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/

 

House of Gozdawa: The Art of Nature

House of Gozdawa

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.

Agata Karolina of House of Gozdawa

WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY: Agata Karolina of House of Gozdawa.

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.

Delivery from House of Gozdawa.

MR DELIVERY: House of Gozdawa personal touch.

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. 

House of Gozdawa

IT’S PERSONAL: Agata Karolina’s hand-written letter.

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.

Samples from the House of Gozdawa Confessions Collection.

BOXES, LITTLE BOXES: Samples from the House of Gozdawa Confessions Collection.

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.

House of Gozdawa Hel

HOUSE OF GOZDAWA HEL: With notes of grapefruit, tuberose and cajeput.

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.

House of Gozdawa Marta

HOUSE OF GOZDAWA MARTA: With notes of geranium, lemon, black pepper, carnation and wood.

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.

House of Gozdawa Simo

HOUSE OF GOZDAWA SIMO TRAVEL VIAL: With notes of crushed lemon rind, orange blossom, cedar wood, atlas and vetiver.

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.”

Agata Karolina of House of Gozdawa transforms raw materials into intimate experiences.

ARTISANAL APPROACH: Agata Karolina transforms raw materials into intimate experiences.

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?

Are you a natural or synthetic kind of person?

LAVENDER CRUSH: Are you a natural or synthetic kind of person?

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.

House of Gozdawa Aga

HOUSE OF GOZDAWA AGA: With notes of jasmine, rosemary, fynbos and dark fruits.

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.