During the late 1980s I founded Parfums Namara in Paris, to create two original perfumes, Avant l’Amour and Aprés l’Amour.
Some years after their launch, I was asked by the Telegraph magazine to write an article on scent. It was at a time of my life when I was bubbling with energy and reluctant to miss any opportunity to express my feelings on any subject I felt competent to tackle.
Given the significance of tomorrow’s date and my sense that the article is as relevant today as it was at the time it was written, I reproduce it in full to celebrate Valentine’s everywhere.
From an early age, I have had a highly developed sense of smell. This may be attributable to the simple fact of having a large nose, but whatever the reason, it has served me like an extremely sensitive barometer over the years.
As the only boy in a large family, I was weaned on female fragrances. In school holidays I spent a great deal of time with my grandmother in Nazareth, where her garden was full of scented flowers and trees of every description. It was an aromatic enclave unspoilt by exhaust fumes.
I often think of women as flowers whose fragrance varies according to age and the environment in which they grow. There are women whose native odour can be very sensual. While their own redolent freshness would seem to need no additions, a discreet dash of scent can enhance their desirability, and at the same time heighten their sense of well-being.
Those women whose bodies do not emit a natural fragrance tend to use scent as an essential part of their make-up. This can be catastrophic if it is done too liberally. How often have I come home with a headache after a night at the opera sitting in the midst of pungent perfumes, or felt the lingering ill-effects of taking a lift recently vacated by a heavily scented woman.
Beauty is proverbially in the eye of the beholder, but an unpleasant smell is usually unequivocal. Although we are invariably guided and influenced by the visible, there is no doubt that an attendant bad smell seriously compromises beauty, whereas ugliness can often be transformed by a lovely fragrance.
Animals are attracted by smell in courtship; so too with people. When I left home to come to England, I was beginning to take a serious interest in girls. My heart would pound at the briefest encounter with a pretty girl, and if her perfume was seductive my heartbeat would reach a crescendo. If the smell was not pleasing, the boredom of normality would descend suddenly and decisively, replacing all desire.
In today’s world, where the air in our cities is thick with various pollutants, and people rush around trying to earn their living, there is very little opportunity to feel fresh and relaxed. This is particularly true in summer, when the atmosphere is oppressive. In these circumstances some women use scent as a means of freshening up. This is what I regard as a serious abuse of the whole soins de beauté. The result is always displeasing; the staleness remains and resists any cover-up. There can be few things less appealing than a rank smell overlaid with scent. Conversely, there are few things more alluring than the smell of newly shampooed hair and the aroma of a woman’s body after a warm scented bath.
When I interviewed some three hundred women for my book Women, the first whiff of meeting told me a great deal about my subject. An excessively perfumed woman I found neither sexy nor, usually, intellectually sophisticated. The more discreet the scent, the more interesting and charismatic the woman – or so it seemed to me.
All my entrepreneurial adventures have a common goal: love in some form or other. I have recently launched an aphrodisiac chocolate which I believe is to the palate what scent is to the olfactory senses. Four years ago I launched two scents: Avant l’Amour and Aprés l’Amour. The first is designed to relax the woman and at the same time to stimulate her gently. The unique blend is made up of rose, jasmine, tuberose, iris, peach, sandalwood, vetiver, clove, civet and musk. Aprés l’Amour is a blend of ylang-ylang, rose of Bulgaria, jasmine, iris, Florence, violet, vetiver, vanilla and myrrh. With this scent I wanted serenity to prevail.
It is very important that women should use scent judiciously, the correct amount is crucial. A little dab behind the ears prepares the ground for a tender assault on the senses, whereas the merest suggestion on the inside of the thighs is irresistibly erotic.
In love-making the importance of conducive smells cannot be exaggerated. I believe the earth-moving sensation sought by so many is reached not simply by the union of two bodies, but ultimately by the fusion of two sensual aromas.