Beauty In The Strangest Of Places

Beauty - Jasmine.

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.

Beauty - Savage Beauty.
SHOW AND TELL: An image from the book Savage Beauty.

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.

LIME LIGHT

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.

Beauty - Lime Leaves.

VITAMIN SEA

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…

Beauty - Tom Ford Sole di Positano.

INDIAN SUMMER

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.

Beauty - Jasmine.

VINTAGE VIEW

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.

Beauty - Vintage.

Why Men Should Wear Women’s Fragrances

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.

Some recommendations

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.

Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey Pure EDT

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.

Elizabeth Arden White Tea EDT

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.

Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb EDP Extreme

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.

Alaia EDP Blanche

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.

Elie Saab Nuit Noor

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.

Narciso Rodriguez Fleur Musc For Her

ARE YOU A FRAGRANCE SNOB?

Snob Avon
CHEAP AND CHEERFUL… But not for public display.

If you think that the world of fragrance is just about pretty bottles and nice smells, think again. Welcome to the realm of the fragrance snob. I use this term affectionately, because I am guilty sometimes of being a frightful fragrance snob.

Of course, I am not the only one. So read through the statements below to see how you place on the snob-o-meter. Be honest. I won’t judge you…

  • If there’s one thing that gets you going, it’s the commercialisation of perfumery. You regularly vent on Fragrantica about the umpteenth flanker in a designer fragrance range and how the once mighty have fallen so low.
  • And let’s not even got started on the reformulation or discontinuation of your favourite fragrance.
  • And celebrity fragrances…
  • You speak about the masters of fragrance as if they are your best friends. Sometimes you even know their fragrances better than they do.
  • Now that everybody loves Comme des Garcons fragrances, you are on the hunt for a new niche fragrance house. Escentric Molecules, Laboratory Perfumes and Nasomatto are just some of your new faves. For now, at least…
  • You are known for your mastery of fragrance-speak, of which you are very proud. Words like “sillage”, “projection”, “chypre”, “juice”, “drydown”, “layering”, “neo-oriental” and “absolue” come so easily to you.
Snob CDG
FINDING A NEW NICHE: The more obscure, the better.
  • You have a soft spot for some cheap and cheerful fragrances from the likes of The Body Shop, Avon and Yardley but, heaven forbid, these would never feature on your Instagram. You would rather use IG to display your vintage Christian Dior Eau Sauvage and Guerlain Vetiver.
  • You can debate the note structure of a fragrance for hours and are adamant that you can detect the rare wild Haiti rose as a top note in so-and-so’s newest scent, even though it’s not listed in the official note structure.