On the Eurostar to Paris for the launch of John Galliano's first perfume, there was much speculation as to what the extravagant designer and couturier's eponymous creation would smell like. His shows tend to have opulent sets and exotic hair and make-up, while for autumn/winter 08 he used pungent joss sticks to evoke Xanadu, Thus I was expecting something intense, dramatic and, well, a little bit overpowering.
In fact, it's a theatrical, but not a melodramatic scent. A powdery mix of iris, rose and violet, with a nostalgic hint of old make-up compacts and dusty dressing tables. Galliano described the ideas behind the perfume whilst wandering round his studio ( a former doll factory complete with bamboo garden.) He said it captured the smell of powder and greasepaint at the National Theatre where he worked while a student at Saint Martin's College, as well as the slightly singed, metallic odour in the atelier caused by ironing linen. The nose behind the scent, Christine Nagel, recreated this steam sensation using a molecule called sclarene, the powdery effect is suggested by iris, violet and aldehydes, the latter of which also suggests effervescence ( perhaps evoking the ubiquitous fashion party champagne.) White rose, patchouli and yes incense, also feature. Unlike in the typical pyramid formation of many perfumes, these elements intermingle as a melange, rather like the eclectic inspirations behind Galliano's clothing collections. Rich scents can make me feel slightly queasy, with a delayed adverse reaction leaving me scrubbing at my wrists 10 minutes after spraying, but after drenching myself in John Galliano perfume at the party, it grew on me as it lingered.
Galliano told me he aimed the scent, which took 336 trials, at, 'a seductive woman in control of her destiny, but who is also slightly mischievous.' Not a bad impression to leave wafting through a room.
John Galliano Eau de Parfum 40 ml, available exclusively at Harrods, £42.Reuse content