Biba Redux

26.10.2011 | Blog , Fashion | BY:

The celebrity beauty juggernaut show no signs of slowing down: the latest additions being Dita Von Teese perfume, Kate Moss lipsticks, Rachel Zoe lipsticks (in the US) and the rumour of a Coty created Madonna perfume.

Trust MAC to subvert it all by co-opting haute-eccentric-heiress and couture-buyer-extraordinaire Daphne Guinness to dream up some pre-Christmas make up products for them. Gaga perfume is apparently arriving next year and I can’t help wondering if she will live up to her image and make something along the lines of Commes Des Garcons Odeur 53 (the smell of dust and metal and glass) or if she will go for the bubblegum synthetic pop of her music (which I personally dislike in general) and fashion something saccharine and obvious.

Of the other new launches around I’m particularly enamoured of Biba make up – great palettes, bright colours – I’m a sucker for a dinky little box. What’s more it’s reasonably priced and I’m so over obscenely priced beauty products. Frankly I’d rather spend the money in Cos‘ new online store.

It’s actually the third time Biba have launched their make up. The first time, in the early seventies it was only available in the store and they were famously the first brand to provide testers – and they did wonderfully weird shades such as black lipstick. The brand made a brief reappearance in the mid Nineties – prompted by the seventies fetishism of that decade – but sadly fizzled out. And now it’s back again, accompanying the revived fashion line.

I do hope it survives but in all honesty I’m not sure what the identity of Biba is any more. I know what it stood for in the early Seventies, but I fear it has been so diluted and corrupted there’s not much of the original spirit left in terms of fashion or beauty.

Words by Bethan Cole

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Tom Ford Make Up

05.08.2011 | Blog , Fashion | BY:

Tom Ford’s new make up hits counters this autumn. Though I’ve seen nothing as yet apart from the lipsticks. Little samples or information has been made available. It’s typically Fordian to be so tightly controlling of the press coverage. Much as I love the existing lipstick range especially the white and gold packaging (very old Hollywood), I feel a little ambivalent about two things: the price point and the USP.

Firstly, the whole range is likely to be expensive considering the lipsticks alone are £35. For the same price you could buy a dress in New Look, Top Shop or Zara and even an outfit in Primark or Peacocks.

My second question mark here is: is there room for another cosmetics line in the marketplace? Burberry and D&G have both joined the melee in recent years which makes  a lot of luxury make up lines out there. And how much of a market is there for this sort of ultra expensive product? Competitor-wise there’s Serge Lutens make up which is gorgeous but even more eye-wateringly expensive than Tom Ford and then Shiseido’s other superluxurious brand Cle De Peau which has been withdrawn from the UK – presumably due to lack of a market. Still, we wait with bated beauty breath.

Words by Bethan Cole

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Star Scents

15.07.2011 | Blog , Fashion | BY:

As with gourmands (edible fragrances), I can now admit that I have been somewhat prejudiced towards celebrity fragrances. This wasn’t without reason;  a lot of them genuinely were cheap, formulaic, derivative, overtly saccharine and obvious. Like gourmands, I reasoned they were often created with a  young, uninformed, unsophisticated demographic in mind. There was very little artistry involved in the creation of these perfumes. But of course the minute you dismiss a genre of fragrance (or well anything in life really) something comes along and narkily disproves you. In this case it was Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely – which is really such a classy fragrance that it could be Chanel – and that’s a compliment indeed.

Anyway that was a few years ago now and hundreds of celebrity offerings have debuted since then. I can now admit there are one or two that I quite like – they are not all execrable. Namely Kate Moss’s Vintage Muse, which came out last winter. If you look at the notes on paper it does not bode well: plum, rhubarb and chocolate. It sounds like another sugary confection aimed at impressionable pre-teens. However when you actually smell it it’s really quite sophisticated – you get the tart, sour facets of rhubarb and plum rather than the juicy plumpness and it’s actually quite recherche.

It actually reminds me of how a stylist friend of mine used to smell – she blended her own oils – in other words not obvious and sweet but something a fashion insider might like. The other perfume that landed on my desk recently and that’s really okay, but maybe not great is Kim Kardashian’s debut. Now I had expected to hate this, not being  afan of Kardashian herself (another fake tanned talentless wannabe famous for no reason) but it’s actually quite nice. What you get is  a huge dose of tuberose – reminiscent of Frederic Malle’s Carnal Flower or Michael Kors’ eponymous offering. I love tuberose as much as the next person – what I’m slightly ambivalent about is the chocolate note used to underscore it which make it a very rich, dense sweet tuberose. I might have preferred a more translucent take on the tuberose, but then that might have been a  bit too derivative or Kors and Malle.

Words by Bethan Cole

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Soap opera

24.05.2011 | Blog , Twin Life | BY:

Soap is one of my grand obsessions. I generally shower once a day with a great block of it and have been known to take up to two baths in addition to my shower. I am a cleansaholic. And if I had a to choose just one item to take to a desert island (cliched though that thought may be), the one item would be soap (although mascara would come close!). My favourite destinations to shop for soap are Liberty‘s beauty hall and Fresh (I love their milk soaps). But a rather magical soap brand has recently come to my attention and it is called Dr Bronner. Dr Bronner is probably one of the only beauty gurus to have been locked up in a mental asylum and go on to found a beauty brand. This was just one of the things that endeared me to it! He’s long gone now but his soaps – liquid and solid-  remain and they are rather fabulous too. Not only are they vegan and organic and free from the harsh detergent ingredient Sodium Laureth Sulphate but they smell delicious – almond and rose are my favourites. They are incredibly gentle with a sparse and soft lather that is not in the slightest synthetic and foamy. What’s more, the company gives between 30% and 70% of post-tax profits to various charities and donates 20p from the sale of every soap bottle in the UK to the charity War Child. It’s a truly ethical and caring enterprise, but equally importantly a really pleasurable product to use in the shower or bath. From Waitrose, Whole Foods, Planet Organic and Fresh and Wild.

warchild.org.uk

Words by Bethan Cole

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Notes on a Scent

28.04.2011 | Blog , Culture , Twin Life | BY:

What fragrance to wear with vintage clothing? This is a question I often ponder. Should one team a delicious piece of vintage with an equally arcane perfume – a Shalimar or a Miss Dior or an Arpege – and thus create a sort of double whammy of historically resonant cloaking.  Or do you update a vintage outfit with a  resolutely contemporary perfume and allow it to provide an olfactive update/contrast to your outfit?  Well perhaps Dior have dreamed up the answer.  Collection Privee is a wonderful edit of eight wonderfully uncommercial new fragrances. These are perfumes with integrity: rich with history and imagination yet completely contemporary.  New Look 1947 is not only a  fantastic name and idea for a perfume – a scent inspired by that timeless nipped-in silhouette – it is, in my humble opinion a  great choice to team with that prized vintage dress.  The constituent notes are tuberose, rose, jasmine and vanilla.  It is a modern floral, not cloying and concentrated like the florals of yore.  Nor has it been corrupted into one of those horrible ubiquitous cynically commercial fruity florals. Or rendered cologne like by the addition of too much citrus. No, it is ladylike and powdery and ideal if you want to feel feminine and precise without feeling blousy or saccharine.

Words by Bethan Cole

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Tan Lines

15.04.2011 | Blog , Twin Life | BY:

It’s that time of year again when the majority of people think about tanning. However, I am not in that majority. I can count the number of times I have tanned in my life on one hand and I am fast approaching forty. Therefore, for a great number of years I have remained proudly milky pale. I think it’s an alternative/indie thing, in my teens, the eighties, red lipstick and pale skin were the apogee of underground style, as epitomised by Vivienne Westwood muse Sara Stockbridge and the androgyne model Jenny Howarth. Nowadays its indie queens like Gwen Stefani, Beth Ditto and Dita Von Teese who embody the pale look. And it’s these gals I’d want to be in a gang with, not orange hued WAGs or Katie Price. However this year I have to admit, for the first time in a lifetime I’m strangely drawn to the idea of tanning. Obviously it would be a very subtle golden tan, not the creosote hue once favoured by Victoria Beckham. But some kind of gentle olive tint, a Mediterranean sun kissed teint, might just be nice come summer sun. I have yet to explore the range of products on offer, but I’m thinking the St Tropez No Tan Tan might be the one for me. Or at least a touch of Johnsons Holiday Skin on my rather chalky legs. I’m not sure if this is a flirtation or a genuine commitment to the idea of a tan. After all my whole identity is bound up with being pale. Whatever, I will keep you posted.

Words by Bethan Cole

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Beauty.com

01.04.2011 | Blog , Twin Life | BY:

In addendum to my post a  few weeks ago about beauty shopping online there is another destination that I have only recently discovered that is absolutely amazing for beauty brands. Unexpectedly, it’s amazon.co.uk. It’s usually my number one stop for books – the marketplace for second hand books is excellent – the only place that rivals it is Abebooks for older, rarer titles. Anyway Amazon also happens to stock some fabuloulsy recherche French haircare that you could previously only find in Harrods. I’m talking about Leonor Greyl, which I know Chanel muse Lady Amanda Harlech used to rave about and disappeared from these shores several years ago. But who knew!? Amazon are now stocking it, and they produce some magical oils and treatments that are worth tracking down. They’re also home to another cult French haircare range called Rene Furterer which I discovered years ago in French pharmacies. It’s cheaper than Greyl – their shampoo is about £7.50 – and equally good for treatments and day-to-day haircare. I’m really surprised I didn’t know about Amazon‘s health and beauty department before – they also have French pharamcy staples such as Klorane and Biotherm – another two of my favourite brands – Klorane‘s dry shampoo is unsurpassed. Another shop to bookmark on your browser for competitively priced beauty shopping.

Image courtesy of Michael Flores.

Words by Bethan Cole.

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The simple life

18.03.2011 | Blog | BY:

Last season’s vogue for minimalism wasn’t something I could buy into wholeheartedly. To eschew brights and patterns from my wardrobe, and colour from my make-up palette would make me very sad and disheartened indeed. Minimalism was something I quite liked to buy into on occassional days – days when I felt rigour and understatement were called for – a visit to my therapist for example! So there is the odd day when I find that natural make up, nay a dearth of make-up and clothes in camel and black are appropriate. These are like detox days in a sense, a holiday from the rabid sartorial mayhem that usually makes my heart sing. I wash my face, scrape my hair back and apply the bare minimum of maquillage – usually Givenchy Phenomen’eyes mascara in black, eyebrow pencil by Laura Mercier and if I’m feeling particularly lavish some Clinique Chubby Stick in Richer Raisin. The latter is Clinique‘s latest innovation for lips and its rather wonderful. A fat, waxy little stick that you stroke on lips and that imparts nourishing balm and a veil of colour. Richer Raisin reminds me of  a cult lip colour that Clinique used to make in the Nineties called Black Honey. Everyone wore it for that slightly enhanced nude look that so epitomised the nineties.

Anyway, those are my tips for a reductive make up routine. I’m loathe to say less is more because in general I don’t really agree with the aphorism, but there are occassional days when it feels like it really is.

Words by Bethan Cole

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Nihon-go

09.03.2011 | Blog , Twin Life | BY:

Despite the on-going globalisation of beauty – Estee Lauder is expanding rapidly in India and China – not everything is now American. I still believe that the French and the Japanese are the go-to cultures for skincare. The French for reasonably priced pharmacy brands such as Biotherm, La Roche Posay, Nuxe, Caudalie, Darphin and Decleor –  with these products you really can afford to do as chic French women do and stock up on every item in the range.

The Japanese excel in hi-tech anti-ageing (as they do with technology generally) and in creating ultra-light gossamer textures packed with nutrients and advanced scientific ingredients. Perhaps my favourite Japanese skincare brand of all (and I’m a huge fan of Shiseido, Kanebo and especially Shu Uemura) is SKII, a wonderfully futuristic skincare brand that is heavily used by superstar make up artist Pat McGrath when she’s making up models backstage at the shows. A caveat: these products are expensive and only available online at harrods.com. But they do really work. The narrative of how the brand started is also rather lovely. Some scientists were visiting a Saki brewerey in Japan and noticed that although the workers faces were wrinkled, their hands were incredibly soft, pale and line free. Investigations and experiments followed to identify what was causing the workers to have such youthful hands and the scientists found out it was Pitera, a by product of yeast and the brewing process. Thus is 1980, over 30 years ago, SKII was born, a skincare regime based upon the active ingredient Pitera. It was subsequently bought by the US beauty giant Proctor and Gamble, so it’s perhaps not quite as authentically Japanese as it once was. Best products to sample are the Skin Signature Moisture Cream, an excellent anti-ageing moisturiser with a nice light texture. Out this month are Cellumination Mask-In-Lotion and Brightening Derm Specialist – the former helps lock in moisture and even out skin tone pre-hydration and the latter is a dark spot and pigmentation eraser.

Words by Bethan Cole

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Keep it slick

02.03.2011 | Blog , Twin Life | BY:

Hot Oil hair treatments really remind me of the Seventies. Back then Vo5’s Hot Oil was one of those local chemist staples you might occasionally use to give your hair a treat. it seems old fashioned now, a hair product from another era, especially when you consider the gels, waxes mousses and now serums that are the latest formulations for hair. However I have to report, from the cutting edge of hairdressing, oils are back!

The latest hairstyling and treatment phenomenon (from Israel no less) is Morrocanoil, based on the precious Moroccan ingredient Argan oil which is high in antioxidants and incredibly nourishing. I had my hair blow dried with this product the last time I had my hair done in Toni and Guy and the effect was luxuriant, thick shiny hair – and my hair had been quite drastically bleached and colour treated to-boot.

Another sumptuous oil treatment that’s new is Kerastase’s Elixir Ultime, a blend of four oils including Argan that you can use in a number of ways. I’ve been using it at home to smooth through just washed hair as a pre-blow drying conditioner – resulting blow dried hair is incredibly silky and malleable. You can also use it pre-shampoo as a  thirty minute treatment or even after blow drying as a finishing product. Other companies that do new generation oils for hair include Leonor Greyl (available on amazon.co.uk) and Nuxe Huile Prodigeuse (availble from spacenk.co.uk).

An oil is a lovely oleaginous, old school way of lending hair a lucient glow. But you don’t have to resort to Vo5 any longer.

Words by Bethan Cole

Image courtesy of Japanoids – Wet Hair

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L’amour de votre peau

15.02.2011 | Blog , Twin Life | BY:

I am a huge fans of French pharmacy skincare. I used to buy up Biotherm over in France years before it came to the UK. They used to do a really nice perfume oil which they seem to have discontinued. Anyway, the only problem with a lot of French pharmacy skincare was that it wasn’t particularly ethical. Sure it boasted natural ingredients. But that was about it.

Now I have discovered Melvita, an organic and natural French pharmacy brand that is Ecocert approved. It arrived in the UK about a year ago and there is a store in Covent Garden, it is also stocked in Whole Foods and John Lewis and you can buy online at melvita.com.

The brand was founded in 1983 in France by beekeeper and biologist Bernard Chevilliat and it has some lovely products, really well-priced with magical textures. I especially like the Cleansing Jelly (£14), a gentle foaming cleanser with a really nice lemony smell – it contains lemon balm and verbena. I have also been road testing the Foaming Facial Scrub (£15) twice a week – it’s formulated with Bamboo Tears and Silica to exfoliate and deep cleanse the skin. Really good for radiance engendering! There are also some really nice moisturising and anti ageing products in the range, including neat Argan Oil. One to seek out, especially if you are fastidious about organic beauty products.

Words by Bethan Cole

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Just eat it

09.02.2011 | Blog , Twin Life | BY:

Admission: I used to hate gourmand fragrances. Not spicy ones but obvious scents that smelt of chocolate and caramel and vanilla. Oh and fruity florals were an absolute bugbear. Why? Well in all honesty I felt they were too obvious, too commercial, too lowest common denominator (yes it was a bit snobbish of me I admit). I felt they were predominantly marketed and aimed at young girls with unsophisticated tastes who wanted to smell good enough to eat. Who would want to smell like something edible? I did at the age of 18 – I used to wear the long defunct Body Shop Mango oil and also the Vanilla and Dewberry oil. With the vanilla I thought I smellled as good as bowl of fresh custard.

How naïve I was! The grown up me found gourmand scents totally unacceptable. But I’ve had something of a damascene conversion. I think this is because some of my favourite indie perfume brands have been making gourmands recently that are a little bit different. They are not your usual fruity florals or toffee caramel concoctions. Byredo’s Pulp does smell of exotic fruit, but it also smells of green leaves and stems and slightly sour but fresh foliage. So it’s a kind of interesting riff on the gourmand genre. Likewise Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille – yes, it smells of vanilla and cocoa beans and other delicious edibles but there’s also a tinge of smoke, a dirty gentleman’s clubby woodyness about it that lends it a sophistication and hauteur that a straight vanilla wouldn’t have. Lastly, Etat Libre d’Orange’s Like This, Tilda Swinton fragrance is equally off-key. It smells of carrots and gingerbread and almonds – not your obvious epicurean fragrance by a long chalk. So, thanks to the niche perfumers gourmand fragrances are changing. I love these new oddball gourmands, if only the blockbuster brands would pay heed.

Byredo’s Pulp is available at Liberty.co.uk

Words by Bethan Cole

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The eyes have it

04.02.2011 | Blog , Fashion , Twin Life | BY:

It is with great sadness that we must report that the prevailing trend at the Spring/Summer 2011 shows was for bare eyelids. No eyeshadow. No eyeliner. Just bare eyes, sometimes not even with a  lick of mascara to define them. This was nigh on tragic for us because for decades now we have been virtually wedded to liquid eyeliner. Although not especially loyal to one particular brand, we’ve used everything from Lancome and Chanel’s smart eyeliner pens, to £1.50 e.l.f (eyeslipsface.com) which is not at all bad if you are on a tight budget. However a number of signs tell us that the flick of liquid eyeliner on the upper eyelid is not completely dead and buried, and one of these was the Bettie Page look Pat McGrath evoked at the Dior SS11 Ready To Wear show AND the look she created at the recent couture. Both featured liquid eyeliner in a feline flick extending from the corner of the eye right out to the end of the eyebrow. It’s still, along with red lipstick, an uber signifier of all things Fifties and retro, or even early Sixties actually. The Mad Men era was still working liquid eyeliner. The other thing that makes us want to cling onto it in adversity is the appointment of Gwen Stefani as ambassador to L’Oreal. Stefani is a big one for black liquid eyeliner, along with red lips it’s her signature look – a noughties rockabilly girl. So we are going to keep on wearing it, despite what other beauty pundits might be preaching.

Image by Boo George for Twin issue one. Words by Bethan Cole.

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Aesop’s fables

13.01.2011 | Blog , Culture , Twin Life | BY:

Aesop is the cultiest of cult beauty brands. Resolutely highbrow, their products are emblazoned with quotes from the likes of Genet, Jung and Gertrude Stein. Interesting architects are co-opted to design all their stores – Rodney Eggleston of March Projects was enlisted for the recent Rue St Honore boutique in Paris. And all three of the London stores – Westbourne, Shoreditch and Mount St are worth visiting to peruse their bijou range of products.

If you’re feeling particularly indulgent Aesop’s Saint Honore skin care kit is especially investment worthy. At £167 it doesn’t come cheap, but inside are a trove of delights for cleansing, toning and moisturising – all including their wonderful Parsley Seed formulation which is high in environmentally protective antioxidants. Aesop tend to use a fusion of hi-tech and natural ingredients in their products making them very au courant: hi-tech naturals and organics are currently the hottest things in skincare.

If you’re on a budget start with something like their Fabulous Face Cleanser with Aloe Leaf, Bergamot rind and Green tea, its mild gently foaming and suitable for most skin types. Or try their Violet Leaf Hair Balm a floral smelling ointment to groom smooth and soften difficult hair. The Aesop website –  aesop.com.au is also great for tips on where to eat, places to visit, books to read and art too see. Is this the most cultured beauty brand in the world?

 

Words by Bethan Cole

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YSL Beauty

06.01.2011 | Blog , Fashion | BY:

YSL had one of the more interesting beauty looks for SS11. Burgundy lips and centre parted, rolled up hair accompanied the catwalk clothes. It was bold, chic and Seventies inspired and not typically summery with that darkish lipstick. But very dramatic and a great look to take you from the depths of winter to spring sunshine.

Photograph courtesy of Stephan Moskovic
Words by Bethan Cole

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Deeply Dippy

30.12.2010 | Blog , Fashion | BY:

Hair experts call it Ombre colour, and it’s the latest trend to grip trendsetters and celebrities alike since the pastel colour hair around about a year ago (first seen at Giles SS10). Basically it is dip dyeing hair and Nicki Minaj, Alexa Chung, Drew Barrymore and lots of others are having their ends dipped in a contrast colour. We love it.

Words by Bethan Cole

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It’s all too beautiful

15.12.2010 | Art , Blog , Fashion , Twin Life | BY:

After high profile fashion pairings such as Lanvin for H&M and Valentino for Gap, perhaps it was only natural that beauty companies too should want a piece of the collaborative action. Cult and cultured Aussie beauty brand Aesop were one of the first – teaming up with clothing brand A.P.C to create a special hand washing detergent earlier in 2010. Then came Marchesa and Le Metier De Beaute who produced a capsule collection of palettes and lipglosses; subtle and subliminal, the perfect accompaniment to a Marchesa evening gown.

Now, there’s Marcel Wanders for MAC, a capsule collection, only available online (maccosmetics.co.uk) that takes make up packaging design to the next level. The beautiful baroque curvilinear packaging stands in marked contrast to the minimalist Nineties design of regular MAC products. These items look like glossy black chess pieces rather than an aesthetes’ make up arsenal.

Wanders claims he was inspired by Vermeer and, Girl With a Pearl Earring and as a result some of the colours are curiously naturalistic. For example there are light gold and golden nude lipglosses that add very lucent party season sparkle to your face. “Designing beauty packaging immediately made me think of the painterly connection,” says Wanders of his work. Indeed the suitably artistic brush roll (£60) is one of the standout items.

Whilst we love Wanders for MAC – it’s doing something truly innovative with product design, more collaborations are on their way. February 1st sees Milly for Clinique hit counters (a palette designed by the cutesy floral NYC brand), and later in spring there’s Tibi for Bobbi Brown, another niche fashion brand allied to a beauty monolith. For now, December, it’s all about Marcel Wanders for us.

Words by Bethan Cole

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Beauty by the book

08.12.2010 | Blog , Culture , Twin Life | BY:

The interface between literature and perfume has never been exploited fully by perfumers until very recently. Perhaps it was only natural that Frederic Malle, who has always described himself as a perfume ‘publisher’ and his noses as authors, would be one of the first to exploit the connection. His latest fragrance ‘Portrait of a Lady’ (nose: Dominique Ropion) is just the sort of elevated, elegant and cultivated oriental that the heroine of Henry James’ 1881 novel, Isabel Archer, might have worn as she undertook her grand tour of Paris, Florence and Rome. Malle describes the smell, a composition including rose essence, cinnamon, clove, patchouli and incense as, ‘aristocratic’. And it certainly has an archness, a transcendence, a haute couture poise about it.

Compare and contrast with Byredo’s ‘Baudelaire’, inspired directly by the olfactive ambience of Les Fleurs Du Mal, which has juniper berry, black pepper, incense, leather, patchouli and black amber in its saturnine pasticcio. Like Malle, Byredo’s Ben Gorham comes across as something of a bibliophile – he has a scented candle in his collection called ‘Bibliotheque’ with peach plum, violet, leather and vanilla numbered in its accord. A gorgeous scent to waft around in the environs of your old books.

Frederic Malle ‘Portrait Of A Lady’ is £115.00/50ml from Les Senteurs (020 7730 2322), lessenteurs.com and Byredo ‘Baudelaire’ is £115.00/100ml from Liberty (020 7734 1234), liberty.co.uk

Words by Bethan Cole.

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