Firstly, credit where it’s due, plus an apology if I am bastardising its original meaning. The title of this blog post is a paraphrasing of a quote about beauty from designer Alexander McQueen.
“Beauty can come from the strangest of places, even the most disgusting of places. It’s the ugly things I notice more, because other people tend to ignore the ugly things.”
It comes from the book Savage Beauty by Andrew Bolton (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). I did not get to see the retrospective show of McQueen’s creations. However, I do get intense, visceral pleasure paging through this book, which highlights the Scottish designer’s maverick approach.
Perhaps it’s the fact that I have not had a proper holiday for years (workaholic, moi?) and I am yearning for some travel / escape / change of scenery / passport-stamping.
The good news is that I have a family road-trip coming up in mid-August. In the meantime, I explore the idea of beauty as a tonic. These are just some of the things in my immediate vicinity that do the trick.
Can a leaf lift your spirits? Oh yes, if it’s a lime leaf. I get a kick from rubbing lime leaves between my fingers. This releases a fresh, crisp, citrus scent that never fails to captivate me. And the lime itself calls for a mojito.
While the Amalfi vacation will have to wait, Tom Ford Sole di Positano will do for now. There’s a veritable citrus and floral cocktail in this EDP, including notes of Calabrian bergamot, bitter orange, lemon, shiso leaf, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, jasmine, lily of the valley and neroli. Alas, on my skin, it dissipates very quickly. A case of fleeting beauty…
We are having a very warm winter here in Johannesburg, with day-time temperatures averaging above 20ºC. As a result, the jasmine is out even earlier than usual. I am not complaining. Its rich scent is my imaginary olfactory ticket to an Indian summer.
There’s something very re-assuring about a vintage treasure. I adore this kit, a gift from my sister. The leather case contains two functional glass bottles and glass containers. There’s no company or brand name on it, so I can’t trace its origins. And, you know what, it doesn’t matter.
From civet musk (extracted from the animal’s anal glands) to caviar extract, the beauty industry has often used some pretty bizarre ingredients. All in the quest to create the ultimate perfume or skincare product. With their exotic and out-of-the-world ingredients, the following three products rank high on the weird-o-meter.
The Ambergris Effect
Ambergris is one of the most sought-after ingredients in perfumery, fetching anything from $100 000 upwards for 1,5kg of the precious stuff. Contrary to popular belief, ambergris is not sperm whale vomit. It’s a by-product of the sperm whale’s digestive system and is excreted by these creatures. This may float in the ocean for decades before being washed up on the shore in solid form. It then becomes highly prized by perfumers for its musky (some would say fishy) quality.
As it is very expensive and rare, ambergris is not used in perfumes such as Chanel No5 anymore. Ambrox or ambroxan is now widely used in many best-selling fragrances. Christian Dior Sauvage, Versace Dylan Blue, Giorgio Armani Si and Bulgari Aqua Pour Homme Atlantique all owe their character to this synthetic compound.
However, for customers willing to splash their cash, ambergris can still be found in premium perfumes. These include many of the highly rated Creed fragrances such as Aventus.
Ambergris is very distinctive in Creed Millésime Imperial. This EDP was launched in 1995 to mark the Paris-based perfume house’s 150th anniversary as the fragrance of choice by European royalty. It’s somewhat of an acquired smell.
CreedMillésime Imperial EDP, R4 850 for 120ml.
The Snail’s Pace
If I told you that I have used a snail-gel skincare product would you think less of me? Journalistic curiosity got the better of me when I heard that Celltone products contain this ingredient. Apparently snail gel is packed with glycolic acid, allantoin, protein and vitamin E. These are all very useful in the fight against ageing. One might even say they are highly effective in slowing the pace of ageing. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
Now, for the big question? Are any snails harmed in the making of this product? Yes. I used it for two weeks and then felt very guilty about it, even though I had started noticing a tightening of my skin.
Celltone Snail Extract Gel, R399.90 for 50ml, www.celltone.co.za
Lab Series is one of my favourite male skincare brands. So I was very excited to read about its new high-tech range, Maxellence, which contains meteorite extract. Unfortunately, I was brought down to earth when I found out that this range is not available in South Africa.
Then a friend told me that Anesi Man Secret Serum had just landed in the country. This anti-ageing skincare product from the renowned Spanish spa professional range also utilises meteoritic extract. Talk about sci-fa (science fact).
So why is meteorite extract such a big deal? It’s rich in minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium. This makes it a potent anti-ageing weapon, with deep-penetrating, firming and plumping properties.
I used Anesi Man Secret Serum for a month and enjoyed its light, non-greasy texture. I noticed a definite improvement in the condition of my skin. Was this due to meteorite extract? Or any of this product’s other exotic ingredients (including mineral extracts from precious mineral stones)? While I read up more on that, I must explore Anesi some more.
Anesi Man Secret Serum, R750 for 50ml, www.exclusivebeauty.co.za
So what’s on the Fragroom sniff-list this week? Well, we have three BIG designer fragrances. Gucci Guilty Absolute EDP, Prada Luna Rossa Carbon EDT, Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint EDT. I am deliberately reviewing these three fragrances together, as they represent the best of what designer fragrances have to offer.
Gucci Guilty Absolute EDP
The Gucci Guilty line has been on the market since 2010. While I have not tried all the flankers and limited editions, to me the super-fresh Gucci Guilty Eau EDT was the best of the range. But just when I thought Gucci Guilty was becoming a bit predictable, Gucci Guilty Absolute arrived.
This close collaboration between master perfumer Alberto Morillas and Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele is a very brave release for Gucci.
Its listed notes include a custom-made leather accord (Woodleather), a natural extract of the nootka cypress (Goldenwood), three types of patchouli and vetiver. All of this adds up to create a rich, woody-leathery EDP that’s most intriguing.
To my nose Gucci Guilty Absolute is almost medicinal in character. And I mean that in a very good way. With its deep leather vibe, it pays respectful homage to Gucci’s luxury leather goods heritage. (PS: Did you know Gucci will be celebrating its 100th birthday in 2021?) Gucci Guilty Absolute is not a get-as-many-as-you-can crowd-pleaser, so not everyone will “get” it. Either way, it’s good to see Gucci taking some risks with this new fragrance.
Gucci Guilty Absolute EDP, R1 210 for 50ml, R1 605 for 90ml and R1 895 for 150ml.
Prada Luna Rossa Carbon EDT
I am always very excited about a new Prada fragrance, as the Italian luxury brand doesn’t just churn ’em out. Of course, it’s in the money-making business, but there’s always a conceptual intelligence to the Prada aesthetic. And so it is with the latest addition to the Prada Luna Rossa range, originally launched in 2012.
A fougère with a modern twist, Prada Luna Rossa Carbon has been crafted as a fusion of botanicals and synthetics, the natural and industrial. It features top notes of Italian bergamot and pepper; middle notes of lavender, soil tincture, water, metal and coal; and base notes of patchouli and ambroxan.
Perfumer Daniela Andrier has created all the Prada Luna Rossa fragrances. And her latest creation reflects the above-mentioned contrasts with aplomb. As with many Prada fragrances, there’s something quite austere about Prada Luna Rossa Carbon. Yet it’s sophisticated stuff at the same time, because there are no silly gimmicks to grab the attention.
In my opinion, Carbon is the best in the Prada Luna Rossa range. It’s well worth sniffing out if you’re partial to lavender. While you’re at it, please also check out the award-winning, iris-infused L’Homme Prada EDT.
Prada Luna Rossa EDT, R990 for 50ml and R1 355 for 100ml.
Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint EDT
A new Thierry Mugler A*Men fragrance is always cause for celebration. Originally launched in 1996, there are now 17 fragrances in the A*Men line, including the latest incarnation. You would think that with the umpteenth flanker, A*Men would have run its course. Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint proves otherwise, with a new variation on the love-it-or-hate-it gourmand formula.
So what does Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint smell like? There’s a lot going on here, with notes that include peppermint, patchouli, tonka bean, geranium, vanilla and coffee. If that sounds totally scrumptious, that’s because it is.
Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint is the olfactory equivalent of over-indulging in after-dinner mints. Remember, this is Thierry Mugler we are talking about, so reserve and restraint are not on the menu.
Sure, Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint is not the very best in the range (my favourites are still the original and the honey- and tobacco-laden A*Men Pure Havane). But kudos to nose Jacques Huclier, who has created all the A*Men fragrances, for playing with our noses again.
Thierry Mugler A*Men Kryptomint EDT, R1 195 for 100ml.
It’s been almost a month since my last fragrance review. And I have a backlog of fragrances to report back on here at Fragroom HQ. So this week and the next I will be reviewing seven newbies on my sniff list. This week we have Carolina Herrera 212 Men Aqua, Jimmy Choo Man Ice, Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Bleu Astral and Scuderia Ferrari Forte.
Scuderia Ferrari Forte EDP
If, like me, you have never really explored Ferrari fragrances (surely too much testosterone), give this one a go. It’s not nearly as macho as it sounds. Scuderia Ferrarai Forte EDP is created by the esteemed Maurice Roucel (the nose behind Amouage Reflection Woman, Bond No 9 New Haarlem, Estée Lauder Pleasures Intense For Men, Gucci Envy For Women, Lancôme Hypnôse Homme, Rochas Man). The listed notes of this oriental fragrance include apple, lemon, plum, cinnamon, vanilla and patchouli notes. I mostly get a sweet and spicy pineapple vibe from this EDP. While not in the haloed company of the previously mentioned fragrances, it’s a good excuse to check out the world of Ferrari fragrances. Scuderia Ferrari Forte EDP, R895 for 125ml.
Jimmy Choo Man Ice EDT
Jimmy Phew! That’s Really Sweet. That was my initial reaction to the third addition to the Jimmy Choo Man fragrance franchise, which features mandarin, bergamot, cedrat essence, vetiver, patchouli essence, cedarwood, apple, musk, moss and ambroxan notes. I have revisited this fragrance several times since then to give it a fair chance, because sometimes an initial reaction can be influenced by factors such as mood. However, I still get major sweetness, rather than icy freshness, from Jimmy Choo Man Ice EDT. Perhaps I am being too literal? So while this one ain’t for me, I see it working very well for trendy, active 20-something gents. Jimmy Choo Man Ice EDT, R695 for 30ml, R895 for 50ml and R1095 for 100ml.
Carolina Herrera 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition EDT
Hard to believe that CH 212 has been on the market for almost 20 years. You know you are getting older when you can measure your life in fragrance launch cycles. Anyway, enough about me. The latest CH 212 Men incarnation, created by master perfumer Alberto Morillas (who-co-created the original), features notes of grapefruit, bergamot, marine, cardamom, gardenia, ambrox, cypriola, vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli, rose and musk. CH 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition is not going to score points for originality, but it’s super-fresh, high-performance stuff. CH 212 Men Aqua Limited Edition EDT, R1 200 for 100ml.
Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Bleu Astral EDT
I really like Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Parfum, with its grapefruit, leather and tonka bean characteristics. For their latest creation in the series, Dominique Ropion and Loc Dong up the contrasts ante. So Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Bleu Astral opens with a fresh burst of lime and Russian coriander. Then there’s a sensuous aspect with leather, ambery woods and vetiver notes. It’s very minimalist in a Japanese way and very effective. A case of less is more, and I want a lot more of it. Issey Miyake Nuit d’Issey Bleu Astral EDT, R965 for 75ml and R1 175 for 125ml.
It’s not often that you will see “Made in South Africa” on the bottle of a luxury fragrance. But then Cape Town-based Agata Karolina can lay claim to being one of South Africa’s few perfumers. Her niche fragrance company, House of Gozdawa, produces very limited quantities of extraits de parfums. All of these are made with high-quality natural ingredients.
For Agata, working with the cycles of nature is of utmost importance. This philosophy is carried through from the selection of her ingredients to the distillation process.
Although I have not met Agata (yet), her deep and highly personal connection to her art of perfume is unmistakable. When she sent me samples of House of Gozdawa’s Confessions Collection, these came with a hand-written letter. “As with all things in nature, these scents take their time to reveal their full story. I hope you enjoy experiencing that which they have to tell,” she wrote to me.
There are six fragrances in the House of Gozdawa Confessions Collection: Marta, Andrea, Albert, Simo, Hel and Aga. What I like most about these scents is their unpretentious character. To my mind and nose, these fragrances could only come from Africa.
TRUE CONFESSIONS WITH AGATA KAROLINA OF HOUSE OF GOZDAWA
I asked Karolina Agata about her preference for natural materials, her artisanal approach and her Confessions Collection.
How did you get into perfumery?
Perfumery found me far in advance of me finding it. As a child I was always hypersensitive to spaces, smells and sounds and how they worked together. I enjoyed it as a personal pleasure. But for a very long time never considered it as a career. I was brought into the world of distilling, tinctures and natural oils through my mother and grandmother. These two women taught me everything I know and inspired a life deeply connected to nature.
“As a child I was always hypersensitive to spaces, smells and sounds and how they worked together.”
After working as a curator and project initiator in Europe, Asia and Africa, I finally decided to return to South Africa and pursue my passion for scent. I launched House of Gozdawa in 2015.
Are all your perfumes 100% natural? Why are natural perfumes so appealing to you?
All House of Gozdawa scents use only 100% natural ingredients. No matter how many synthetics I have smelt, they have never been able to present me the depth a natural material carries. Essentially these ingredients are alive. They age and shift as they would in nature, continuously morphing into another phase of their existence. In connection with the skin these materials take on an even deeper depth.
How do you ensure that your perfume-making process is also eco responsible?
The farms and suppliers I work with in Southern Africa and across the African continent all follow eco responsible and sustainable practices. All materials are ordered directly and for the batches we create, I personally blend and bottle all of them to ensure no wastage occurs. Respect for your materials is as essential to creating a globally responsible product as much as any certification.
As a South Africa-based perfumer, where do you source most of your materials from?
Most of my materials are sourced from the African continent. I do work with many materials from abroad, mostly those that are not yet available locally, or simply do not grow in our environments. Many of the ingredients we use are from wild harvest, which I do myself. These will be even more present in our new collections after the full extraction and ageing process is complete. One has to have a lot of patience when waiting a year or two for one ingredient to be ready.
For those who are more used to the conventions of mass market fragrances and who at first might not “get” your fragrances, what would you say to them?
I often compare niche or luxury scents to taste kitchens pushing the boundaries of taste or of highest quality wine-makers perfecting the art of flavour from a single grape varietal. If you are an individual of passion in these areas, then why not afford yourself the quality of such an experience in the olfactive?
“These ingredients are alive. They age and shift as they would in nature, continuously morphing into another phase of their existence.”
Chefs, winemakers and perfumers are some of our last genuine artisans. We take raw materials and manipulate them into deep and unexpected orchestrations for people to experience intimately.
If this is not conviction enough, I encourage anyone to do a little experiment for themselves. Take a fresh juicy lemon and sprig of lavender. Scratch the surface of the lemon’s skin until the oil starts running out and spread it across the back of your hand. Crush the lavender between your fingers until the sticky oil finds its way onto your skin. Breathe these scents in deeply, smelling the oil on the surface of the lemon’s skin and then on your hand, paying attention to how the heat of your skin makes the scent react. Now take a deep smell of any conventional hand cream, bathroom spray or dish-washing liquid with the same ingredients. Which has more depth and quality?
My favourite from your Confessions Collection is Aga. Tell us more about that extrait de parfum.
I wanted to create a collection which I felt expressed something real and honest, rather than creating stories that had no context to the wearer. I decided to tell my own confession as the perfumer behind the brand. I chose six people in my life that over the years had influenced the person I had become, together creating the whole.
Aga, The Romantic, is the persona of the collection that was created to reference a part of myself at the time. Aga is my nickname. I often exist in the arena of the heart and at the time I was questioning a lot about what I valued, wanted in my life and my connections with others. This scent reflects my choice and definition of that part of myself. It was an unnerving process to open myself so deeply and honestly to strangers. But the reward, as you have experienced yourself, was worth letting go of the fear to be fully open.
“It was an unnerving process to open myself so deeply and honestly to strangers.”
The scent reflects spaces and moments which have moved this part of me the most in life. The ingredients – fynbos, jasmine, passionfruit, ravintsara – all capture the aspects and characteristics which I felt closest to. The fynbos is wild harvested and the tinctures are developed and distilled in house.
For more information and to order any House of Gozdawa fragrances, https://houseofgozdawa.com.
I have been mulling this post for some time. Why do so many of us buy into the notion that fragrances are specifically “male” and “female”, “him” and “her”, “homme” and “femme”?
For a long time, I was also guilty of such self-limiting behaviour. In my defence (and this is admittedly a rather weak defence), I associated “women’s fragrances” with all things sickly sweet. Blame it on the joys of badly ventilated, open-plan offices where everything is to be shared.
Of course, there’s so much more to female fragrances than candy overload. Just as there’s so much more to male fragrances than aquatic notes. A lot of women already know this fundamental truth. They buy men’s fragrances not only for their fathers, partners and sons. They buy men’s fragrances for themselves, because they realised they were missing out on a good thing.
To a large degree, a lot of “male” and “female” is just marketing, with gender stereotyping galore. Perfumer Mark Buxton summed it up best in a recent Fragroom interview: “If you like a specific smell, wear it. What’s masculine or feminine in the perfume world anyway?”
“If you like a specific smell, wear it. What’s masculine or feminine in the perfume world anyway?” – Mark Buxton
3 very good reasons why men should wear female fragrances
Your masculinity will not be questioned. Au contraire. It takes a very self-assured man to be brave enough to explore a whole new world of possibilities.
It increases your options. If buying a new fragrance, gets you going, just think about all the choices you will now have at your disposal.
Fact: Floral notes work very well on men, especially roses.
3 tips to get you started
Next time you are out and about buying a fragrance for yourself, make a detour via the female counters or shelves. If you are not quite ready to say you are looking for a female fragrance for yourself, a little lie will be acceptable. “I am looking for a great rose fragrance for my girlfriend” will do.
Allow yourself some initial olfactory confusion, and even revulsion, at first. You are just retraining your brain and sense of smell to respond to new stimuli.
As with any fragrance, experiment until you find what works for you. And always try the fragrance on your skin.
Ready to explore? Here are some female fragrances I have taken to wearing recently. Perhaps you will like these. If not, keep hunting…
Please note that this teeny-weeny selection doesn’t even include the classics: Chanel No 5, Guerlain Shalimar, Dior Poison…
Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pure EDT
With its marine opening and minimalist character, Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pure EDT is a gentle intro to the world of female fragrances. Then you will be hooked by its jasmine, lily-of-the-valley and orange blossoms. Methinks the water-drop bottle design has a tool-like appearance.
Elizabeth Arden White Tea EDT
Yes, your mama will probably have several Elizabeth Arden fragrances and she knows best. Like its namesake, Elizabeth Arden White Tea is a relaxing and comfortable scent, with notes of fern, the sea, clary sage, white tea, tonka and musks capturing this mood so well.
Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb EDP Extreme
You should already know Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb. While Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb EDP Extreme provides some floral fireworks in the form of jasmine, orchid, osmanthus and freesia notes, the major helping of vanilla gives it serious sensuality.
Alaia EDP Blanche
There are only five listed notes in Alaia EDP Blanche: powder, solar, vanilla, musk and white flowers. It’s very elegantly on the right side of sweet. If simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, Alaia EDP Blanche scores big time.
Elie Saab Nuit Noor EDP
A big fragrance for big boys and girls. Rose takes the leading role in Elie Saab Nuit Noor EDP. Ylang-ylang, wood, incense, patchouli and black pepper add to the sense of drama. Master perfumer Francis Kurkdijan created this one, so top quality assured.
Narciso Rodriguez Fleur Musc For Her EDP
Don’t judge a perfume by its lurid pink bottle. I did not like Narciso Rodriguez Fleur Musc For Her EDP at all when I first tried it almost six months ago. What was I thinking! Rose, peonies, pink peppercorns, patchouli, musk and amber make this a superb, stand-out fragrance.
When I first received the slightly garish purple press box for Yardley English Blazer Royal, my initial reaction was snooty to say the least. I had to quickly put my inner snob back in its own box. After all, I should know better. Yardley is a heritage brand and has a number of classics to be proud of. Yardley English Lavender EDT is still a big seller more than a century after it was launched.
You can never have too many blazers…
The Yardley English Blazer range was originally launched in 1991 with English Blazer EDT and its after-shave tones. This was followed by English Blazer Black EDP, English Blazer Sterling EDP, English Blazer Green EDP, English Blazer Gold EDP, English Blazer Premium EDP and English Blazer Red EDP. I have not tried all of these Yardley English Blazer fragrances. However, those that I have tried have impressed me with their English gentleman-on-a-budget vibe.
So what does Yardley English Blazer Royal smell like?
This woody-fruity-ambery fragrance opens with notes of bergamot, apple and lemon. It’s slightly sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. The heart of Yardley English Blazer Royal is all florals with notes of jasmine, cyclamen and rosewood. I can’t get enough of florals, so mmm and mmm again… The base has a fairly standard sensual structure, with notes of cedarwood, patchouli and musk.
On my skin, Yardley English Blazer Royal fades quite quickly, so this EDP needs regular top-ups when necessary. And at the price, spray away… I have been wearing it during the day to gym and to work (thanks for the compliments, colleagues!). It’s also very capable doing the after-hours thing.
So Yardley English Blazer Royal is a chic cheapie. And like any modern royal, it’s accessible and relevant.
Oh, before I forget, Yardley English Blazer Royal is also available in a 50ml roll-on anti-perspirant deodorant and 125ml spray deodorant. Both of these are worth checking out. I am not usually one for mass-market spray deodorants (oops, there goes my not-so-inner snob again). But Yardley English Blazer Royal Deodorant is not bad at all, as it takes its cue from the EDP.
Yardley English Blazer Royal EDP (R269.95 for 50ml and R329.95 for 100ml), Yardley English Blazer Royal Deodorant (R30.95 for 125ml) and Yardley English Blazer Royal Anti-Perspirant (R21.95 for 50ml) are available at Dis-Chem, Clicks and Edgars stores nationwide.
Givenchy Into The Blue. Jil Sander The Essentials Scent 79 Man. Le Labo Vetiver 46 Perfume Oil. Paco Rabanne Black XS for Her. Salvador Dali Laguna. Van Cleef & Arpels Collection Extraordinaire Cologne Noire. Versace V/S Homme… These are just some of the numerous fragrances that England-born nose Mark Buxton has created over the last 20+ years.
During that time, whether creating fragrances for big names or niche brands, Mark Buxton has become a highly sought-after nose for his idiosyncratic and imaginative style. Even when he’s pushing the boundaries of perfumery, simplicity is the ethos of his creations.
His collaboration with Comme des Garçons placed the avant-garde Japanese fashion company on the fragrance map. Comme des Garçons, Comme des Garçons 2, Comme des Garçons 2 Man and Comme des Garçons Series 3 Incense Ouarzazate are all considered modern classics.
Ever creative and pioneering, in 2008, Mark Buxton took the brave step of launching his own fragrance company, Mark Buxton Perfumes.
“I DON’T LIKE USING THE WORD ‘UNISEX’ – IT SOUNDS
I asked Mark Buxton some questions about his approach to perfumery, his Comme des Garçons collaborations, his own line of fragrances and the future of perfumery. This is what he had to say…
What was the most important thing you learned at perfumery school? How to construct a fragrance and the importance of each ingredient.
You have a long list of top fragrances to your name. How do you ensure that each one is different? They are all for different brands and images, so you have to adapt yourself to their needs and styles.
Is there an equivalent of “perfumer’s block”? Have you ever had to deal with that? No, it doesn’t talk to me.
Looking back at the classic Comme des GarçonsEDP, how do you feel about that fragrance now? Well, it’s been on the market for over 20 years, which is a good sign. Furthermore, I think the fragrance hasn’t lost its identity or originality. It’s become one of their big classics.
How’s your own fragrance line doing? Is it easier creating fragrances for your own range? I’m a very small company. The way the fragrances are performing is sufficient for me. You can always do more, but then the company has to grow with it. The fragrances are very different to all the other fragrances I have created. They are very personal for me – old memories, situations, people or accords I’ve scribbled down a long time ago in my famous scrapbook.
Your range is unisex. What was your thinking behind that? I don’t like using the word “unisex” – it sounds so sexless. They are fragrances anybody can wear. If you like a specific smell, wear it. What’s masculine or feminine in the perfume world anyway?
Do you ever read reviews of the fragrances you have created? Sometimes, if they get sent or mailed to me. I don’t visit sites or seek interviews. I hardly go on Facebook and have no idea how all these blogs work. Perhaps I’m too old-fashioned or lazy.
What fragrances will we find in your home? I wear A Day In My Life and Emotional Drop [both from his own fragrance range]. I find Emotional Drop / Emotional Rescue is the best vetiver-influenced fragrance on the market.
Is niche the future for perfumery? Niche was the future for perfumery but it’s totally overflowed now. Everybody is bringing out a fragrance line and brands are copying each other. I think we are not far from moving on again, but where? That’s the big question. In any case we have to stay unique in concepts and creations, otherwise we lose our credibility.
What’s next for Mark Buxton? Well, I’m working on a few new concepts – let’s see what comes out of that. One thing is for sure, the MBP collection is complete with the eight fragrances.
Fragrance evokes all sorts of memories and associations. I was first introduced well over a decade ago to the Dunhill Desire range by an ex who had quite the fragrance collection. Even then, as a fragrance novice, I could notice its accessible sophistication. And the hip flask-like flacons were eye-catchers among all the other bottles. So what would I make of Dunhill Desire Red Extreme, the fifth and most recent addition to the range since its launch in 2000?
As this newbie is an extreme rendition, its transparent red glass bottle certainly makes a bold statement. And the listed notes (blood orange, bergamot, saffron, clary sage, cypress, leather, patchouli, vetiver and amber) score high on the Fragroom appeal-o-meter.
So what does it smell like?
I have been wearing Dunhill Desire Red Extreme for the last two weeks or so and it’s a good – albeit safe – choice.
There’s an initial sweetness to Dunhill Desire Red Extreme, but it’s the right kind of sweetness – refined and fresh. While I can’t pick up all the listed notes, the leather and patchouli base is sensual, come-closer stuff. Sometimes a leather note in a fragrance can be quite cold, but this one is warm and inviting.
Thumbs up to nose Michel Almairac, who also created the original Dunhill Desire for a Man. Dunhill Desire Red Extreme retains the sweetness of the original. But, like any good flanker, also adds something different to the mix.
I have been working from home a lot recently, but as I have some important work meetings coming up this week, methinks Dunhill Desire Red Extreme will set the tone perfectly for those occasions. Distinctive, confident and intriguing. Now all I need to do is polish my shoes.
Dunhill Desire Red Extreme (R1 195 for 100ml) is available at Foschini, Truworths, Edgars, Dis-Chem, Red Square, Markham and Clicks stores.
Since its launch in 2006, Etat Libre d’Orange has gained notoriety and a large international cult following with its provocative perfumes and tongue-in-cheek humour. With perfumes such as Putain des Palaces, Attaqeur le Soleil Marquis de Sade, Fat Electrician and Encens et Bubblegum, Etat Libre d’Orange has walked a fine line between shock value and scentsory awe.
The man behind this Paris-based niche perfumery, Etienne de Swardt, was born and raised in South Africa. The name “Etat Libre d’Orange” is a witty word play on the Orange Free State, the South African province where De Swardt lived during his formative years.
After working for big fragrance names like Givenchy and weary of the conventions and limitations of perfumery, De Swardt launched Oh My Dog! and Oh My Cat!, his fragrance range for pets, which humans could wear too. Cheeky bugger!
My first encounter (“experience” is too tame a word) with Etat Libre d’Orange was with Je Suis un Homme, launched in 2006. Although that bottle was emptied many years ago, I still remember it as a heady collision between citrus, spice, leather and cognac notes. Not the usual, for sure.
I wangled my South African background to get an email interview with De Swardt. For a change, I had to turn off my overly vigilant inner editor to retain the drama and flow of his manifesto-like answers. So mostly I have shortened and explained his answers where necessary for clarity.
After more than 10 years in the industry, has Etat Libre d’Orange achieved what you set out to do? The objective is still too confused to measure a pertinent achievement. Sabotage will be the final destination, with all our narcissism, scented exactions, calculated pathos and endorsements of rogue heroes and heroines blended on one magnificent fire. I would love a purifying fire at 69 Rue des Archives [the address of the Etat Libre d’Orange store in Paris] to consume a decade “à tout faire de travers [doing it our way]”.
You started out as an agent provocateur in the industry. Is that still your motivation? I was born a sophisticated Shakespearean impostor, lost in between South Africa and New Caledonia. I was shaped by womanity, materfamilias, gay but elusive multiple (step) fathers, literature, cloud soaring, instants in the wind and, of course, my own departed. Hence, I am fucking confused and disturbed. But thankfully I have all the codes of vanity, arrogance and narcissism, knowing all that will be gone with the wind, revenged by our finitude and hazardous biology, so I bow to Diogenes’s cynicism.
Using your latest fragrance, You or Someone Like You, as an example, briefly talk us through your conceptualisation and creative process. Just a good name to ignite the process and federate the passions, and a good extra bonus of existentialism with my knowledgeable Chandler Burr [the acclaimed American author, journalist and perfume expert] on board. Chandler is a crusader of aesthetics on the road less travelled. Alive and kicking this is what we are, knowing the end is a Greek tragedy. In the meantime, let’s be dramatic, frivolous and genuine.
With its notes of blood, adrenaline, sperm and saliva, Secretions Magnifiques created a huge sensation when it was launched in 2006 and still upsets or delights people. Looking back now, what do you think of it? My beloved virus, my favourite crime scene, why did you betray me, trapping for so long our land of plenty in a swamp of miasma, saliva, sperm and other encoded fluids of duplication and reproduction. I was born in 1970, the year of the dog, and I sniff around not like a perfumer, but like a hound, hunting high and low body intimacies.
What’s your favourite Etat Libre d’Orange fragrance? I love all my scented freaks equally. They all speak my very universal disorders. Etat Libre d’Orange is a land of plenty, inclusive of all neurotic but charming darkness. It’s where a Fat Electrician shall dance an eternal farandole with a powdery slut, a leathery Tom of Finland, an abject ylang-ylang Charogne, the synaesthesia of a Nijinsky dancing the faun in 1912 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, the eternal feminine killer’s kiss blending jasmine at twilight with a seductive cigarette, a naive Justine lost in between vice and virtue, but deliciously perverted by a Luciferian Marquis of Sade. They are all for You or Someone Like You.
Has your definition of success changed since you launched Etat Libre d’Orange? Penitence is my lot in life, stoicism and cynicism my brothers in arms. I hope that all these existentialism-scented manoeuvres since 2006 will help me to buy a Jonker JS-1 Revelation sailplane, designed in Potchefstroom, South Africa, by two talented brothers. Soaring is a place where everything starts and ends, driven by humility.
What fragrance are you working on now? Vos Beaux Yeux Vont Pleurer, inspired by the poetry of Ray Bradbury and David Bowie (Martian Chronicles + Serious Moonlight), the curse of beauty of Rock Hudson, Edna “E” Mode [from The Incredibles], Roxy Music’s Love is the Drug and WD-40 Multi-Use products to keep our souls away from rusted parts. Disturbed, isn’t it?
What are your thoughts on the current state of the perfume industry? Mutation and survival of the fittest.
Are your fragrances distributed in South Africa? No, we are too “incompris” [misunderstood].
Apart from its name, does South Africa inspire your fragrances at all? Etat Libre d’Orange is the best blend of 21st-century Voortrekker spirit and existentialism à la française. Tell the Ruperts [the wealthy South African family who founded Richemont] that I don’t want to sell my house to LVMH or L’Oréal. But I would be happy one day to dance the carmagnole in the Great Karoo around the camp fire with protective laager people, my family, Walt Whitman or Alan Paton – the same universal, drifting, contemplative saga of pain and beauty on the limitless borders of New Caledonia, Colorado or Kroonstad. I am the true son of a Free State farm boy with vast memories of Bothaville and meat pie…