Happy National Fragrance Day!
On this most scented of days we can’t think of a more perfect guest than Josephine Fairley, co-founder of The Perfume Society and co-author of The Perfume Bible. Jo knows more about fragrance than anyone we know, so here is what she shared with us…
What fragrance are you wearing today?
I’m wearing Hervé Gambs Rouge Cardinal, which is an amazing snuggly-sexy Oriental-Chypre fragrance that combines many of my favourite ingredients: orange blossom, incense, vanilla, chocolate and lots of patchouli, which the chocolate brings out. I bought my first bottle in a little perfumery in Paris called Arôme (a great destination for perfume-lovers), but I’m thrilled you can find it in the UK now, at Harvey Nichols. It’s become one of my all-time favourite scents ever.
And is that your favourite fragrance right now?
Yes – but it’s one of several. I think that goes with the territory, as someone from The Perfume Society! I am also very keen at the moment on Floral Street Chypre Sublime (as you can tell, I’m something of a Chypre fan), and because it’s still winter (alas!), I am also still wearing Guerlain Mitsouko, which is one of my all-time favourites – mostly for after-dark. All my clothes currently smell of a glorious mixture of those three.
What was the first fragrance that you bought?
YSL Rive Gauche – right when it came out. I thought the tin was so cool! Still a great fragrance.
What direction do you think fragrance is moving in at the moment?
It’s more the direction that the perfume-lover is moving in… Which is generally to be more curious about perfume, exploring it more widely and trying many different things, attending events (which of course we organise many of with The Perfume Society), and really learning about the stories and ingredients. But in terms of fragrance trends, florals are back – not so much the big blowsy numbers of yesterday, but some incredibly pretty floral-with-a-twist fragrances – and we’re also seeing more fragrance positioned as ‘genderless’. (Which of course fragrance initially always was.) Plus on the men’s side, richer and stronger concentrations – lots of eaux de parfum, not just aftershave and eau de toilette.
We know what you like in fragrance but are there any particular fragrance families that you don’t like or that don’t work for you?
Opulent florals just don’t work on me. I love them in the bottle and on the blotter, but on my skin they’re usually just a bit ‘meh’.
Who is your favourite perfumer?
From a personal point of view, the gentlemanly Carlos Benaïm – who is utterly charming. From a creative point of view, I very much like the work of Thomas Fontaine, who has brilliantly revived the heritage Jean Patou fragrances, among other compositions, and is also incredibly twinkly in person! (*blushes*)
Where do you usually buy fragrance? Do you have a favourite store?
I rarely SHOP for fragrance in London (I’m privileged to be sent most of the new launches to try), but I do love to go to perfume-shopping in Paris. There is an adorable little boutique called Marie-Antoinette in Le Marais – the owner, Antonio de Figueiredo, is both knowledgeable and charming and I rarely leave without buying something – but there are so many irresistible Parisian perfume boutiques, including the aforementioned Arôme and of course Jovoy. I can’t imagine a visit to Paris without a pit-stop there, because it’s a sure-fire way to ensure my finger’s completely on the pulse. (There’s now an outpost in London too, of course.)
Have you ever bought fragrance without smelling it first?
Never! Golden rule: you have to try everything on your own skin before deciding to buy it. (Actually, thinking about it, I have bought vintage fragrances – but for the bottle, rather than the juice.)
How many fragrances do you own?
Around 70. I think that’s pretty modest; we have Perfume Society followers with up to 600!
When I smell patchouli, it reminds me of my husband, Craig Sams.
A ‘hippie entrepreneur’, who went from owning macrobiotic restaurants to opening a natural foods wholesale business called Harmony Foods, Craig listed patchouli oil as the one non-food item alongside about eight lines on his pricelist (the others included brown rice and aduki beans). He’s partly responsible for why everything associates the scent of patchouli with hippies! But I’ve always completely loved it; I bought a bottle of patchouli oil in Kensington Market in my teens, and I find it hugely amusing (and really quite extraordinary) to think that Craig probably sold it to the stall-holder. (I also LOVE to wear patchouli myself.)
To find out more about The Perfume Society visit https://perfumesociety.org