educating myself over the last three months about pigmentation.”

WHAT IS PIGMENTATION?

Very basically, pigmentation is the uneven colouring or darkening of the skin and manifests as spots or blotches on the face, the hands and the rest of the body. It’s easily confused with its altogether cuter cousin, freckles.

Pigmentation spots and blotches

PIGMENTATION OF MY IMAGINATION: An oh-so-artistic interpretation of those pesky spots and blotches.

HOW IS PIGMENTATION CAUSED?

Pigmentation occurs when the skin’s pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) go into overdrive as a result of damage to the skin. This produces an excess of melanin and dark spots appear on the skin’s surface. It’s caused by a variety of factors, including hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, inflammation and some medications. The biggest cause of pigmentation, however, is over-exposure to the sun’s harmful rays. The bad news is that this sun-induced damage may have been caused a few decades ago and those sun sins are only making their appearance now.

Pigmentation protection

SEEING THE LIGHT: Even in the shade, the sun’s harmful rays can do their wicked work.

SO WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT PIGMENTATION?

It seems pigmentation can be treated in various ways, including skin-bleaching products. From my research, this is highly risky, so I have given it a miss. Some people swear by home remedies such as raw potato, apple cider vinegar and cucumber, which I have yet to try.  But I might make a salad while I am at it. So what have I tried so far to treat my pigmentation?

“Some people swear by home remedies such as raw potato, apple cider vinegar and cucumber, which I have yet to try.”

Pigmentation products

PIGMENTATION ARSENAL: Fighting back against the dark arts.

Blemish Control Laser And Biomagnetic Facial (R375 for 60 minutes)

I recently discovered that Dis-Chem, one of SA’s largest pharmacy chains, has ventured into the beauty salon biz with Skin Strategy (https://dischem.co.za/dis-chem-beauty-salons). The Blemish Control Laser and Biomagnetic Facial features on its menu of treatments. This facial uses “light peeling to reduce uneven skin tone and scarring by dispersing the clumping of pigment in the melanin-bearing cells”. My therapist Puleng was very knowledgeable and gave me a good talking-to about the importance of daily sun protection to prevent further pigmentation. Yes, m’am!

Pigmentation products - BioNike Defence Sun 50+ Pro-Repair Complex Melting Cream

I also noticed she used BioNike skincare products. So I have been using a selection of treatments from this well-established Italian brand that’s exclusive to Dis-Chem Skin Strategy beauty salons.

BioNike Defence B-Lucent Day Peel Brightening Cream Cleanser (R149.95 for 150ml)

This gentle cleanser and exfoliator is rich in polyhydroxy acids to treat photo-aged skin by encouraging cell turnover.

BioNike Defence B-Lucent Anti-Dark Spots Protective Cream SPF50 (R225 for 40ml)

An easily absorbed cream that’s packed with active ingredients and sun protection to reduce the appearance of current and future signs of pigmentation.

Pigmentation products - BioNike Defence B-Lucent Anti-Dark Spots Protective Cream SPF50

BioNike Defence Sun 50+ Pro-Repair Complex Melting Cream (R149.95 for 50ml)

A high-protection sun cream that defends the skin against UVA/UVB rays, free radicals and long-term damage.

I have also been using Eau Thermale Avène D-Pigment Light Dark Spot Corrector (R359.95 for 30ml). This cream contains soothing Avène thermal spring water and a trio of powerful active ingredients (melanyde, retinaldehyde and pre-tocopheryl) to combat current and future pigmentation.

Pigmentation products - Eau Thermale Avène D-Pigment Light Dark Spot Corrector

While none of the above-mentioned treatments have obliterated my pigmentation for good, in combination they are slowly starting to make a difference to my complexion.

OH, SUN BEHAVE! 

The biggest change in my behaviour has been to use sun protection on a daily basis. I wouldn’t classify myself as a sun bunny but, up until recently, I used sun protection very haphazardly.

When I am being particularly virtuous, I apply the stuff up to three times a day. When I let this regimen slide, I am sure I can almost see the pigmentation multiply on my face. Me paranoid?

Pigmentation products - BioNike Defence Sun 50+ Pro-Repair Complex Melting Cream

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE: Don’t forget the very high protection.

I have also taken to regularly wearing a hat à la Madonna. The pop icon doesn’t just do this for incognito purposes. She knows that it’s a particularly simple, yet effective weapon against ageing pigmentation.

“I have also taken to regularly wearing a hat à la Madonna. It’s a particularly simple, yet effective weapon against ageing pigmentation. “ 

RETINOL TO THE PIGMENTATION RESCUE

Next up for yours truly is a course of retinol. This vitamin A derivative is another essential in the fight against uneven skin tone. I have been hearing great things about Dermalogica Overnight Retinol Repair. And have just started using it this week. I will update you on the results in the near-ish future.

Pigmentation products - Dermalogica Overnight Retinol Repair

 

Gabrielle Chanel Fragrance Review

Gabrielle Chanel Fragrance Review

Did the world move for you on 1 September 2017? More precisely, did you feel the perfume world move? After all, the most important perfume event of 2017 happened on this day. No, I’m not talking about the launch of Tom Ford Fucking Fabulous, although that was a close second. I’m talking about the worldwide launch of Gabrielle Chanel EDP.  The fragrance industry has perfected the art of hype. And as far as hype goes, the first brand-new Chanel fragrance launch in 15 years (since the highly regarded Chanel Chance EDP in 2002) was fraught with expectation, hubris and debate.

Gabrielle Chanel Fragrance Review

In the month leading up to the worldwide launch and for the past three weeks, I deliberately avoided reading all reviews about Gabrielle Chanel. So apologies to all those fragrance bloggers whose notification mails I deleted. I didn’t want my thoughts on this fragrance to be influenced in any way by other opinions.

The Eastern Orange Free State

FREE STATE OF MIND: A family road-trip to escape the buzz and hype.

I decided instead to bring Gabrielle Chanel on a family road trip to the eastern Free State. To spend some time with it, on its own terms. I thought the Free State would be a fitting environment to do this, as this province of South Africa captures some of the qualities Chanel herself is renowned for. A pioneering and resilient spirit and an uncompromising style that can only come from suffering and endurance. Although the Chanel aesthetic is often associated with pearls and black dresses, Coco was never a prissy missy.

Gabrielle Chanel Fragrance Review - Portrait Of Coco Chanel

PIONEERING SPIRIT: A Man Ray portrait of Coco Chanel. Pic courtesy of Chanel.

So what did I learn about Gabrielle Chanel the fragrance from my relatively secluded time with it? Well, it’s clearly aimed at a new generation of younger women, who might find Chanel No5 “overpowering”, “old-fashioned” and “one of my mother’s favourites”. No doubt about it, this is Chanel’s big push for the “millennial” market.

Gabrielle Chanel Fragrance Review

The result is a modern scent that has a dominant heart of white florals (jasmine, ylang-ylang, tuberose, orange blossoms). The listed top notes include mandarin, black currant and grapefruit, but I only picked up grapefruit from those. The floral heart is fresh and contemporary, albeit not particularly original, and eventually makes way for a more traditional base of sandalwood and musk notes. I enjoyed this more subdued element after the initial spark of white florals had subsided.

The Eastern Free State

TREE OF LIFE: Gabrielle Chanel’s road trip included this vivid landscape.

While I am both male and 40-something (ahem, clearly not the target market), Gabrielle Chanel is very easy to wear, accessible and undeniably appealing. It will probably appeal to many other non-millennials too. And now for the big question…

IS GABRIELLE CHANEL A CLASSIC IN THE MAKING?

Mais non! And it doesn’t have to be. If the brief for Chanel’s in-house perfumer, Olivier Polge, was to create a modern, elegant and luxurious scent, he has succeeded admirably.

Gabrielle Chanel Fragrance Review

I had no “classic” expectations of Gabrielle Chanel. After all, is it realistic to expect another iconic scent like Chanel No5? I was going to title this post “Keep Calm & Gabrielle Chanel” and perhaps that’s the best way to approach this EDP. If you have unrealistic expectations of it, you’ll probably be disappointed. If you can appreciate it for what it is, then it’s a very pleasurable, well-executed scent.

Gabrielle Chanel Fragrance Review

Either way, do expect a roll-out of Gabrielle Chanel flankers over the next five years, as Chanel has invested heavily in this new pillar fragrance and left no details to chance. The luxe packaging and fine-glass bottle alone will tell you that.

Gabrielle Chanel EDP, R1 745 for 50ml and R2 465 for 100ml.

Gabrielle Chanel Fragrance Review - A Portrait of Coco Chanel

VISIONARY: A portrait of a young Coco Chanel, taken in 1909. Pic courtesy of Chanel.

  

 

 

The South African Beauty Connection

South African Beauty Connection - Boss The Scent Intense

Some people collect cars, watches, handbags and art. My fragrance and vintage glass fetish aside, I can’t resist collecting ideas for a theme. As a Johannesburg-based blogger, this theme started out with a focus on top South African beauty/grooming products. It gradually morphed into something more fluid and fascinating the more research I did. I am hoping this round-up – the South African beauty connection – will intrigue and inform you too. Please let me know if I have left anything off this admittedly edited list.

The South African Beauty Connection

Olay 

Graham Wulff’s anti-ageing product has come a long way from its origins in the 1950s. The Durban-based, ex-Unilever chemist created Oil of Olay Beauty Fluid, using lanolin as one of its main ingredients. Such was its popularity that it found its place on vanity chests worldwide, back in the days when our mothers sat and groomed themselves.

“Olay found its place on vanity chests worldwide, back in the days when our mothers sat and groomed themselves.”

Fast-forward through changes in ownership, a change of name to Olay in 1999 and the brand is now one of American giant Procter & Gamble’s billion-dollar businesses. Mum’s little helper now includes everything from body and eye products to cleansers and moisturisers.

South African Beauty Connection - Olay

Maninka Fruit

I’d never heard of the maninka fruit before Boss The Scent was launched in 2015. I was reminded about this fruit, the heart of the fragrance, when Boss The Scent Intense was recently launched in South Africa. How could I forget with the wall-to-wall advertising that has accompanied this seduction EDP?

South African Beauty Connection - Maninka Fruit

NOT THE USUAL: Maninka fruit, a key ingredient in Boss The Scent and Boss The Scent Intense. Pic courtesy of P&G Prestige.

Anyway, what counts is that maninka comes from South Africa. And apparently Boss The Scent was the first time it had been used in a fragrance. According to a Basenotes interview with Will Andrews, scientist and senior evaluator at P&G Prestige,  maninka fruit (long used by the locals) was discovered by a team looking for unusual ingredients in the Western Cape’s fynbos region. The fruit itself comes from the Oncoba spinosa tree and was chosen for its “dried fruit” and “strawberries and chocolate” qualities.

South African Beauty Connection - Boss The Scent Intense EDP

While I can’t vouch for maninka’s supposed aphrodisiac qualities, I do appreciate a good back-story. The Scent itself? Maninka has been pumped to the max in Boss The Scent Intense. Leather, ginger, vanilla, lavender and cardamom notes all do their best to lend their notice-me-baby support.

Bio-Oil

German-born chemist, South-Africa-based Dieter Beier launched Bio-Oil in 1987. Little did he know that his cult product would become an international best-seller. Bio-Oil’s new owners, Justin and David Letschert, re-branded Beier’s dry-skin product as a treatment for scars, stretch marks and uneven skin tone in the early 2000s.

South African Beauty Connection - Bio-Oil

Their big investment in marketing and international distribution has paid handsome dividends. The product is a skincare success across the globe. Bio-Oil celebrates 30 years in the beauty biz in September 2017, with new and sleeker packaging. But the formulation – PurCellin oil, vitamins A and E, calendula, rosemary, lavender and camomile oils – remains the same. Proof than even in our high-tech-obsessed world, you can’t beat simplicity.

“Even in our high-tech-obsessed world, you can’t beat simplicity.”

Mark Eisen

What do Dunhill Icon, Montblanc Emblem, Montblanc Lady Emblem and Shanghai Tang have in common? Their flacons (“bottle” sounds too common for these visual beauties) were designed by South Africa’s Mark Eisen.

South African Beauty Connection - Mark Eisen For Montblanc Lady Emblem

MARKSMANSHIP: Mark Eisen’s design for Montblanc Lady Emblem.

The Capetonian had a successful international career as a fashion designer from the late 1980s. He then turned his talents to industrial design, in particular fragrance bottle and wine bottle design.

I shamelessly used the South African connection to attempt to wangle an interview with Mr Eisen for this post, but he politely declined. So I will let his South African Beauty Connection - Mark Eisen flacon design work for Richemont’s luxury fragrance brands speak for itself.

(While I am on the South African beauty connection thing, Dunhill, Montblanc and Shanghai Tang are just some of the luxury brands owned by Richemont, the company founded by South Africa’s Rupert family.)

Exhibit A: Eisen’s cylindrical bottle, metal-encased design for Dunhill Icon. A powerfully functional and stylish statement for this scent that’s sure to become a modern classic. Dunhill Icon bagged the prestigious Fragrance Foundation Award for Best New Male Design & Packaging in 2016.

South African Beauty Connection - Mark Eisen For Dunhill Icon

Pelargoniums

Better known as South African/African geraniums, pelargoniums are mostly indigenous to South Africa. They are from the same family as geraniums but they are, in fact, very different plants. The scented varieties are an important part of the perfumer’s toolkit.

South African Beauty Connection - Pelargoniums

PERFUMER’S TOOLKIT: Pelargoniums are found in a variety of fragrances. Pic courtesy of www.perfect-pelargoniums.com.

I asked Cape Town-based natural perfumer Agata Karolina (House of Gozdawa) for some info on scented pelargoniums. This is what she had to say: “Pelargoniums are commercially farmed, but still in small amounts at this time. We source our pelargonium oil in the Western Cape from farmers we work closely with developing their crops especially for oil harvest. They hold all of the knowledge about the plants and their best conditions for growth. I bring my nose and knowledge of scent combination and complementary attributes of each plant’s characters.

South African Beauty Connection - Pelargoniums

PELARGONIUM PARFUM: House of Gozdawa Marta contains pelargonium oil.

“Pelargonium is less ‘rosy’ and has a far more green character to its scent. It smells like freshly cut lemongrass, lemon flesh, boiled candy sweets, rose leaves and earth.”

I spotted South African geranium as a key ingredient in Atelier Cologne Sanguine Orange. Superbly summery and uplifting, it’s the debut fragrance from the Paris-based niche fragrance company.

South African Beauty Connection - Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine

Perfluorodecalin

I was a dismal chemistry pupil, so I will keep this one as reader-friendly as possible. South African company Pelchem is the only Southern Hemisphere producer of perfluorodecalin, an active ingredient found in a wide variety of anti-ageing products.

South African Beauty Connection - Perfluorodecalin

ANTI-AGEING ACTIVE: A 3-D representation of the chemical compound perfluorodecalin. Pic courtesy of Wikipedia.

An article in the Pharmaceutical & Cosmetic Review yielded more insights. “The active ingredient is a fluorocarbon and derivative of decalin, which is used in cosmetics formulations to dissolve and deliver oxygen to the skin. Due to the ability of perfluorodecalin to dissolve oxygen and other gases, it revitalises skin and reduces wrinkles…” I love a good success story, so I’ll wave my small South African flag in recognition of Pelchem’s innovative and patented work.

PS: I have not included South Africa-born Etienne de Swardt, the founder of niche fragrance company Etat Libre d’Orange, in this round-up. You can read my interview with the maverick here: http://fragroom.com/2017/04/20/etat-libre-doranges-etienne-de-swardt/

 

Finding Your Niche Fragrances

Niche Fragrances - Penhaligon's Much Ado About The Duke

The fragrance market ain’t what it used to be and niche fragrances are on the rise. The steady decline of the celebrity fragrance category is gathering pace. Designer fragrances that used to fly off the shelves are increasingly being discounted.

The numbers below speak for themselves. These figures are for the world’s largest fragrance market, the USA. But these are international trends, according to industry analysts NPD Group, The Business of Fashion and Perfumer & Flavorist. Amid all the number-crunching, there’s a discernible shift to niche fragrances. They have added almost $250 million to the fragrance market since 2014.

66%  the decline of the celebrity fragrance market in department stores from 2011-2014

6% – the drop in overall fragrance sales from 2015 to 2016

 1%  – the sales growth of prestige fragrances

The rise of niche fragrances - Boss Bottled Tonic

RETAIL BLUES: Designer fragrances aren’t the guaranteed hits they used to be.

Even South Africa, a land of mass market and designer fragrances, is not immune to these changes. Hence the recent arrival of Skins Cosmetics, the renowned Dutch niche beauty and fragrances retailer, in Johannesburg (www.skins.co.za). Skins Cosmetics strikes a good balance between big-name niche fragrances and more experimental niche fragrances. You’ll find everything from Aqua di Parma, Creed, Diptyque, Floris, L’Artisan Parfumeur and Penhaligon’s to Aether, Escentric Molecules and Le Labo at this upmarket store.

While it’s pointless to get bogged down in definitions, it’s always good to know what we mean when we use a buzz-phrase like “niche fragrances”. And why exactly are niche fragrances showing such growth. I asked two of my favourite bloggers for their thoughts on the above and this is what they had to say.

DEFINING THE VALUE OF NICHE FRAGRANCES

“If I were being really ‘black and white’ about this, the only honest, accurate answer is ‘nothing’. ‘Niche’, as a descriptor, does not signify any particular style or aesthetic. If the term has any value, it is only as a method of describing limited and/or independent production/ distribution. I would concede that the best so-called niche perfumes possess a clear reflection of the visions of their creators.” – Dariush Alavi of Persolaise (http://persolaise.blogspot.co.za)

Niche Fragrances - L'Artisan Parfumeur Au Bord de L'Eau

THE ARTISTRY OF NICHE FRAGRANCES: L’Artisan Parfumeur Au Bord de L’Eau, inspired by Claude Monet.

“Niche perfumery is a very creative arm of the industry. Most of the trends that have become prolific in commercial perfumery started in niche. It’s an important place for generating and testing new ideas. Niche is a good incubator for creativity. Its audiences are genuinely interested in unusual or forward-thinking fragrances. They don’t want to smell like every second person on the street.” – Clayton Ilolahia of What Men Should Smell Like (http://whatmenshouldsmelllike.com)

BEWARE! THE SNOBBERY OF NICHE FRAGRANCES

These insights from Clayton and Dariush pretty much sum up the role and nuances of niche fragrances. I would also like to add that we need to beware the snobbery of niche fragrances. Just because it’s a designer/mainstream/commercial fragrance doesn’t mean it’s inherently crap. I have come across a fair amount of that snootiness online. Equally, just because it’s a niche fragrance doesn’t mean it’s better quality or more deserving of the cash you’re about to splash.

Niche Fragrances - David Liss Fabulous Men

DAVID WHO?: The joy of new fragrance discoveries.

For me, perfumery should always be about the joy of discovery. The joy of discovering the classics of perfumery. The joy of discovering new variations on seemingly exhausted themes. And also the joy of discovering cheap and cheerful bargains. Ultimately, niche fragrances should increase our options, expand our knowledge and pleasure. So yes, be a discerning and savvy consumer, but snobbery is so self-limiting.

“Perfumery should always be about the joy of discovery. So yes, be a discerning and savvy consumer, but snobbery is so self-limiting.”

Niche Fragrances - Budget Buys Have Their Place Too

BARGAIN SHELF: Budget buys have their place too.

Clayton offers very useful advice to those who are just starting their discovery of niche fragrances: “Buy from a retailer who specialises in niche fragrances and let them help guide you in the beginning. With experience, most people will see common threads, maybe an ingredient or note they like, or a perfumer whose work they like, which begins to influence their buying.”

Niche Fragrances - Nasomatto fragrances at Skins Cosmetics

GOING DUTCH: Let Skins Cosmetics introduce you to Nasomatto fragrances.

Fragrance is such a personal and mood-influenced choice, so I hope niche fragrances bring you much joy. These are are some of my favourite niche fragrances:

Penhaligon’s Much Ado About The Duke EDP (2016)

British heritage brand Penhaligon’s has been in the fragrance biz since the 1870s and is one of the most celebrated companies in niche fragrances. From its recent Portraits collection, Much Ado About The Duke is an unapologetically sparkling rose, with notes of pepper, leather, wood, gin and tonic adding to its irreverent appeal. It was created by Daphne Bugey, the nose behind Jean Paul Gaultier Scandal, Le Labo Bergamote 22, Mugler Aura and Valentino Valentina Pink.

Niche Fragrances - Penhaligon's Much Ado About The Duke

Etat Libre d’Orange Like This EDP (2010)

While the company founded by South Africa-born Etienne de Swardt is sometimes better known for its shock-and-awe tactics, it also produces top-notch niche fragrances. You can read my interview with Etienne de Swardt here (http://fragroom.com/2017/04/20/etat-libre-doranges-etienne-de-swardt/). This collaboration with Tilda Swinton captures the English actress’s idea of home, with cosy and comforting notes of ginger, immortelle, pumpkin, tangerine, vetiver and heliotrope. Created by Mathilde Bijaoui, it won the Fragrance Foundation France Award for Best Niche Fragrance in 2011.

Niche Fragrances - Etat Libre d'Orange Like this

L’Artisan Parfumeur Tea For Two EDT (2000)

One of the best tea fragrances around. It conjures up spicy-aromatic intimacy with notes of tea, tobacco, cinnamon, honey, ginger, star anise, gingerbread and vanilla. This treat from L’Artisan Parfumeur, one of the pioneers of niche fragrances since the 1970s, was created by Olivia Giacobetti. This nose also created Diptyque Philosykos, Frédéric Malle en Passant, Hermès Hiris and several other L’Artisan Parfumeur beauties. This is a vintage bottle below. So if you’re looking for Tea For Tea, it’s to be found in the company’s newish grey bottles.

Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal (2012)

Founded in 2009, this Paris-based company has made its mark in the niche fragrances industry with its cologne absolues. These cologne absolues combine the traditional citrus character of eau de colognes with longer-lasting natural materials. I am a big fan of vetiver fragrances and Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal is a gentler interpretation of the usually earthy theme. It features notes of Calabrian bergamot, Sicilian lemon, Tunisian orange blossom absolue, fig, Grasse violet leaves and Texan cedarwood. A super-fresh summer in a bottle!

Niche Fragrances - Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal

 

Stolen Goods: 6 Top Beauty Products To Pinch From The Women In Your Life

Beauty Products For Men - L'Oreal Pure Clay Detox Mask

Men today have so many more grooming product choices compared to, say, five years ago when shopping at the local pharmacy yielded the bare minimum. But even with the growth in the male grooming market, there are certain female products that you just can’t beat. While I am not condoning day-light robbery, I am certainly recommending that you “borrow” these items from the women (partner/mother/sister) in your life. After all, we men have a fine tradition of using women’s products. Think of these beauty products for men as valuable market research.

Beauty Products For Men - Mugler Alien Essence Absolue

ALIENATION: Are you brave enough to wear this fragrance?

Lancôme Advanced Genifique Youth Activating Concentrate

If you’re serious about anti-ageing, serums are the way to go. They offer a concentrated form of active ingredients (the goodies that do the real work) to deliver smoother, brighter skin. Yip, this product is on the pricey side. But then it’s packed with the skincare science the French are renowned for. R1 060 for 50ml.

Beauty Products For Men - Lancome Advanced Genifique Youth Activating Serum

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant

Created by Ms Arden almost 90 years ago, this is one of the best beauty products for men around. Dry skin, sunburn, chapped lips, scratches – it’s all in an honest day’s work for this multi-skiller. Because I am a slacker when it comes to foot-care, I am using it on my cracked heels, with impressive results so far. R285 for 50g.

Beauty Products For Men - Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant

Dermalogica Multi-Active Toner

Basically, a toner completes the cleansing process, especially if you have oily skin, and prepares it for moisturisation. While many of us are going to find the three steps – cleanse, tone, moisturise – too time-consuming, this spray product is a nifty way to refresh and hydrate your skin when needed. R640 for 250ml.

Beauty Products For Men - Dermalogica Multi-Active Toner

L’Oreal Pure Clay Detox Mask

This combo of three pure clays and charcoal is the answer to dirty, dull and drained-looking skin. We boys like to get messy. So slap it on, feel the tingle (that means it’s working), wash off after 10 minutes and a cleaner, brighter complexion is yours. Mask and ye shall receive… R150 for 50ml.

Beauty Products For Men - L'Oreal Pure Clay Detox Mask

Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Super Firming Serum

The name of this product sums up the beauty of this anti-ageing serum. Formulated with an Advanced Amino-Peptide Complex to stimulate collagen production, it hydrates, firms and smoothes the skin. Non-greasy and easily absorbed, you will never look at mother’s little helper the same way again. R299.95 for 50ml.

Beauty Products For Men - Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Super Firming Serum

Mugler Alien Essence Absolue EDP INTENSE

The notes alone – jasmine, cashmere wood, orris root, vanilla, amber, myrrh and incense – will tell you that this EDP is not for sissies. It’s a seductive gem with top longevity and projection, so best not used in open-plan offices or stuffy boardrooms. But when the sun goes down, let it rip, big boy. R925 for 30ml and R1 270 for 60ml.

Beauty Products For Men - Mugler Alien Essence Absolue

 

Private Fragrance Collections: Worth Every Scent

Private Fragrance Collections

Designer brands have dominated the fragrance market for the last few decades with a succession of blockbusters. But the problem with massive commercial success is that it often creates a relentless cycle of crowd-pleasing smell-a-likes. And the art of perfumery, a luxury in itself, is compromised by a focus on rapid merchandise-shifting.

Private Fragrance Collections

This is not to say that designer fragrances are on their way out. Far from it. But that the big-name fashion brands have realised that while their best-sellers have made the idea of luxury seemingly accessible to the masses, they may have compromised on quality and their heritage in the process. Of course, they would not put it so bluntly.

Private Fragrance Collections

THE PRICE OF SUCCESS: Has your favourite designer fragrance become a victim of its own success?

With the shift to niche fragrances, designer-brand private fragrance collections offer increasingly savvy and discerning consumers the experience of exclusivity, quality and service – at a price.

This is reflected in:

  • The packaging – solid glass bottles and ornate boxes speak the language of style, substance and brand story.
  • The quality and concentration of the juice – only the best ingredients and EDPs please.
  • The below-the-radar marketing – after all, not everyone should know about these fragrances.
Private Fragrance Collections

TOP(S) OF THE RANGE: Dolce & Gabbana, Bulgari and Yves Saint Laurent.

La Collection Privée Christian Dior, Les Exclusifs de Chanel, Herrera Confidential, Ermenegildo Zegna Essenze and Mugler Les Exceptions are just some of the private fragrance collections you’ll now find in select upmarket retailers. And, of course, then there’s Mr Tom Ford, whose Private Blends have become a perfume phenomenon.

The big question: Do these private fragrance collections offer value for money? That’s a purchasing decision you will have to make, depending on how you cost your perfume pleasure. For myself, I have sometimes found better value further down the chain when comparing some of the private fragrance collections with their more widely available scent siblings. But then there are the truly exceptional stand-outs in private fragrance collections that are worth every cent.

“The big question: Do these private fragrance collections offer value for money?”

ARMANI PRIVE

Launched in 2004, Armani Prive was one of the first private fragrance collections. Originally created for his own personal pleasure and those of his closest friends, it set the standard for others to follow. Armani Prive Vetiver Babylone and Armani Prive Ambre Soie are highly rated classics of the genre. The Italian maestro also spotted the lucrative Middle Eastern market before it became de rigueur. With its emphasis on exotic and heavier ingredients, the Armani Prive La Collection Des Mille Et Une Nuits was launched in 2010.

Private Fragrance Collections: Armani Prive Cuir Amethyste

Fragroom’s Choice: I have not been able to keep up with all the launches, but Armani Prive Cuir Amethyste is a superb interpretation of leather. Its notes of bergamot, rose, violet, birch, patchouli, benzoin, vanilla and bourbon create the best kind of luxurious indulgence.

Armani Prive EDPs, from R2 550 to R3 520 for 100ml, Giorgio Armani Sandton City and V&A Waterfront, Luminance. 

Private Fragrance Collections: Armani Prive Cuir Amethyste

DOLCE & GABBANA VELVET COLLECTION

I will leave it to Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana to sum up their contribution to private fragrance collections. “We have put our memories and our roots into the Velvet Fragrance Collection, which have the same vibrant, hedonistic heart as Sicily and Italy. With each one, we invite you into our world,” they say. Originally launched in 2011, the sensual range now features 17 fragrances. These include Velvet Vetiver, Velvet Tender Oud and Velvet Exotic Leather.

Private Fragrance Collections: Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Cypress

Fragroom’s Choice: One of this year’s launches, Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Cypress, hits the woody-aromatic spot. It’s fresh and crisp, with notes of cypress, bergamot, lemon, galbanum and clary sage absolute. A surprisingly reserved D&G fragrance.

Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Collection EDPs, R3 505 for 50ml and R5 050 for 150ml, Edgars Sandton City, V&A Waterfront, Gateway, Clearwater and Rosebank.

Private Fragrance Collections: Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Cypress

BOSS THE COLLECTION

Thanks to the juggernaut of its more commercial fragrances, there are certain perceptions of Boss fragrances. That changed when I was first introduced to Boss The Collection about two years ago. It includes six EDPs: Wool Musk, Cotton Verbena, Cashmere Patchouli, Velvet Amber, Damask Oud and Silk Jasmine. Inspired by the key materials used in Boss’s sharp suits, the fragrances in the collection have very simple note structures. Although primarily aimed at men, women will also love the fragrances in this complete collection. Launched in 2011, it’s one of the best and most surprising private fragrance collections I have come across.

Private Fragrance Collections: Boss The Collection Velvet Amber

Fragroom’s Choice: Boss The Collection Velvet Amber, with notes of amber, vanilla and resin. The result is an eminently wearable composition that feels warm, cosy and tailor-made.

Boss The Collection EDPs, R3 050 for 50ml, Edgars Sandton City, V&A Waterfront, Gateway, Clearwater and Rosebank.

Private Fragrance Collections: Boss The Collection Velvet Amber

YVES SAINT LAURENT LE VESTIAIRE DES PARFUMS

The grand name says it all. Inspired by the classics from YSL’s venerable fashion history, Le Vestiaire (le French for “wardrobe”) is a luxury perfume wardrobe. Launched in 2015, the collection includes Caban, Caftan, Tuxedo, Saharienne and Trench. It was recently expanded with the Oriental and De Nuit collections.

Private Fragrance Collections: Yves Saint Laurent Le Vestiaire Trench

Fragroom’s Choice: All of the fragrances in the launch collection are très chic. But the woody-citrus Yves Saint Laurent Le Vestiaire Trench, created by Amandine Clerc-Marie, is the one to sniff out. Tangerine, bergamot, neroli and cedar feature in the notes structure, but it’s the iris that takes prominence in this beauty.

Yves Saint Laurent Le Vestiaire des Parfums, R3 500 for 125ml, YSL Boutique Sandton City.

Private Fragrance Collections: Yves Saint Laurent Le Vestiaire Trench

BULGARI LE GEMME

Tapping into its luxe jewellery heritage, the Le Gemme collection takes inspiration from precious gems. Bulgari Le Gemme launched in 2014 with six fragrances for women. All with suitably exotic names and, some might say, over-the-top packaging. Amarena, Ashlemah, Calaluna, Lilaia, Maravilla and Noorah were created by Daniela Roche Andrier. Men were given the luxury treatment with the launch of their own Bulgari Le Gemme collection in 2016. Master perfumer Jacques Cavallier created all of these men’s fragrances. So you know Bulgari is taking private fragrance collections very seriously.

Private Fragrance Collections: Bulgari Le Gemme Amarena

Fragroom’s Choice: I have not been able to sample all of the above fragrances. But Bulgari Le Gemme Amarena is a gorgeous hit of cherry, rose, tuberose, pomegranate and powdery notes.

Bulgari Le Gemme, R2 245 for 30ml and R4 485 for 100ml, Edgars Sandton City and Edgars Mall of Africa.

Private Fragrance Collections: Bulgari Le Gemme Amarena

What’s So Expert About L’Oreal Men Expert?

L'Oreal Men Expert.

The male skincare shelves at my local pharmacy are becoming increasingly busy with new arrivals. But even among all the clutter, the L’Oreal Men Expert range manages to stand out with its overtly masculine and you-can’t-ignore-me packaging that speaks to modern, active and successful men.

It also helps that the French beauty giant has pumped big bucks into its visibility by using F1 champ Lewis Hamilton as its global ambassador. Whether Mr H actually uses L’Oreal Men Expert is a moot point. I recently used some of the products from the ever-growing range that even includes a tattoo reviver. Unfortunately, that particular product is not available in South Africa.

Lewis Hamilton for L'Oreal Men Expert.

WINNING FORMULA: Lewis Hamilton for L’Oreal Men Expert.

These are my quick impressions of the following L’Oreal Men Expert products:

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Ice Cool Face Wash

Don’t know about you, but it’s not only my brain that needs a kick-start in the a.m. My face could do with some assistance too. L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Ice Cool Face Wash does the trick with its soap-free, pH neutral formula. It contains the very snazzy-sounding Cryo-Tonic and Active Defence System (ADS). These mean it refreshes, cleanses and reinforces the skin, without leaving it drier than a Cape Town drought.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Ice Cool Face Wash, R89.95 for 150ml.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Ice Cool Face Wash.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Black Charcoal Wash

Activated charcoal is known for its purifying properties. It attracts all the nasty stuff our skins are exposed to through the process of adsorption. Everyone from Clinique to Tom Ford now has a charcoal-based product of some sort. L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Black Charcoal Wash is the best mass-market charcoal product I have come across so far. This product takes on shine, blackheads, stickiness, dullness and enlarged pores with voomah. I love how the black gel transforms into a white lather. You only need a tiny amount of this high-performance baby to do the job, so best squeeze the tube g-e-n-t-l-y.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Black Charcoal Wash, R89.95 for 150ml.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Black Charcoal Wash.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Daily Moisturising Lotion

With vitamin C, anti-oxidant, the above-mentioned ADS and SP15, L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Daily Moisturising Lotion combats a variety of skin issues. These include dryness, dullness and sun exposure. I used it in the morning and evening, and noticed how easily it is absorbed. However, as I need a higher SPF for my, ahem, mature skin, I wouldn’t continue to use this product. I would recommend this one for gents in their 30s, though, as it’s a good all-rounder.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Daily Moisturising Lotion, R129 for 50ml.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Daily Moisturising Lotion.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Recharging Moisturiser

No doubt you’ve heard of creatine as a nutritional supplement. How about in a skincare product? Some studies suggest that when applied topically, it perks up the skin. And I could always do with some of that. The headline ingredient in L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Recharging Moisturiser is this organic acid. This product promises to revitalise and moisturise lacklustre skin when used morning and night. It’s no-nonsense stuff that works a charm. Cool packaging too!

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Recharging Moisturiser, R124.95.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Recharging Moisturiser.

Fragrance Review: L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade EDT

L'Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade

Before I share my thoughts on L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade, let me ’fess up. I have a soft spot for L’Occitane en Provence fragrances. Not just because the company (now owned by Austrian billionaire Reinold Geiger) still uses many traditional Provençal methods and ingredients in its products. But because last year, when I was man-down for almost a month in a clinic, L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cedrat was my fragrance companion. I had to pack super-light, so I grabbed Eau de Cedrat, which I had not yet worn properly.

L'Occitane en Provence Eau de Cedrat

With its notes of cedrat (citron) bark, bergamot, nutmeg, ginger and cashmere wood, L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cedrat became my fragrance pick-me-up during that tricky time. So I will always associate healing and upliftment with this special scent.

AND WHAT ABOUT L’OCCITANE EN PROVENCE EAU DE CADE?

Coincidentally, there’s also a healing angle to L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade. Of course, juniper berries (actually, seed cones) are best-known for the flavour they give to gin and their antiseptic properties. But that’s not the reason why I really like this EDT.

L'Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade

There’s an unmistakable pink peppercorn note whenever I first apply this fragrance. As I love a pink peppercorn note, L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade’s initial sharpness does it for me. Give it time to develop… And the juniper berry, bergamot, cedar wood and cade (the oil of the wood of the juniper berry shrub) come through. And then there’s iris and labdanum to soften the effect.

Karine Debreuil – the nose behind Gucci Pour Homme II, Yves Saint Laurent Vice Versa, Lalique Chypre Silver, Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Grosellina and the classic L’Occitane en Provence Eau des Baux – created L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade.

L'Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade

Respect to her for creating such a simply constructed, yet distinctive fragrance, with a most appealing woody, smoky character.

L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade EDT and L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cedrat EDT, both R890 for 100ml.

PS: L’Occitane en Provence has several collections, including Baux, Cade and Cedrat. These feature body and skincare products that I have yet to try.