Modest; The Perfume Polymath

By Jo Phillips

Have you ever come across the term polymath?  Do you even know one?  A very quick route to the idea of a polymath is to mention Leonardo Da Vinci, one of the most famous there ever was, an archetype of the Renaissance man, which is a different term for the same idea.

These people are quite simply, individuals whose knowledge spans a significant number of subjects, known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems. Who if you like have many branches on their rich fruit-filled tree.

 These multi-faceted people are rare and, when female, even rarer.  Take as a perfect modern example Olivia Bransbourg.  After studying art history and developing her career in museums and galleries between Germany, England, and France, Olivia launched in 2006 in Paris her own magazine ICONOfly and later the fragrance brand ATTACHE MOI.

Initially, Oliva starting a magazine was no easy feat, but making it even harder for herself she decided to do each issue on a completely different subject. Check ICONOfly  out here  

For an issue, she decided to explore the world of bracelets in each and every form and created, along with perfumes Christine Nagel and Benoist Lapouza, a perfume that was enclosed inside a bracelet. The three worked with bottle designer Serge Mansau to create eight blown glass bracelets covered in gold leaf.  Exquisite, so much so, that Le Bon Marche (French department store) asked to work with Olivia on a month-long exhibition for the magazine and perfume braceletThey asked her to produce a more affordable version that they could sell. In her head, she saw bottle bound in suede string.  Sadly, shortly after it was launched in Paris at the same time to move with her family to the USA.  But luck was with her.

Once in the USA, Barney’s department store heard about the perfume and wanted to launch it there as well. It was though she was the very sillage of her fragrance wafting it all the way to America from Paris.  Subsequently, a Grasse factory was able to produce packaging for the fragrance and voila  Attache Moiwas born. But this is not the type of lady who stops thee…oh no! This was just her first step into the world of perfumery.  Attache Moi had become one of the best-selling niche fragrances at Barneys and so Olivia felt she wanted to re-release it in France.

Olivia Bransbourg by Kanak Guo, october 2018

Image Kanak Guo 

Speaking with the team from Printemps in France, who said the bottle was too small and although the perfume was delightful it was too small for display purposes. However, because they loved her magazine they asked Olivia to create an issue of  ICONOfly specifically on perfume.  So started her next path. She had six months to create and issue so hence managed to interview in this tiny time frame such fragrance dignitaries such as Serge Lutens Frédéric Malle, Jean Claude Ellena, Thierry Wasser to name but a few of the gods in scent.

Starting with the very beginning of fragrance she was immersed deep within the world of not just scent but the making and craft side from being inside the labs to working with raw materials. Once the project was finished, she was approached to work back inside the industry again in New York where she worked across many niche brands for six months stint.  This turned into three years where she was a creative director for the Takasago in NYC. After this amount of time, Olivia felt a need to go back to her own baby, her magazine launching a New York issue.  Working this issue with British artist Shezad Dawood they fell into a conversation of a short film he was producing and that he was looking for an olfactive narrative to go with.

And this is how the brand grew into a five-piece collection.

Attache Moi  The original fragrance

An evocative blend of amber, musk and lush wood tones, ATTACHE MOI was created initially for the art magazine ICONOfly – diary of a bracelet – and inaugurated with a one-month exhibition at the Bon Marché Rive Gauche in Paris in 2009. The first edition came also in a bracelet-flask covered with gold leaf conceived by sculptor Serge Mansau.

Top: Bergamot
Heart: Jasmin, Cedar, Amber
Base: Musks, Amber, Patchouli


Image Runze Yu 

This means it opens with a flash of bright citrus and delves into a warm woody floral and finishes on a sexy intoxicating dark note of patchouli which offsets all the other notes and allows them to explode on the skin.

Attache Moi 55

Created by Perfumer Patricia Choux in 2013, ATTACHE-MOI 55 honours the energy of Manhattan and the encounters that are to be made every day. ATTACHE MOI 55 is a celebration of all things 55th street. As it is. As it was. As it could be.

Top notes: Mandarin, Cardamom, Mirabelle
Heart notes: Osmanthus, Jasmin and Orris

Base notes: Vetiver, Amber, Musks


Image Runze Yu

The mandarin at the top is fresh and sweet but offsets with the gentle spicy warmth of cardamom and fruity prune-eque smell of the Mirabelle. This draws you towards to peachy soft osmanthus hypnotic jasmine and that sort of soft power of orris.  The vetiver in the base brings a subtle dryness with resinous amber and sexy musk.  Definitely; a scent to engage with directly on the skin and see how it not just blossoms but draws you into its loving arms.

Attache Moi It was a time

Sublime destruction and fleeting utopia, IT WAS A TIME THAT WAS A TIME was created between British artist Shezad Dawood & French perfumer Nicolas Bonneville. Premiered as an olfactive experience at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn in September 2015 together with Shezad Dawood’s solo show. Crossing The Line Festival. The fragrance contains dark, smoky, and incensed woods mixed with ambergris, marine overtones, and a touch of immortelle absolute.  


Image Runze Yu

Top: Marine accord, Ambergris
Heart: Patchouli, Suede, Violet, Tonka bean
Base: Musk, Incense, Immortelle
This starts where the wet ground of earth meets with the sea, think cognac and sea salt moss and earth, and draws you towards a middle that is soft, warm and creamy, dragging you deeper into its base of smoky incense almost dried fruit mixed with straw…deeply addictive.

Lastly Atache Moi ici et la

A formula initiated in 2006 by Perfumer Christine Nagel around an editorial project, and then unfortunately lost. A small remainder of a bottle helped Perfumer Shyamala Maisondieu to reinvent it for the 4th opus of the brand. A perfume on the fluidity of time, personal and geographical wanderings, between Paris and New York. 10 years later. Here and there the beauty of wandering.


Image Runze Yu

Top: Bergamot, Black pepper, Pink peppercorn
Heart: Nutmeg, Pepper, Angelique roots, Ylang-ylang, Jasmine, Bigaradier leaves.
Base:  Beeswax, Iris, Atlas cedar, Oakmoss, Incense, Vanilla, Ambrette and Musks 

The two peppers at the top kick start this powerful number which follows on with more warm spice with nutmeg set against delicate florals but a hint of bitter marmalade all rest into the base of waxy woody smoky and warm sweetness.

Olivia, as many a true creative, certainly wasn’t getting rich from these projects and as we also know this does not lead to a sustainable life. Yet again the paths of her journey took new shapes and colour and textures.

From ancient times love potions were used to create desire so that one could not resist another. There were some recipes that were preserved which Olivia happened upon.  Having come from a family of the medical profession it didn’t matter to her if these concoctions worked because they set her fire alight. And so along with a partner Sous Le Manteau perfume brand was born.

The ladies got involved in 2016 in a Parisian white night.  They were invited to present ‘love potions’ at the Debilly footbridge (the bridge which links the two museums Palais de Tokyo and Quai Branly to mend broken hearts). They created a questionnaire (still on the website) and from the answers given they would suggest the most appropriate perfume to those that filled it in. The only problem was they didn’t have any bottle to sell, so all they could offer was to spray each person on their wrists and sending them off hearts mended.

All the authentic perfumes in the range were worked on by Natalie Feisthauer taking the original love potions looking to actually recreate them from the 19th-century pharmaceutical books. SLM is made up of five fragrances or should we say love potions! Each of the bottles sits in a coloured coded, slim circular bottle complete with a minimal smooth black topper.


The collection starts with Vapeurs Diablotines., an oriental spicy scent with musk, ginger, ambergris, clove and much more. Contained within a red cylinder.

Firstly, the moment it lands on the skin it is deeply sexy, opening at the top with bergamot yellow mandarin and herby coriander but dips into a middle of warm clove bay leaf incense and geranium which slides finally into a cedar patchouli vetiver musk vanilla benzoin tonka and opoponax with added styrax labdanum and animalic-castoreum. It’s sexy, smoky and creamy with a warm luscious spicy-resin sexual stamp to it. It’s as rude as the red bottle it sits in!


Next comes cuir d’orient  in the deep yellow vileThis creamy floral leather is a very unusual scent.

It starts with bergamot and then goes into the centre of its heart find powdery sensual orris, heliotrope and suede for a soft sensual heart with the deeply sexual base being made up of patchouli vanilla ambrette benzoin opoponax resin and musk. For this gentle sexy fragrance think of a hand in a soft suede glove that caresses the naked skin wafting with it a magic love potion.


Essence du serail is a fruity floral scent that draws you in and slightly catches you by surprise.


Top notes of bergamot for sweet freshness sitting alongside ylang ylang for an initial floral hit.  The heart is all flowers, flowers and flowers with jasmine lily of the valley orange blossom rose heliotrope alongside peach and plum for a fruity twist but as its settles into its base find wood in the form of sandalwood alongside ambrette and vanilla. A floral the mixes with the sweetness of skin but draws you deeper into its creamy amber sandalwood spell contained within the soft grey bottle.


Forth in the collection is fontaine royale caught within a softy powdery grey-blue bottleA delicious powdery floral scent.


With a bergamot top followed by jasmine rose and the distinct delicious powdery orris and lush geranium where it delves into the base of sandalwood cedar musk ambrette, styrax labdanum and vanilla with woody balsamic feel with a sexy hint of warm spiceA gentle kiss that wraps itself around to turn passionate very quickly.


Last in the set is poudre imperiale, converted within a pink surround.


This is the most obviously spicy opening with bergamot, elemi, cardamom with both black and pink pepper which gives a kick of heady aromatic spice. It follows with lily of the valley and jasmine but melded with incense and heliotrope with a benzoin tonka bean cedar musk and vanilla base.  This is the hot-tempered temptress of the collection for sure, busty curvy and all sexy showgirl.



It’s fair to say that Olivia is a woman of obvious polymath tendencies which are reflected woven into all her perfumes. They are multi-faceted, layered and rich unapologetic. The life of Olivia feels wound into each fragrance, her journey intermingled with precious fragrance notes. Not male, female nor unisex, just sexy sultry scents that draw you into their spell.

 Go enjoy all the magic spells her

or try the questionnaire for yourself

sous le manteau love potions are now exclusively available at Harvey Nichols 


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