Perfume: A Century of Scents

LIZZIE OSTROMI love books. It’s why I ended up doing an English Literature degree way back in the Stone Age. Problem is, I don’t get nearly as much time as I’d like to actually read them – which explains this embarrassingly tardy review of Lizzie Ostrom’s new book, Perfume: A Century of Scents.  Lizzie, aka Odette Toilette, is one of the perfume industry’s top notes, fizzing with a passion for (and a knowledge of) perfume that’s made her an established voice in the fragrance firmament. Her true talent, however, is in bringing the subject of fragrance alive with character, interesting stories and a writing style that’s knowledgable but fun and accessible too.

The book itself – clearly a labour of love – is a pacy, hugely readable walk through all the key fragrances of the last hundred years or so, starting in 1900 and ending at the end of the Nineties, with a final chapter looking at where fragrance is now and where it might be heading. The bulk of it is about female fragrances (what are traditionally classed as female fragrances, anyway, since perfume is pretty much gender fluid) but there’s plenty of discussion about men’s fragrances  too – from classics like Old Spice and Eau Sauvage to Guerlain’s Vetiver and Joop! Homme.

Unlike the bulk of books written about perfume  – and I’ve read a lot  – it’s delightfully unstuffy and unpretentious (she describes Tabac, one of my personal favourites,  as being “the string vest of aftershaves” for example), making it as good a read for people with just a passing interest in fragrance as it is for perfumistas or  those who write about fragrance for a living. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable read and a fantastic gift for Christmas too. Recommended.

Perfume A Century of Scents by Lizzie Ostrom is available now from odettetoilette.com

David Gandy by Dolce & Gabbana: an eye-popping read

I’ve said before that I’ve never really understood the appeal of  Dolce & Gabbana house model David Gandy. But then, this morning I was lucky enough to be the recipient of the new coffee table tome that is David Gandy by Dolce & Gabbana and even I have been won over. It is, in all fairness, an astonishing book. But it’s more than that  – it’s also an astonishing historical document, providing a vivid and provocative (mostly nude or semi-nude) snapshot of the modern male.

Flick through this lavish oversized piece of adporn and you’re instantly reminded how complex and confusing that man is: rugged and honed yet soft and gentle; tough yet sensitive; straight but very, very gay; absolutely available but utterly aloof. We hear so much about modern women wanting it all yet these images reveal that men’s desire to be and have everything is just as strong.

Next to Beckham, of course, Gandy is the ultimate face of modern, multi-faceted masculinity. His ad campaign for Dolce & Gabbana’s Light Blue (a fragrance now celebrating its tenth anniversary) is one of the few truly iconic campaigns of in the last twenty years and is a testement not just to Gandy’s forceful good looks but Dolce & Gabbana’s foresight in seeing his potential as a contemporary icon.

Whilst other fragrances  scramble around to find a face – any face – to front their campaigns (Jared Leto anyone?) Dolce & Gabbana hit on a man who’s a true blank canvas for the fantasies of both men and women. The funny thing is that  Light Blue itself is merely an okay scent, not an amazing or revolutionary one. This book, then, photographic foreplay though it is, is undisputable proof that sometimes it’s the face (and pecs and buttocks and thighs) that matters anyway,  not the fragrance.

David Gandy by Dolce & Gabbana is available from Dolce & Gabbana boutiques worldwide.  Here are a few images to whet your appetite.