A Big Thank You and Happy New Year

This year has been like no other, the year started with terrible flooding, followed by Covid and throw in the ongoing saga of Brexit. Many of us have spent large parts of the year stuck at home, if you were fortunate you received a reduced wage, if you were not so lucky you lost your job or business.

Throughout this the essential services and key workers have worked harder than ever, working longer hours and even suffering abuse at the very people they were helping. We have clapped, rung bells, and many nimble-fingered ladies have donated their time to make scrubs and masks for the NHS. But very little can really thank them for their ongoing dedication.

So, I wish you all a Happy New Year, may we all start to have some normality in our life’s. And the very people who actually keep the country running, and by that not the bosses in the suits, but the workers who look after the sick, teach the young, tend for the old and vulnerable, keep the streets clean and keep the food chain going and run food banks. I hope you all get a much- earned rest!

From the chaos, I hope we can start to see what truly matters and hopefully the sense of community will remain, long after the current crisis fades.

So, a big, heart-felt thank you to those who put others ahead of themselves, you are true heroes!

Goodbye to 2020 and Hello to 2021

The First Christmas Card

Sending Christmas cards is such a key part of the Christmas tradition, often as a way of keeping in touch with the friends and family we are not able to see as often as we would like to. Although, in past years this has decreased a little, with E-cards, social media and the increase in postage costs. There is still something very special about receiving and sending a card, to someone you care about.

The very first recorded Christmas card was sent by Michael Maier to James 1st and his son Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales in 1611. It was discovered in 1979 by Adam McLean in the Scottish Record Office.

However, commercially, it was not going to be until 1843, that Christmas cards, as we know them, were first designed and produced in England by John Callcott Horsley. An edition of 1,000 hand-coloured copies was placed on sale in London. Henry Cole, sent the first Christmas card. He was the founding director of the V&A (who still have a special interest in collecting and displaying greetings cards) and a prominent civil-servant, educator and inventor. In the 1840s, he was instrumental in reforming the British postal system, helping to set up the Uniform Penny Post which encouraged the sending of seasonal greetings on decorated letterheads and visiting cards. Which seems ironic since the modern postal system is a factor in the reduction of cards been sent today.

Cole was a close friend to the artist John Callcott Horsley and asked him to illustrate his idea. Horsley’s design depicts three generations of the Cole family raising a toast in a central, hand-coloured panel surrounded by a decorative trellis and black and white scenes depicting acts of giving, the message was of celebration and charity. Cole then commissioned a printer to transfer the design onto cards, printing a thousand copies that could be personalised with a hand-written greeting. Horsley himself personalised his card to Cole by drawing a tiny self-portrait in the bottom right corner instead of his signature along with the date Xmasse 1843.

Cole’s Christmas card was also published and offered for sale at a shilling a piece, which was quite expensive at the time. In the 1840s, it was a period of change with Prince Albert introducing various German Christmas traditions to the British public like decorating a Christmas tree. Cole may have been ahead of his time but the commercialisation of Christmas was on its way, prompted by developments in the publishing industry. The growing middle- classes and authors responded to the trend.  Charles Dickens wrote Christmas- themed stories for Household Words and All the Year Round and published A Christmas Carol in 1843. By the 1870s the Christmas trend was well and truly established.

The second Christmas card designed was by artist William Maw Egley, which came a few years later in 1848. The design is noticeably similar to the first card as both show scenes of middle-class festive merriment offset with acts of seasonal charity and both were printed on single sheets about the size of a ladies’ visiting card. Early Christmas cards were influenced by the already popular Valentine cards and featured paper lace, which was embossed and pierced paper and layers that opened to reveal flowers and religious symbols like angels watching over sleeping children. New printing processes and techniques in 1860, that combined colour, (chromolithography) metallic inks, fabric appliqué and die-cutting to make elaborately shapes were of great importance for Victorian Christmas cards. The aesthetic cards produced in this period were considered tasteful and refined and were sold in bookshops and stationers and were still expensive, at ninepence the two designs. Publishers such as Hildesheimer & Co. started to import cheaper cards from Germany, before producing the penny basket in 1879, which contained around a dozen cards and was sold through tobacconists, drapers and toy shops. The Half Penny Post, introduced in 1894, further boosted Christmas card sales, with a less expensive postcard format becoming popular. Victorians now exchanged, displayed and collected Christmas cards in vast numbers.

This period saw the debut of many of the meaningful symbols and decorative devices that we now associate with the festive season; with indoor scenes of seasonal rituals and gift giving, winter scenes of robins, holly, evergreens, country churches and snowy landscapes. Scenes of a middle-class household were shown like decorating trees, children’s games, pantomime characters and sitting down to a Christmas dinner with crackers. Renowned illustrators produced designs for Christmas cards, Linnie Watts adapted her poignant paintings of children. Whilst, the artist Harry Payne, turned sentimental portrayals of soldiers into Christmas cards connecting families and friends across the British empire. Such heartfelt communications were ready-made keepsakes and collecting Christmas cards became a middle-class passion.

In the book The History of the Christmas Card in 1954, the collector George Buday, suggested that the Christmas card from its beginning was more closely associated in the minds of the senders with the social aspect, the festivities connected with Christmas than with the religious function of the season. I think this is in part true, but I also think that it highlights the importance of the family to Victorian England. This was the time of social reform and change, which saw improvements in the living and working conditions of the working-class man and his family.

Henry Cole’s Christmas card venture was initially judged to be a commercial flop. However, one of the first cards he produced was auctioned in 2013 and sold for £22,000, so I am sure he would have been very proud to have been proved right in the end. Christmas cards have grown into a multi-million pound retail phenomenon with around a billion cards bought in the UK each year.

The V & A in London, holds the national collection of cards for all occasions with over 30,000 examples of cards. More than half of which celebrate Christmas. They also revive Cole’s entrepreneurial spirit by launching exclusive card ranges in the V&A Shop each year, inspired by favourite designs from this historic collection. These beautiful cards are available in their museum shop and online.

A happy Christmas to you all and a wonderful New Year.

That Smells Good Enough to Eat

The official fragrance grouping for perfumes that smell like food is gourmand. According to the dictionary a Gourmand is a person who is fond of good eating, often indiscriminately and to excess, so it makes sense that gourmand fragrances are all about delicious, edible notes served with reckless abandonment and usually not for the faint-hearted. Some of the top-selling perfumes are in this group: Opium, YSL, Euphoria Gold, Calvin Klein and Angel, Thierry Mugler.

These fragrances tend to smell almost edible usually featuring notes such as vanilla, caramel, honey, chocolate and black coffee. Often sweet, but also savoury and umami.

The first perfumes that many of us wear as teenagers are super- sweet with notes of sugar and fruits, think of the Body Shop’s Vanilla scent. This is related in some ways to hormones as younger women are drawn to these scents.

Perfumes that smell like food-stuffs are not in fact a new idea. Gourmand perfumes are almost a century old and in the last few years are riding a new wave of popularity. The French perfume company Guerlain released Shalimar in 1925 to counteract all the heavier musk and spice scents that were worn and this smelled like baby powder and biscuits.

There is really no shortage of scents in the marketplace, that allow you to smell of your favourite foods, no matter how random these may be. From the subtle scents of citrus or tea to the extremes like cheese.

For meat lovers, the perfume house, I Hate Perfume combines the smell of roast beef, parsley, herbs, black peppers, smoked woods, patchouli, cedar and tobacco absolute. Whilst, in 2008 Burger King launched their meat infused spray, Flame, marketing it as the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat. I am really not too sure about that one, some men may like this though?

Frying bacon has to be one of life’s greatest smells. In 1920, John Fargginay, a Parisian butcher discovered the ability to dramatically elevate his customers mood with a secret recipe blending eleven pure essential oils with the essence of bacon. This was to become a fragrance; it is said that even film stars and heads of state would frequent his shop to procure the magical elixir of Fargginay’s Bacon Cologne. After a huge fire on July the 4th, 1924, the business was lost and so was the formula. Fargginay, Inc. was founded in 2000 (the perfume was launched in 2011) by John Leydon. Who was passionate to uncover and resurrect one of the greatest legends of the early 20th century. The company classically designed a fragrance that used a traditional structure to create an untraditional, artisanal gourmand scent. 

 Other companies have produced food inspired scents, Demeter, have a wide range, one of the most unusual been Lobster featuring subtle hints of sweet meat, the sea and butter. It does sound good enough to eat, but do you want to smell of fish.  www.demeterfragrance.com

The Stilton Cheese Makers Association commissioned an aromatics firm to create Eau de Stilton. It was part of their Stick on the Stilton 2006 campaign, to encourage people to eat more Stilton cheese. The perfume, billed as eminently wearable, blends Yarrow, Angelica seed, Clary Sage and Valerian to recreate the earthy and fruity aroma of Blue Stilton cheese. The smell of strong cheese causes me to feel quite unwell, so I think this one is not for me.

Jean-François Laportes, niche Parisian brand l’Artisan Parfumier is inspired by nature and creates many lovely perfumes. Their best-selling Premier Figurer scent, echoes a fig tree on a summer’s day in Provence with an enveloping freshness with milky woody notes. Poivre Piquant, combines white pepper and the sugary sweetness of milk, honey, and liquorice. which is a spicy yet delicately sensual aroma.  http://www.artisanparfumeur.com

So many artisan companies are producing gourmand perfumes which are very wearable and not in the least gimmicky. As after all not everyone wants to smell of flowers. Many of us are foodies and becoming more aware of using exotic spices in our food, so why not add these stunning aromatic ingredients to our scents!

What an Unusual Fragrance?

Christmas is a key time for the perfume industry, and we are bombarded with advertisements for the big-hitters like Chanel, Dior and Marc Jacobs.  Now you may not be a fan of these recognisable fragrances, but I am sure you can a least see the appeal to others and even buy them as gifts. I sell artisan fragrance for a living, and there are key groups of scent: the most popular scents being the Flower, Citrus or Woods groups, I could go into this in more detail, but I’m sure you get the basic idea, as there are many groups and sub-groups that classify perfumes.

There are many weird and wonderful perfumes, many I haven’t smelt, and in truth, I did think some of them were jokes and not actually real. However, or unfortunately these are actual scents! Sometimes, you like the idea of a perfume that’s different and no-one else has (or would want) and if this is the case, there are several perfumes houses that fulfil that requirement.

Demeter was conceived in 1996, with a unique and ever- expanding perspective on fragrance.  The original mission was to capture the beautiful smells of the garden and nature in wearable form. Made from 100% natural ingredients and fragrance oils derived from natural sources, the Demeter name itself was inspired by the Greek Goddess of Agriculture. The first three fragrances were Dirt, Grass and Tomato and were sold in a few stores in New York. Today, the Demeter Fragrance Library consists of over 300 different fragrances inspired by everyday objects and experiences. One of the things that makes them unique is that all Demeter fragrances are single note fragrances, meaning they are the smallest combination of ingredients that expresses an olfactory idea. The notes are linear, which means they express their olfactory nature immediately and do not change over time, in the way that a blended perfume with several notes does, i.e. top, middle and base notes. Their aim is the following:

We create environments where people can rediscover the wonderful world of scent that is too often overlooked or forgotten in our modern, multi-tasking world. That is because great fragrance, quite simply, makes for a better day.  Ultimately, we want nothing less than to change the way fragrance is used throughout the world. We isolate and highlight the beautiful scents that surround us every day, in wearable formats.

Whether this has been achieved, well, I’m not too sure about that, but certainly their fragrances are different from other perfume houses, I don’t think that Mildew or Earthworm will be out- selling Chanel no 5 this year. Kitten Fur, Crayon, Dregs, Fiery Curry, Funeral Home, Fuzzy Balls, Paint, Puppy’s Breath and Dust, to me were the stand-out scents, in particular as usually you try to cover up these smells, but I am guessing that’s the point been made. They do sell more traditional scents like Jasmine and Rose and the prices are affordable for an artisan product. Go to www. demeterfragrance.com for more details.

In 2019, one of the biggest trends has been Cannabidiol or CBD oil, and the perfume industry has been quick to jump on the cannabis waggon trending on the high-street. With several companies, producing perfumes smelling of Cannabis. Reeking of weed used to be seen as a bad thing. Now high-end beauty influencers are embracing fragrances designed to highlight the aroma of Cannabis. There’s one called Dirty Grass, an earthy scent with 500 milligrams of hemp-derived CBD oil in each bottle and a hefty price tag. Which is from Heretic Parfum’s, Douglas Little, the nose behind Goop’s all-natural fragrances. Luxury cult brand 19-69 make Chronic Eau de Parfum, which is inspired by the 1990s cannabis cultivation in Southern California. An ode to the Woodstock music festival and is best described as smelling of patchouli and fresh bud. Artisan company-Fresh produce, Cannabis Santal Eau de Parfum, which at £46 is one of the more affordable options. Apparently, this captures the raw sensuality of cannabis, and is known for its woodsy, musky properties and this is even sold by John Lewis!

Other scents which have become popular are paper and ink. So, if you’ve ever wanted to fool your friends that you constantly have your head stuck in a book, then this is the perfume for you. Paper Passion by Steidl, is a perfume that smells just like paper and ink. I think this would be a great room fragrance, although, I like this scent, I wouldn’t want to smell of paper and ink, that would remind be of school.

The scent of animals, has influenced perfume makers too. A perfect gift for those equine enthusiasts, Horse, is a scent created by the For Strange Women company and smells of horses, hay and oats. Artisan Parfumier created Dzing!, a perfume that smells like the circus. This fragrance has notes of caramel apples, sweaty artists, elephants and saddle leather.

Etat Libre d’Orange is, according to its website, an ambitious, audacious perfumery, passionate, exuberant and liberated. This is a different kind of perfumery, intelligent with a point of view, that uses irony to hone the names of its scents. Currently they present a collection of more than 30 fragrances. With names like: Fat Electrician, I am Trash and Putain des Palaces (Palace Whore in English) I feel these names are self-explanatory. Their best-selling fragrance is Magnifiques Secretions, a “Raw Sex” fragrance of blood, sweat, spit and semen. Creative and interesting, yes, but I will pass on this myself, I have heard of selling sex, but this is possibly one step to far? http://www.etatlibredorange.com

So, the perfume industry has us smelling of cannabis, mould, elephants and secretions, all very adult scents. However, you can also go back to childhood, if you want. The Library of Fragrance has bottled that fresh, just-out-of-the-can, Eau de PLAY-DOH aroma as part of a year-long celebration of the beloved modelling compound’s 50th Birthday. Prices start at £5 and this is currently sold out, So someone is wearing it! http://www.thelibraryoffragrance.eu for details

When you open a can of PLAY-DOH compound, you are instantly transported back to childhood.

Leigh Anne Cappello, vice president of marketing PLAY-DOH

I hope this has given you a different perspective on scent, I love florals and citrus and I don’t think I want to smell of mouldy socks any time soon, but you never know! Any Thoughts ?