I am quicksilver, the fox in the night, emotional about the poetry, love & desire in scent, read me.
Monday, 13 October 2014
A Floral for All Seasons -‘My Burberry’ by Francis Kurkdjian for Burberry
loves his florals, ivory, snow white and blinding, veiled, gauzy and dazzling. It
feels like the wearing of light, my skin adores gardenia, ylang ylang, orange
blossom, lily, jasmine, sweet pea and tuberose. It is the inhalation of
carnality and innocence both glittering and corrupted. As a man too, there is
subversion in the lavish embrace of florals. It is unexpected and sly with a
nod to transgression and bygone dandyism. I think boys smell beautiful in
blooms but then I am biased. Wrap a guy in roses, Madonna lily and rubbered
fleshy ylang I can lose my scented mind.
notes dominate both high street and niche main themes or frameworks for other
formulations. In niche the flower is often diva driven signature…my gardenia… my rose... my multifarious
jasmines. Perfumers like to imagine their shadowed violet, filthy rose or
resinous mulchy muguet is the
definitive version. The high street has its fair share of soliflores but they
err on the side of feeble or just plain poisonous. Sometimes it’s a budget
thing or the lack of a coherent brief or perhaps just olfactory fatigue setting
I feel though an opportunity to really explode the diversity of white florals
is missed. I like the concept of bouquets. In real life they can of course be
dull and generic mixes of standard blooms but in the hands of talented
green-fingered artists like my friends Fee and Tal who run the ridiculously
gorgeous Pyrus Flowers from a walled garden outside of Edinburgh they become
shimmering, emotional gatherings of leaf, petals, tone, shade and scent. The
same applies to fragrance; it is not enough just to gather together floral
motifs such as rose, jasmine, gardenia, wrap them in green and lay them on wood
and earth with perhaps a dash of ozonics and white musks to suggest sky and
rain. The Pyrus gals assemble with sensual intent, every stamen, pod, stalk,
leaf, bud and fruit has its role to play in the overall composition of what the
girls are trying to achieve. Combining this attention to detail with quirky
containers and presentation allows the floral work to be interpreted in a
joyous and interactive way.
intrigued by the occasional appearance of oddities in mainstream scent that question
one’s perception of accessible fragrances. Some of these scents approach floral
perfumery in a similar way to the Pyrus gals, creating bouquets of flowers in
fragrances, challenging the general conception that the high street is a wasteland
sample new releases across the board, but there is immense satisfaction and joy
to be had in finding something beautifully crafted and just a little leftfield
from big name houses and designer labels. Who can forget how extraordinary
Michel Almairac’s delicious leather and iris eau de parfum was for Bottega
Veneta in 2011? It was one of the best new fragrances, niche or mainstream for
years. Almairic was also responsible for the delicate Chloe L’Eau De Chloe that he drenched through with rosewater and
rose petals and seductive vintage lemonade effect of soft dewy citrus notes.
Florabotanica was another interesting
example of mainstream oddity. Launched in 2012 and created by Olivier Polge and
Jean-Christophe Hérault, it was a scent that really rattled me on first sniff
and compelled me to purchase. I go through bottles of it, imagining a sci-fi
garden scent, created by colonists on a distant planet. There was a lot of PR
and press nonsense about carnivorous blooms and the darkness of Florabotanica’s allure, but it was the
subversive flattening out of the floral accords with very unusual metallic
minty pressure that made the scent so distinctive and glorious to wear with
Kurkdjian is one of the most well known names in the fragrance world, one of
the perfumed elite. Born in Paris to Armenian-French heritage he originally
thought to dance, but fate led him to perfume instead and a career creating
thoughtful quiet fragrances that err on the luxurious silken side.
probably best known as the creator of the iconic juggernaut lavender that is Le Mâle for Jean Paul Gaultier back in
1995. Despite the enormous global success of this scent, Kurkdjian has managed
to combine a unique position in the perfume world of producing shimmering chic
niche for his own stand-alone eponymous house while still remaining one of the
most stylish scented guns for hire in the business.
first off, I have to admit I’m not the biggest fan of Maison Francis Kurkdjian, blasphemous as that may sound. There was
tremendous excitement when FK announced his intention to deliver his own
collection of scents after years of collaborating with other designers and big
name houses. I know the FK line is much-beloved and I’ll admit there are petals
and curves that are very beautiful. His original Oud is dexterous and creamily moreish and I am partial to the
plummy depths of Lumière NoirePour Femme, a powerhouse rose/patchouli
executed with subtle force. Would I buy them? Probably not. It is undoubtedly an
elegant and covetable brand with a luxury price tag but it leaves me rather
cold. The look of his maison is cool
Margiela-like white, everything has the feel of luxury wedding stationary.
White, cream, gold, embossing etc. The bottles are very cool though, with their
heavyweight metal tops, très tactile and desirable.
Kurkdjian does some of his most interesting work for other people, held captive
as it were within a brief, looking at a brand, examining parameters, counting
costs. This is certainly true of Carven
Le Parfum, Parfum Elie Saab and Rumeur for Lanvin back in 2006, three
fragrances I tend to always have in my Foxy wardrobe. These bright, sharp
florals are sources of light and sensuous cheer in moments of darkness and
shadowed days. I cant quite put my finger on why I like them so much if I’m really
honest, I just know that in the last 6-8 years my senses have craved white
flowers at certain times. Searching for the perfect ivory scented blooms it
seemed the majority of the ones I have loved were been signed by one man: Francis
Carven, Lanvin and Elie Saab fragrances all bear his hallmark glamour and and
sense of glittering simplicity. They may be considered mainstream or high
street fragrances but sit amongst my all time favourite florals. The gentle,
circumspect bouquet of Carven Le Parfum’s
sweet pea, white hyacinth and jasmine was an enchanting release from Carven,
the first new fragrance release under the artistic directorship of Guillaume
Kurkdjian’s jasmine and orange blossom soaked debut scent for Lebanese
designer Elie Saab was just thrilling to smell after so many mediocre feminine
launches. It appeared at the same time as Almairac’s Bottega Veneta scent. He
used sambac and grandiflorum jasmine and glazed them with a rose honey accord.
This is divine perfumery; each time I wear it I marvel at the way the floral
notes are seamlessly assembled over a shimmering raft of woods and patchouli. Elie Saab Le Parfum is bolder and warmer
in tone than the Carven, which perhaps fades a little too quickly from its truly
lovely apricotty breezy top.
Rumeur… sigh. How much do I love this
damn scent? Nine empty 100ml bottles much.. Launched in 2006 and obviously
sharing a name with an original and very different Lanvin scent from 1934
created by André Fraysse. Re-using this name annoyed a lot of scent-nerds who
felt it was disingenuous and misleading. But I think Alber Elbaz wanted to
reference the house’s important heritage, while playing with the notion of
rumours, whispers and the fickle nature of couture in general. My god it’s
strong too, it just lasts and lasts, radiating its huge crystalline magnolia
shimmer for hours. It’s my scented drug… there are times when I just drown in
it and fall into to clean sheets, almost dizzy and blind on the fountain of
aldehydes and icy petals.
said of Rumeur:
‘Being a perfumer is a bit like being a
magician, it’s about realising your vision of someone else’s emotions. It took
all my energy for six months to come up with the right formula for Rumeur
because for me, it was not just about mixing raw materials, it’s about creating
a memory that will last.’
To this favoured
trio must now be added the shockingly good new release from Christopher
Bailey’s iconic Burberry. I say shocking because despite the enormous revenue
Burberry (and Burberry Prorsum) generates as a successful global brand, they
have seemed forever incapable of producing a scent of any distinction.
Everything has been oddly naff and off-centre, unable to truly capture the
undeniably stylish spirit that lies under the avalanche of mackintoshes, ubiquitous
check and perversely tacky memorabilia created for Burberry’s overseas
has been a relentless attempt to woo the youth market, overseas Asian, US and
hip London scenesters with London, Brit, Rhythm,
Beat and the vaguely improved reach of Body
created by the surprising choice of Michel Almairic. Body’s silky take on the neo-chypré pointed to a potential
development in quality in the Burberry scent department. Mind you this was all
but destroyed by the utterly heinous flankers…. The Intense version was loud
enough to flatten houses. One of my boutique clients, a man with wonderful
taste in scent, a devotee of Serge Lutens, singles out Burberry Brit Rhythm, by the all star triumvirate of Anne Flipo,
Olivier Polge and Dominique Ropion as his worst scent of all time.
an enormous (and very gorgeous) wave of Testino-lensed publicity we have My Burberry, a truly ravishing and juicy
floral scent encapsulating the charm, eccentricity and reserve of British
Burberry and more specifically the iconic charm of the classic Sandringham mac.
The hype built up on this mega-launch for quite some time, particularly around
the pairing of Kate Moss and Cara Delevigne working together in Mario’s
undeniably lavish and sexy campaign. The carefree teaser pics of the models
laughing on set, under artificial rain, naked under tightly belted trenchcoats
made the imminent release of the perfume much more desirable.
genuinely lovely chemistry in the Cara/Kate shoot, both women, unconventionally
alluring, rebellious and unpredictable. I’ve adored Kate for as long as I can
remember, since I first saw her in The Face Magazine all those years shot by her
friend the late Corinne Day, waiflike and disturbingly knowing. Cara I’ve taken
my time to warm to, her face-pulling, sexed up street antics, the bi-sexuality,
pretention and privilege were hard to take for a while. But in the last year
she has become a spectacular model, walking runways with coltish, raw sexual
energy and her face adapts to so many campaigns with seeming ease and chameleon
charm. Testino seems to adore them both, (he has shot Kate for years) and has
managed to capture a moment of perfect poise and status as befits the Burberry
brand. But if you look a little closer, you will glimpse the polished thigh,
the glint of sex under the carefully styled trench. The shoes catch my eyes,
the girls’ ankles bound in leather straps, a counterpoint to the folds and
gloss of hair and gabardine. It is a knowing campaign, pitch perfect in its
calm, persuasive intent. But the awareness of these maverick women, held still
in a monochrome momentarily is deceptive. It is a statement of surface versus
the glory of juicy reality.
wondered for years why, with so much money to play with, Burberry have not
produced better scents. I think the answer is, it is easier not to. Now
however, with the luxury market becoming ever more cutthroat and demanding, it
is not enough anymore for brand with the global status of Burberry to throw out
duty-free style perfumery and hope the money comes rolling in. My Burberry is a HUGE advance in style
and execution. The ownership implied in the name relates to the iconic Burberry
trench, made in gabardine, a form of densely woven worsted twill with more warp
to weft, invented by Thomas Burberry back in 1879 and patented in 1888. It is a
staple item of any fashionista’s wardrobe, belted, loose, over the shoulders;
the Burberry trench seriously never goes out of style.
when the brand was brought to the brink of extinction by chav-tastic celebs and
thugs decked out in fake Burberry checks, it was the classic beige trench,
belted with discreet flashes of check that stood the test of time. Vintage ones
are highly sought after. You have them for life, they mature and mould to you
as you shift and move through life. The basic design has been tweaked endlessly
over the decades; cut, colour, length, collar, all have succumbed to the
vagaries of trends and the demands of foreign markets. But the original, as wrapped
around Kate and Cara, is a timeless masterpiece of design, instantly
recognisable in silhouette, tone and cut.
homage to this icon is something I’m surprised Burberry haven’t attempted
earlier. But in Francis Kurkdjian they have exactly the right perfumer for the
brief. This scent had to smell as close to classic as possible, grand, bright
and capable of huge generosity of spirit. A little touch of eccentricity and
naughtiness would be nice of course. Being a British floral, it couldn’t be too
reserved though. Rather like Cara and Kate; sublime and knowing in the
campaign, but you know that booze, fags and dirty laughter aren’t too far away.
bottle is a delight, the oversize faux-horn top a witty homage to the trench
buttons and I particularly like the cute gabardine bow, integrated into the
neck; this is a delightful and proper reference to Thomas Burberry’s original
trench fabric. A lot of effort has gone into making the flacon this
effortlessly chic. The trademark Burberry check is limited to a discreet
knocked back ochre & olive rendition on the inside of the grosgrain
like this gorgeous rain soaked floral, it smells pretty damn perfect to me. The
concept of having a fave old trench you can pick up, throw on and wear with just
about anything is very alluring. It speaks volumes about iconic clothing.
Burberry, Christopher Bailey and Kurkdjian have approached the creation of the
scent in a similar way I think, attempting to formulate a perfume that can be
worn with anything, bestowing an instant sense of timelessness. The principal
floral motif is sweet pea, slightly creamier and less flounced than the one
Kurkdjian used in his Carven Le Parfum.
The bergamot is delicate and winsome with the effect of raindrops on urban
trellises groaning with blooms. A dusting of peppered freesia heralds a geranium
and quince effect which rolls off my skin like unripe Mackintosh (appropriately
enough…) apples. Above all, this is reassuringly luxurious fragrance, air-after-rain
clean, the notes sparkling as they open, making me smile.
smell much patchouli to be honest, despite its inclusion in the list of notes,
although in many of today’s glassy, glossy launches a patchouli note can really
anything from a hint of spice to smoke in your eyes. It very rarely actually
smells of the dense, leathery, oily shrub that to me smells of dirty machines
and bitter cocoa. It perhaps lays down the odd, rubbed linen effect I pick up
in the later stages of the scent, something I find a little out of place amid
the honeyed floral ambiance, but no matter, it fades quickly enough.
me a few wearings to focus on the roses, but they are present and correct
(damask and Centifolia) and they matter, adding a discernable romantic hue and
slo-mo transparency to the beauty of the overall composition. It is an agile
scent, despite the languor and elegance of the notes. There is briskness,
laughter and defiance in the beauty of Kurkdjian’s masterly manipulation of
classic white notes, musks and the concept of a skin bouquet. It’s all about balance.
Few perfumers really understand the technicalities or indeed complexities of intricate
simplicity quite like Francis Kurkdjian.
scent returns to the concept of the trench, in the wearing and the settling,
the notes like the trench itself, become familiar and mould to the body. The
crispness and oddly uptight cluttered sweet pea and freesia duo soften up and
become beautifully malleable with time. Everything breathes and flows with the
body, My Burberry, your Burberry, my
body, your body. I like the idea built into the whole scenyted concept of
‘You smell beautiful… what are you wearing…?
or scent. Simple. Classic. Timeless.
For more information on Burberry, including My Burberry, please follow the link below: