From the moment I started writing about perfume I was inextricably bound to the beauty industry. What that has meant is when I would attend a large beauty event there were lots of claims that made the scientist scream inside. The way I made up for that was to visit the booth and torture them over their lack of understanding. The most important piece of advice I can give is if they say there is some scientific reason for some positive effect, there almost surely is nothing.
Which is why I am skeptical of this “clean” movement in perfumery. There has always been an unreasonable amount of hysteria about the supposed bad things hidden in perfumes. The way it is thought of is when you see “fragrance” on the ingredient list on the label, somewhere in there is hiding a terrible toxin. Common sense should tell you that of the hundreds of thousands of bottles of any mainstream perfume sold in a year if that was true there would be higher percentages of something bad happening to perfume wearers. There aren’t and there isn’t. What “fragrance” is meant to protect is the composition of the oil itself. Which is around 10% of a bottle anyway.
What the “clean” movement has decided is to add more transparency to the ingredients used in perfume. This is not a bad thing. That it is seen as something “better” is where I draw my line. If a perfume brand wants to work more openly that is their choice.
Two years ago the actress Michelle Pfeiffer took this to an even stricter level. She wanted to work with the Environmental Working Group (EWG) an independent agency which monitors the ingredients in beauty products. She also wanted to only use only sustainably produced natural ingredients, collaborating with the organization Cradle to Cradle for that. Either piece is a significant hurdle. She found that the oil house International Flavor & Fragrance (IFF) was interested in working with her. They released a debut collection of five perfumes produced under this strategy.
What I found was when you ask a perfumer to work with a radically reduced roster of ingredients you get something not quite what I would call a perfume. Many of them felt like accords in search of a structure. I forgot about them after this initial introduction.
I received a press release and sample for the latest release Henry Rose Flora Carnivora. This was supposed to be a white flower scent. Now this seemed to me like a bridge too far for this concept. Except I found that perfumer Celine Barel had an ingenious way around it. Creating a perfume that made me think.
What makes Flora Carnivora so interesting to me is Mme Barel is working in an accord of tuberose instead of the real thing. Orange blossom and jasmine are both sustainably grown and harvested. Tuberose is less so. So if you can’t use the real thing, make an accord. Mme Barel does that. It has the creamy quality of tuberose which adds a lovely piece to the mix of orange blossom and jasmine. It is completed with vetiver and cedar adding a fresh woody foundation. Over time it warms to a more ambery woody as the florals become less prominent.
Flora Carnivora has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is a much better perfume than any of the original five. It is also good enough that the provenance of the materials doesn’t concern me. What I do find is a creative perfumer using the restrictions to her advantage to make something good which is also “clean”.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Henry Rose.