Having been a floral designer, special event decorator and passionate gardener before opening Indigo, I am very attached to the world of flowers. They can have much the same effect on one’s outlook and mood as a lovely perfume. Their simple pleasures are varied. Admiring a flower’s soulful color, catching a waft of the flower’s scent in the breeze, observing it act as a host to insects and birds- all are special. So when a floral designer whose work I have admired for a long time decided to pay homage to her favorite flower and release two fragrances dedicated to it, I waited with great anticipation.
This month’s approach to Art / SCENT interprets art a bit more broadly than usual. Saskia Havekes, the force behind Grandiflora (Australia’s famed florist with three books published of her company’s works of art/events) decided it was finally time to develop her signature fragrance based on Magnolia Grandiflora, her favorite flower. Here in the States, it is often referred to as a Southern magnolia, originating in the southeastern area of the U.S. Magnolia Grandiflora has large, luscious, creamy white petals with a fragrance described as citrusy or lemony. One deep inhalation with your nose in the flower is enough to change your mood for the day.
Saskia presented Grandiflora’s two new magnolia scents to the world through an event that I would call exquisitely beautiful… and certainly a work of art. The location was an apartment in the Place des Vosges in Paris. Its bones were obviously gorgeous to begin with; the florals made the event even more impressive. I am guessing that when folks walked into the room, there were audible gasps and deep inhalations to catch the scents mingling in the room. As Chandler Burr said in the Financial Times article, “Works of art must elicit emotion, thought and some reaction… At their best they make their audience perceive reality differently than they did before experiencing the work. Works of scent do all these things brilliantly.” And so did Grandiflora’s floral announcement of Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine and Michel.
Havekes chose to work with perfumer Sandrine Videault, the internationally respected parfum artisan and nose and a former student of the famed Edmond Roudnitska, who was a firm believer that perfume composition should be unique, much like a musical score. She said “The Magnolia oil does exist but it is so far away from the reality. Far away from what the Magnolia grandiflora flower smells like truly, so much so that perfume composers have to construct or almost clone, the scent of blooming Magnolia grandiflora.” Sandrine worked to interpret Saskia’s perceptions of the Magnolia for four years, respecting the fact that the stem and foliage are as vital and intrinsic to a flower’s beauty as its bud. Sandrine has a freshness and a depth- fresh, volatile and at times elusive in the top, with the smooth waxy and skin-like notes from the petals winding down into musky notes.
The essence of Magnolia Sandrine is definitely in the classically floral heart notes of fresh garden and dry wood chords – but the summery connotations come from the top notes of citrus, grapefruit and pepper and also the dry musky elements in the base. Sadly, Sandrine Videault passed away last July, leaving her cherished Magnolia Grandiflora Sandrine as a lasting testament to her beauty and talent.
When visiting Grasse, where the fragrance would be produced, Saskia met Michel Roudnitska, whose father was Edmond, one of the great 20th Century parfumers with creations like Eau Savage and Diorissimo. Though he did not really work as a commercial perfumer any longer, he did have his own interpretation of the scent of Magnolia, the very Magnolia that grew in his father’s – now his – garden…
While Sandrine paints a fresh portrait of the flower’s first opening, Michel interprets the Magnolia as a rich, sensual open flower at the height of its ripe beauty: heady, enveloping, dreamy. Roudnitska said “I was so fascinated by this unusual scent I decided that one day I would reproduce it. It took forty years to fulfill this dream and the right person to launch it. I had to combine the magnolia note with other flowers such as Jasmine, Ylang-Ylang, Rose and, above all, with a crisp Grapefruit note which was, according to my feeling, very characteristic of this magical flower. In order to give more sustainability to this fragrance, I added some Vetiver oil which has also a grapefruit aspect, a hint of Patchouli and some Musc for the sensual basenote.”
The fact that Grandiflora has released two entirely distinct parfums based on the same flower is testament to the deep nuances of this bloom. We hope you enjoy them.