Exclusive: Oliver Sweeney launch second luxury fragrance – and it’s every bit as good as the first.

FullSizeRender 30You know how bands often struggle with that ‘difficult’ second album? Well, it happens in the fragrance industry too sometimes. After launching an eye-catching and original scent many companies pull back with their second launch, following an altogether safer, more pedestrian path. Not so Oliver Sweeney, who’ve successfully dodged the difficult second fragrance syndrome with their latest launch Bosco Selvatico. 

Created by Claudine Roublot – the same nose responsible for Sweeney’s first fragrance, Argento – it consciously distances itself from today’s homogenous, gourmandy mass-market offerings, starting off with a beautifully vibrant citrus burst of bergamot and lime before showing off a spicy, herbaceous side and finally revealing a beautifully warm, green, woody and slightly smoky finish that works so well on the skin you’d think it’s oozing from it rather than sitting on it.

FullSizeRender 31Like Argento (one of my favourite launches of 2015) Bosco Selvatico is uncompromising in the sense that it sits outside of current trends – which is very much to its benefit. A companion fragrance to its predecessor (it’s  a little more ‘daytime’ than Argento) it’s elegantly old-skool, reminding me of the way men used to smell before those sickly-sweet foody notes crept into almost everything and turned us into walking patisseries. Even its name, Bosco Selvatico, is uncompromising in a way. After all, how tempting must it have been to have called it by the English translation “Wild Wood” instead?

Reading through my fragrance reviews on this blog it’s tempting to conclude that I like very little and that I’m critical of almost everything that comes to market. I’m not, of course, but I know what I like and hope that those honest, critical reviews add weight to the ones where I genuinely rave about something. Bosco Selvatico is one of my favourite fragrance launches this year and is, without doubt, one of the best. Recommended.

Bosco Selvatico costs £99 for 100ml eau de parfum and is available from Oilver Sweeney stores and online at oliversweeney.com


Versace’s Dylan Blue delivers a knockout blow to decent fragrance advertising

versace (1)Creating the story and campaign for a new fragrance is never easy. Having helped create a few of them myself in the past I know this all too well. When they succeed they do so because of clarity of thought and of message and because they tap into the current zeitgeist. So how well the new Versace fragrance Dylan Blue campaign will fare remains to be seen because messages there are aplenty. And none of them are all that great.

Looking at the campaign as a whole (one lovingly shot by Bruce Weber, in a masturbatory style that’s steadfastly Nineties) it’s a bag of contradictions: on one hand we have the ‘modernity’ of a same-sex kiss (the inclusion of which we’re  either supposed to shocked by or grateful for, I’m not sure which) and on the other some woefully archaic views about women (“As dad always used to say… you can’t live with women and you can’t live without them”). There are a couple of corkers about men too, including the cringeworthy “I learned at a young age not to show any weakness”. The video meanwhile lacks but one thing: the kitchen sink. It’s hetero yet homo; violent yet tender; old-fashioned yet throughly modern. It has girls, it has boys. It has boxers, it has bikes. It has… oh well, you get the picture.

Personally, I find much of this mind-numbingly naff and I’m at a loss as to why a campaign for a fragrance ever needs to show a woman kicking a man down a flight of stairs or feels the need to use the words “she doesn’t seem to know I exist except when she’s kicking me in the head”. But just in case this woman –  called Gigi – has men quaking in their boots/slingbacks the campaign takes pains to reassure them she has her limitations. “She can out kick-box any of the smaller guys,” says the blurb (the bigger ones clearly being too much of a challenge of her).  Billie Jean King would not be pleased.

To me, the apparent “kiss and make up” theme of the campaign also has uncomfortable associations with the destructive hit me/kiss me cycle in much domestic violence (the boxer kisses his opponent before delivering a knock out blow and Gigi can kiss as good as she can kick). Am I’m being over sensitive? A bit too PC for my own good? Perhaps, but  following on the heels of the appalling marketing of Azzaro Wanted I’m seriously beginning to wonder where fragrance advertising is heading right now. “Dylan Blue is the essence of the Versace Man today,” says Donatella Versace. Well, if that’s the man of today I’m truly fearful about what the one tomorrow will look like if he buys into this particular kind of advertising.

versace dylan blue (1)

Byredo Toile – a different way to wear fragrance

BYREDO Toile textile perfumeThere are several places a man should never spray a fragrance. Apart from one I’m far too polite to mention here, directly onto his clothing is one of them. The reason for this is that some fragrance ingredients and colourants can damage or stain fabric – especially delicate fabric. And yet, there are times we’ve all wanted to spray out clothes rather than our skin – perhaps because we wanted to freshen them up or because we didn’t want skin itself to be overpoweringly perfumed.

Cult fragrance brand Byredo have recognised this in their latest fragrance – the appropriately named Toile. A genderless ‘textile perfume’ it’s been designed to be safe to spray on clothes and imparts a clean, fresh, slightly metallic fragrance that’s faintly reminiscent of sun-dried sheets, hairspray and static electricity. It’s created in the best tradition of anti-perfumes like Comme de Garcon’s Odeur 53 and Odeur 71 and well worth checking out if you’re looking, not only for a fragrance that’s slightly ‘different’, but also a different way to wear fragrance too.

Byredo’s Toile Textile Perfume is available from Mr. Porter and byredo.com priced £42 for 75ml.

Lynx release video exploring male sexuality

In time for London Pride this weekend Lynx have released a brand new video in their ‘Men In Progress‘ series of films that aims to document the changing shape of modern masculinity. Part of the iconic brand’s ‘Find Your Magic’ campaign this one features gay, straight, bisexual and transgender men (including out rugby league star Keegan Hirst) talking about pride and acceptance, particularly in sport. It’s a sign of how complex and multi-faceted modern masculinity has become that Lynx will be realising no less than nine separate films in an attempt to sum it up. And I  suspect that even with nine they’ll barely scratch the surface.

To watch the film just click on the image above.

NeoStrata Smooth Surface Daily Peel Pads: like time travel in a jar.

FullSizeRenderI’ve used scores of skincare products in the 16 years I’ve been writing about male grooming but in truth there are few that bring about quick, noticeable changes in skin texture and feel. So I’m always delighted when something – like these NeoStrata Smooth Surface Daily Peel Pads  – does. As well as featuring 10% glycolic acid, which helps remove dead skin cells and speeds up cell renewal, they also contain the patented ‘wrinkle-filling’ Aminofil which is essentially a combo of amino acids meant to support the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid – two other things which can help improve the overall look of skin. The pot itself comes with 36 dry pads which you drench with the glycolic solution they come with and then you simply wipe over your face (avoiding the delicate lip and eye area) each night after cleansing. For guys, unfamiliar with using cleansing pads to remove make-up as we are, this might initially seem an alien way to apply a product but you soon get used to it and it’s surprisingly satisfying.

In the past I’ve found that physical face scrubs – even the finest, most gentle ones – can irritate my skin so I’ve become a fan of chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid but it’s fair to say that not all have agreed with my skin. No such problems with this product though. Although the instructions point out that you may experience a brief tingling sensation on application (something that’s common when using Alpha Hydroxy Acid products, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin) I’ve yet to have any problems with these pads. Unlike some glycolic resurfacing products you don’t need to wash the face 20 minutes after using the neutralise it either which is a big plus. And although formulated for daily use I’ve found that two-three times a week is enough for me.

With cell turnover slowing down as we age anything that helps speed up the renewal process is a boon in my book and I’m happy to report that my skin hasn’t looked or felt this smooth since I was, oh, about 8 months old! Recommended.



Azzaro Wanted – seriously, what were they thinking?

Azzaro Wanted-1Oh deary, deary me. Let’s talk about Azzaro’s new Wanted fragrance for a moment shall we? The one in the bottle that looks like a fully-loaded gun chamber. Now, the six-shooter bottle design for this fragrance, regardless of bad timing in light of the tragic events in Orlando, is a quite spectacular exercise in clichéd, one-dimensional and outdated hyper-mascuine thinking. I used to think that Davidoff’s The Game, with its casino chip flacon, was terminally naff but this takes things to a whole new level – and a subterranean one at that. Presumably the thinking behind it is that a. men absolutely love guns and b. guns are sexy and street and therefore customers will think the fragrance is masculine and, like, really, really cool.

You can just see the design meeting now: “Right guys, we need an eye-catching bottle – something like Paco Rabanne’s Invictus or that Gaultier one with the massive bulge. What screams ‘men’ then? How about a football? Or a motorbike? Or a big, clunking fist? Oh, no, Diesel did the fist. Wait a minute. I know – how about a gun? What’s more masculine than a gun? It’s cowboy; it’s gangsta; it’s Bond; it’s NRA and man-on-a-rampage. But mostly it’s Bond. Especially if we make it sleek, shiny and gold. What better vessel for our killer fragrance than a killer bottle?”

Well, I’m afraid Azzaro have shot themselves in the foot here (sorry) and I suspect they know this too since the bottle description on their website is a masterclass in obscurification. Avoiding the ‘G’ word altogether and with not a passing mention of bullets the bottle is instead “elegant and precious, with a stunning rugged, mechanical look” (it’s a gun folks) and “a  symbol of freedom and virility” (still a gun). Most bizarrely, it’s also “an embodiment of extreme masculinity tinged with the nostalgia of childhood”. Now, unless your dad was the Son of Sam I’m not entirely sure what childhood nostalgia it’s referring to here but no matter, the bottom line is that, in 2016, Azzaro’s  firearm-inspired Wanted is, to put it bluntly, anything but.

Vitabiotics sign David Gandy as Wellman ambassador

David Gandy x Wellman 2 - Credit Tomo Brejc Studio-2Let’s face it, if you’re looking for a face to front a campaign you may as well go for the best one possible – like David Gandy’s. So vitamin supplement experts Vitabiotics must be over the moon that they’ve managed to secure him as their Wellman ambassador. “I’m proud to be collaborating with Wellman Vitamins, which I’ve used since my twenties,” says Gandy of the association. “I’m a big advocate of their products; they help me to maintain the level of energy I need for a busy lifestyle so they’re a great and reliable daily support.” I’m not entirely sure what he’s doing the picture they sent me to publicise his involvement (and I’m far too polite to offer suggestions) but I will say this; I’m personally thrilled to hear he’s a fan of Wellman products because that means I can finally say I have something in common with David Gandy.