Last week, Harrods unveiled the expansion of its Salon de Parfums area on the top floor of the store. Seven new fragrance boutiques have been added including Penhaligon’s, Armani Privé, Burberry, Sospiro, Frédéric Malle, Bond No.9 and, brand new and world exclusive, Floraïku.
Left - The new Floraïku boutique at the extended Salon de Perfumes in Harrods
The Japanese-inspired, Floraïku, has been created by John and Clara Molloy, the couple behind ‘Memo Paris’, available at Harvey Nichols.
Directly inspired by Japan, the collection of eleven fragrances are based on Japanese poems - haiku - engraved on each bottle. Three ‘ceremonies’ make up Floraiku: Secret Teas and Spices, Enigmatic Flowers and Forbidden Incense, each
of them composed with three different perfumes.
The colour of the bottles, navy blue, white and black ensures recognition. A final ceremony is added to the previous three: Shadowing. Composed of two perfumes, with a red bottle, it allows, if they are affixed near a fragrance of one of the other three collections, to make it deeper or lighter.
Right - My favourite - Between Two Trees
Unveiled in a box inspired by a Japanese bento box, each fragrance of 50ml is presented with its travel spray, which also serves as a stopper. A refill of 10ml for the vaporiser completes this box. All perfumes and travel refills are refillable.
Left - Sit down for tea & a biscuit & sample the fragrances
TheChicGeek says, “This is a new take on fragrance and at first I thought it was Japanese. Japanese fragrances are usually very light. Because this is French, they are of a more European strength.
They are beautiful, so too is the packaging and the boutique. Looking like a tea house, you sit at the counter and are served tea and a biscuit - always a winner - while a wooden stand allows you to work through the collection. My favourite was one of the ‘shadows’ - ‘Between Two Trees’.
This is expensive, around £250, but without the usual bling you find at this level and smells very natural. I find it interesting how confident John and Clara Molloy must be to appropriate Japanese culture like this. It’s a difficult thing to get right when its not your own culture. I really like it, but I would love to know what the Japanese think”.
Below - The testers are arranged on this board to experience the different categories & 'shadows'
Left - The fragrances come in a bento style box with the travel spray stopper & cartridge
A new twist on Calvin Klein’s Obsession, the Obsessed For Men fragrance is an oriental woody amber with ‘a compelling heart of black vanilla sophisticatedly structured with dark, dimensional woods, providing the tension between a feminine melodiousness and masculine strength. Ambrox elegantly cuts through all, lending a sleek and contemporaneous edge’.
TheChicGeek says, “The original Obsession was the one major Calvin Klein fragrance that passed me by. Eternity - love, Escape - love, CK One - love. I’m not really sure why I skipped Obsession. I think it felt more feminine, ATM, due to the image of Kate Moss lying on a sofa. The images are a 90s classic and it was the start of Kate Moss’ relationship with the brand.
This new fragrance uses the same shaped bottle of the original while in a super-clean, clear finish.
I’m being pernickety, but i think they should have called it ‘Obsess’ rather than ‘Obsessed’. Obsessed is too pop culture a word, today, like ‘everything’ and ‘love’. It’s chuck away and immature.
They say this is Raf Simons’ first fragrance under his direction and it feels more a tinkering than a fully formed idea. The pictures of Kate are timeless in the truest sense of the word. Sent on holiday in 1993 with her then boyfriend, photographer, Mario Sorrenti, there was no make-up, hair or stylist. A simple setup, where the relationship made for exceptional results and a campaign that still resonates today.
As for the juice, it’s fruity, fresh and feminine. The fresh grapefruit gives it a sticky top while the deep vanilla gives a gourmand finish. It sits in that modern fragrance formation where there is as much top as bottom and it leaves you just wanting something a little bit deeper and more sophisticated."
Above - Calvin Klein - Obsessed For Men - 125ml - £57
Below - The original archive of unused Obsession images has been reworked for the new fragrance
Coach introduces a new fragrance for men. It is said to have a New York attitude and an American authenticity. Coach For Men starts with an energetic top note of crisp and effervescent green Nashi pear. A spicy burst of cardamom adds warmth, complexity and a subtle touch of sweetness. The scent ends with a textured base of vetiver—earthy, woody and green—layered with hints of suede and ambergris.
Left - One of the best bottles I've seen this year Coach For Men
TheChicGeek says, “In the battle for mainstream luxury - which is where all the money is BTW - Coach have a real energy right now. They feel like they are leading, rather than following, and have, finally, made Coach a recognised and desired brand in the UK and Europe.
This is their first men’s fragrance under their new license deal - they were previously with Esteé Lauder.
I really like the packaging: the ombré flacon and embossed logo with the name on the a leather tag is strong yet subtle branding. Even the textured calf-skin-like finish on the box is a nice touch.
The juice is commercial, but, that’s expected. The best bit is the dry down which soft and warm and without anything jarring or dominating.
The face is James Franco. I thought they would have chosen somebody a bit younger. Coach has been pushing a more collegiate, youthful feel and James Franco, pushing 40, is a bit done and has been used by other brands before. I personally think of Chloe Moretz and Brooklyn Beckham as Coach’s target image now: young and cool. But, this fragrance certainly works on its own."
Right - Too old for the new Coach? The Coach For Men face James Franco.
Coach For Men - Out 12th September 2017 40ml - 100ml - £29 - £62
Tom Ford introduces this woody marine oud fragrance as part of his ‘Private Blend’ collection with key ingredients including salty seaweed, pink peppercorn, oud blend, styrax, ambergris accord, and fir balsam.
TheChicGeek says, “This is really boozy. The smoked wood gives it an overwhelming whisky feeling and is a reminder of how wooden barrels flavour whiskies in their ageing process.
Tom Ford is well known for his ouds, particularly the cult Oud Wood, and they give his fragrances the richness and depth those paying the money want. This is as masculine as cradling a cut-crystal tumbler with scotch on the rocks wearing a shirt open to the navel. So, it’s very Tom Ford!
The only thing I would say about Tom Ford is I feel they are releasing too many fragrances. They need to slow down the releases to keep the prestige, exclusivity and allow consumers time to appreciate and focus on quality new fragrances like this one.”
Left - Tom Ford - Oud Minérale - 50ml - £155
A citrus-oriental-woody fragrance, Chrome Pure revisits Azzaro’s original Chrome fragrance’s emblematic freshness, creating a more textured and vibrant feel, with the addition of two new ingredients: the spicy-woody accents akigala wood and tonka bean join the white musks and mate leaves of the original version.
TheChicGeek says, “Released in 1996, I’m not familiar with the original Chrome fragrance. As a brand, Azzaro, has little or no awareness here in the UK and even Googling images only brings up fragrance and no vintage or historical fashion images.
This fragrance follows the typical tonka bean formula that have been popular over the last few years, but it does has a sophistication lacking in many. Created by Jacques Huclier - he was the nose behind the epic Thierry Mugler A*Men - it’s fresh, but wait for the dry down as it's the best bit, where it gets soft, musky and almost gourmandy.
The bottle follows the form of the 1996 original and looks a bit dated, now, particularly the font, but if you’re a fan of this type of fragrance you could do much worse at this decent price”.
Left - Azzaro Pure Chrome - 100ml - £59
Collaborating with novelist, Chandler Burr, and taking the title from one of his novels, this fragrance has been created for the central character, Anne.
“It should be clear that You Or Someone Like You is not some kind of olfactory landscape painting. Anne is a serious gardener — I wrote a trellis of roses into her garden, I wrote in mint and wild grasses though the individual raw materials are in the end irrelevant. What You is is whatever you find it is. A scent you transplant to yourself. Synthetic and natural beauty. Possibility.” says Chandler Burr.
Burr was formerly the perfume critic of The New York Times and was a fan of the fragrance Etat Libre d’Orange did with the actress, Tilda Swinton 'Like This'. This was the introduction to the collaboration. With a motto of Le parfum est mort, vive le parfum!" - "Perfume is dead, long live perfume!", the house has become known for its left-field fragrances and inspirations.
TheChicGeek says, “This is the first fragrance from Etat Libre d’Orange I’ve reviewed. It translates as Free State of Orange and was founded by Etienne de Swardt in 2006 in Paris. They have 35 scents in total and Etienne ,the self-titled ‘Troublemaker & Parfumeur’, talked us through the idea and concept behind this and a couple of other of his fragrances, and, boy, does every fragrance he make have an idea or narrative. But, it’s modern and thought provoking rather than the usual bollocks that is spouted off by many people taking about a journey or imaginary person, that usually nobody knows, it is for.
Like many fragrance houses he uses between 7 and 8 noses to create the fragrances, this time with the author, Chandler Burr.
I love the title of the perfume. It just makes me want to go all Adele when I say it. The packaging looks great: it’s modern and looks quality without going too far. The reason the label is one the corner is because the shop is on the Rue des Archives in Paris, No.69, no less, and it is on the corner. To me the fragrance smells like sugared mint through an open window. It’s much greener when it is on and there’s a background of something, but you can’t be more distinctive than that. I’m picturing white or peach roses, but I’m not sure. It’s fresh without being too cool”.
Left - Etat Libre d’Orange ‘You Or Someone Like You’ - 50ml - £82
Let’s make something clear, Marc Jacobs is a great designer, yet his business is struggling. Why is this? Business of Fashion said, on Tuesday, the label announced its decision to shutter its men’s business, ending a license agreement with Staff International, after the delivery of the Autumn/Winter 2017 season.
Okay, Marc Jacobs menswear had disappeared recently and, to be honest, it never really have any identity and this is ultimately Marc Jacobs’ problem.
Left - Marc Jacobs going out with a Bang, now discontinued
One of the biggest designers in the world and he has difficulty establishing his own brand. Karl Lagerfeld has always been the same, but that’s a whole other ChicGeek comment.
I knew something was wrong when I went to a Coty fragrance launch, last year, and asked how the Marc Jacobs Bang fragrance was doing. They said they’d discontinued it. I was surprised because, firstly, the bottle was great and the black peppery fragrance was very wearable and commerical. Maybe it was those naked ads, starring the man himself, that tipped it over the edge!
Marc Jacobs has done a lot of things: he put Grunge on the catwalk, but unfortunately you’ll never make money from grunge, he pioneered Louis Vuitton’s ready-to-wear and introduced many great collaborations, such as Stephen Sprouse, those leopard print-type scarves were everywhere, but he’s never really owned anything. You can’t point to something and say “that’s very Marc Jacobs” which is when a brand or designer because part of the visual language and, ultimately, means longevity and heritage.
In the early 00s it was all about the Stam handbags, which were expensive, then Marc by Marc Jacobs came along and everything was really cheap. He seemed to miss the middle, sweet spot that Michael Kors has come to dominate. He was either really expensive or pocket-money cheap and that confused the brand. You never felt like spending money on Marc Jacobs.
The fashion probably wasn't expensive looking enough for the clientele who buy designer clothes the world over and when the only shop left on the street in New York that you pioneered is a book shop - BookMarc - great name BTW - it seems as though this is a signifier of how tough things are to make money from ready-to-wear even when your name is established.
The bad news is it’s only going to get more difficult in the next few years in American fashion. Calvin Klein is hoping for a resurgence thanks to Raf Simons, Donna Karan has new owners, that will no doubt start investing heavily and Ralph Lauren is bound to hit bottom soon. They’re all chasing the same customers and competition is difficult in a saturated market. Marc Jacobs needs to decide where is wants to sit within the fashion market and aim for that. Or, hope check shirts make a major comeback!
It was at the launch of the new men’s grooming destination, Beast, - more info here - in Covent Garden that I was introduced to Leo Crabtree, the man behind the Beaufort London fragrance brand. There were a few samples of his fragrances in the selection of products to try and I was impressed by the originality of the scents. Historically based, they are a dramatic concoction of rich and smokey scents inspired by Britain’s maritime history. I wanted to know more, so, TheChicGeek asked Leo a few questions:
CG: What’s your background and why and when did you start Beaufort London?
LC: My background is mainly in music and I studied history at university. BeauFort London came about as a vehicle to market some homemade grooming products I was making around 4 years back. I found myself getting bored of the stuff that was available at that time and I thought I could do a better job. This project then developed into something a bit different, particularly when I started to learn about making fragrance. This area really interested me and I’ve kind of followed this path for the last 3 years.
CG: Where does the name come from? 1805 is a special year for you, why is that?
LC: The brand’s name comes from the Beaufort Scale which was thought up in 1805 by Sir Francis Beaufort - a way that sailors could gauge and report the wind strength. It’s still in use today.
This idea of invisible strength resonates and seemed appropriate for a brand that initially was only selling very firm moustache wax. The metaphor works nicely for fragrance too.
Aside from this detail, 1805 was also a pivotal year for British fortunes at sea… following the win at the battle of Trafalgar (October 21st 1805) British sea power was established and continued unchallenged for a century or so… I think these naval events still echo in the way we Brits perceive ourselves. And there’s something about the early 19th century that fascinates us - it seems to pop up a lot in popular culture at the moment.
CG: How many fragrances are in the range?
LC: The ‘Come Hell or High Water’ Collection consists of 5 Eau De Parfum each representing a different aspect of our relationship with the sea: Tonnerre (Trafalgar/warfare), Coeur De Noir (adventure stories / tattoos), Vi Et Armis (The opium / sea trade), Lignum Vitae (ships clocks / time) and Fathom V (The Tempest - weather). We are launching a 6th later this year too and we recently released a leather discovery set of the whole collection - refillable 7.5ml vials of each which is really popular.
CG: What is the idea behind the packaging?
LC: Well the caps were at one point going to be made out of pieces of old ships, but this didn’t work all that well. So, now, they are made from ash, which is a bit more stable and safer to reproduce.
The boxes ended up becoming almost like books or possibly sarcophagi - this is a pretty important thread in all this. The past, history, books, it’s all in here. I like to include snippets of things I’ve read, pictures inspired by the events that inform the fragrances. Each box is embossed with a little latin phrase which I found on a medal that was given to those who fought at the battle of Trafalgar. All these little things build a coherent picture of the brand I think.
CG: I like Tonnerre, which is inspired by the battle of Trafalgar, how do you get that smokey effect?
LC: Lots and lots of birch tar. This is an intensely smokey material made by boiling birch sap. This has been used a lot in the past to create a ‘leather’ effect (Famously in Chanel’s 'Cuir De Russie’ - historically Russian soldiers used Birch tar to waterproof their boots). In the case of Tonnerre the perfumer uses it in far far higher concentration than anyone has before to produce a gunpowder effect. I love the intensity of it… and the smell of tar immediately reminds me of boats.
CG: Any highlights from the others? What is the most popular and why do you think that is?
LC: We actually use birch tar in a lot of our fragrances. That smokey tar effect is almost our signature so if you’re looking for fresh you’re in the wrong place…
Vi Et Armis is really popular, I think because it’s so ‘in your face’ and unusual - dark as all hell. And Fathom V is an intensely strange aquatic fragrance which seems to be doing well too. We use a lot of strong materials, a lot of wood, tobacco, spice and booze. I think people like our brand because we offer something very different to traditional fragrances.
CG: You also sell other products like candles and moustache wax, how did these come about?
LC: The candles were due to popular demand, we had a lot of people who loved the scents asking if we could make them, so we tried it, and it seemed to work. Again, it hasn’t really been about planning these products, they just seem to make sense, and so we do them. I like experimenting with ideas.
CG: Has it been easy to produce in the UK?
LC: The perfume industry is rooted in mainland Europe for sure, but there’s a rich history of British perfumery and some really interesting newer British brands.
It was always a key aspect of this project that we would only work with British companies, and that has made things tricky (and almost certainly more expensive) at times. But it can be done, and I’m proud of it.
Our perfumers are based just outside of London, our boxes are made by hand in Sheffield, our bottles are filled and packed in the Cotswolds, the candles are made in Derbyshire and the moustache wax cases were made in Coventry.
CG: What do you think about the current perfume industry? Is it welcoming to niche producers? Is there too much product?
LC: When I first launched the range we went to Paris fashion week to have a look around. I was talking to a guy who works for a very long established French perfume house and he said to me quite unequivocally, “now this is war”, which seemed pretty ridiculous at the time. However, as time has passed, I think he’s right. There’s so many brands all trying to get a piece of the pie and the pie isn’t all that big in the first place. New launches happen all the time and it seems like (as with everything else) attention spans are short and the temptation is to churn out ’newness’ (a word I particularly hate) to grab attention fleetingly.
In the next few years, we may see some of these brands falling away as saturation point is reached. In my mind, starting a brand is the easy bit. Establishing longevity and maintaining engagement with your customer over a significant period of time is much harder… Time will tell.
CG: Is there any advice you would give to men about choosing fragrance or how they apply or use it?
LC: As with anything, the most rewarding experiences are those you invest some time in… do some research, get some samples of things that intrigue you. Spend a bit of time getting to know the fragrance in different environments as the best fragrances can develop massively throughout a day. Don’t rush… I’ve always said that YOU should wear the fragrance, don’t let IT wear you which is particularly important with these strong, heavy fragrances. There just too much for some people… they should blend with your character somehow rather than take over.
CG: What’s next for Beaufort London?
LC: Put it this way, we have been researching Georgian vices… I can’t say much more than that but it’s going to be an interesting couple of years!
Ermengildo Zegna’s Acqua Di Iris takes on a splashy transparency from the high-quality, citrus freshness of Zegna Bergamot - they grow their own - and dewy violet leaves. Elements of spice serve to drive the immediacy of the signature and invigorate the top. Sleek woods and cistus labdanum absolute power the signature with strength in order to zero in on the iris’ masculine heart. All are lightly softened by musk.
TheChicGeek says, “When I first saw ‘Iris’ on the label I was pleased as these is one of my favourite ingredients. Often called orris and derived from the root of the iris, it is mega expensive and as such is very much prized in perfumery. It’s also very Italian, which works with a brand like Zegna.
Orris is said to smell like violets and this is where I have the problem. By adding violet leaves they are taking the fragrance in that direction and it’s too dominant. The woods and musk softens it, but ultimately reminds me that Zegna also do a fragrance called ‘Florentine Iris’, in their pricier Essenze Collection, which I prefer”.
Left - Ermenegildo Zegna - Acqua Di Iris - 100ml - £82 Exclusive to John Lewis
Tommy Hilfiger, which is owned by PVH Corp., is pleased to introduce the limited-edition Tommy Tropics fragrance.
Tommy Tropics celebrates the relaxed beach lifestyle, with sun-filled days and cool nights. Notes of fresh mint combine with lavender and the warm, richness of amber. The fragrance packaging features a tropical take on Tommy Hilfiger’s signature nautical theme, with a silver tone cap wrapped in navy and white stripes and a banana leaf.
TheChicGeek says, “It’s all about the 90s at the moment, so it seems timely to rediscover Tommy. I’m not going to lie, I can’t really remember Tommy. Back in the 90s, yes, that long ago, I was more a Calvin Klein boy: it was the fragrance equivalent of Blur versus Oasis.
Firstly, this is a great price. Fragrance seems to continually escalate in price so it’s good to get something new that is also affordable. It’s a classic fougere, which means it’s lavender based, with a sticky amber dry down, which you get at this price point. This isn’t revolutionary, but perfectly acceptable and ideal for something you’re less precious about to take on holiday.
It says banana leaf on the box and bottle, but it’s the leaf from a Swiss Cheese plant. Not that I’m being picky!”
Left - Tommy Tropics- 100ml - £30