Thursday, November 5, 2015

Variations on perfume classics, part 7 (Miss Dior)

'Winter Birch'. Rose Strang 2014

This is Part 7 of a series in which I've recommended variations on a classic. Today it's Miss Dior.

 The idea is to explore perfumes which feel like modern-day versions of Miss Dior, or perfumes with similarities.

(In Part 1I explored Shalimar,  in Part 2, Joy, Part 3 was Femme, Part 4, Chanel No. 5 and Part 5 Chanel No. 19 .

This is getting a bit confusing perhaps, but in Part 6 I introduced Miss Dior and the chypre accord in perfumery, so if you want to know more about chypre and the making of Miss Dior have a look at Part 6.

Today's post though, is all about perfumes that might appeal to those who love Miss Dior and would like to try something slightly similar. It's impossible to go into all the nuances of chypre and the hundreds of perfumes to try, but this article is hopefully a good startign point.

'Wild Chamomile'. 2015
(I've illustrated this post with some of my own paintings that have a chypre-ish feel! More can be viewed here on my - arts website  )

Because chypre contains oakmoss which has been restricted, and is due to be banned in 2015, perfumes nowadays rarely contain the classic chypre notes.

Instead, what the perfume industry normally does is to simply class patchouli as the chypre note, sometimes alongside vetiver.

Patchouli is often included as part of the classic chypre accord but is far more heavy than oakmoss, and to my nose has nowhere near the sense of mystery and intrigue of chypre. I do love vetiver a lot, but again it's distinctive - more smoky and astringent than oakmoss.

They can't fool the perfumistas with their patchouli nouveau chypres! What the lover of Miss Dior is looking for is an elegant, classic perfume that's ladylike in feel, yet pretty. The fact is you won't find a classic Miss Dior these days unless you seek a vintage. (more info on that below). Or try the following perfumes...

Contemporary Perfumes similar in style to Miss Dior

As with all the classic perfumes in this series, Miss Dior is available in a series of different flankers which vary on the original. Last time I looked there were about 20!

As mentioned though, most of these new formulations contain patchouli in place of oakmoss and chypre, so if you'd like to explore vintage chypres, I recommend you log on to or (see 'hard to find perfumes' list on right). Both these websites specialise in vintages and are reliable as far as I know. I've not heard complaints about them on perfume forums, except delays in sending on rare occassions. They're both based in America, so you're going to pay around £8 for p+p if you're in the UK and Europe (I'm not sure about other countries).

'Spring Sycamore'. 2013
At this point I normally make mention of other iconic perfumes from the same era, so other famous chypres are Ma Griffe by Carven, and Sous le Vent by Guerlain. Earlier than these though, was one of the first chypres in western pefumery - Coty's Chypre (as mentioned in the Raymond Chandler novels and worn by his femme fatales!) Again you can find this on Surrender to, but all of these vintage perfumes can also be found on Ebay. Just be aware you're taking a risk, and do your homework on bottles/batches etc before buying. There were earlier chypre perfumes in western perfumery, but they weren't as well known as Coty's chypre.

Through a perfume swap recently, I received a miniature of vintage Miss Balmain which was an absolute classic. I enjoy chypres, but I don't wear them often, so I offered Miss Balmain to my mum who's a definite chypre afficionado and she was delighted with it. I've included many more fruity chypres, such as Mitsouko, in Part 3 - Femme

A great alternative to exploring vintages is to explore niche or independent perfume companies, who for various reasons can get away with adding oakmoss to perfume despite it being restricted.

*These perfumes can usually only be found online on the manufacturer's website...

'Glentress Mist'. 2015
Mousse de Chine by Ava Luxe and Green Oakmoss by Soivohle are niche chypres that are fairly green/woody and earthy, so if you'd like a more old school abstract and French style floral chypre, try Chypre Palatin by MDCI Parfums (it'll cost you mind!)

The best niche indy perfumer when it comes to original chypre though, is DSH Perfumes, which is owned by 'nose' Dawn Spencer Hurwitz (I wrote a blog post about her which you can read Here)

'River'. 2013
There are so many oakmoss or chypre perfumes here it's best if you just have an explore of her website - DSH Perfumes - to see what appeals to you. I ordered several pure oil parfum samples a year or so ago and recommend Vert Pour Madame -  a very fresh, green, springlike chypre with the distinct smoky/salty green notes of oakmoss.

If your love of chypres includes Rochas Femme, you might love DSH's fruity/spicy/chypre Mirabella.

In the UK you can't order full bottles overseas from the US where DSH is based, but I promise you the wax or pure oil samples go a long way, they're affordable, and you can have fun testing many more than just buying one bottle.

For an air of indulgent luxury, if you have the money to spare, try some of the perfumes by French/Arabian company Amouage. They commission some of the best 'noses' worldwide to compose their perfumes, and use high quality ingredients.  

'Black'. 2013
Memoir Woman is immediately recognisable as a luxuriant chypre (though far more dark and sultry than Miss Dior) with notes of leather, herbs, labdanum, oakmoss, civet, spices and white florals. It smells hyper posh (too posh for a somewhat casual dresser such as myself truth be told!) and it costs about £200 for 50mls. For another spicy, warm chypre, try Fate for Women by Amouage

For more reading on chypre, log on  to this excellent article by perfume expert Elena Vosnaki at Perfume Shrine - Chypre for newbies

'Oakmoss'. 2013

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Variations on perfume classics, part 6 (Miss Dior)

I did say I'd only do a five part series, but after chatting on the Fragrantica forum, realised that I'd missed out the noble chypre, in particular Miss Dior, which was very remiss of me!

So this is Part 6 of a series of six posts in which I've recommended variations on a classic. Today it's Miss Dior by Christian Dior.

(In Part 1 I explored Shalimar,  in Part 2, Joy, Part 3 was Femme, Part 4, Chanel No. 5 and Part 5 Chanel No. 19 

Because Chypre perfumes have such a fascinating history, and the story of Miss Dior's inspiration is so moving, I'll write about that in this post, then in part 7 I'll recommend contemporary perfumes that may appeal to lovers of Miss Dior

I hope you're in the mood for a good read, because a post about chypre comes with quite a bit of baggage attached these days, since perfumes rarely contain a significant amount of oakmoss (the central note of traditional chypre) because its use is now restricted and is due to be banned in 2015.

This seems nonsensical to say the least, when we can buy sugar drenched drinks and pre-prepared food with additives, stuff our faces with that, wash it down with a gallon or so of alcohol, then smoke ourselves senseless, but from 2015 we're not allowed to wear perfumes with oakmoss.

Why? Because it may cause an allergic reaction. So why not just put a warning on the label? Considering all the illnesses caused by sugar, processed fats, nicotene and alcohol, or the fact that we don't ban, for example,  nuts - despite the fact they can cause an allergic reaction in some people, it seems to me utterly pointless.

Two of oakmoss's molecules – atranol and chloroatranol – are to be banned on the grounds that they could cause up to 3 per cent of the population to suffer an allergic reaction. But there are also 83 other potentially allergenic notes in perfumery, so where would it stop? The offending molecules in oakmoss can in fact be removed, though this may cause some difference in scent, also it's an expensive process which means probably only the most high end perfumes would use this technique.

If you think I seem a bit exercised about the whole subject, you should hear what the perfumers and 'noses' have to say. For many of them, it's like telling a painter they can no longer use their favourite mediums, or a musician their favourite notes. (If you'd like to know more, have a read of this feature in the Independent: 'Will a Ban on Oakmoss Kill the French Perfume Industry?')

Chypre is actually one of the world's most ancient perfumery blends and we know this because remains were found in perfume vats during an archeological dig in Cyprus (hence the name chypre, which means cyprus in French).

The blend always contains oakmoss and cistus labdanum (resin from a Meditteranean shrub), also bergamot.

Once it's been extracted and made into a thick green sticky sludge, the scent of oakmoss is complex: woody, musky, lingering and very slightly salty or smoky. I've smelled it in vintage perfumes (it's one of the notes that can last perfectly if the perfume has been kept well).

My way of describing it would be - twiggy, smoky, like someone has thrown a handful of sap-filled twigs onto a fire where they smoulder gently - slightly salty like driftwood. It's also haunting, not just a literally earthy scent. Sometimes certain facets evoke distant wood smoke. It smells intriguing and the musky quality (not an animalic musk, more a 'haze' for want of a better description) means that on skin it exudes its scent in a way that enhances a perfume's sillage, somehow it has an aura of sophistication. The large musk molecules act as a fixative, hence its popularity as a perfume note over thousands of years.

Nowadays a perfume heavy on chypre smells classic, or you might say 'old school', or old fashioned. But certain perfumes are very enhanced with even a small addition. Those smoky/woody/salty/musk notes, in combination with, say, vanilla or amber can take a perfume into new realms.

Miss Dior was indeed in those realms (finally I get on to the actual perfume!) I say 'was' because it was reformulated when oakmoss began to be restricted. A new version was brought out, and shunned by experienced wearers of Miss Dior.

Then more recently, due to the massive increase of interest in perfume (thanks largely to the internet and perfume forums) it was re-reformulated to smell somewhat more similar to the original.

Annoyingly however, they've replaced oakmoss with notes of patchouli, which we're expected to accept as the new 'chypre'. It's true that a chypre blend may include patchouli, but anyone familiar with patchouli knows that it has almost zero in common with oakmoss.

Patchouli is more earth-bound, dark, heavy, soily, with notes that are enhanced depending on its age. Aged patchouli can smell almost like unsweetened dark chocolate - a dusty, rich note. Less high quality patchouli smells like hippies did in the 70s. If you walk into a vintage clothes shop you can smell the whiff of it still.

The fact that patchouli lasts so long means that for anyone sensitive to patchouli (me included) large amounts can ruin a perfume because that's all that can be smelled after an hour. It's not oakmoss by any stretch of the imagination, so no wonder so many niche, indy perfume companies offer authentic chypre perfumes.

Miss Dior in original formulation is a complex blend that includes most florals except ylang and tuberose (which would make it far more exotic and rich, less soapy). Iris (orris bulb) adds the additional haze of classic perfumery - those haunting notes that exude a sophisticated perfumy aura. Galbanum and leather offer cool green astringency, and 'bite'. It's not a playful or flirty fragrance, hence why it's an icon of its time.

Dior 'the look'
Like almost all the classics, it was designed as an addition or extra note to a fashion house - a signature perfume that echoed the aesthetic of the house style. Dior commissioned two of the perfume industry's most talented 'noses', Paul Vacher and Jean Carles to create the perfume. (Their other creations include Arpege, by Vacher for Lanvin and  Ma Griffe by Carles for Carven). I definitely sense the family resemblance to Arpege and Ma Griffe - both cool, elegant classic in themselves.

Miss Dior also features aldehydic top notes - aroma chemicals first introduced by Chanel in the 30s to lift and enhance a perfume. All of these notes combine to create a perfume with the distinct and umistakable sillage of expensive classic perfume.

Dior himself was originally interested in art, and owned a gallery where he sold work by the likes of Picasso. His clothes designs seem to echo those monochrome, cubist lines and shapes of Picaso's early work. The mood is elegant, poised, stand-offish, avant garde - aesthetics very much echoed in Miss Dior!

Christian Dior
Miss Dior was more than a fashion statement however. In 1947 Dior commissioned this first perfume with the instruction to Carles and Vache to create a fragrance that is like love.

In the post war years Dior's sister Catherine (who had been captured by the Gestapo and sent to Ravensbrück were she was treated brutally) was finally released.

On her return, Christian cooked her favourite dish to welcome her home, but she was exhausted and traumatised by her experience and unable to eat properly. It was many months before she managed to eat rich food again. He was deeply affected by this, and so he created something she could enjoy - a beautiful perfume made especially for her - Miss Dior. 

As a member of the French resistance, Catherine Dior's bravery was recognised with the Croix de Guerre; the Combatant Volunteer Cross of the Resistance; the Combatant Cross; the King’s Medal for Courage in the Cause of Freedom (from Britain); and she was named a chevalière of the Légion d’Honneur. She lived until 2008.

Catherine Dior

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Variations on perfume classics, part 5 (Chanel No. 19)

This is Part 5 of a series of five posts in which I've recommended variations on a classic. Today it's Chanel No. 19. The idea is to explore perfumes which feel like modern-day versions of Chanel No 19, or perfumes with similarities.

(In Part 1 I explored Shalimar,  in Part 2, Joy, Part 3 was Femme, Part 4, Chanel No. 5 and today it's Chanel No. 19.

Since I've already explored Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel's background and inspiration in Part 4, today I'll just skip straight to the perfume!

As well as being innovative classics, the five perfumes in this series represent five very different styles - Oriental Vanilla, Musky Floral, Fruity Chypre, Floral Aldehyde and Floral Green.

Chanel 19  - a Floral Green, could also be considered as a perfume on the cusp of chypre though, with its oakmoss notes, but it's definitely green in tone in comparison with the others in this series.

Just to briefly describe No 19's style..

Green florals are often associated with spring and summer, since their notes are more astringent and refreshing, but there's a lot of variety in terms of the type of green-ness. Evergreen perfumes for example, which could be lovely in winter, but to my nose Chanel 19 in Parfum is well suited to any time of year, its green notes are mostly thanks to Galbanum and Vetiver, both quite deep-toned in their greeness - vetiver particularly is quite foresty in feel.

The summery fresh green of lime is described as citrus/hesperedic, and leafy green herbs as aromatic. So with No 19's deeper green tones, paired with iris, leather, lily of the valley, narcissus and oakmoss, there's a fuller perfume scent, i.e. it's not designed simply as a refreshing summer tonic.

The biggest difference between No 19 and the other perfumes in this series is the lack of vanilla, animalic musk and amber. Launched in 1971, No 19 was Coco Chanel's own signature scent, named after the day of her birthday on 19th August. The scent is alluring in its elegance, yet for many people it's seen as a cold, or 'stand-offish' perfume.

In fact, in many perfume forums, if someone asks for suggestions for a work/office scent, No 19 is most often mentioned. So there's a certain formality about No 19. Yet its associations are to do with the outdoors and nature.

Where the other perfumes in this 5-part series refer to musks, soapiness and gourmand fruity or vanilla notes, No 19 recalls a river valley or forest with its cool green tone. Which is why, for some, it's a cool scent and for others a comfort scent, in the sense that it's relaxing to be outdoors.

As someone who's very inspired by nature, I like the associations of No 19. At the same time though, No 19 does smell very perfumy and pretty old school, and though I have a small bottle of the pure parfum, I rarely find an occasion to wear it ( mostly just for myself every so often!). Its iris/leather combination exudes a sort of mysterious regal elegance, which is one of the reasons why No 19 has inspired many imitators. Nowadays it smells quite old fashioned to the modern nose (like the others in this series) but the aura is timelessly classy, always recognisable as 'a good perfume'.

It's a perfume that suits my skin, and I've noticed that those who suit warmer toned ambery or headier floral perfumes tend not to enjoy it so much, but as always you can never tell until you sample it.

Contemporary Perfumes similar in style to No. 19

As with all the classic perfumes in this series, No 19 comes in several varieties, as mentioned above you can read about the EDT, EDP and Parfum in the links at the top of this post. Also though, Chanel's No 19 Poudre was released in 2011 and geared towards a younger market with less leather and galbanum but with added slightly sweeter notes. I think it's lovely, but I find almost any perfume with iris and vetiver lovely!

Similar perfumes from this 60s and 70s era would include Lancome's Climat (more animalic) Jacomo's Silences and Vent Vert by Pierre Balmain. Vent Vert was actually one of the first green florals, before No 19, but it doesn't share No 19's perfumy polish and is a zingier more summery and astringent green scent. Chanel's La Pausa with notes of iris and vetiver is like a simpler paired down and more unisex No 19, and Chanel's Cristalle edt is a gentler, simpler floral green perfume with subtle oakmoss and refreshing citric notes. Chanel's haughty Cuir de Russie is, strictly speaking, a leather scent, but it does have No 19's leather/iris combination.

Contemporary green florals, or perfumes similar in style to No 19 would include Prada's Infusion d'Iris - a beautiful woody vetiver/iris with warmer orange blossom notes and a hint of incense, minus No 19's leather. Again, this is a perfume others describe as cool and distant, it really must depend how it works on skin because I've had so many compliments wearing Infusion d'Iris and never once been told it's 'cool' or 'aloof'. 'Easy on the nose' and 'lovely' tend to be the kind of remarks. If though, you'd prefer a warmer version Prada's Infusion d'Iris Absolue might be perfect with its warmer tones of benzoin and exotic floral touch.

If it's No 19's elegant iris you love, I recommend the poetic Iris de Nuit by James Heeley - a cool iris but complemented with a powdery violet, cedar and warm-toned carrot seed. Hermes Hiris is a very cool take on iris - I find it somehow too restrained, as though it's trying too hard to be elegant, but that's just me! A more earthy, dark iris would be Serge Luten's Iris Silver Mist, but to me that has nothing in common with No 19 and is far more rooty. Prada's No 7 Violette has something of No 19's beautiful elegance, but violet does tend to add a more romantic, powdery or soapy feel.

No 19 has a lovely spring flower green dewiness, and if it's this you enjoy then I highly recommend Cartier's Baiser Vole EDP. This deceptively simple peppery green lily is really a piece of understated genius by the current Cartier 'nose' Mathilde Laurent. It's sparkling yet soft, tart, green and peppery yet with a hint of sweetness, it's as balanced as a perfume can be. I find it uplifting, yet with a polished cool elegance. For gentle green florality try Frederic Malle's En Passant a romantically green perfume featuring lilac and cucumber.

For a fresh green floral perfume that feels more literally green and leafy, try Diptyque's Eau de Lierre (which really does smell like fresh ivy) or the more floral Ombre Dans L'Eau by Diptyque, which features lovely leafy notes alongside rose and blackcurrant.

On the left - my own little bottle of 19 in parfum

Monday, October 26, 2015

Variations on perfume classics, part 4 (Chanel No. 5)

This is Part 4 of a series of five posts in which I'll recommend variations on a classic. Today it's Chanel No. 5. The idea is to explore perfumes which feel like modern-day versions of Chanel No 5, or perfumes with similarities.

(In Part 1 I explored Shalimar,  in Part 2, Joy, Part 3 was Femme, and in the next post I'll explore Chanel No. 19.

Chanel No. 5, of all perfumes, needs little introduction. The name was chosen simply because it was number 5 in a series of test batches.

Gabrielle Chanel was superstitious about the number 5 because of the influence this number had on her as a girl while attending a convent orphanage. She decided to launch No 5 on the 5th day of the 5th month in 1921.

By 1921 Coco, as she became known, was already a successful clothes designer and an extremely astute, even ruthless business woman. There's evidence that she may have supported the Nazi regime, and it's known she was a lifelongfriend of General Walter Schellenberg (chief of SS intelligence).

Coco Chanel's political allegiances are particularly contemptible from our modern persepctive, as were the allegiances of many high profile, powerful figures at the time. (Allegedly Winston Churchill exonerated her during the later trials, at which time she was questioned, because her evidence would have implicated so many British officials and VIPs.)

Coco Chanel was the daughter of an unmarried laundry woman, she had no inheritance, no privilege, no connections and to look at her early life, some might have said no chance.

Her mother died at age 32 and Coco was sent to a religious orphanage where she experienced harsh discipline and little affection. So viewed from this perspective her sheer determination to succeed, as well as her hard-nosed attitude is perhaps understandable.

She was a strong believer in women's liberation, it was Chanel who wanted to 'free' women from their corsets! Her designs were truly mold-breaking. Similarly to Patou (who I wrote about in Part 2 on Joy by Patou) she popularised sportswear and casual clothing.

She favoured a paired down minimal luxury that was highly influential, and she's probably one of the most quoted women in fashion and famously said:  

a woman who does not wear perfume has no future.
(a bit unfair to people with allergies!)

Her perfumes reflected this paired down, elegant yet casual aesthetic. At the time, most European women favoured clean floral simple scents, musky scents were seen as vulgar perfumes for  prostitutes or courtesans, so with No 5 Coco wanted  in-house perfumer for Chanel, Ernest Beaux, to create a perfume that would 'smell like a woman', yet have the Chanel minimalist signature.

Like Shalimar, No. 5 was a truly innovative perfume. During its creation Ernest Beaux introduced a new perfume synthetic - aldehyde. Aldehydes are still used in perfumery, albeit more sparingly, because we associate the aldehydic effect with classic, or if you like, slightly old fashioned and ladylike perfumes. (Which is why Chanel now offer a range of flankers that are less aldehydic).

I'd describe its effect as slightly metallic and soapy, it also 'opens' out a perfume, making it project more. When paired with high quality jasmine, rose, ylang and natural musk (civet) this is what gives No. 5 its ladylike yet sensual quality, what I'd describe as a cool/warm juxtaposition. To this day it's perceived as a classy, if perhaps slightly safe, perfume choice.

For women of any age who enjoy ladylike yet womanly florals, it has great appeal. The musk, paired with a truly pretty floral bouquet, is subtle and completely different from the abundant floral muskiness of Patou's Joy, for example, making Chanel No 5 suitable for any occasion. Few would find it offensive or over-bearing.

Coco Chanel understood her target market very well indeed - No 5 could be worn at work, in the evening, or as Marilyn Monroe (the 'face' of No 5 advertisements in the 50's) would famously attest - in bed while wearing nothing at all!

Contemporary perfumes similar in style to No. 5...

As with the other classic in this series, there are a range of flankers that riff on the original No. 5: Eau Premiere for example -  a more fresh modern take, with less aldehydes while retaining the classic aura, or Chanel No 5 Elixir Sensuel, which again retains the feel of the original yet with more warmth thanks to the addition of amber and woods. No 5 comes in EDT, EDP and pure parfum, each with subtly varying character, though the parfum as would be expected has a richer more lasting (slightly more musky) dry down. It's worth also trying Chanel No 22, which has the floral aldehydes of No 5, but with notes of incense rather than musk. Similar aldehydic florals from other houses include Hermes Caleche and the lovely Arpege by Lanvin (more woody/warm than No 5), possibly Diorissimo by Dior would be appealing as a subtly animalic lily of the valley

No 5 is unique and the reason it has iconic status in perfumery (apart from clever marketing!) is because it is a truly beautifully balanced perfume (and I say that as someone who as a rule doesn't wear floral aldehydes), however, there are some contemporary perfumes which may appeal to the lover of No 5 who seeks a change now and then...

If it's that aldehydic soapy ladylike buzz of classic perfumery that you seek, try Frederic Malles Iris Poudre - an elegantly woody iris floral that's more powdery than No 5, or Byredo's Blanche again, elegant, but more airy than Iris Poudre and more soapy than No 5. Aria di Capri by Carthusia is like a summer's breeze, warmer in tone than No 5, but still with that cool/warm feel thanks to aldehydes alongside sunny citrus and soft mimosa.

If its No 5's floral prettiness without aldehydes that interests you, for a more contemporary feel, try these mainstream and slightly conventional but ladylike perfumes which share No 5's floral prettiness - J'Adore L'Absolue by Christian Dior, Bulgari Pour Femme, Love by Chloe or Idylle by Guerlain. Possibly Donna Karan's Cashmere Mist, a light musky floral with hints of suede

Or, for a more niche, less mainstream feel, pretty, elegant floral perfumes with hints of musk that might suit the lover of No 5, are Claire de Musc by Serge Lutens, which focuses on clean floral musk, or Olene by Diptyque - a slightly animalic jasmine/lilac

Veering away from florals, Eau des Merveilles by Hermes is not similar note-wise to Chanel No 5, but I do think it has a similar elegance that suits evening, formal or daytime wearing, or try Eau Claire des Merveiles

Another out-of-the-box choice might be Lumiere Noire by Maison Francis Kurkdjian, which is far warmer and earthier than No 5, yet has classic balance while retaining an uplifting quality thanks to narcissus and rose.

There are many, many elegant green florals that those who enjoy No 5 might like, but I see them as a category in themselves, so I'm saving them for my next post - Chanel No.19, or as I call her the queen of green!

Chanel on the shoulders of Ballets Russes dancer Serge Lifar

Friday, October 23, 2015

Variations on perfume classics, part 3 (Femme)

This is Part 3 of a series of five posts in which I'll recommend variations on a classic. Today it's Femme by Rochas. The idea is to explore perfumes which feel like modern-day versions of Femme, or perfumes with similarities.

(In part 1 I explored Shalimar,  in part 2, Joy, and in the next two posts I'll explore No 5 and Chanel 19.

Femme was created in Paris during the war in 1943. The 'nose' behind the fragrance was Edmond Roudnitska, who's now regarded as something of a legend in the perfume industry, which is as much to do with his innovatory approach as his talent for creating beautifully balanced classics of perfumery.

Most people will be aware of at least one of the following: Femme, Diorama, Eau d'Hermes, Eau Fraiche, Diorissimo, Eau Sauvage, Diorella and, released posthumously by his son through perfume company Frederic Malle, Le Parfum de Therese. (If you're interested in reading a more in-depth post about Roudnitska, here's a post I created last year - Roudnitska.)

In later years, Roudnitska's perfumes became more minimal, more in keeping with the streamlined sixties and Dior's clean-cut monochrome designs, then the seventies when people began to favour a more casual, outdoorsy style.

It makes sense, though, that one of his first, and ever popular perfumes, embodied the idea of abundance - a lush harvest of fruits, woods, spices, musk and leather. For me, Femme is the quintessential perfume of Autumn and the idea of abundance is also subtly echoed in the curved bottle that suggests the female form.

Like Joy, and Shalimar before it, this perfume was targeted toward women who sought an air of sophisticated elegance. It's interesting perhaps to speculate on the fact that in this era, young women too aspired to this sophistication, poise and mystique.

The ingenue style embodied so elegantly by women such as Audrey Hepburn arrived in the 60s and we can imagine Hepburn exuding the white, radiant chic of Diorissimo, whereas Mae West and Sophia Loren, who were both the 'faces' of Femme in its advertisements, are far more suited to Femme's lush warmth.

Roudnitska created Femme in the midst of WW2, and to me this perfume, taken in this context, poignantly suggests a longing for security, or a carefree life of pleasure while everything around was in chaos -  a fact emphasised by the setting in which it was created:

“Let me tell you, I created Femme in 1943 in Paris during the worst days of the war in a building that had a rubbish dump on one side and a paint factory on the other,” Roudnitska

With Femme, Roudnitska wanted to create a thing of beauty, an escape from brutality and a celebration of everything good in life.

It's a perfume I've long been familiar with, because my mum wore it a lot in the 70s, then sought other perfumes when the original Femme was reformulated in the late 80s due to the restriction on oakmoss. The latest version, brought out in 2013, relies on cumin for the spicy, musky notes, and some find this aspect slightly heavy-handed. The general tone is still Femme-like - autumnal and warm, but the lovely suede-like leather isn't there.

A year or so ago, I tracked down two pre-80s versions of Femme for my mum. Both retained the original character, with the slightly later vintage most resembling the Femme my mum would have worn. She was delighted to rediscover Femme, and in fact this sparked a renewed enjoyment of perfume!

Before I recommend perfumes with a similar mood, these are the original Femme's notes: Apricot, plum, cinnamon, peach, bergamot, rosewood, lemon, rosemary, carnation, iris, jasmine, clove, ylang, rose, leather, amber, patchouli, musk, benzoin, vanilla, oakmoss.


Contemporary perfumes similar in style to Femme..

As with the two previous classics Joy and Shalimar, there's nothing quite like Femme these days; it's a classic complex blend in a grand French style, but there are quite a few perfumes that share aspects, or recall Femme's warm autumnal mood..

Classics of the same era or earlier might include Mitsouko by Guerlain , but though that's autumnal and complex, the mood is more haunting. I recently discovered a few contemporary takes on the classic style by indie perfume company DSH Perfumes, which use a high amount of naturals. In particular Mirabella, which reminds me of spicy autumn leaves alongside tart plum, and Mata Hari, which recalls an earlier vintage of Femme, with darker, woodier notes.

Serge Luten's Feminite du Bois, which centres around a lovely rich cedarwood, has echoes of Femme and shares many similar classic fruity notes - plum, cinammon, peach and musk, but the feel of the perfume is simpler, perhaps earthier and less mysterious.

 If you love Femme's suede-like leather, then you might enjoy Lancome's Cuir de Lancome. I offered a sample of this to my mum, and though I say so myself it was an inspired choice as she went on to acquire a full bottle! It doesn't smell like Femme, but it has a similarly sophisticated, rich, warm aura, yet more contemporary.

Taken in a more indulgent direction, the rich ,complex, gourmand aspects of Femme are echoed in Cartier's Le Baiser du Dragon. I love this rich woody, dark chocolate/boozy perfume, even though it's not really my style! It's very comforting and has a lingering mysterious musk that recalls classic perfumery. Some people hate it and find it too complicated, but it's worth a try if you like the idea of a rich, indulgent, winter-style gourmand.

In a lighter more effervescent direction, Yves Saint Laurent's Yvresse (formerly called Champagne) is a fruity chypre that's remained very popular since its release in 1993. It shares Femme's fruity/spicy elements, but it's far sharper and lighter. It might appeal to fruity chypre perfume lovers in summer, but it is a divider of taste so test first! From the same decade, Shiraz by Natura features autumn fruits and spices and is not disimilar to Luten's Feminite du Bois, which also brings me to Dior's Dolce Vita, one of my own favourites, like a sunnier version of Feminite du Bois (though its recent reformulation lacks depth).

Out of interest, it's well worth acquiring a sample of Frederic Malle's Le Parfum de Therese, as mentioned earlier, this is a posthumous release (by Roudnitska's son, Michel) as it has all the elements of a classic Roudnitska from the spice and leather notes of Femme to the summery overripe melon of Diorella. 

And so we come full circle back to Roudnitska himself. Le Perfum de Therese was never released in his lifetime because it was made exclusively for his wife, Therese. Such a romantic gesture!


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Variations on perfume classics, part 2 (Joy)

This is Part 2 of a series of five posts in which I'll recommend variations on a classic. Today it's Joy by Jean Patou. The idea is to explore perfumes which feel like modern-day versions of Joy, or perfumes with similarities.

(In part 1 I explored Shalimar, you can view the post Here  and in the next 3 posts I'll explore No 5, Chanel 19 and Femme)

Compared with the others I've included in this classic series, Joy by Jean Patou (created by perfumer Henri Alméras) is the biggest divider of taste. This has a lot to do with the inclusion of civet, which when added to a high percentage of high quality jasmine, equals musky!

Reputed to contain 10,000 jasmine flowers (both Sambac and Grandiflorum) and the petals of 300 roses, Joy is the opposite of minimalist chic. Launched during the depression in 1929 its lush decadance and high price was a counter-intuitive move by Jean Patou (who already had a high profile as a fashion designer).

His designs were popular with American high society, but when the Wall Street Crash hit hard, his fortunes plummeted.
But it was perfume (as a taste of slightly more affordable luxury) that kept the house of Patou afloat, and given that Patou died in 1936, not long after Joy's launch, perhaps creating this excessively rich perfume (described by fashion columnist Elsa Maxwell at the time as as "the costliest perfume in the world") was his swan song.

1933 - the end of prohibition on alcohol in the US

Looked at from this perspective, Joy might not be so much a vulgar statement of status and wealth, as a gesture of carefree, even reckless joy in the face of his own loss, which was reflected in the lives of many, rich and poor, during the depression of the 1930s. Whatever the case, it worked, since Joy was extremely popular

I must admit that my first whiff of joy was not exactly, erm, joyful! I'd sprayed a little on my wrist as I perused the gleaming shelves of Jenner's perfume department in Edinburgh and I'd forgotten all about it, distracted as I was by various new and intriguing perfumes to sniff. 

Then something caught my attention..'is that the smell of a men's urinal'? I wondered to myself, before locating the origin of the offensive odour to my wrist. I muttered to myself  'so this is what they mean when they say 'animalic''

Patou coat design
My experience of perfume told me that these civet notes would calm to a warm hum, blending with the abstract floral bouquet (which includes subtle notes of fresh honeysuckle and tuberose, with sandalwood emerging into drydown)

It struck me as the perfume of a very wealthy lady, bedecked in ankle-length furs down to her crocodile skin shoes, impeccably, if scarily well-groomed. The one thing Joy is not, is casual.

Like many rich floral classics, I can appreciate its complexity and quality. Also there's nothing of Chanel's bourgeois minimal tight-lipped aura here either. Joy clearly doesn't give a shit how others perceive her!

Humour aside though, the version I'd tested was the eau de toilette, and it was only when I tried the eau de parfum that I got the full sense of Joy. There's always noticable civet (noticable that is, if your nose isn't anosmic to it, many people simply don't smell musky notes). The edp drydown is lovely - long, long lasting velvety rose/sandalwood/musk. And in fact the touches of honeysuckle, lily and rose, all quite soapy florals, counteract civet and rich jasmine in the heart of this generous and abundant perfume.

Contemporary perfumes similar in style to Joy..

There are, as with most classics, many varieties of Joy, not just edt, edp and parfum, but new riffs on the floral bouquet such as Eau de Joy and Joy Forever. They could be of interest for different seasons, since Joy edp is probably too heady for summer (or certainly for hot summer days). 

Similar classics include Van Cleef and Arpel's First - another aldehydic ladylike floral which could appeal to those who enjoy Joy!

Thinking about a contemporary equivalent is interesting, there's not really anything comparable exactly. However, I'm thinking of warm, floral ladylike perfumes with a musky element, and Annick Goutal's beautiful Songes springs to mind. It's more relaxed than Joy, perhaps one to wear on holiday, especially as its white floral bouquet includes exotic florals such as Frangipani and ylang as well as jasmine. The jasmine is quite animalic, not so much urinous, as slightly humid or sweaty in feel.

If it's the rich civetous floral abundance of Joy you seek, try Amouage perfumes such as Ubar, or Gold, both of which feature rich complex floral/musk bouquets. Gold is more ladylike, plus it echoes Joy's rich rose/jasmine/musk blend, Ubar is more animalic and woody, both are perfect dressy-up evening perfumes. Or try the animalic, heady Rubj by Vero Profumo (though it's spicy as well as floral)

If you crave high quality jasmine (and it must be said that to enjoy Joy you must love jasmine since it contains a high percentage of both grandiflora and sambac varieties!) then you might like to experiment with perfumes such as A La Nuit by Serge Lutens (a bright, yet slightly fecal blend of authentic jasmines) or Bruno Acampora's Jasmin T (the more urinous Grandiflora).  

Jasmine T is a one-note sort of perfume, it's probably worth trying a sample just to experience that aspect of
animalic jasmine in isolation. Of the two I prefer A La Nuit, but though there is a lot of jasmine at first spray, it does calm to a pleasant jasmine musk with a hint of clove.

For an uplifting, yet heady jasmine, try Montale's Jasmine Full - it's mostly about authentic jasmine, but contains the brighter, soapy notes of honeysuckle and orange blossom

Another perfume perhaps worth trying in this vein is Amaranthine by Penhaligon's - a musky, milky white floral with hints of green leaves.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Variations on perfume classics, part 1 (Shalimar)

This is Part 1 of a series of seven posts in which I'll recommend variations on a classic, starting today with Shalimar by Guerlain. The idea is to explore perfumes which feel like modern-day versions of Shalimar, or perfumes with similarities.

(In the next 6 posts I'll explore  Joy, Femme, No 5, Chanel 19Miss Dior 1 and Miss Dior 2 )

Well established classics can have powerful associations in other's minds (not always positive) which is why many women prefer to update their perfume choices, if they can find something of similar appeal. Then again, attachment to perfume can become quite emotional, associated as it is with happy memories to the wearer, so that's what this series will be all about - if you love a certain classic perfume, but would like to try something different from time to time, which contemporary version might suit you?

There must be reasons for Shalimar's enduring appeal. It's partly marketing of course. Just take a look at this recent avertisement - epic doesn't begin to describe its grandiliquent dimensions! It refers to the Indian legend that inspired Shalimar, i.e. Shah Jahan's love for his wife, (or one of them) Mumtaz Mahal, which inspired him to build the Taj Mahal in her honour after she died.

Shalimar's enduring appeal is also partly because it was the first Western perfume to incorporate elements of classic Oriental perfumes - i.e. the warm woody sweet resin blends known as amber

Aimé Guerlain
In 1925, perfumer Aimé Guerlain took this warmth and sweetness further, with the addition of a newly invented synthetic vanilla in combination with natural vanilla extract.

This, combined with notes of leather, intense citric top notes and animalic musk, was what made Shalimar completely unique.

It was the Tom Ford's Black Orchid of its day and 'it girls' or flappers of the 20s could surround themselves in a haze of Shalimar and  feel they'd been transformed into an alluring kohl-eyed Theda Bara!

The aura or concept of Shalimar is one of mystery and dark seduction, yet in contrast to the other perfumes I'll be exploring in this series, it's also ultimately what's known as a 'comfort-scent'. What could be more comforting than the scent of home baking, or delicious creme brulee? When you think about it, it's a very French riff on an Oriental theme, kind of like a dinner date where your lover begins to confuse you with gourmet dessert!

Make no mistake though, Shalimar's message isn't as simple as, say, Britney Spear's Fantasy with that perfume's candy floss and fruit sundae sweetness. Shalimar's classic abstract floral bouquet and brisk leather notes remind us this is in fact a lady, not a cup cake.

Shalimar is one of those classic Guerlain perfumes that take you on a long journey. Those familiar with it know how delicious the far dry down is, and also how weirdly bitter the tarry leather/citrus opening notes appear to the contemporary nose!

Contemporary perfumes similar in style to Shalimar..

There are any number of flanker versions and variations of Shalimar by Guerlain. Obviously Guerlain realised that though this is much loved, some might find it dated, so there are versions that have more vanilla, more citrus, more iris, and so on. Some far more expensive, some less so. The basic eau de parfum can usually be found for as little as £20 on some websites, retail price around £48 (for 50ml). Many people seek the vintage, which reputedly is more complex and animalic, but is risky as top notes can disappear, so buy from a reputable source, such as

Or try these niche, contemporary perfumes which are comparable to Shalimar. Niche perfumery often favours richer, less synthetic perfumes than mainstream offerings...

Miller Harris Fleur Oriental
Like a lighter version of Shalimar - warm, ambery, sweet, doesn't have the intense bergamot, it does have Shalimar's spicy notes (clove) and its powdery quality (thanks to added heliotrope). If you want less powder, try this one..
Aroma M, Geisha Noire - less citrus, more woody, gets to a dry down that feels similar to Shalimar's delicious torched vanilla/brown sugar and musk combination. Complex, high quality naturals used alongside synthetics. The longevity of Geisha Noire easily rivals that of Shalimar. Vaguely similar, but with less of a natural feel, is Parfumerie Generale's much loved Felanilla.

If it's the sensuous musk aspect you enjoy, try Frederic Malle's Musk Ravageur, which has subtler citrus notes than Shalimar, and less complex vanilla, but a very similar salty civet-like vanilla/musk. One review described it as smelling like an animalic Palmer's Cocoa Butter, which is not far wrong! I wouldn't say it smells like Shalimar but it shares facets. It's a lighter skin scent though.

Some say there's a baby powder aspect to Shalimar, I'd agree, it's subtle but there and this effect is usually thanks to a combination of powdery iris and amber/vanilla among other things. If you like this particular aspect, you might enjoy older perfumes such as L. T Piver's Heliotrope Blanc, Lorenzo Villoressi's Teint de Neige, or the recently released Dahlia Noir by Givenchy. (I happen to like Dahlia Noir, though it's seen as a generic mainstream and there's nothing very noir about it to be honest!). One other perfume (one of my own favourites) that some find shares facets of Shalimar, is Bulgari's Black - a unisex salty/smoky vanilla with amber, leather and bergamot notes.

It has to be said that few of these perfumes (with the possible execption of Geisha Noire) have Shalimar's sheer complexity - citrus/leather/vanilla/florals/spice/patchouli/musk, but it's that very complexity which makes it unique, and at the same time, such a classic in style. The complexity is the feature that makes it slightly 'old school', but as with all classics, the dry down when it arrives is often the best part, and the aspect that knocks spots off many contemporary mainstream perfumes.

In Part Two, I'll be exploring variations on the classic animalic floral Joy, by Jean Patou.

(My own bottle of Shalimar edp, below. Not often worn, but much enjoyed when it is, especially on a chilly winter's evening)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Cool Perfumes

'Cool' as in cooling for hot weather - I'm loving today's mini heatwave!

I posted a feature last summer on perfumes for hot weather, you can read it Here

I don't have too many to add to those choices, they're still some of my favourites, and today I'm wearing Prada's Infusion de Fleur d'Oranger - an uplifting soapy, not too sweet orange blossom.

Other perfumes I'd add to those on last year's list are Kelly Caleche in edt by Hermes - a refreshing grapefruit/floral with underlying leather notes. I'm also finding some of the Middle East-inspired Oud perfumes appealing. That dry, smoky woodiness is also most refreshing in hot weather - not disimilar in effect to vetiver perfumes. One of my favourites is MFK's Silk Mood, which opens on a beautiful light, sweet rose and develops its more Oud-yness into drydown.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Aroma M ~ Interview with founder/perfumer Maria McElroy

At last! I have time to post the email interview with Maria McElroy, director and perfumer of Aroma M perfumes.

It's taken a wee while as I've been busy painting for an exhibition about to launch next month.

It's so nice to finally sit down, with a glass of wine (wearing a dab of Aroma M Geisha Noire)  to indulge in some perfume exploration and musings. 

This year, Aroma M celebrate 20 years in the business. So warm congratulations to Maria, her success is well deserved,  because as a niche perfumer she brings an individual creativity, love and dedication to her work that's apparent when you experience the rich diversity, depth and quality of the perfumes, which I wrote about in an earlier post Here

Without further ado, let's meet Maria McElroy..

Rose: Maria, firstly thanks so much for taking time to answer some questions. I’m very curious about the perfumer’s process and inspiration behind the perfumes. 

When I first encountered Aroma M online, I loved the visual aesthetic and the influence of Japanese culture, as I’ve always liked traditional and contemporary Japanese prints and drawings.  

I know you lived there for some years, so can you tell me a little about why you moved there, and how you found living in Japan?

Maria: Rose, thank you for the opportunity and I have really enjoyed our collaboration and learning more about your art.

I went to Japan after graduating from art school. It originally was intended as a kind of world trip with no time line, first to Asia and then to Europe, ending in Berlin. 

It was love at first sight for me and Japan, and I ended up staying and living there for seven years. I adored my time living in Japan; every day was an inspiration and adventure. Even though the culture is so very different from mine growing up in the states, I felt almost immediately at home. The way of living and aesthetic was all encompassing for me, and left a deep impression.
R: I’ve heard about the intriguing Japanese incense ceremony where people respond to the scent of incense with a spontaneous poem or haiku. (This sounds mildly stressful, unless you have a talent for poetry!) Can you tell us anything about the ceremony and were you ever a participant or observer? 

M: Incense ceremony, “kodo” the way of scent was my first foray into perfume. 
It is very rarefied, a kind of game that was originally played in the “Haien” era court, over a 1000 years ago. 

It is much like the tea ceremony in many ways, you must wear kimono and it takes place in a traditional Japanese “tatami” mate room.  

There are set rules and very specific ways to follow the ceremony. 

Once you are in that atmosphere, for me I was transported into this other place, it was not stressful. “Kodo” has a bit of the Zen mind, where you are perfectly present and in the moment, so everything just flows. That said it is difficult, they say it takes 10 years to start to really understand and be proficient. I still have a long way to go!

R: Can you tell me more about why you wanted to focus on creating perfume? 

M:When I returned to the states after living in Japan, I really wasn’t sure how I would use all my experiences. 

At that time there were almost no small perfume lines, so it took a leap of faith to step into the perfume world. I honestly didn't give it too much thought. I started to bottle some fragrances in my house, and a friend who had a store saw them one day and wanted to stock them. 

The next thing I knew I had orders and boxes everywhere and had to find a separate space for aroma That is how it all started without a lot of thought and here I am 20 years later!
R: Learning any art form is a challenge; I find there are usually a few tears and frustrations along the way! Not to mention launching your work, raising interest and making an actual living from it. 

How did you train as a perfumer and what were the challenges? Were there people who were helpful mentors, or supportive to the process?

M: My background is in Aromatherapy. I received a degree in Australia, so all my perfumes have the distinct use of essential oils. 

M: For the most part, the creative process of the perfumes and packaging is very fun for me. I love searching for new raw materials. 

I went to Morocco a few years ago, and was so entranced with the oils there. Many of the ones I found are in my new Camellia Perfume. 

I go to Japan once a year to get the Yuzen papers that we wrap our perfume with, which I love. They have become an aroma M signature.

When I first started there weren’t any blogs, so the magazines were very important. I have been incredibly lucky and have a very thick press book. 

Now with the bloggers it is a different world. I love making new relationships and finding such talented writers and artists such as yourself! I have recently created a separate perfume line, House of Cherry Bomb, with fellow perfumer and scent sister, Alexis Karl. It has been so fun to collaborate with another perfumer and has brought new light into my own creations.

R: I find that your perfumes conjure up vivid colours, images and textures. I liked your description of each perfume being like a beautiful kimono that you slip on to enhance your mood, the season, or occasion.  Can you tell me about inspiration – what usually inspires you, such as art, seasons, music and so on?

M: Thank you so much! The Geishas, and the namesake of my perfume line, are a huge inspiration for me.  Their mystery, glamour and resplendent beauty are always part of each aroma M perfume. From rustling Kimono’s, to the feel of silk on your skin and the mesmerizing way the Geisha dance and walk; I try to translate all that poetry into my perfumes. 

I often think of the fleeting beauty of the Cherry Blossoms and how they have so much in common with perfume, and try to capture that essence in each fragrance. 

Also, I often imagine colors when creating a new perfume. Much like when imagining a painting and putting colors together. 

Aroma M perfumes are named after colors, so this plays a big part in my creative inspiration.

R: When I’ve created a painting, there are a few friends or family members I know will be honest yet kind, who I ask to ‘lend their eyes’ and give an opinion. Who do you ask to ‘lend their nose’?!

Maria McElroy and Alexis Karl
M: Yes, I am very lucky to have my partner in crime and House of Cherry Bomb collaborator Alexis Karl. She is always the first one I share my new perfumes with. I respect and trust her insight implicitly.

R: On that subject, would you like to collaborate with artists, poets, musicians, dancers etc - maybe a development of the Japanese incense and poetry idea?

M: I love the idea of a perfume project using Japanese incense and poetry. You are onto something! I have recently collaborated with very talented collage artist, India Evans, on an art installation that is part of a show that will be traveling from Rome to Naples and Berlin. 

The installation is a room filled with butterflies, all hand cut, floating and spiraling throughout the room, with the sound of fluttering wings and light breathing. It is a joint show of India’s work and her father’s John Evans, who recently passed away and was also a collage artist. The fragrance I created is an ambient scent, but I also created it to be worn as a personal fragrance. 

It was inspired by the love of father and daughter, Rome, and the essence of otherworldly butterflies. ‘Voluptuous Nostalgia’ perfume notes include amber, tonka bean, gardenia, muguet and violet. 
It will be available in limited edition in June. I will announce the details on the aroma M Perfumes Face Book page and website.

R: Some of the best perfumes seem to be inspired by a person or fictional character. Which person/character would you love to create a perfume for? It can be anyone you know, or famous - real, fictional, living or dead! And what would the perfume be like?
The first time I saw Max Ophuls masterpiece “The Earrings of Madam De”, I fell in love with the main character Louisa and felt a strange affinity with her. I have been known to have a streak of the dramatic in me, and Louisa most definitely is dramatic.  

The fainting spells aside, Madam De embodies beauty and elegance effortlessly. She is my dream alter ego. 

The film glitters and dazzles, and beneath the artifice, creates a heartbreaking love story that takes place in Vienna a century ago. The film is famous for its elaborate camera moves. 

It follows the lovers adorned with gowns, uniforms and of course jewelry. Dancing and dancing in grand ballrooms, the camera circles the couple until they are left all alone, their courtship told in a dance. 

What romance. We watch Louisa writing her Baron day after day, with no letter back. 

When they finally meet the Baron tells her “I always answered your letters my love, but I lacked the courage to mail them.” 
Then we see the un-mailed letters torn into bits and flung into the air to become snow- such is bold romance. The movie ends in tragedy as all great love stories do, deep in the misty mountains... a duel. We hear far off gunfire and see Louisa, and she watches from a far, then falls and faints in horror for possibly the last time.
The Perfume:

Top Notes: Tuberose, Gardenia, White Lotus and Labdanum.
Middle Notes: Violet, Orris Butter, Champaca, White Cognac. 
Base Notes: Choya Loban, Genet Absolute and Labdanum.R: 

Lastly, where can people buy your perfumes or perfume samples, whether in shops or online?

M: Aroma M perfumes are available on our website and www.luckyscent.com, the Scent Bar in Los Angeles, Tiger Lily in San Francisco and Twisted Lily in New York.
And so concludes my emailed interview with Maria McElroy. I wish it could have been in person! I'm definitely going to watch Madame De; wonderful descriptions there. And that perfume! I'm swooning at the thought of it...voluptuous tuberose, tender violets, nostalgic orris. I confess I don't actually know what Genet is, or Choya Loban! But it's these details that make Maria a true creative soul of perfumery.

It's been an absolute pleasure to write up this interview, and who knows, one day we might get the opportunity for more creative collaborations, I just know they'd be full of inspiration and fun!