Fashion and Fragrance
February 22, 2012

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Clayton currently works in the management of training and development for the luxury retail sector and has worked with brands such as Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Gucci and Cartier. A resident of Sydney, Australia, he was born in New Zealand and considers travel one of life’s real luxuries. A perfume collector, Clayton decided to combine his love of perfume and travel in a blog entitled What Men Should Smell Like ( where he writes about men’s fragrances encountered on his travels around the world. “I graduated university with a degree in Visual Arts. For me perfume is an extension of this study and allows the exploration of creative ideas through the sense of smell”.

By Clayton Ilolahia
Last month I was at a dinner party and a guy sat next to me. I commented on his fragrance, which began a discussion of perfume. He was wearing Joop Pour Homme, a fragrance he had been using for almost twenty years. The conversation spread to other males at the table and two things struck me. The first thing was, these men have never purchased a perfume for personal use in their lives. The second point I came to realize was that these men were all wearing fragrances that were at least twenty years old and I was surrounded by Joop Pour Homme, Yves Saint Laurent Kouros and Davidoff Cool Water. I think this is a common scenario amongst contemporary men. Although the men at this table all have a discerning eye when it comes to fashion; there are brands they will wear and others they understand are not for them, when it comes to perfume their editing eye goes out the window and they are all wearing Christmas, Fathers Day and birthday gifts inherited from friends, family and partners. A previous gift became a habit, and years later they are still wearing this gift that was given to them decades earlier. It has become their signature scent.

For me, perfume is like fashion. Some fragrances I will happily wear for twenty years. Others are seasonal, fun for a season and then you move on. In this way perfume becomes fun, enjoyable, an additional way of expressing your mood or personality. And just like fashion there are certain staples I believe every man should not be without. A perfume for work, a day fragrance for weekends and an evening or party fragrance is the fashion equivalent to a great pair of jeans, a tailored white shirt and a blazer; the backbone of most men’s wardrobes.

Trend One:   Rich Jewel Tones

In the Fall Winter 2012/13 shows, designers showcased a muted colour palette reminiscent of precious stones. Colours included deep emerald greens, amethyst purples, burgundy and garnet red. Textured velvets and techno fabrics added a sense of richness and dimension. In Milan, many designers used this colour palette to enhance 1950s inspired tailoring. Translated into perfumery, niche brand, Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier are well aligned. Their jewelled bottles feel as lavish as the perfumed liquids they contain. Their men’s fragrance Parfum d’Habit is an excellent example of the house’s style. Inspired by the 17th century perfume salons of Paris, Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier are masters of creating decadent perfumes you imagine were worn as parfum extrait or in perfumed gloves by the bourgeoisie of 17th century Europe. Parfum d’Habit has subtle leather tones and I love the way patchouli, a raw material that is often associated with flower power and Woodstock is given a masculine edge. It feels aristocratic and refined in it’s pairing with sandalwood and vetiver. Parfum d’Habit reminds me of the touch of a velvet smoking jacket and it is a great choice for an evening fragrance.

Trend Two:   ‘70s Luxe a la Starsky and Hutch

For those men wanting a more relaxed approach to fashion, a shawl collar knit and 70’s inspired casual wear could be your ticket. With this look I would pair a timeless classic from the 1970s such as Azzaro Pour Homme. The 1970s and early 1980s gave birth to some iconic men’s scents. Created in 1978, Azzaro Pour Homme is an excellent example of this era and belongs to the aromatic fougere family of men’s perfumes, a genre that continues to generate a majority of men’s perfume sales today. It is a confident perfume of citrus notes and herbs built upon a base of precious woods, amber and musk. Going vintage with your fragrance choice shares the same risks as choosing vintage fashion. To play it safe you may wish to find a vintage inspired scent that was recently released or you can dust off and revive an old classic from that box of old things hidden in the back of your wardrobe. If you do this, there is always a risk of reviving something that was better off left in the back of your wardrobe. Like fashion, some retro or vintage fragrances were discontinued for good reason. Azzaro Pour Homme thankfully does not suffer from old age. It is an unmistakably familiar scent that feels as good today as it would have in the late ‘70s. I like to wear this on weekends, both day and night.

Trend Three:   The New Dandy

The Dandy continues to bare influence over men’s catwalks with European fashion designers using the dandy concept to redefine suiting. And whether it was a simple fragrant flower worn in his boutonniere, a perfumed pocket square or a refined eau de cologne, perfume has always been an essential item of the Dandy; a group of self-made men, usually middle-class, who gained notoriety in Britain and Europe during the late 18th century and early 19th century. Their style was impeccable and they pursued an aristocratic lifestyle of leisure with a nonchalant attitude. One of my favourite dandy scents is Guerlain Arsene Lupin Voyou. Jean-Paul Guerlain created the fragrance in 2010 having been inspired by an early 19th century French dandy, a fictitious character of writer Maurice Leblanc. Arsene Lupin is a character of children’s bedtime stories. He is known as the gentleman thief and although he operates on the wrong side of the law, he is often a force of good. Guerlain represents the two sides of his character with two perfumes, Arsene Lupin Dandy (there was discussion in 2011 of a name change however at present the Dandy name remains on Guerlain’s official website) and Arsene Lupin Voyou. Dandy represents the gentleman side of Leblanc’s character and Voyou, literally translated as ‘a rascal’, represents the mischievous side. I like to think there is a mischievous side to every man, and it is not possible for anything Guerlain to be less than gentlemanly, so of the two, I am a fan of Voyou. The scent begins with bitter orange, then progresses to dry spices. Drawing you through fields of green herbs, the perfume ends in a forest of precious wood and freshly cut timber. Voyou has both a freshness and depth making it a favourite of mine to wear in the office.

I used to belong to the ‘one fragrance’ club, thinking this was my signature scent. I later realised that my signature scent was also the signature scent of numerous other men. I’ve since taken a view that uses ice cream as a comparison. It is rare to find someone that only likes vanilla ice cream. You would think it strange for someone to say that vanilla is his or her signature flavour. We all know the beauty of ice cream is that it comes in a variety of flavours and depending on our mood, we make a decision on what flavour we will have that day. So I like to approach perfume with the same attitude.

Wearing perfume in this way opens you up to a myriad of possibilities. Once you have your basics covered, you can begin to play and have fun with the hundreds of new perfumes that are released every year.

Earlier this month Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York came to an end. Along with men’s fashion week in Milan and Paris, Mercedes-Benz fashion week nourishes the trends forecast for men’s fashion in the year ahead. This month I was interested to look at what had been forecast and how these trends could be associated with a fragrance. When I shop for perfume I know I have my preferred ingredients, just as with fashion, I have colours or shapes that I know I prefer. Instead of thinking about perfumes based on their notes, I decided to think of what perfumes I would choose based on a theme- one of the key trends identified for men’s fashion in the year ahead.

In this way you can have a lot of fun with perfume. Limited yourself to a list of perfume notes or ingredients that agree with you will keep you from discovering new scents. As the dinner party came to an end I encouraged my table companions to stretch themselves the next time they found themselves in a department store restocking underwear and business socks. They should go to the perfume department and challenge themselves to find a new perfume. Not that their current choices were bad. But back to my metaphor of clothing, if you wear a tee shirt for twenty years, chances are it needs replacing.
Photographer: Yannis Vlamos /