Notes are no longer reserved for just one gender. Many of the new fragrances joining the market have a recurring theme: they're 'genderless'. Be this thanks to a cultural shift, buying habits or a focus on the craft of fragrance, for perfumer Francis Kurkdjian it’s extremely welcome. "Gender stereotypes occur just by education. It’s like pink and blue; if you leave kids with both pink and blue things, there’s no reason why they should choose one over the other. Similarly, an ingredient doesn’t tell you anything about gender, so if you are a man I won’t tell you, 'You need to wear patchouli or musk'," he says.
How then, do we shake off those stereotypes? "Looking for scent is like looking for love. It’s as emotional, he explains." Last year he created crystal brand Baccarat’s 250-year-anniversary perfume Baccarat Rouge 540, that contains sweet but sophisticated notes of jasmine, saffron and ambergris and was an instant hit with all genders.
Perfumer Alberto Morillas, the man behind some of the greatest scents of all time, including the first unisex fragrances Calvin Klein CK One and more recently, Gucci’s The Alchemist Garden, agrees: "Fragrance is all a question of taste. It’s all about the feeling you have when you smell it. Channel your emotions, and there’s no reason why a man won’t fall in love with a rose fragrance."
When narrowing down your scent choice, look to groups of fragrance that resonate with your fondest memories. These multi-faceted fragrances are all expertly crafted to be loved by all.
"Perfume is like an armour. There aren’t many things in life that give you that strength."Francis Kurkdjian
Floral fragrances needn’t mean a heady bouquet burst as if you’ve just stepped into a florist. Flowers hold many memories in many different forms. Take Gucci Beauty’s A Song For The Rose, which is Gucci Creative Director Alessandro Michele’s favourite from the collection. It was created from the memory of a flacon owned by his mother, and his beloved rose garden.
The beauty of floral fragrances is their diversity. Go fresh and zesty with orange blossom and uplifting neroli in Tonic Blanc by Thomas Kosmala. Ex Nihilo’s Fleur Narcotique’s peony may immediately seem feminine, however wrapped in base notes of wood, moss and musk it makes for a universal, ultra-wearable homage to flowers. Violet, a much-loved British flower, takes an oriental turn in Jo Malone London’s Violet & Amber Absolu with the addition of smoky oud.
Spicy & Oriental
Reminiscent of the far-flung corners of the earth, oriental fragrances are often warm and spicy. The notes, carefully sourced from around the globe, might remind you of a special trip or time spent in the sun. Tonka bean – a small seed native to South and Central America, that smells akin to creamy vanilla and tobacco – is the hero ingredient in Le Labo’s Tonka 25, in which nose Daphne Bugey was inspired by warm skin and resinous wood.
The bestselling Black Saffron by Byredo uses Kashmiri Saffron along with leather and raspberry in an homage to India’s vibrant colours, and Damascan rose and incense reflect dawn over the ancient city of Cairo at the heart of the Penhaligon’s scent.
While the craftsmen and women behind these iconic scents create with a vision in mind, there is no right or wrong way to feel about fragrance. Your scent is your is power, says Francis Kurkdjian: "Perfume is the most intimate thing. You can be naked and still feel as if you have an armour. There aren’t many things in life that give you that strength."
By Olivia de Courcy