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Jun 13, 2004
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Designers Scent the Air

By PJ Gach

Every designer has his or her own philosophy. It's reflected in the fabrics they choose, the way they cut their designs. It's in the trim and details of their work. While some designers are always on the cutting edge, some idealize simplicity and purity of design. Then there are designers who feel that every night is New Year's Eve.

When we choose clothing, we use what we wear as an expression of our personality. We may, consciously or unconsciously, also identify with a particular designer and their view of life. Audrey Hepburn always wore Givenchy; on and off films. His fashion sensibilities reflected hers perfectly.

What happens when a designer turns their creative head to that most abstract genre – perfume? Does the fragrance accurately represent their design philosophy? Their ideal client? Let's take a closer look at some designer scents and see how their aromatic offerings reflect their design philosophies.

Agent Provocateur is a luxe lingerie line from the UK (who said the British were staid?) that was created to amuse, enchant and arouse. From the moment that designers Joe Corre and Serena Rees opened their first shop in 1994, their high quality, piquant fashions became a huge hit internationally. The name Agent Provocateur has become synonymous with seduction. A sort of high-end Moulin Rougerie, if you will.

After redefining sexy underpinnings, the duo turned to the world of fragrance. Together with perfume expert Azzi Pickthall, they created their first scent, aptly called, Agent Provocateur eau de Parfum. It won the 2001 FiFi Award for best New Fragrance with Limited Distribution.

The parfum is housed in a pale pink egg shaped bottle with delicate black labeling. The shape is supposed to harken back to ancient symbol of fertility. However, other eyes may view the flacon and the tiny black ribbon that is unfurled at its neck, as a grenade. Yup, unleash this fragrance and you have a love bomb!

The perfume is luxurious, heady, warm and sensual. It lasts for hours. The eau de parfum is in the exotic floral Chypre family. The tope notes are pure Saffron Oil from India and Coriander from Russia. Moroccan Rose Oil, Egyptian Jasmine, French Magnolia oil, Ylang Ylang, and White Gardenia flowers from Comores are the heart notes. The base notes are comprised of Amber, Virginia Cedarwood, Vetiver from Haiti and Musk. The Coriander is what gives it spice and heat.

This is a fragrance for a night on the town, an evening of seduction. It will definitely get your point across without saying a word.

Agent Provocateur Eau De Parfum can be bought at their shop on 133 mercer Street, (212)-965-0229 or online at

Yves St. Laurent once said, “Fashions fade, style is eternal.†His fragrances, starting with Y launched in 1964 and Rive Gauche launched in 1971 are eternal.

Laurent was born in Oran, Algeria in 1936. In 1954 he won the International Woolmark Competition with his design of a cocktail dress and went to work for Christian Dior. Three years later, Dior died and Laurent went on to design six collections for that house. In 1958 he met future business partner Pierre Berge. Together in 1961 they form the house of Yves St. Laurent and in 1962 presented his first collection. He penned a comic strip, “Naughty Lulu,†and designed costumes for stage, ballet, and movies.

Laurent has always been a fashion innovator; at times shocking his audience and peers with sheer blouses (1968) and provocative imagery. He introduced “Le Smoking,†a woman’s tuxedo and won accolades for his Russian Themed collection. His day wear has a masculine edge, while his evening wear is full of luxurious fabrics and trims. In 1983, a retrospective of his work, “The first 25 years of Yves St. Laurent†was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was organized by Diana Vreeland. In 1999, The Council of Fashion Designers of America presented Yves Saint Laurent with the 'Lifetime Achievement†award. In 2002, he closed the doors of his Haute Couture line and retired from designing.


His perfumes have never followed the pack either. In 1977, Opium was launched. It became the fragrance for women to wear at night, and for teenage daughters to steal from their mothers. It’s a strong, spicy, sophisticated oriental fragrance that conjures images of decadence and delight. Other fragrances for men and women followed. In 1984 the debut of Paris created many a nose to tingle with admiration. It was a rosy scent of amour and femininity. To date there are 32 fragrances for men and women from Yves St. Laurent.

His latest perfume is Cinema. It’s a lush floral housed in a simple yet luxe decanter. The scent opens with top notes of Corsican Clementine, and almond tree blossoms. The middle notes are cyclamen, amaryllis, peony, and Sambac jasmine. The bottom notes contain white musk, ambergris, and Bourbon vanilla.

The combination creates a warm, slightly spicy scent. Cinema is lush, sophisticated and inviting.

Coming this spring, March 15 to be exact, Yves St. Laurent will be launching a limited edition of Paris Eau de Printemps Roses Enchantees. It’s a beautiful multifaceted lacquered decanter with a pale rose stopper. It is in graduated shades of pink, mauve and orange. These colors echo the colors of the roses that are contained within in this fragrance. They are the garden rose, apricot rose and lilac rose.

The top notes of this exquisite and truly feminine scent are garden rose, violet and orange blossom. The middle notes are the fragrances of the apricot rose and lilac rose with lily of the valley. The bottom notes are musk and Mysore sandalwood.

This is a fragrance for romance and romantics. It is so eminently sigheable; a fragrance for a great love, a great memory.

Paris Eau de Printemps Roses Enchantees, Cinema and his other fragrances can be purchased at any Sephora store,, Bergdorf Goodman, and other high end stores throughout the world.

Designer Jeanne Lanvin was born in 1867, the eldest of eleven children. She began her career as an apprentice milliner and quickly became head of the workshop. At the ripe old age of 22, in 1889, Lanvin opens her own millinery design studio/shop. In 1901, she was commissioned to make a suit for Edmond Rostand. This was her first formal attire for a member of the Academie Francaise. Her daughter, Marguerite, born in 1897, plays in the workshop as Ms. Lanvin works.

Her daughter’s dresses were loose, flowing designs that were admired by her customers. After repeated compliments, Lanvin creates a line of clothing for children.

The children’s dress became adapted for women, and the chemise-style, unfitted, “flapper†dress was born. She was known for using subtle pinks and blues in her many collections.

Her first fragrance, My Sin, was introduced in 1925 and is still sold today. Her second fragrance with its unique and unmistakable shape, Arpege debuted in 1927 and quickly became a fragrance classic.


The round black bottle was decorated by Paul Oribe. The stylized picture of a mother and daughter is taken from a photograph of Jeanne Lanvin and daughter Margeurite playing before they leave for a masked ball. That symbol has become the mark of the fashion house.

Arpege is a rich, complicated fragrance whose perfume has never been altered. The top notes are aldehydes, bergamot and Neroli. Florals comprise the middle notes; the ingredients are ylang ylang, rose, iris, jasmine, coriander, tuberose and lily of the valley. The base notes are deep and spicy; patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood, vanilla and styrax. Lanvin’s daughter Marguerite named the fragrance; when she first smelt it, she remarked that, “it smells like an arpeggio.â€

The scent is powerful, unique, and long lasting. It brings to mind old world luxury and elegance.

Éclat d’Arpege was designed with the collaboration of its latest designer, Alber Elbaz. Elbaz is the head of Couture Femme since 2001.


The bottle is topped by a white diamond and the two rings that surround the base of the neck symbolize the love between two beings. The top notes are Sicilian lemon leaves and lilac greens. The middle notes are wisteria flowers, green tea leaves, peach flowers, red peony and China osmanthus. The ingredients for the bottom notes are white cedarwood of Lebanon, sweet musks, and amber.

Éclat d’Arpege is a modern take on a timeless fragrance. It’s elegant, refined, yet modern and chic as well.

The House of Lanvin is France’s oldest design house; it has been in continuous existence for over 115 years.


The luxurious prêt-a porter designs can be found at Bergdorf Goodman and other high end salons. The fragrances can be found at Bergdorf Goodman,, other high end stores and

Christian Lacroix gave us the pouf in the 80’s and he’s been a fashion innovator ever since he made that splash. For many years Lacroix gave the world baroque ornamented styles, he has now moved to more graphic, structured modern style.


Lacroix was born on May 16, 1951 in Arles, France. He studied Art History at the University of Montpellier. In 1973, he continued his studies at the Sorbonne and the Ecole du Louvre, with the hopes of becoming a museum curator. It was around this time that he met his wife, Francoise who encouraged him to draw. He also met Jean-Jacques Picart, a press attaché and advisor to many fashion designers and houses. Picart assisted Lacroix in getting a job at Hermes in 1978 and then with Guy Paulin in 1980. That next year began working at Jean Patou. He and Picart collaborated and created an Haute Couture line. In 1986, their work was awarded with their first De d’Or. The next year they received the Award for the most influential foreign designer, given by the CFDA in New York in January 1987. That year he began to create costumes for opera, ballet, stage productions as well as illustrations for books and signs. He is continuing this work today.

In October 2002, together with the presentation of spring-summer 2003 collections and the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the Couture House, Christian Lacroix received the insignia of Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur from Mr. Bernard Arnault, Chairman of LVMH.

The couture house of Christian Lacroix had its first collection in 1987. The next year, hex created his first ready to wear collection. Two years later he began to design accessories and opened boutiques throughout France.

In 1994, Christian Lacroix created his "Bazar" line, in addition to both his Ready-To- wear and Haute Couture lines. He created a home furnishing line, CL in 1995 and a jeans line in 1996. The next year he branched off into china and in 1999 launched his first perfume, simply called Christian Lacroix perfume and a jewelry line. In 2002, he launched Bazar, a perfume line for men and women.

Bazar for women arrives in a round lucite container, reminiscent of a modern day jewelry box. The bottles are designed by Fredrico Restrepo. The top notes are nectavigne, apricot blossom, yuzu and roses. The middle notes are nasturtium and frangipani. The bottom notes are a combination of sycamore, gaiac wood and orris flowers.

It is an exceptional and extraordinary fragrance. Bazar is feminine, modern yet classic. It is soft yet lively. LaCroix fragrances available at

Oscar de la Renta was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 1932. He studied fashion in Madrid at the age of 18, and then went to work with Balenciaga. He moved to France in the ‘60’s and became known for his lavish evening clothes and sumptuous materials. He moved to New York in 1963, designed for Elizabeth Arden, then created his own design house two years later


He is known for fresh, feminine styles that celebrate a woman’s form. His fashion empire includes couture, prêt-a-porter, lingerie, jewelry, furs, eyewear, menswear and home furnishings.

In the Dominican Republic, Oscar de la Renta has helped build two much-needed schools incorporating orphanages and day-care centers in La Romana and Punta Cana. Mr. de la Renta has received France's highest honor, Commander in the Legion d'Honneur for his contribution to fashion and the arts and charitable causes.

In the United States, Oscar de la Renta serves on the boards of The Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, Thirteen/WNET and Hispanic Designers. He is a board member of UNICEF, the Americas Society and The Spanish Institute.

In the spring of 2000, Oscar received the Gold Medal Award from the King and Queen of Spain.


de la Renta has five fragrance lines for women; Intrusion, Oscar, Volupte, Rosamor and So de la Renta. For men he has Pour Lui and Oscar for Men.

Rosamor is his latest fragrant offering for women. It’s a delightful woody floral that is soft but not too sweet. The top notes are Italian mandarin, pink berries, and rosea lily of the valley. Tuberose, gardenia, ylang ylang, heliotrope and rose make up the middle notes. The bottom notes of the fragrance are rounded out by Sandalwood, vanillia, Tonka bean and musks.

It’s long wearing, feminine and flirty in a subtle way. To find out more about his fragrances, please go to You can find where Oscar de la Renta is sold by going to his website or visit his store at 772 Madison Avenue, by 66th street, (212-288-8210. You can also find his fragrances at Nordstrom,, Sephora and and fine stores everywhere.

Paul Smith is a Brit who makes fashion waves by using vivid colors and exquisite tailoring is. He likes to say, “I give classics just a little kick.â€


Smith was born in Nottingham, England in 1947. He wanted a career as a professional bicycle racer, but an injury side-lined him. In 1969 he met Pauline Denyer, who studied fashion design at the Royal College of Art. Through her influence and guidance, Smith opened his first shop in 1970.

He made a name for himself designing classic British menswear with a twist. A grey suit would be shown with a bright patterned shirt, or a suit would be created in an unusual fabric, but with the distinctive tailoring of English fashion. He was cutting-edge and conservative at the same time. In 1976, he showed his first collection in a hotel room in Paris, and shortly became one of the most popular British designers.

In 1993, Smith realized that 15% of his clothing was bought by women. The combination of classic tailoring and with modern styling appealed to him. So, he introduced a women’s collection.

In 1993, Smith took over the R. Newbold work-wear company. It was created in 1885, but due to economics had gone bankrupt. The company’s traditional customer was laborers, and Smith incorporated many of their designs into his line. With brief modification, he sells now the "4239 shirt" (42 inches on the back, 39 in the front) of R.Newbold under his name.

In 1995, the London-based Design Museum opened a retrospective of Smith's 25 years of work in the fashion business called True Brit, marking the first time this renowned museum devoted an entire exhibition to a single fashion designer.

Smith launched his first fragrance in 2000. It was inspired by aromatherapy oils and lotions. It’s elegant, bold, but can be worn everyday. It’s a very modern, feminine fragrance. The fragrance for men and women were created by Paul Smith a perfumer Arthur Burnham. Among Burnham’s other clients is Prince Charles.

The top notes are a combination of bergamot, Clementine, black currant, green pear and a touch of pink peppercorns. The middle notes are freesia, lily of the valley, geranium and green tea. The base notes are Cedarwood from Atlas, vetiver, patchouli, Tonka beans and Biomusk.

His next fragrance, Extreme was launched in 2002. It’s a stronger, more sensual fragrance. It’s the “older sister who’s dating†fragrance to the original Paul Smith for women scent. It’s a bright, spicy fragrance that works wonderfully at night or to punch up a dull day. The top notes are Italian mandarin, black currant, and freesia. The middle notes are the fragrance from black currant branches, heliotrope and violet. The base or bottom notes are amber, musk, sandalwood and cedar.

It’s a very sensual and flirty deep scent.

His latest fragrance, Paul Smith London, was introduced this past December 2004. Its inspiration is that of the ‘swinging 60’s London.†You can see it in the decanter design and the scent. The fragrance opens up with Neroli, lilac leaf, jasmine, heliotrope, aniseed and vanilla. The Middle note is patchouli, so very 60’s. It’s also a woody, lush and deep scent redolent of earth. The bottom note is amber with green woody accents.

Paul Smith fragrances can be found at,, Sephora and Paul Smith stores nationwide.

Jil Sander is known for her minimalistic designs. She uses simple lines and sophisticated fabrics. She was born Heidemarie Jil Sander in 1943 in Wesselburne/Dithmarschen in Northern Germany. After graduating college and spending two years in the states, she returned to Germany and became an Editor at fashion magazines in 1963. In 1968 she opened up her first boutique and in 1973 designed her first line. She creates clothes for the modern, self-confident woman who prefers fine tailoring and muted colors to prints.


Her fragrance, Pure debuted this past September. It’s a floral woody musk fragrance. Inside that clear flask is a mixture of Hedione, cyclamen, green sap, white musk, sandalwood and the creamy ambrette seed. The fragrance is built around a new Firmenich molecule. It’s known as the “pure air molecule, “which has a light, airy transparent note. Like Ms. Sander’s designs, this fragrance is subtle, elegant and modern. It can be worn any where at any time. It is sensual, but not heavy and invokes a feeling of smoothness.

Pure can be found at Nordstrom,, Sephora and, and other high end stores.

Marc Jacobs was born in 1963 in New York City. After graduating from the High School of Art and Design; he entered the Parsons School of Design. While a student there, he designed his first line of sweaters that was commissioned and sold by Barbara Weiser. The label, “Marc Jacobs for Barbara Weiser†were sold at Ms. Weiser’s family stores, Charivari. At school, he received one of Parsons’s most prestigious awards; the Perry Ellis Golden Thimble. In 1984 he showed his senior collection and Robert Duffy, an executive of Ruben Thomas saw the show and asked Jacobs if he would design a ready-to-wear collection under the Sketchbook label.

In 1986 he designed his first collection under the Marc Jacobs label. In 1987, he received the Council of Fashion Designers of America ICFDAI Perry Ellis Award for New Fashion Talent. He was their youngest recipient. In 1989, he joined Perry Ellis and designed the women’s collection. In 1992 he received the award for Womenswear Designer of the Year from CFDA. In 1993 he launched his own line and in 1995 he created the Marc Jacobs for men line. In 1997 Jacobs joined Luis Vuitton as Artistic Director and has overseen their handbags, men and women’s ready-to-wear lines and shoe designs. Later in the year the first Marc Jacobs shop opened at 163 Mercer Street in New York and he also received (for the third time) the CFDA Award for Womenswear Designer of the Year. Other shops for men and women opened on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village a few years later. His first perfume, Marc Jacobs Perfume was launched in 2001. Fig, his fragrance for men was introduced in 2002. His second woman’s fragrance is called Essence and is housed in a cheerful yellow bottle. His latest and third women’s fragrance, Blush was inspired by blooming jasmine and was launched in the spring of 2004.

Jacobs says, “Fragrance, like fashion, is meant to express a strong personal style.†Blush is housed in a long rectangular bottle, pale pink in color. The top note is jasmine, followed by star jasmine and Japanese honeysuckle as the middle notes. The bottom notes are soft musk and wood notes, giving the fragrance depth.

It is a distinctly feminine yet modern fragrance, sweet but not heavy. The scent balances itself between a rich creamy scent and a modern romantic one. It is simple yet complex, like many of Jacobs’ designs. His fashions are first glance seem to be simple, but he detailing, the styling and his innovative use of fabrics, make his designs instant classics.

The company has supported and has been involved with many charitable institutions including City Harvest, Cancer Care, Circle of Life Foundation, Hudson River Trust, Camp Okizu, City Meals on Wheels, Gift of Hope Aids Hospice, Friends of Hillary, Hudson Valley AIDS Auction, Greenwich Village Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

His fragrance and designs can be found at, or at his stores at 365 Bleecker Street, (212) 924-6126, 163 Mercer Street, (212) 343-1490, at many high end department stores and boutiques thrroughout the country and his fragrances can also be found at Sephora and

Almost every designer has a fragrance line out to so they can wrap you in their aromas. There are fashion styles for everyone; from crisp classic tailoring to floaty, flirty femininity. That’s how it is with fragrances. As the designer cuts the cloth, he or she will use her nose, her sense of style to something as ephemeral yet memorable as scent.


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