Thierry Mugler sadly passed away recently. I will always remember the designer for two fragrances: Angel, which almost every woman wore in the 90s (you either loved or loathed it – I am in the latter camp) and a lesser known unisex fragrance, Mugler Cologne – probably my favourite fragrance of all time. Mugler wished to recreate the fresh smell of skin after using a soap that he had brought back from a trip to Morocco…
“Mugler Cologne is the only fragrance that Monsieur Mugler has created for himself. Its origins go back to a trip near Laâyoune, Morocco, between Western Sahara and the Atlantic Ocean. As he prepared to take a shower after a sweltering day, he was bothered by the mixture of two scents: the clean lather of the soap in contact with his heated skin. He imagined a cologne in 2001 to relive this experience: a green fragrance that represented a departure from all other creations of its day. It offered a new type of freshness contrasted with the subversive and carnal “S” note to give it energizing sensuality.”
I have quickly gone through two bottles, but it is not easily available in South Africa. I have been trying to find a similar scent ever since – a fresh, out of the shower kind scent. I’m still looking…!
So, during the worst stages of lockdown I became obsessed with the idea of finding my new perfect scent, which was silly because we couldn’t go to the stores and actually smell anything. I would spend ages on Fragrantica looking at fragrance notes, reading reviews, trying to find similar perfumes to ones I knew I already loved. The funny thing about fragrance reviews is that a singular scent could be described as “heavenly” by one reviewer, and “it’s fine” by the next.
And then I got onto fragrance Tik Tok – which is amazing, by the way. People recommend fragrances depending on how you want to smell, or high street dupes for expensive designer fragrances (like Zara’s Energetically New York which smells exactly like Le Labo’s Santal 33 – it’s true, I’ve smelled it).
My current favourite day to day scent is this one by The Body Shop of all places. I get so many compliments while wearing it. But I still have not found THE ONE… my new signature fragrance. I’ve started looking at wildly out of my price range perfumes online, attracted by the design of the bottles and their funny fragrance notes, “An airy and translucent cathedral incense offset with ramblings in cheap Bic ink…”
Here are ten fragrances houses that I think are doing cool things right now…
19-69 is a luxury fragrance line that describes itself as “bottling counterculture”. many of their fragrances are inspired by cultural moments: Rainbow Bar was named for the notorious Rainbow Bar on Sunset Strip, Purple Haze embraces the hippie movements, Capri is inspired by the settings of Casa Malaparte and the iconic film Le Mépris. Their scent Rainbow Bar is highly rated on Sephora, where people describe it as “Coca-Cola on top of soft spice… soda and spice!”
snif is a really cool new fragrance line that actually lets you trial the perfumes before you buy, so that you can skip the dreaded department store fragrance buying experience. they have fun names like show pony, burning bridges and salty stares. i like the sound of all of them…!
I would want every single one of these perfumes by French perfumery Ormaie based on the sculptural bottles alone, but I like the sound of Les Brumes: “the memory of a morning in a citrus field. It captures the moment when the mist descends on the citrus trees and the surrounding woods.”
You have probably heard of Henry Rose, the fragrance brand by Michelle Pfeiffer. she wanted to create a line of perfumes that were completely safe to use on your skin (containing no potential carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and the like – read all about that here.) They have a handy find your scent feature on their website which pin points which of their nine fragrances might suit you most. I landed up with Windows Down which sounds exactly like my favourite type of fresh, citrusy scent. I also like the sound of Jake’s House.
Apartment is a niche Johannesburg based perfumery that produces conceptual scents with names like “Page 128 was missing”, “The other details were hazy” and “Please and thank you”. the fragrances are all unisex, and are conceptualised around the thought of a still image, “what they evoke, whether simple and obvious or obscure and subjective.”
To be honest i would buy any one of the perfumes by Maison d’Otto based on the bottle and design alone. no wonder since their creative director is Swedish designer Lotta Niemann. but i particularly like the sound of Karat “crafted around an intoxicatingly dirty Turkish rose” and Durban Jane “fresh autumn woods, bright playful bursts of resins.”
Abel is an all-natural perfume brand hailing from New Zealand, created by a winemaker and master perfumer. Cyan Nori is described as, “Imagine that you’re by the ocean and a bolt of sunshine explodes through the clouds…” They also make a perfume for mothers called Nurture containing “calming rose, energising orange blossom, ginger for its anti-nausea properties and sandalwood for grounding.” also available at Anthropologie.
St. Rose also make all-natural perfumes, and is named for the patron saint of gardeners. Fragrances like Circa 91 catches my eye, “A timeless revel in nostalgia, this scent is ultimately an interpretation, with a great debt to music, of the carefree abandon encapsulating the spirit of a golden era” as well as Juliet in White.
Fiele means “to feel” and the fragrances are created to inspire positive feelings, confidence, and a sense of well-being in all who encounter them.
L.A. based Bodha makes natural perfume oils, their current collections has scents including Earth, Plants and Air.