Scent of A WOMAN

Kenneth Goh finds out that a woman’s prime weapon of mass seduction is neither a come-hither wink nor a flash of skin, but the fragrance that surrounds her

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
Kenneth Goh finds out that a woman’s prime weapon of mass seduction is neither a come-hither wink nor a flash of skin, but the fragrance that surrounds her
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I am standing in the lobby of the Mandarin Oriental in Milan and I need to get to the press conference for Gucci’s Flora Anniversary perfume launch. But I don’t have to search for it. The entire lobby is engulfed with the scent of a summer meadow—a highly unlikely scenario considering that it is one degree outside and completely grey. Think: Fields of summer flowers with the sun’s rays streaming through apricot trees. I am here to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Flora print, encapsulated in this floral scent that was first launched in 2009. It now has over 10 permutations and is as synonymous with the Italian House as its interlocking GG’s, the matching logo print and the gilt horsebit. 

 As the famous story goes, Flora came about in 1966 when Princess  Grace  of  Monaco  visited  Gucci’s Milan store to buy a Bamboo handbag and to meet Rodolfo Gucci (a fellow actor himself). Honoured by her visit, Gucci insisted she accept a gift, and the princess chose a scarf. He decided to create a floral version especially for  her  and  commissioned  artist Vittorio Accornero to design a collage of motifs—of 43 coloured blooms and nine insects, to be precise—and named the design Flora. 

Then, in 2009, the House took Flora to a new level: With its 43 flowers serving as a source of inspiration, it made the leap from print to fragrance. Complex and alluring, the scent of fresh mandarin and pear are the first notes that hit you, followed by the vibrancy of pepper. Blended with other flowers like peony and rose, this limited edition Flora also has a touch of leather to bring sensuality to this floral bouquet, blending beautifully with Cedar wood, musk and patchouli.

I find out more about Gucci fragrances in this exclusive interview with Lewis Peacock, expert fragrance evaluator for P&G Fragrance Creation team.

Harper’s BAZAAR: How has Gucci interpreted Flora into a scent? 

Lewis Peacock: That’s the big question. How do you create a scented image of a fashion house with nearly 100 years of history? It’s all about the ingredient selection and the combination. The last thing you smell—patchouli—is one of the motifs that we’ve had running through Gucci fragrances that links back to the history, the exoticism, the history of leather goods, and this feeling of richness and quality. 

HB: What’s new about this limited edition Flora Anniversary perfume and what are the reference points? 

LP: You have a sweetness from the osmanthus for a more peachy apricot note to the scent. You never lose sight of the fact that this is an Italian House producing the scent: The mandarin has been in Southern Italy and Venice for more than 250 years now, and roses are traditionally  grown  all  across  Southern  Europe  and  North Africa. So there is a long heritage to all of these materials coming through Italy, which has always been in the centre of these trading points—the Spice Route and Silk Road. 

HB: How do you make a commemorative scent contemporary?

LP: A fragrance needs a special quality for it to stay contemporary and youthful. I almost feel that it must have this lightness to it; this lightness of soul rather than physicality. You know this living, bright and open airy quality… When we think about classic fragrances of the past, they were more serious, they had a gravitas about them and they expressed their character fiercely.  I  think  something’s  contemporary when  it’s  more  complex,  faceted  and  has nuances. When scents change and develop on skin, I find that more contemporary and that’s what drives perfumery materials from these days. So things like “headspace” [the scent that surrounds an ingredient when there are no oils to extract from the skin, fruit or flower] and the pear didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago, because you just couldn’t capture that from nature. 

HB: So has science changed the way we smell today? 

LP: Absolutely! Headspace, while not a new process [it has been nearly 40 years since the first extractions were done], it gives you limitless creativity. You could create the smell out of almost anything; it’s only the imagination that stops you. So its bringing this newness; this complete, but different, take on the perfumer’s palette. Everything has a new angle to it.  

HB: Who do you see wearing the perfume? 

LP: I think young people can wear it; mature people can wear it. It’s one of those fragrances you love to wear every day. If you wear it in the morning, it gives you that lift, a vivacity that brightens. I see this Gucci Flora as one of those ultimate daytime scents.

HB: Lastly, to return to a woman’s weapons of mass seduction, what makes a perfume sexy? 

LP: It’s not the fragrance that has the attractive power, it’s you and the fragrance together. So the ultimate compliment you could pay to a woman about fragrance is “I love the way you smell,” rather than “I love your fragrance,” or “you smell amazing.” So it’s that combination of her, her skin, how she wears it and how she carries herself after putting it on. That’s where the attraction comes from because it gives you a sort of frisson and tingle! And that’s what we look for—the combination of your body and scent.