Monday 9 December 2013

Scent and Subversion by Barbara Herman

I voraciously devour any books on perfume that I come across, so as soon as I saw this book at my favourite online book purveyor, in my cart it went. The title, Scent and Subversion, Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume, spoke to me as did the sensual cover.

The minute I opened the book, I was hooked. Barbara writes about perfume the way you might discuss a long lost lover, which some of the fragrances she describes truly are. Due to IFRA, the perfume industry's regulatory body, diminished availability of raw materials and bean counters who want to cut costs, many classic fragrances are no longer available, or they just smell different. 

The last 10 years of my professional life have been dedicated to artisan perfume, working in London for Miller Harris, Floris and Penhaligon's and being a distributor or agent for those brands in Australia. Recent developments in my business, such as conducting perfume master classes for clients, means that it has been necessary for me to embrace more commercial fragrance brands. In some cases, some of the new releases have honesty surprised me, such as Honey by Marc Jacobs, but most of the time, I find that they lack substance, soul even. Reading Scent and Subversion reminded of how classic fragrances have a story behind them, and highlighted how different they are from the boring, watered down drivel designed to appeal to the masses we have today.

Barbara points out that perfume was once a way for women to express their raw sexuality in a time when they didn't have the choices in life that modern women do. They couldn't do a Miley and twerk on a married man, while wearing a rubber swimsuit and waving a foam finger. Not that they, or we, for that matter would want to, but back then, you expressed your sensuality with a provocative perfume and a subtly arched brow.

There follows a comprehensive selection of some of the most provocative perfumes since 1882. I have counted no less than 32 fragrances that I simply must own. After a late night spent scouring the internet, the first landed on my desk today, Habanita de Molinard, originally created as a fragrance to apply to cigarettes to make the smoke even more fragrant. Since reading The Perfume Lover by Denyse Beaulieu, I have been desperate to smell this decadent fragrance and I can say it doesn't disappoint.

I would love to create something as marvelous as a fragrance for cigarettes, but I am pretty sure it would be frowned upon. Smoking is not as glamorous as it was in the 20's, now we know the effects and the enticing ads have been replaced by ads warning us about cancer and poor health, not that I remember that when I hit glass no 6 of wine and fancy a surreptitious ciggie.

Warning - this book is filled with descriptions of fragrance you will want to own, nay, must own. If you love perfume, Scent and Subversion is a wonderful book and Barbara is an engaging writer. The  book has lots of vintage perfume advertising, another obsession of mine, beautiful illustrations that tell the story of the perfume better than a leggy model lolling in a field holding a factice or perfume.

Perfume Master Class with Cocktails

When I lived in London and worked for Miller Harris, we held perfume and wine matching master classes in our Mayfair store. There is so much synergy between wine and perfume and it was lots of fun exploring the similarities. I have wanted to do a Perfume and Cocktail Master Class as a follow on from the Champagne and Perfume Master Classes I did earlier in the year with The Champagne Dame so I contacted 1806, one of Melbourne's best cocktail bars. Luckily, Colleen, who looks after the PR and Marketing, loved my crazy idea, and Dan, a wonderful mixologist got to work creating some amazing cocktails.

First up is the Floral cocktail, a gorgeous concoction of rose and nashi pear on a base of vodka. The second cocktail was the  Fresh cocktail, a chamomile and citrus reduction over a gin base, it was like sipping on liquid sunshine!

The star of the show was undoubtedly the Wood cocktail, ooh and aahs echoed around the table as Dan and Colleen set them down. They were presented in an apothecary bottle with The Powder Room logo with smoke billowing from the top. A whiskey base, Lagavullen my favourite single malt, was served over a single cube of ice and the cinnamon stick was set on fire. Incredibly delicious and well presented.

Some people ask why perfume and cocktails? I say, why not? I love perfume, I love cocktails, they both take you on a sensory journey, and I like a drink, so why not combine them?

This event is be available for private functions at The Understudy at 1806. Please contact is you would like to book. Minimum 5 guests, $95 per person.

Monday 11 November 2013

bellabox Pout Pencils

I consult for bellabox, Australia and Singapore's leading beauty subscription as their Global Brand Director. I oversee the products that go in the box each month, and work with the international brands that bellabox import into both markets. I keep an eye on beauty trends and scout cult  brands for the online store.

Its a great gig, I get to try lots of beauty products, and my time there it has reminded me that you don't have to pay a fortune for good quality product, but one of my favourite things is when I get to develop product. For the past couple of months I have been working with an Australian company that make a lot of the products you see in pharmacy and department stores. I wanted to create a range of lipsticks that represent the perfect 'Lipstick Library', colours that every woman should own. I called in a range of colours from the manufacturer and consulted with the bb team as to which ones we should go with. We decided in a nude, red, hot pink and coral colour. I wanted them to have a high colour pay off and be moisturising at the same time, as I think that spring/summer lips should be glossy and bright.

One of the fun packaging components around at the moment is a wind up crayon. Clinque made them popular when they launched the chubby stick and lots of brands have them now. It is a little bit different from the normal bullet style lipstick and I think a bit cooler as well so we chose to have the lipsticks packaged in the wind up crayon.

I teamed up with the Editor of bellabox, Lauren to name the products. She came up with a great name, Pout Pencils, and we worked together to come up with the names of the shades. Nuuude is my homage so Prue and Trude from Kath and Kim, and I just cant say nude with out saying it in their accent, nuuuude. Ruby Tuesday is a tribute to Ruby, the little daughter of bellabox founder Sarah. Coral Me Maybe, well it was the song of last summer, so with a little play on words, it makes the perfect lipstick name. That leaves the pink lipstick, which was the hardest to name, I wanted to go with something that referred to The PInk Ladies from Grease, but we went with Lauren's pick, Pink Promise.

The result is a great capsule range of colours, that are moisturising and highly pigmented all for a great price. You can purchase them from bellabox, link below.

Thursday 7 November 2013

A Fragrance for North Apartments Display Suite

I have a good friend who is a very talented designer. He is much in demand and I often get to go as his plus one to various designy type events. I quite enjoy going along as I get to bang on about my other fragrance love, scenting architectural spaces, to people who might just 'get it'. At one such event at the races, after much champagne, I met one of his clients, a lady who develops apartment buildings. She loved the idea of creating a fragrance for the display suite for her new apartment complex in North Melbourne

I work with a company who supply scent dispensing machines so we hooked up two machines to scent the entrance to the display suite, and the kitchen and bathroom. The fragrance the client chose was White Tea and Ginger, a fresh crisp scent designed to make potential buyers feel relaxed and at home.

If you would like The Powder Room to create a fragrance for your display suite, store or office, please contact

Perfume Master Classes for Shopping Centres

I love having the opportunity to talk to people about perfume. When I was distributing Miller Harris and Penhaligon's, I used to hold master classes to teach people about my brands (and hopefully make some sales), however I realised that lots of people are intrigued by perfume and would like to learn more so I started holding classes that were not brand specific, but more about the art of perfume. Now my Perfume Master Classes cover the history of perfume, perfumers training and how perfume is made. Guests have the opportunity to experience the raw materials, the building blocks of perfume, that I have collected in my travels, and we chat about how to chose a new fragrance.

I was invited by Robina Town Center in sunny Queensland and Eastland in Melbourne to present a series of Perfume Master Classes as part of their Spring Fashion activities. Normally attendees to my classes are perfume addicts, so they already have a good understanding about perfume, however most of the ladies who came to these classes didn't have a lot of experience with fragrance, so they were very eager to learn more.  They asked lots of questions and really enjoyed experiencing the raw materials, there was lots of lively discussion! I also highlighted new launch perfumes available in stores at the center in order to drive sales for the stores. Mecca, L'Occitane and Estee Lauder were kind enough to provide samples for my guests to take home and try.

Little did I know that they had my photo blown up and placed on this rather large sign. Note to self, airbrush promo photo. Looking at your own wrinkles when they are enlarged to about 30 cms is enough to drive a woman to botox. I made an appointment the next day.

One of the things I love about what I do is when people tell me that I have totally changed the way they think about perfume. Most people don't put a lot of thought into their fragrance choices, wearing  something their partner gave them, or the latest launch just because it is a big name brand. Perfume tells a story, your story, so make it a good story and chose something that represents you.

If you would like to book a perfume master class for a private or corporate event, please contact

CEO Magzine

Recently I was interviewed by CEO Magazine, about perfume of course! Annabelle asked about my experience in perfume, how to chose a new perfume and my recommendations for fragrance for executives. High level executives should look for a distinctive fragrance, something that sets them apart from the rest. I recommended some of my favourite fragrances including Sartorial by Penhaligon's and Terre de Bois by Miller Harris.

If you would like to interview me for a publication or a blog, please contact

Saturday 21 September 2013

Fernwood Fitness Magazine Perfume Article

A couple of months ago, I was asked by Media Giants, the company that create the Fernwood Fitness Magazine to write an article about perfume. Of course I was thrilled and said yes. I have written about perfume for lots of websites, but never a whole article for a print magazine, exciting!

They wanted to me to write about as much about perfume as I could cram into 900 words. Certainly a challenge for me, as I can talk about perfume for hours and have even written a perfume sales training manual that is 10 modules long. Yes, that is hours of material!

I discussed the history of perfume, the natural vs synthetic debate and how to shop for a new perfume. I also included a couple of new launches, including Modern Muse by Estee Lauder. I started my beauty career as a traveling beauty adviser for Estee Lauder way back in the early 90's and I have a big soft spot for their fragrances. White Linen is still such a classic summer fragrance, and one I dig out when the temperature starts to soar. My very first perfume launch was Spellbound, a sexy vanilla perfume I wore with slavish devotion for a couple of years. The launch was in the suite of a hotel in Brisbane, and I remember thinking I was soo glamorous attending a perfume launch. Of course, I have attended hundred of launches since then, but that one still stands out in my mind. 

If you are a member of Fernwood, pick up and magazine and have a read when you are on the treadmill.

If you would like me to write an article about perfume for your publication or blog, please contact me at 

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Verge Event @ HASSELL

I was very flattered to be invited to be a part of Verge at Hassell last year. Each year they invite people who are doing something a bit different and cutting edge come to a gathering and present their ideas.

Thanks to my very talented designer friend, Joel Sampson, who told them about me and what I do, I rocked up with my sometime collaborators at 3 Deep, and we gave a quick presentation regarding sensory branding and scenting architectural spaces. Note to self, do not consume too much wine when it is possible you will have a large camera pointing at you later in the evening.

Monday 1 July 2013

A Fragrance for Toni Maticevski

Earlier in the year, I was thrilled to create a perfume for a very talented designer, Toni Maticevski. The fragrance was to be sent along with an invite to his MBFW runway show to his brand ambassadors, and VIPs and local celebrities. 

Chatting with Toni was fun as he is just as fragrance obsessed as me, he also happens to be a really lovely and humble man. We were surrounded by his incredible creations, and even though none would have fit me, I wanted one of everything. He loves classic 1950's fragrances, and wanted his be to very elegant and timeless.

We smelt lots of his favourite perfumes, as well as some raw materials. It is important for me to know what notes the client likes and dislikes so I can make the brief to the perfumer as detailed as possible. The perfumer created 9 different fragrances and Toni chose number 8. Created using some of perfumes most prized raw materials such as Rose de Mai, Orris and Vetiver, the fragrance opens with fresh citrus top notes and dries down to reveal floral and warm wood notes. 

The talented boys at 3 Deep designed the beautiful invite and box, and I sourced the bottle and orchestrated the fragrance. It was so cool to see pics of it pop up on Instagram and read everyone reaction to the perfume! 

If you would like a fragrance created for your fashion brand, please contact me at

Erborian BB Creme in Dore

I cannot tell you how much I love this product. I know the distributor so I was lucky enough to be able to get my hands on this product before it launched and I could not imagine life without it now. Although there are now CC Creams and even DD Creams, BB crèmes are still the beauty god’s gift to women. Why? Because this one little tube does so much, you can eliminate a few steps of your morning skincare regime. It moisturises, protects (it has an SPF of 18), it covers and the ginseng gives it anti aging properties. What makes BB creams so fab, is the technology that makes the pigment in the product adapt to different skin colours. This product gives good coverage without the heavy makeup look. At night I finish it off with some mineral powder and my skin looks airbrushed.

BB crèmes originated in Korea, and Erborian is Korean technology combined with the savvy approach to skincare that then French do so well. The Yuza Sorbet Face Cream and Ginseng Elixir are other favourite products.

Clarks Botanicals Soothing Marine Cream

On a work trip to London last year, a well connected friend in beauty ushered me to a few different beauty destinations. This friend also happens to be my eyes and ears in the European beauty market, so he had some lovely little gems to unveil to me.

I was given a sample of the Clarks Soothing Marine Crème and the Cellular Lifting Serum by the company that look after the PR for Clarks. The serum was a sachet so I can’t really comment on its long term effectiveness, but I can tell you I fell in love with the Marine Cream. It smelt divine, a little like Angel, which if you knew me you would know that I count this as the most hideous fragrance ever to be created, but actually it smelt pretty good. The texture was so smooth and silky; it had me checking the ingredients for silicone. Of course it doesn’t contain anything so vile; Clarks pride themselves on using the finest quality ingredients, including Jasmine Absolute, a raw material that costs USD55,000 per kilo. My skin felt so smooth and soft, I was devastated when my little pot ran out. It was a lovely sensory experience to begin and end my day with such a heavenly smell. 

Lots of beauty companies have interesting stories concerning their origins, but none as compelling as the beginning of Clarks. In June 2002, Francesco Clark suffered a crippling spinal cord injury in a swimming pool accident. With his central nervous system impaired, not only could he not walk, but he could not sweat either. This lead to severe breakouts, so together with his father, a physician, they began to develop botanical based skin care. They discovered that Jasmine had the effect of balancing the skin and had anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial effects. Jasmine is now the key element in all Clarks Botanical formulas. I recently scouted this brand for one of my clients, so it will be available in Australia soon.

10 Commandments of Skin Care

Having worked for lots of skin care brands over the years, attended thousands of sales training sessions and product launches, I have gathered a few nuggets of wisdom regarding skin care. So see below for Beauty School Drop Out's list of 10 Commandments of Skin Care.

1.       Though shalt drink water. Hydration is the key to good skin
2.       Though shalt use an SPF. UV rays speed up the aging process
3.       Though shalt know thy skin type and buy products accordingly. It’s easy to get talked     into a product you don’t need just because it’s new and exciting.
4.       Though shalt cleanse your skin at least twice a day. In the morning to remove impurities and traces of your night products and in the evening to remove the days grime and prepare your skin for your skincare.
5.       Though shalt moisturise the neck and décolleté. This area is often the first to show signs of aging.
6.       Though shalt exfoliate. Dead skin build up prevents serums and moisturisers penetrating the skin and leaves the skin looking dull. Do this every couple of days, less frequently if you have oily skin.
7.       Thou shalt use a serum. Serums penetrate deeper into the skin and can treat specific concerns such as pigmentation or anti aging
8.       Thou shalt body brush. In an upwards motion, brush towards the heart, this will help with cellulite. Cellulite is fat cells suspended in lymph, and physically stimulating it will help your system to break it up and flush it out.
9.       Thou shalt moisturise your body after the shower. We often neglect the skin on our body and applying a moisturiser after the shower will help lock in the moisture.
10.   Though shalt get enough sleep. Your skin is the largest organ of the body and reflects what is going on inside. If you are tired, your skin will reflect it.