Scents with a hint of nos­tal­gia

Business Traveller - - CONTENTS -

Take a sniff of the new Fougère Pla­tine from Tom Ford and you step in­side a per­fume time warp. The woods, the herbs, that bar­ber­shop lick of laven­der: they in­stantly hark back to larger-than-life block­busters from a few decades ago that em­anated from shoul­der-padded power suits and board­rooms across the world. These scents – the likes of Drakkar Noir, Cacharel Pour Homme and YSL Kouros – are con­sid­ered clas­sics of mas­cu­line per­fumery. Tom Ford has long been in­ter­ested in the aes­thet­ics of the re­cent past, so per­haps it’s not sur­pris­ing that his lat­est scent in­dulges in a bit of nos­tal­gia. But far from be­ing a quirky one-off, Fougère Pla­tine marks a new trend. Sev­eral brands are us­ing the styles of the 1970s and 80s to ap­peal to vin­tage­seek­ing con­sumers, cre­at­ing scents that show­case the hard-hit­ting per­son­al­i­ties of bit­ter herbs, such as artemisia, as well as leather, resinous notes and, most im­por­tantly, patchouli. As trend fore­caster and We Wear Per­fume writer Amanda Carr points out, the lat­ter spells “the past” more per­sua­sively than most other in­gre­di­ents. “It re­flects the 70s fash­ion in­flu­ences,” she says, “but I think it also taps into the 40-plus age group, as it re­minds them of their youth, which they may like to now fan­ta­sise about as be­ing ro­man­ti­cally mis­spent.“Patchouli makes its pres­ence felt in the Tom Ford fra­grance, as well as in the new Imi­ta­tion Man from Amouage, in which it is blended with an in­trigu­ing com­bi­na­tion of ma­te­ri­als de­signed to evoke the smell of a record. Ac­cord­ing to the brand’s cre­ative di­rec­tor, Christo­pher Chong, this was an at­tempt to ref­er­ence the colour­ful am­bi­ence of 1970s New York and the glam­our of Stu­dio 54. “I grew up on the Lower East Side,” he says, “and I took in­spi­ra­tion from the graf­fiti, the neon lights and the mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism. In the heart of the fra­grance, I wanted to recre­ate the smell of a vinyl record with vi­o­let and iris.”

Michel Al­mairac, vet­eran per­fumer and founder of the new Parle Moi De Par­fum brand, be­lieves that, to an ex­tent, per­fumery is al­ways turn­ing to some as­pect of its her­itage for ideas. How­ever, he claims that the de­vel­op­ment of novel aroma chem­i­cals now en­ables scent-mak­ers to in­ject moder­nity into their work and pre­vent it from turn­ing into a mere clone of what has come be­fore. For in­stance, in many ways, his Tomboy Neroli chan­nels the heavy woods and musks of a by­gone era, but its use of the so-called “woody-am­bery” fam­ily of ma­te­ri­als – “which you can find in all cur­rent top-sell­ers,” he says – pulls it firmly into the 21st cen­tury.

But per­haps the most fas­ci­nat­ing as­pect of this ol­fac­tory phe­nom­e­non is its cause. Much like the world of fash­ion, per­fumery tends to re­flect the con­cerns of its time and it is in­ter­est­ing to con­sider why, at this mo­ment, peo­ple should choose to turn to what came be­fore. Carr says,

“As con­sumers, we look back to what we knew and un­der­stood, be­cause it feels re­as­sur­ingly fa­mil­iar. It is a pre­car­i­ous world right now and seek­ing safety in what went be­fore is a re­ac­tion to this in­sta­bil­ity. And fra­grance is the fastest sense-route to me­mory.”

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