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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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/