It was the mid-nineties, I’d been shopping on a Saturday afternoon and somehow I’d found myself locked out of my house. I took refuge with the neighbours next door. Surrounded by shopping bags, my older neighbour took umbrage at something written on the side of one of them. In large, bold lettering, the white paper bag read ‘F.C.U.K.’. I thought nothing of it because I’d been a fan of French Connection for a few years and naively thought everybody knew what it stood for. I didn’t think it was rude, he clearly didn’t agree.
Left - French Connection brings back FCUK with Urban Outfitters
This simple shock tactic abbreviation devised by advertising executive Trevor Beattie, having noticed FCHK (French Connection Hong Kong) on an internal memo, was a revolution for French Connection’s marketing campaigns. It really was one of the best and most fashionable upper high street stores at the time and condensing French Connection United Kingdom down to this four letter word in 1997 came to symbolise the division between those who got it and those who didn’t. It was brilliant. The subsequent poster campaign, which read "FCUK fashion", received complaints from the Advertising Standard Authority, MPs and even the Church of England at the time.
Unfortunately, French Connection didn’t know when to let it go. It’s about to come around yet again with a new, exclusive collection with US Urban Outfitters. The FCUK + Urban Outfitters collaboration is taping into 90s nostalgia with a collection ranging in price from $39 to $129 and featuring the FCUK slogan loud and proud.
“Our brand has always been driven by innovation and change,” said Stephen Marks, founder and chairman of French Connection. “When FCUK launched in the ‘90s, it pushed boundaries and was wildly popular with a youth that celebrated individuality and self- expression. The timing is right to bring this back and introduce it to a new generation that shares this attitude and energy.” he said.
FCUK looks comparatively tame today. Fast forward over 20 years and we’re in an age of ‘Fucking Fabulous’ and ‘Bollocks To Brexit’. In a time of ‘alternative facts’ and fake news, people and brands are starting to say it exactly how it is. It feels like there isn’t time for tip-toeing around and the B.S. of previous generations.
Tom Ford originally launched his perfume ‘Fucking Fabulous’ as a limited edition for his Spring Summer 2018 catwalk presentation.
Right - Tom Ford saying how we all feel (sometimes)
According to American website Coveteur on how the name came about; “We were sitting in a meeting smelling the fragrance and Tom said, ‘This is fucking fabulous,’” recalls John Demsey, executive group president of the Estee Lauder Companies, which owns Tom Ford Beauty. “I said, ‘Yeah, it is fucking fabulous.’ He said, ‘Well, why not [call it] Fucking Fabulous?’ So we did. It’s a descriptive. Some people talk about fragrance ingredients; we talk about how it smells.”
For the conservative, American beauty giant Estée Lauder to sign this off was a bold move, especially considering how sensitive the middle of America can be.
“Tom Ford is the consummate gentleman. No one cares more about manners than he does,” adds Demsey. “I understand that this could be offensive to people, but it’s been done in a super elegant, high-end way with good taste. There is a very fine line between what’s salacious and what’s pornographic, what’s erotic and what has a sense of humour. Tom is one of those people who has the ability to do both.”
The PR at Tom Ford Beauty told Coveteur when I asked whether there was any resistance to the name: “This was 100% a Tom decision. We don’t negotiate with Tom Ford.”
Tom Ford has the power and track record to get what he wants and there wouldn’t be many brands or designers brave enough or powerful enough for this to make it through to market. ‘Fucking Fabulous’ has become a cult product even though the scent isn’t particularly memorable.
“I haven’t had this many requests since Tom first went into business with us ten years ago,” Demsey told Coveteur. “Everyone’s asking me, ‘Aren’t I fucking fabulous?’” he said.
This is a case of saying exactly what people think or what you hope they will think, and so it turns to the forthcoming European Elections. The Liberal Democrats slogan ‘Bollocks To Brexit’ isn’t original to them. People have been using it since the referendum, but they have been brave enough to use it and tap into people’s frustrations. It’s definitely a first for politics to be this brave and out there when it comes to campaign slogans. Some have describe it as “coarse” or “crass”, but it’s a very clear message and is exactly what people need today with so much noise on social media and confusing issues and conflicting arguments. It’s decisive.
Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable has defended titling the party manifesto “Bollocks to Brexit”, after the BBC’s Andrew Marr refused to read out the name on-air. Marr said: “This is the first manifesto whose title I cannot read out on Sunday morning television. Do you not feel a little embarrassed about the coarseness of your main election slogan?” Sir Vince responded: “A few people objected to it. I looked up the etymology of ‘bollocks to Brexit’ and the first thing I read was it was a word with a long and distinguished history going back to the 18th century.”
Left - Liberal Democrats slogan for the European Elections 2019
What was pioneered by French Connection’s FCUK, has been taken and run with by Tom Ford’s 'Fucking Fabulous’ and the Lib Dems' ‘Bollocks To Brexit’ and shows there isn’t time to pussy-foot around to get your message across. For brands and companies, labels, slogans and names like these are a risk, but this bravery, when it pays off, is rewarded with the both positive and negative energy needed to gain attention in today’s crowded and fractured marketing mix.
Making people feels a little bit uncomfortable and pushing the envelope of polite language and what is deemed acceptable, resonates, leaves a lasting impression and gets people to remember your product. But, it’s a gamble, some will fall fantastically flat. It’s a question of judgement, but the potential gains are worth it.
It’s the modern version of shouting and waving. Staying safe now means getting lost in the middle somewhere. This is like the classic Ronseal type of marketing, saying exactly what’s on the tin, but, now, it’s just what you would say to those closest to you or in private. Say it like it is.
To create Montblanc EXPLORER, three noses from Givaudan have combined their expertise: Jordi Fernandez, Antoine Maisondieu and Olivier Pescheux. Each of them brought their own knowledge of a specific ingredient and their emotional experience; bergamot from Italy, vetiver from Haiti and oatchouli from Indonesia.
The top note bursts with effusive Bergamot from Italy. Called OrPur®, this particular bergamot explodes with floral, green, and intensely fresh notes.
Left - Montblanc Explorer - EDP 100ml - £70
“I find this ingredient particularly luminous, like a young Mediterranean boy bursting with laughter: pure and eminently elegant,” says Antoine Maisondieu, who is a great fan of this citrus fruit. “Bergamot is also an icon of Calabria and symbolises the light of this region. We wanted to infuse Montblanc EXPLORER with this unique atmosphere, synonymous with joy, light and refinement.” This bergamot is paired with the masculine notes of French OrPur® clary sage and spicy orPur® pink pepper.
The heart note of this journey takes us to the most remote part of Haiti: in the extreme south-west of the island, in the region of Les Cayes, where the most refined vetiver is organically and ethically produced. Celebrated by perfumers all over the world, Haiti's vetiver oil is comparable to no other, thanks to its smoky hues and its slight overtone evoking hazelnut.
“I love the fact that it takes time to truly understand all the richness of vetiver,” explains Olivier Pescheux. “It's not a common or easy-to-access smell. It's authentic, raw and earthy. Vetiver is a root with strong masculine accents: the combination of complexity and roughness gives it real virility.”
A final stopover takes us to Indonesia, east of Borneo, in the heart of the rainforest, more specifically on the island of Sulawesi to discover a new type of patchouli of unparalleled quality. This patchouli has been developed exclusively for Montblanc fragrances.
“Patchouli is often at the centre of my creations, as it brings a rich and complex character to the perfume, it is the beating heart of the fragrance,” explains Jordi Fernandez. “This incredible custom-made patchouli gives a unique olfactory dimension to our palette. I used it in Montblanc EXPLORER to bring its iconic signature to it. It enhances the leather and cocoa notes of the composition, without showing its earthy facet.”
TheChicGeek says, “Mont Blanc has become a reliable go-to for mastige men’s fragrances and this is their best since Legend. Three strong noses work here and they’ve kept it simply layered with their three main and quality ingredients.
The bergamot gives the fragrance a wetness which suits the dry and earthy vetiver; you can imagine lush tropical forests and the smell from the damp undergrowth. While nothing raises its head above the scent’s parapet, it all works and resonates with a pleasing quality. The bottle has something of the Frédéric Malles about it.”
Disclosure - A sample was gifted by Mont Blanc for review
Each Ostens ‘Impression’ is a fragrance created as an ode to a single inspirational ingredient. Here is patchouli. Melting wax. The resinous dust from a violin’s bow. Crushed biscuits, cooked molasses. Old bricks, decorative tiles, worn stone floors are just some of the references said to be conjured up by this scent by Domitille Michalon-Bertier. Other notes include rosemary, lavandin, lavender absolute, immortelle absolute LMR and ciste labdanum absolute.
TheChicGeek says, “Ostens is a new fragrance company - see more here - and they’re starting with one quality ingredient and asking perfumers to create fragrances around it. Here, everything rides on a classic patchouli heart without its earthiness.
This is addictively good. I’m getting a lot of incense and wooden church pews, but without that screaming and clawing depth you get from some niche fragrances. This is a gorgeous patchouli and very easy to wear. It's one of my favourite fragrances of the year so far and it's the kind of fragrance you want to say to everybody 'smell me'."
Left - Ostens Impression Patchouli Heart IFF-LMR No. 1 - 50ml - £85
Disclosure - A sample was gifted by Ostens
The new “Bentley Beyond - The Collection” from Bentley Fragrances is their first collection of exclusive unisex scents featuring three evocative olfactory journeys, matching peerless ingredients with exotic destinations. A trip to Acapulco, Mexico, with Exotic Musk, an ambery musky composition by Mathilde Bijaoui, a voyage to Goa, India, with Majestic Cashmere, a woody fragrance by Julie Massé and an odyssey in Java, Indonesia, with Wild Vetiver, an aromatic woody scent by Sidonie Lancesseur.
Left - Bentley - Beyond - 100ml - £165
The fragrances, housed in a beautiful faceted flacon inspired by the signature cut-crystal glass headlights of the Continental GT, will be available from Harrods and Lalique boutiques (Conduit Street and Burlington Arcade).
TheChicGeek says, "Finally, a car company doing fragrances which reflect the quality of their cars. This is no longer asking people to buy into aspiration - the fragrance equivalent of a branded keyring - this is a realistic vision of the same person buying their cars actually wearing the fragrance. Man or woman.
The Wild Vetiver is fresher than a normal vetiver, without that dirty, soily undercurrent, the Majestic Cashmere has that favourite orris on soft, warm cashmere wood and the Exotic Musk has an aquatic edge with a refreshing velvety coolness.
These are three quality fragrances and are very easy to wear. So easy, in fact, they aren't very memorable. These don't shout, which could be part of their attraction, but they don't disappoint and feel as classic and understated as a neutral coloured Bentley Continental."
Disclosure - The products were gifted by Bentley to review
Jo Malone has launched solid perfume travel-ready palettes featuring some of their most popular fragrances. A light, smooth texture, containing pure beeswax, ensures a rich scent when applied to the skin. Customers can fill their palettes with their choice of two Jo Malone London scents from Lime Basil & Mandarin, Basil & Neroli, Pomegranate Noir, English Pear & Freesia, Blackberry & Bay, Nectarine Blossom & Honey, Peony & Blush Suede, Mimosa & Cardamom, Wood Sage & Sea Salt and Oud & Bergamot. When it’s time to try a new combination, simply use the enclosed pin to pop the two scents out of the palette.
Left - Fragrance Combining Palette - £24, Solid Perfume - Cologne - £14, Solid Perfume - Cologne Intense - £16
TheChicGeek says, “Something new from Jo Malone. Affordable and fun, these solid perfume palettes are perfect for travel - you no longer have to worry about fragrance eating into your toiletries liquid allowance for hand luggage and also means you can have two fragrances at the same time, which works with Jo Malone’s famous ‘Fragrance Combining’ (Trademark!).
The formula is soft and creamy and allows for a different, more intimate way of applying fragrance. This feels like more about fragrance for you, than for others. The palettes aren’t huge, and I don’t think they’ll last very long if you’re using them all the time, but, I think constant refresh is part of the point.
They’ve missed a trick not designing the palette so the pin, to remove the fragrance, can clip onto it. But you could just use any pin if you lose it. This is a really fun idea and makes a new entry product for Jo Malone. It feels younger and I think they could have had more fun with the packaging and maybe they could offer palettes in brighter colours or designs. I guess, if this is a success, this will become their equivalent of a jewellery charm bar. It could also become the Nespresso of fragrance!”
Disclosure - The products were gifted by Jo Malone to review
Made in Britain, palm oil and paraben free, ‘Evolution’ is the debut fragrance from men’s grooming brand, Kings. A mix of essential oils including patchouli, cardamom, vetiver, copaiba, ylang ylang and eucalyptus, Evolution has been approved by the Vegan Society and by Cruelty Free Bunny.
Started by founder, Blué O’Connor, as a result of a successful crowd-funding campaign, Kings will be helping to fund two charities in Blué’s hometown of Bristol, Mentoring Plus and Bristol Mind, as well as the national male suicide-prevention charity, Calm.
Left - Kings - Evolution 50ml EDT - £39.99, 10ml EDT - £14.99, 1.7ml EDT Sample Bottle - £2.49
TheChicGeek says, “Price isn’t a signifier of anything anymore, especially in fragrance, and this is great value.
This is really good. It starts with a liquoricey top which turns into an attractive warm rubber. I’m not crazy about the branding, but nobody sees that when their salivating around your neck!
It is suppose to smell like a jungle in bloom, but it’s drier than that. It’s a slow mover from the top to the base, but the journey keeps you engaged. It’s a calming fragrance which also complements its mental health connections. In a nutshell, it smells like sexy car mats!"
Disclosure - The product was gifted by Kings to review
TheChicGeek says, “Tommy Hilfiger has really carved out that niche of affordable designer. Once they realised that they weren’t a true ‘designer’ brand and just stuck to making distinctive and fun clothes, they seem to have flown.
This is the latest incarnation of the classic Tommy fragrance which was released in the 1990s. Now is a woody and spicy fragrance with bergamot and mandarin notes and geranium, ginger, cardamom and warm wood.
This is fresh and easy, and at, £35, it’s also cheap. It’s sort of fragrance as an everyday body product and that's how you should use it. What I would say is, if you don’t go to the upper price level for fragrance, I would ignore the mid range - anything £50-£70 - and come down to something like this. It’s basically the same thing, and, here, you’re not paying over the odds for the same thing.”
Left - Tommy Now - 100ml - £35
Jo Malone has teamed up with Savile Row tailors, Huntsman to release 4 fragrances aimed at men. They are: Amber & Patchouli, Assam & Grapefruit, Birch & Black Pepper and Whisky & Cedarwood.
TheChicGeek says, “The first thing to point out is that none of these fragrances are new. They were all part of Jo Malone’s limited summer editions over the last few years - see more here - As many of those probably passed guys by, they’ve brought back these four.
Huntsman is one of Savile Row’s most famously expensive tailors, but doesn’t have the design identity to play around with, so I think they’ve done really well just replicating the gold huntsman lettering on the front window onto the bottle. Simple yet classy.
They could have gone all silly prices with this, but I’m glad they’ve kept it in line with the rest of the Jo Malone brand. My favourites are Assam & Grapefruit, which gives you that yummy and zesty Earl Grey aroma and Birch & Black Pepper, which is the simple punchy notes of smokey birch tar and spicy black pepper. The Amber is fairly forgettable and the Whisky one just isn’t boozy enough for us boys. Cheers!”
Available at Jo Malone London Boutiques and at Huntsman Savile Row - 100ml - £120 each
Due to its size and location New Zealand is sadly often overlooked and forgotten about. It’s indigenous culture isn’t particularly well known, about from the rugby haka or Jane Campion’s The Piano, so it’s a pleasure to see a niche fragrance company coming from that part of the world and from somebody with that background.
Founded by Tiffany Jeans - I know, great name! - she was born into a family of strong, creative women and immersed in Maori culture. After a career in fashion and advertising she turned to craft. It was during her wedding to film director Andrew Morton she crafted a series of hand- cast skull candles for each guest, individually wrapped in tulle. From this grew a range of bespoke perfumes, candles and finely crafted curios.
Left - Curionoir - 'Cellar Feels' Parfum Extrait - 50ml - £150
Now, a collection of seven fragrances and matching candles, housed in handblown glass made by Monmouth Glass next to the Curionoir flagship store in Auckland.
I particularly liked ‘Cellar Feels’ which smells like Welch’s grape juice with a woody and leather base.
Called Curionoir, because Tiffany always worked at night, it feels like the fragrances are deeply personal and a mystical gift from the lush ferny undergrowth of New Zealand. I just wish more of this was reflected in the packaging and branding. I want to learn more.
Right - Feather My Tears Candle - £125.50
“With 'the modernist', I designed a fragrance that has that self-assured simplicity. Bergamot opens the parfum and leads the way to a oral centre. Freesia felt like the perfect choice in this journey from citrus to timber. I love the sweet and sharp sensation of freesia and the way it softens and radiates a cleanliness on the skin. This is cradled in the warm hands of frankincense. I wanted a dominant, distinguished base and its complexity is enriched with labdanum, timber and even fruit, creating an autograph for the wearer. I’m not a big fan of scents that arrive before you do and linger in the room after you’ve left. For sure, be powerful and be bold, but let them remember how you smell, not just the smell.” says John Evans, Fragrance Designer & Founder of the modernist fragrance.
Taking a break from corporate life, John worked full-time as a writer and has seven novels published. Following his re-entry into the world of finance, John lived and worked in the US and Australia for a number of years. He and Andrew, his partner, returned to the UK in 2008 where John was the Managing Director of a global business.
Leaving full time work at the end of 2014, and at Andrew's suggestion, John began formalising a lifelong passion for fine fragrance. Soon after, John authored the modernist manifesto and founded the house of modernist fragrance. Formulated in London and made in England, this is his first fragrance.
Left - The Modernist - 50ml - £145
TheChicGeek says, “It’s refreshing when somebody has put everything into a single fragrance. This feels like a labour of love and another welcome addition to the family of small British perfume producers. I’m not sure whether ‘the modernist’ is the name of the company or the fragrance or both. But, I really like it.
It has a cool, almost menthol, freshness at the top, with an element of turpentine. Then, a peppery layer which moves into spice and the comforting and intoxicating depth of the frankincense. It doesn’t dominate, but has a delicate richness, very much like John’s goal in the creation - see his quote above. The packaging reminds me of Miller Harris.”