Perfume is perhaps the most intimate and luxurious embodiment of bespoke because it is invisible. It cannot claim practicality or durability, and serves little purpose beyond individual pleasure. “It’s prehistoric, tribal, territorial and powerful. It’s dominant and secretive and it’s a very, very strong tool,” says Anastasia Brozler, founder of Creative Perfumers, the by-appointment-only Mayfair atelier that’s home to sixteen of the world’s keenest noses and olfactory imaginations behind fragrance’s most iconic names.
A bespoke scent takes up to a year to produce. The journey begins with a lifestyle and psychological assessment before hundreds or thousands of notes are sniffed and the perfumer gets to work creating three or so ‘directions’ (chosen from around 5,000 scents) for the client to try.
Anastasia and her team, and bespoke perfumers like them – the Lyn Harrises, Roja Doves and Oliver Creeds of this highly secretive world – can access tinctures from the most remote corners of the globe: from limited edition and vintage oils to true one-offs. Creative Perfumers have worked with the unexpected in compiling the mysterious, complex elixirs that somehow make the wearer feel utterly extraordinary yet thoroughly themselves – from pet dogs’ paws to empty bags, children’s T-shirts, husband’s shorts and the man who wanted to create a cologne with no scent.
“Smell is the oldest sense, it touches the most emotional part of the brain,” explains Roja Dove, the only ‘Professeur de Parfums’ in the world. “Scent is totally instinctual: when it comes to our preferences, there’s no rationale.” After many interim consultations and samples, the desired fragrance is licensed and named in Grasse, France, then converted into a line of products, which are presented in bespoke flacons and jars, with the remainder stored in a vat. Pricing can range anywhere between £3,000 and £150,000.
For those not ready to make that kind of commitment, there are fragrance-combining lines such as Jo Malone, Penhaligons and the Le Labo Boutique, whose ‘Olfactory Set’ contains 40 different phials for clients to experiment with. Add to these the newly-launched Boadicea the Victorious bespoke service and Ozwald Boateng’s signature ‘Parfum Bespoke’ fragrance for women, and all signs point toward couture scent becoming the ultimate personal statement. As Roja Dove says: “People want something that has integrity and they want to be involved in the process. The aspect that shocks people most is how profoundly moving the entire experience is.”
Acqua di Parma and its classic eau de cologne