how vegAN DO YOU SMELL?
what's that smell?
you may fan your nose at the very thought of us, but...despite the popular tendency to conflate veganism with the aged cult of flower power, vegans are – in the end and everywhere else - only human. some are content to leave a faint trail of tahini, himalayan salt & goji berries in their wake, but the more discerning of us enjoy flaring our nostrils and flexing our olfactory muscles by taking in more complex fragrances.
considering the vegan lifestyle? if your final stumbling block is the inability to commit because you're unsure how the decision will affect your personal hygiene...get your nasal hairs round this: you'll find plenty of cruelty-free options when it comes to dousing your temple in the finest clouds of ecstatic perfumery.
what's so-not-vegan about flowers? glad you asked. let me expound...
don't bottle it
historically, perfume could and would contain a number of beastly (and, frankly, dodgily-procured) components. who conceives of this shit? chiefly, they were:
- ambergris (a waxy substance derived from sperm whales. i don't know about you, but my first thought is, 'slather that all over ma body. yum-diddy-yum-yum.')
- civet (a musk ever-so-lovingly extracted from the anal glands - no, i'm not delusional. this really happened - of the civet)
castoreum (a leathery scent that someone found in the genital scent sacs of beavers. humans really do need to get a grip on their bum fixations. say no more...)
before you cry your eyes out whilst projectile retching, i interrupt this programming to tell you that there is some good news. these extracts are now largely reproduced synthetically. ah, but this means that your primary concern will be the parent companies that own the fragrance houses. you see, they'll often still conduct animal testing. if they don't do it in the States or the EU, ensure that they don't sell in china. if they do, then they'll still be obliged to test on animals. it's a sick world, but them's the rules as they currently stand in china. i have faith that the country will soon see sense. in fact, they're working on alternatives right now. but...so, who does that leave? more than you'd imagine! cast an orb down below and keep your eyes on these beauts.
embrace these bodacious, british made, organic, single notes (ylang ylang, rose geranium, spearmint, petitgrain, lavender, mandarin). you can combine them in any way you smell fit. the website provides you with suggestions, but why not unleash your aroma rebel? at £10 for each 12ml vial, you'll be quids in.
in a word association game, what would you say in response to 'perfume'? right, no. no. i mean, apart from 'serial killer'! you know you'd say 'france' – and this french beauty brand should be on your radar. you'll quickly find a favourite from their range of fresh, sparkling and innovative blends. all are inspired by the family vineyard, so quit yer bitchin' & wear your wine. at £25 for a generous 50mls, dis 'oui'.
have a fragrance memory that isn't particularly animal-friendly (like that bottle of Charlie that made you feel so-so-sophisticated when you were busting moves at your year 7 disco)? turn to these brighton-based upstarts. they recreate popular brands – past and present - with organic botanics that result in potions that are probably far superior in quality to those that inspired them. don't bother to remortgage. they're a measly £15...but they smell a million. i had to get my nostalgic mitts on their 404 (a version of yves saint laurent's 'paris') because i associate it with being fresh out of art school & doing piecemeal work that i hated & for which i had to sell my soul for a pittance. why? why did i cheapen myself & overcompensate by trying to smell expensive? all the same, if you fancy bathing in rose petals (a la american beauty) & then delicately drying off with mimosa & violet (without noticing the errant blooms that have lodged themselves in your crevices), sidle over to eden perfumes.
if you like sweets and you want to wear your food & drink close (without instigating a food fight at your local cocktail lounge or greengrocers), this is the brand for you. for a paltry £12.50, you can snag a 30ml bottle of Irish Cream, Pina Colada or Strawberry Bellini. hungover & having trouble coping with the thought of huffing alcohol? go for Berry Cheesecake or Peach Melba.
she's french. what more do you want? i mean, she was obviously born to make you smell divine. her ethics are totally hot, too. she's vegetarian, you know - maybe even vegan by now. she campaigns hard with organisations such as l214 that promote respect for our fellow beings. her signature scents are never boring (anise is one of her favourite ingredients and it lends an exceptionally complex dimension to her creations), but always affordable - starting from about £20. my favourites are pictured. to the left is 'first fragrance'. if i'm completely honest, i wasn't initially struck on it. that liquorice note was more than just a phantom & i couldn't get my head round it. fast forward five minutes & i was seduced by its intricate web of bold, rich ivy & tonka with gasps of violet and iris. it's truly enchanting. to the right, there's 'elle l'aime'. it's an unabashed evocation of beach, sun & shenanigans. lime blasts out all boldly, but it soon settles down to a comforting coconut bonfire. i can't get enough of it.
the mummy of British ingenuity, gorilla perfumes are for the flagrant fragrant swashbucklers. bursting with plants both exotic and native, you'll spend the rest of your life working your way through all they've on offer. i do have a soft spot for 'love', a perfume that is resplendent with apple, cinnamon & bergamot. foody fans, this might tickle your jacksie.
straight outta' oregon, this parfumerie is my only nod across the pond. why? they merit it. they've built a well-deserved reputation for developing gorgeous scents inspired by long-forgotten, vintage perfume houses. my nostrils-down favourites are those pictured above: california star jasmine (a billowy, ballsy white floral that makes you feel like kim basinger in LA confidential - or, at least, an extra on the set) & tahitian gardenia (simone signoret in room at the top, sure as shootin'). grab a bottle and luxuriate in affordability for under £25 per 30ml.
another french offering (i'm not obsessed or owt), these are based upon bach formulas and are designed to address specific maladies of human emotion or frailties of human nature. i testify here & now that - hot damn - they do work. my choices are 'presences de bach' for its uplifting & utterly optimistic vervain & clematis with creepings of honeysuckle and 'audace' (to correct social withdrawal) for its potent frangipani & ylang ylang elixir. spray a bit & i defy you not to spring forth from your cloister.
it's much more billowy, esoteric & fabulous than i'll ever be - & i'm sure that's why i like it. created in 1929 as a response to wall street's catastrophic crash, it was billed as the world's most expensive perfume. this is not normally a strapline that would appeal to me. i'm not a sucker for hubristic & overt opulence, but the scent of this is irresistible. if it were possible to bottle a moment & a place, this would be it. i know what you're thinking: 2013, piss on the metro. now, now. it really is much more 1930s montparnasse, thank you. joy's aldehydic opening will leave you swooning. before you catch your breath, you'll be plunged headlong into a night garden filled with jasmine as notes of melancholic jazz slide over the air & into your ears. sadly, i have to stay away from truly vintage versions. i can't bear the thought of a civet's anal glands being exploited for the sake of a few hours of selfish, sensory bliss. happily, though, the company has confirmed that all newer (read: post-2000) versions employ synthetic animalistic notes. see the comments section under this blog post, here: