The taste makers
Since Ernest Beaux created Chanel No.5 back in 1921, fragrance and fashion have gone hand in hand.
Today, however, most brands looking to branch out into perfume simply license a large fragrance company such as L’Oréal or Coty to create and market a fragrance on their behalf. Designer Bella Freud, however, has taken an independent approach and teamed up with perfume designer Azzi Glasser to create and launch her debut fragrance line.
Azzi does not see herself as a conventional, formally trained perfumer or “nose”, but rather a creative director for fragrances, someone who brings together a technical expertise of fragrance creation with an intuitive grasp of people and brand identities. She works on everything from the scent and its name to the bottle and packaging design. “I work more like a film director, putting together the right cast and crew,” she says. “Perfumery is an art form and it’s all about creating and visualising a smell at the same time.
“I first met Bella through friends at parties,” she continues. “Over the years we’ve had lots of different conversations, about life, how we grew up, and friends, people and art. I’ve always been a fan of her fashion. There’s such a great story to tell in the many facets of her personality – her intelligence, her artistic talent, her great eye, sense of style – that are all so unique.”
The new line is made up of three fragrances. “Je t’aime Jane is the feminine side of Bella, based on the tiger lily and queen of the night flower,” Azzi explains. “Ginsberg is God is more masculine, named for the tousle-headed poet, and has the smell of green leaves, woods, moss and leather, while 1970 is an intoxicating blend of rose de Mai and saffron for the exotic girl dancing on the beach in Formentera. The fragrances all match Bella’s world perfectly.”
As well as consumer fragrances, Azzi also creates custom perfumes, working with private clients, often celebrities. “It doesn’t really interest me what smells or ingredients they like,” she says. “It’s me coming up with a DNA print in terms of smells that matches their personality, how you’d imagine them to smell, their sense of style, how they look and how they’re portrayed.” There is an intriguing cupboard in her studio that contains stacks of boxes labelled with the names of A-list actors, musicians and artists, each containing the fragrances she has worked on for them, piled up like a guest list to an afterparty we would love to sneak into.
Azzi also creates scents for commercial spaces (paparazzi favourite Chiltern Street Firehouse is one) and creative projects, like the commission to imagine “the smell of Gravity” for the film’s premiere. “I imagined the smell of the space suit of Sandra Bullock’s character as she was looking out into space: very modern, the fumes of new plastic, like the back of a computer,” says Azzi. “At the same time it needed to be dark and lonely, a bit uncomfortable, claustrophobic and quite cold. Interesting smells are not always beautiful.”
Text: Bora Kwon
From left: Ginsberg is God, 1970 and Je t’aime Jane eau de parfums £65 each by bella freud parfums bellafreud.com.