Why do we wear fragrance? What is it about our love affair with all things perfumed? With over 500 niche (small independent) fragrance brands available in the UK alone, this is a serious business, but why do we love it so?
Smells in nature are used to mark territory, to attract a mate or even instil fear in trespassers. But we are not animals (as such), so surely it must be far more complex for us humans? Studies have shown that people who wear perfume are more likely to be perceived as confident and more socially skilled. But that’s not the reason, that’s just one of the phenomena it creates.
We know there is a strong connection between fragrance and memory, so recollections of a special time at home, on holidays, a scent a parent wore, or even certain weather conditions, when smelt, will set off pleasant, warm, safe and loving connections and therefore good uplifting emotions.
Yet it goes so much further than just the connection to past ‘happy places’ There is our need to escape from everyday life or the need to go to a place of calmness and serenity. This means perfume acts to rejuvenate our minds and energise our senses. Of course, this allows for the possibility to change your scent to match your mood; from day to day, day to evening or day to bedtime.
We all know that fragrance has a long history with sex and seduction. Some people use perfume for their own pleasure or to please others, and finally, perfume allows us to be our ‘fuller self’ or a facet of our personality or just ‘dress up’ as someone else for a moment, an event, or a day. We have the science mentioned above, that change that happens when you actually spray scent on. It’s ultimately not about the bottle design or the marketing; it’s all about what the ‘Juice’ actually smells like and how it affects how we feel!
Enter centre left, St Giles, the latest niche perfume to launch (at Selfridges and online) is quite frankly, just not quite like anything else on the market right now. That’s unsurprising of course, because the creator behind the brand is Michael Donovan. Michael was and is a perfume PR; one of the key people to bring truly great niche fragrance brands to the UK market and is a one-stop shop perfume phenomenon. He has a remarkable nose alongside an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things scent.
So his premise is this: With St Giles, each of the five scents represents a different character. So now you can choose the fragrance you wear by who you choose to be from this day to the next. It’s a fresh clever take on the very reasons we wear perfume, but better than that, these are damn fine smelling bottles of juice. That’s not surprising is it? After all, Michael has ‘rubbed up’ with the finest of noses in the industry. He chooses Bertrand Duchaufour to collaborate with. Known for many of the Miller Harris fragrances, some from L’Artisan perfumer Penhaligon’s, Acqua di Parma, Comme des Garçons and many more.
So with this pedigree of collaborators, these juices are bound to be good … oh and they are. So what facets can we choose to be? The Actress, The Mechanic, The Writer, The Tycoon and The Stylist; maybe these titles are not so obvious, but oh they are so much where we secretly wish to be.
The mechanic I hear you say? Why not? Think about all those bulging hot muscles, oiled skin mixed with rubber; not the local mechanic under the arches but the pit stop at a Grand Prix …ALL MAN! No, really, it’s a leather fragrance that is unisex starting (like all of them) with earthy geranium and patchouli, followed in the centre with animalic castoreum and leather. Its base is hot rubber, musk, oakmoss and a balsamic styrax.
Don’t we all have a novel in us? If so, The Writer may be your alter ego? This fragrance even includes rosemary that is known to stimulate the memory’s performance. This is all ink on paper, think pouring over the typewriter…
Rosemary is central with fresh ginger alongside the focusing fizz of aldehydes, clary sage and rhubarb. Leather and frankincense form the heart while at the base is the inky note of castoreum absolute with sandalwood, cedarwood and driftwood.
Don’t we love the centre stage moment (ok not all of us) but in many of us is the leading lady or gentleman, who comes out of the shadows into the spotlight at certain points, which means you could choose The Actress.
It is set off with giant oriental lily, combined with top notes of Calabrian lemon, bitter orange, bergamot, basil, lentisque pistachier, and tomato leaf following comes Egyptian jasmine, orchid, honeysuckle and pear, finished with a base of sandalwood, patchouli and musk and a vanilla custard.
Next up The Tycoon, and why not? do we not drift off sometimes dreaming of that manned yacht that takes us around the Caribbean? The need never to have to ‘push and shove’ and force your way forward as you do it all with the assured air that wealth brings?
This is an extravagant chypre scent. It opens with bright bitter green galbanum a fizz of pomelo, green lemons and fresh ginger. Cypriol, a spiced woody note is at its heart, with flashes of black pepper, nutmeg, spicy celery, magnolia flower and tea. The classic chypre base is patchouli, labdanum and oakmoss, set with an animalic castoreum.
Lastly The stylist, those days where we dress up, feel fabulous, look stunning because we can coordinate like no other! It’s about the radiation of all things pleasing to the eye, style is always in fashion even when fashion itself is not.
It’s made up with the top of bitter orange bigarade meets the talc of aldehydes. Add a hint of rum and mango absolute. Palo santo at the heart alongside frankincense and an edgy of tamarind. The most stylish of bases comes from two cedars from Morocco and Virginia, a smooth tobacco absolute, oakmoss, musk with a soupçon of vanilla cream.
So now you can see the world of scent is approachable in a totally different way. Stop worrying what ingredients may be and start to think about who you are..or even who you want to be. Spray yourself, fuse your reality and fantasy and your darkest wishes and lightest loves, but heaven (and hell) knows just wear it and LIVE!