Monday 25 February 2013

Result Of The L'Artisan Séville à L'Aube / Travalo Giveaway!

The deadline for the Séville à L'Aube / Travalo giveaway has passed!  And so, just now, in the absence of my tried and tested method of picking the winning number using the "Mr Bonkers Random Number Generator" method, I had recourse to its more conventional Internet equivalent,

I therefore have pleasure in announcing that the winner is:


Could you please drop me a line to over the course of the next few days to claim your prize?  Everyone was entered in the draw, with the option of either an empty Travalo or a decant of Séville à L'Aube.  I think you were interested in the perfume itself?  Let me have your address and I will pop your chosen prize in the post without delay!

Sunday 24 February 2013

Palimpsest Pashminas? Patchwork Quilts? Textiles & The Tricky Business Of Collateral Scenting

I love my new house.  There are a few things wrong with it still, notably the idiosyncratic Edwardian plumbing, which delivers mostly tepid - and very occasionally scalding - hot water.  Only about once a month will you hear me use the terms "wallow" and "bath" in the same sentence.   The other main problem with Bonkers Towers II is the cold.  The price you pay for period features such as original sash windows, exposed floorboards and open fireplaces is Wuthering Heights levels of draughtiness.  Or do I mean Macbeth levels, for it is like living on a blasted heath.  "Blasted" in every sense indeed, as it is jolly annoying at times.  The draughts seem to come at you from every direction - if I believed in ghosts, I could well believe that these weird cold spots were the work of supernatural forces.   The truth of the matter is, I probably just need double glazing and fitted carpets.

To counteract the cold, I have taken to wearing scarves indoors all the time.  And of course I do mostly wear a different perfume every day.  You can see where this is going, I'm sure.  Yes, I am starting to get concerned about all the involuntary fragrance layering that is going on on my various scarves.  One of my favourites smells of an amalgam of Séville à l’aube, Guerlain Angélique Noire and Encens Mythique d'Orient - I wore these three scents on consecutive days last week.  I have put the scarf away for now, as the blended result was rather overpowering.  And in case you were wondering, I am not actually spraying perfume directly on the scarf, nor am I wearing it at the time of applying my perfume.  It just rubs off on the fabric during the course of the day.

Another favourite scarf (pictured above) smells of Serge Lutens Santal Majuscule, Damien Bash Lucifer No 3 and Etro Etra.  With that one, I consciously tried to keep a woody theme going, in the hope that the ensuing palimpsest of scents would be a more congenial one.

I  used to have the same problem with duvet covers, but that was when I used to wear perfume to bed, which I rarely do now.  At the old house I would snuggle under the bedclothes and regularly catch a whiff of the veritable patchwork quilt of scents on the portion of duvet I pulled up under my chin.  It wasn't always a pleasant experience, you see.  Maybe I should have stuck to a "signature bedtime scent", and quietened the cacophony a bit.

So I solved that one by not putting on perfume close to bedtime, but am still musing as to what is to be done about the scarves.  A policy of only wearing a particular fragrance with each scarf would do it, but it seems a trifle restrictive and likely to lead to option anxiety, as with Travalos.  Choosing perfumes to commit to a Travalo is a high stress task which I have already addressed in a post here.

I will therefore open the debate to the floor:

Do you wear scarves indoors (either for decorative or thermal reasons!)?  

For those who do, have you experienced this collateral scenting phenomenon, and if so, have you thought of ways to circumvent it?  Or does a bit of random layering not faze you?

There again, maybe you just wash your clothes more often...which I might do, if the washing machine wasn't so knackered, and half the plug sockets in the utility room out of action.  Ah, there's the third thing wrong with Bonkers Towers.  But I do love it still.  : - )

Sunday 17 February 2013

"Re-envisaging" L'Artisan Parfumeur: Please Help Kirsten With Her Branding Project! (Plus A Séville A L'Aube / Travalo Giveaway)

The other day, I was surprised to receive the following email:

"Hi Vanessa

I am a student in South Africa currently doing a degree in Creative Brand Communications. I am doing a marketing assignment on the perfume brand L'Artisan Parfumeur...I am having trouble finding out insights into why people buy L'Artisan's products? I know they are a French niche perfume house and they offer scents that are unique, however, I feel that a lot of other perfume brands such as Serge Lutens, Diptyque, Lubin, By Kilian and Frédéric Malle also do this. I am finding it hard to grasp what L'Artisan's brand image is in the mind of the consumer. I live in South Africa and have never interacted with this brand before. Also South Africa's perfume market is quite different to the French market.

I would really appreciate it if you could shed some light! :)  Kind regards Kirsten"

Well, I must admit that Kirsten's out of the blue inquiry rather caught me on the hop. I don't believe I have ever given any thought to L'Artisan's brand image, though I am pretty familiar with the fragrances themselves. Reading Kirsten's email back, my first thought was to agree with her statement about L'Artisan offering a range of unique scents. Some of them are quite off the wall, even. But for me, her view that other perfume houses also have distinctive ranges doesn’t preclude them from each having their own brand identity and distinct place - or "niche" indeed - in the world of niche fragrance. But if that holds true, what exactly IS L'Artisan's brand image?

Before pondering the matter further, I wrote back to Kirsten, saying that I would see what I could find out about people’s perceptions of the brand, and that the best way might well be to involve readers of my blog. I asked her to tell me more about the background to the project, together with any information she had already gleaned.

Kirsten is preparing an entry for the D & AD 2013 student awards for creative excellence. The L'Artisan brief she has chosen is as follows:

“Re-envisage the L’Artisan Parfumeur brand for the 21st Century by creating a design solution for a new unisex range of scents.

Creative challenge —

Traditional French fragrance houses are steeped in a rich history of style and imagery. L’Artisan Parfumeur wants to break with this convention. Their latest collection is uniquely based around bottled emotions. Your challenge is to showcase this range by breaking the rules of conventional perfume packaging.

There are four scents, each capturing a different human feeling:

Scent a: Passion and desire. Sex and lust. Raw and physical.
Scent b: Perfect, sublime love. An interior emotion.
Scent c: Excitement and fear. Adrenaline, exhilaration and thrill.
Scent d: Elegant and dignified. Stormy yet still.”

Of course there are many other students the world over tackling the same brief, but as Kirsten took the initiative to approach me, she’s the “horse” I am backing who gets my help!

And following her initial desk research, Kirsten’s take so far on the brand values of the company is as follows:

"So far I have discovered that L’Artisan is a French niche perfume house that produces unique fragrances by mixing contradictory scents together. They are inspired by Grasse and nature. They refer to Grasse as a place that is ‘alive with fleeting emotions’ (definitely something there!). They also believe that making fragrance requires poetry, art, humour and stylish ingenuity. The brand has a kind of outlandish feel to it and they believe that their scents evoke emotions and memories that are extremely personal."

I wouldn't quibble with any of that, especially the term "outlandish". Or maybe I would be more inclined to say "quirky". On the L'Artisan website, there is actually a category of perfumes called "Les Insolites", or the "Unusual / Strange ones".  Yes, Dzing!, Fou Absinthe, Dzongkha and Timbuktu strike me as being towards the odder and abstract end of the spectrum, while the likes of Premier Figuier, Mimosa pour Moi and Fleur d'Oranger are more accessible and representational in style. And that very broad brush distinction may have a lot to do with the different artistic styles of the various perfumers, such as Bertrand Duchaufour, Anne Flipo and Olivia Giacobetti.

I would also say that when I think of the L'Artisan range I never do so in terms of the classic fragrance families of "chypre" or "oriental" or "floral woody musk" etc, and would be hard pressed to pigeonhole any of the scents in the range using those categories. So in that regard they have certainly departed from the traditional conventions of perfumery and feel fresh and modern and very much "their own thing".  That said, the store design and cursive script of the L'Artisan logo, together with its stylistic nod towards the Art Deco era, simultaneously give the brand a classically elegant feel.

Coincidentally, I received a mailshot from Luckyscent only the other day, offering sample packs featuring L’Artisan’s “Ten Most Loved (and Legendary) Scents”, though in whose eyes is not clear to me – Luckyscent themselves, L’Artisan? I imagine the latter. And what is the basis of either of the terms “loved” and “legendary”? Most talked about? Biggest sellers?

Anyway, the samples include Fou d’Absinthe, which is described as an “olfactory craziness” (confirming our quirky hypothesis – again, I am assuming this is L’Artisan copy), while other scents such as Premier Figuier are (as I posited above) almost photorealistic representations of the scent: “Green crunchy notes of the leaves, milky sap of branches, sweetness of fruit and woody notes of the trunk.” Now I also associate a number of the scents with a strong sense of place – capturing a travel experience in a fragrance, and Premier Figuier is also an example of this: “Evokes a nap in the shade of a fig tree in the South of France”. Timbuktu, meanwhile, is a “wild (there we go with offbeat again) yet sophisticated fragrance inspired by a journey to Mali in West Africa…”

Turning from the scents themselves to L’Artisan’s competitors, I guess L'Artisan must compete with a ton of brands from the more exclusive lines of Guerlain and Chanel to a plethora of smaller houses. If I had to suggest which other brands share L'Artisan's "broadly modern" vibe, I'd probably go with Parfumerie Générale, The Different Company, Byredo, Diptyque and Malle, also Le Labo, Ormonde Jayne, Humiecki & Graef and Mona di Orio - with the rider that some of these feel more spare and "clinically modern" in design terms than L'Artisan.  And  conversely, the brands I would not think of include Creed, Piguet, Les Parfums d'Empire, Lorenzo Villoresi, Amouage, Etro, Les Parfums de Nicolai, Maître Parfumeur Gantier, Floris, or possibly even Penhaligon's.

Then as for its degree of exclusivity, or "nicheness" - I mean within the niche market itself - L'Artisan feels somewhere around mid-field. Parfumerie Générale feels a tad more upmarket to me, as does Mona di Orio or Ormonde Jayne, though not by much, and this is a very subjective impression. I guess it depends how often you encounter any given brand in your own perfume shopping orbit. Yes, it may come down to some function of perceived “retail exposure" combined with price, maybe, or even the number of fragrances in the line.  At some level I haven't quite put my finger on, having too many scents may devalue the range - as with Creed (in my view), which also suffers from overly wide - and qualitatively mixed - distribution.

On this very point, here is a thought-provoking post by Perfumeshrine about L’Artisan’s place in the grand scheme of things, in which she speculates on whether the recent discontinuations suggest the house can no longer afford to focus as much on the more oddball favourites in the line, which may be slow movers. Though I guess it is a commercial business at the end of the day. Oh, and it seems that L’Artisan will be sold in Sephora shortly, which may take its niche reputation down a notch?

But enough of my thoughts about L'Artisan Parfumeur, what say you?

What attributes or values does the brand evoke for you?

To what extent are you interested in what L’Artisan stands for, or its position in the market – is it all about the scent?

How niche does the brand feel to you, and which other houses - if any - have a range with a similar feel?

And for good measure, any thoughts on the current packaging, or on any new creative directions in which it could be taken that would give it more of a wow factor / sense of drama?  (The brief does say that L'Artisan wants to break the rules of conventional packaging.)

NB I have checked out the pack concepts of some of the competing entries and a couple involve integral uplighting in the actual box!

Now Kirsten may have picked the short straw by choosing me to help her gain a better understanding of people's perceptions of the L'Artisan brand, because out of all the perfume blogs she could have lit upon, Bonkers is not one that attracts very many comments as a rule. So in a bid to rally people to the cause of her project, I am holding a L'Artisan giveaway!

Anyone who leaves a comment addressing any of the questions above about the L'Artisan brand will be eligible to win a decant of Séville à L'Aube from my bottle (if you don't wish to be entered into the draw, please say so).   It is open to readers everywhere, regardless of postal regulations! I fly in the face of postal regulations!  The draw ends on Sunday 24th February at midnight GMT.

UPDATE: In view of the number of people commenting who already have Séville à L'Aube, I am adding the option of a Travalo atomiser as an alternative, which will hopefully appeal to everyone!

Drawing of L'Artisan bottles from the company's website, photo of green bottle from the D & AD website, L'Artisan logo from, photo of Grasse from, photo of Bertrand Duchaufour from, photo of Mali from, photo of Séville à L'Aube my own.

Thursday 14 February 2013

My Funny Valentine's Days, And Rose Scents For Rebels & Singletons

For the longest time, I used to receive two cards on Valentine's Day: one from Mr Bonkers and one from the cat. Then last year I left Mr Bonkers and put the cat to sleep, so realistically I have only myself to blame for the conspicuous lack of cards this year.

Historically, I have always been pretty into Valentine's Day as a celebration - well, more on the card sending than the dining in overpriced restaurants front to be fair. Indeed, I am not sure that a boyfriend has ever taken me out for a meal on Valentine's Day itself. And if they had volunteered, I would probably have told them to save their money. Same script with flowers really. Mr Bonkers did once send me roses on the day - in 1996 it was. He was in Switzerland at the time, playing with a blues band in one of the classier ski resorts. What he didn't know, however, was that I wasn't around to receive them, because on a whim I had decided to surprise him by flying out to join him for the Valentine's weekend. This involved one terrifyingly bumpy plane that nearly didn't take off at all - on which the stewardesses remained strapped to their seats throughout the journey - followed by three trains, before I toiled the final mile or so up a steep hill in a blizzard. I must have looked like Scott of the Antarctic crossed with a yeti when I finally walked into the foyer of Mr B's hotel on the Friday afternoon, dripping and covered in snowflakes. I explained who I was to the receptionist, who lured Mr B down from his room by saying that a fax had arrived for him ... (How impossibly quaint that sounds now!).

I guess that as someone who likes to write, Valentine's cards have been a constant theme of my romantic past.   When I was about 13 I wrote a love poem in Latin, and sent it in a card to a boy I had met on holiday the previous year - I may even have signed it.  Not surprisingly, I never heard from him again.

Other odd Valentine's Days I recall include the one where I had just had all my wisdom teeth out: I was so beaten up-looking, with a black eye, sundry other bruises and a beak like a budgerigar, that my BF walked straight past the bed and out of the ward, never to return. I was so unrecognisable he thought he'd got the wrong hospital.  For some reason he never thought to check.

But what of today? Well, I think I shall keep my head down and ride out the annual onslaught of rose petal-bedecked tablecloths, tasteless teddies and saccharine greetings.   I shan't be taking up the special offer at my local Indian, for example, even though the headline price of £12.95 for four courses caught my eye. Though hold on a minute - since when has rice or nan constituted "a course"?

Another Valentine's advert that made me smile was from a breakdown cover company, entitled: "Use your car as part of the romantic day". Apparently the way to a woman's heart is through a full tank of fuel and a dusted dashboard.

"For the best chance of charming your partner this Valentine's Day, GEM advises on beginning under the bonnet". (I think they are still speaking of the car at this point.)

"They say love is blind, but make sure visibility is 100% when it comes to the car windows."

Other tips for romancing your loved one include:

"Make sure oil and washer fluid levels are topped up"

"Clear out clutter from the interior"

"Add sweet smelling air freshener" (not sure about this one, or only under strict supervision)

The article concludes with a flourish:

"Offering a pleasant and romantic environment from the very start could mean the beginning of a beautiful journey together, rather than the end of the road for you and your partner".

Well, it is food for thought. Perhaps romance IS found after all in an empty ashtray and a hoovered floor mat.

Which rather long and rambling preamble brings me finally to my own scent choice for Valentine's Day. For a singleton like me with a bit of a rebellious streak it should combine a nod towards convention (so rose to the fore), but with a hint of mischief. I think the sprightly and spiky L'Artisan Safran Troublant might hit the spot, or Juliette Has A Gun Lady Vengeance - if I hadn't given away my sample. Or maybe Agent Provocateur Strip with its unexpected geranium note, though the name is a little tacky. Kenzo Amour Indian Holi is another contender - it is girly and flirty with lashings of pepper, just the way I like it. Or its darker patch-fest cousin, Flower Oriental. Or I could simply default to one of my favourite offbeat gourmand roses, Brulure de Rose, thereby covering off the traditional chocolate note associated with such occasions... : - )  Now I am sure there are way more kickass "rebel rose"-type perfumes out there than I have suggested, but as regular readers know, I mainly like accessible, fairly mimsy scents, so there was always going to have to be a bit of stylistic compromise here!

What scent are you going with today, and does it reflect your own take on the whole Valentine's Day shebang...which is what?

Did you ever pull a romantic Valentine's Day stunt like my Swiss escapade?

And I would be curious to learn if anyone has actually received a Valentine's gift of perfume. That would be the very ticket... and with any luck, something to keep in your nice clean glove compartment... ; - )

Photos of hearts on a blue and white background, metallic hearts and hearts on trees from Wikimedia Commons via Renata Kincaid, Hans Jorn Storgaard Andersen and johntex respectively, photo of L'Artisan Safran Troublant from, photo of dessert and of light display in Portugal my own

Sunday 10 February 2013

Plump Up The Volume: Pimping Your Bed With Perfume Cushions

Bedding has come a long way since I was a kid, those distant days of flannelette sheets, scratchy wool blankets and swirly-patterned candlewick bedspreads. Or even the 80s, era of the drawer divan, flouncy valance and Austrian blind. Dearie me - was I glad to see the back of all things ruffly. I can't quite remember when the duvet hit Britain, but we must be talking decades ago. And now, a cursory glance round home furnishing stores like Dunelm Mill reveals that beds are not so much "made" as "dressed" these days - or even "staged". A duvet and a minimum of four pillows (clad in befrilled Oxford pillowcases for preference, the "housewife" style being as dull and outdated as its name) is just the beginning. There are now these heavy, padded quilts that you don't actually spread over the whole of the bed, but rather lay on the bottom half, not unlike a runner on a dining table, more ornament than use. And they're not cheap, these (invariably) shiny bedspreads - or half-throws or whatever you call them - the cheapest I found was about £70 in Dunelm, rising to £200 in Laura Ashley.


And of course no bed is complete without a final embellishment of entirely gratuitous cushions and/or boudoir pillows, which should be artfully arranged in an asymmetric heap on top of the four pillows. Well, I am speaking of British-size beds here - in the US, where they have "Super King & Queen & President" beds that run the entire length of the room, it might not be unusual to see six or ten pillows in total, so you may need to scale up your cushion quotient accordingly.


Me, I have just five "embellishment cushions" to my name, as I shall loosely call them. I don't think the term "scatter cushions" is correct for a bed: for one thing that sounds far too random, plus I think you only find scatter cushions on a sofa, and even there they would never be as artlessly "scattered" as the name suggests. And of the five cushions I own, THREE have a perfume theme. There were four, but I gave the pink cushion above to Victoria of Bois de Jasmin as a flat warming present when I went over to visit her in the summer. She has moved again since then, so in theory I may owe her another one.

So here is the roll call of my remaining cushions, split across my bedroom and the spare room (with the wrought iron bedstead).




Okay, so I don't really like lavender, but I think it might grow on me.

From my research on Google when I was tracking down these cushions, it struck me that there aren't too many perfume-themed accessories around generally, and cushions are no exception to this. In fairness Laura Ashley does have one design, but it is rather wan-looking by comparison, and as with everything else from the range, somewhat overpriced. And though I found some other perfume cushion designs on Etsy and Ebay, they tended to be of that rather cliche'd "Alphonse Mucha pub mirror" variety, if you know what I mean.

Do you own a perfume cushion - or two?

Is your bed pimped up with cushions of any description?

And what other items have you seen - or would you like to see - with a perfume theme to them?

I saw a lovely sponge bag, for example, on, but by contrast, drew a complete blank on tea cosies. And given my growing interest in tea pots, that could prove to be a problem, unless I figure out how to knit one!

Photo of grey bedroom from, other photos my own

Monday 4 February 2013

Gordon Bennett! Bonkers Is In The Daily Telegraph Again!

Last Monday I was approached by Bryony Gordon, a feature writer and columnist with The Daily Telegraph, who wanted to know my thoughts on baby perfumes for an article she was writing that day. This is the third time(!) someone from the paper has come through to me like this, so I feel it behoves me to have a view on the topics they are investigating. Consequently, I bought myself a couple of hours' time so I could research the subject myself and marshall my thoughts. For though I was dimly aware that there were perfumes targeted at babies, their mothers and/or small children - Bvlgari's Petits et Mamans rang a bell, for example - it is not a subset of the fragrance market to which I had given much thought. Hey, I am not even a mother! But after digging around I found that there have been, if not a whole slew exactly, certainly a dozen or more baby and children's perfumes on the market over the last 30 years, including this latest launch by Dolce & Gabbana, which prompted Byrony to write her piece.

And following my research I found that I did indeed have something to say about the matter. In her article Bryony quotes a director of the children's charity Kidscape on the commercialisation of children generally, followed by me and a lady from the parenting website Netmums - we are both basically saying that a baby smells fine as it is. You can read the online version here:

Baby perfume? The idea stinks


This time round I submitted my comments by email, and was not aware of the overall slant / tenor of the article, but it seems that I was very much in step with the journalist herself and the other contributors.

So here are some of my other thoughts on the subject:

Babies don't smell of melon

D & G say their perfume "smells of baby" yet it has notes of citrus, honey and melon. Well, babies don't naturally smell like that and if they did smell of melon, I am not sorry I didn't have one now, as that way lies L'Eau d'Issey, my "melon-scented-freshly-exited-shower-cubicle" nemesis.

The helicopter scenting angle

The baby perfumes of Bvlgari and L'Occitane are predicated on mums and babies wearing the same fragrance. This strikes me as twee at best, and at worst as the olfactory equivalent of helicopter parenting. Let the baby have its own scent and identity, rather than imposing a mum and baby uniformity like those goofy couples who wear matching jumpers. I mean, you wouldn't catch a mother wearing a babygrow to be like her offspring. Hold on, that's a onesie, so maybe she would at that!

Maclaren buggy syndrome

At the higher end I think snobbery may also play into this: witness the blurb on an ad by Le Labo for its baby version of Ambrette 9:

"A baby perfumed by Le Labo? How cool can you get!" (this one costs a cool 110 euros for 50ml I note).

And of course that baby will be about eight and on its fourth iPad before it uses up 50ml of scent, though that probably isn't an issue to the mother who is happy to drop that much money on such an item.

A recent survey found that it costs well over £200k to bring up a child from 0-21 (without private schooling). So if what is after all a relatively expensive item was to become a must-have accessory, this would imply that unfragranced babies are in some way less acceptable, just adding to parents' financial burdens. So for me baby perfume is an example of gratuitous product segmentation that plays into the fact that modern parents are more of a soft sell than in my youth. For instead of today's Chelsea tractor buggies for offroading to nursery, we were just stuck in prams in the snow, for anyone to pinch us who was so minded.

The safety angle

As far as any safety issue is concerned, I don't doubt that these perfumes will have been made to the same exacting standards as any other baby product - using a non-alcohol formula. And you could argue that there are already numerous scented functional products on the market for babies, but I still don't like the idea of spritzing a very tiny baby with perfume.

I am, however, all for small children developing an appreciation for fragrance (of any kind indeed) at an early age, so if companies are going to target the very young, I'd say at least wait until they are old enough to say no.

Are you a mother? How does your baby smell? (When freshly washed, obviously.) And where do you stand on the baby perfume issue?

NB The keen-eyed reader may spot that in this latest article, I am described as a "fragrance expert" as well as a blogger. I would just like to point out that I didn't describe myself in those terms, but that the newspaper kindly saw fit to award me a titular upgrade.

Photo of Dolce & Gabbana baby perfume from, photo of Joshua Reynolds painting from Wikimedia Commons, photo of L'Eau d'Issey from Ebay, photo of coordinated mother and baby from, photo of McClaren buggy from