Why do French people seem to have such a fabulous je-ne-sais-quoi about them? And why is Paris synonymous with fashion? L’histoire de la mode.
To celebrate Summum’s twentieth birthday, we are launching our first ever perfume. L’Eau de Summum is a super-feminine, decidedly uncommon fragrance, an exciting mix that transports you to a garden filled with marvellous wild flowers and that at the same time makes you think of a stack of freshly laundered antique linen. Notes of bergamot open up the fragrance: fresh, sparkling, with a dash of bitterness to give it character, like a glorious, crisp spring morning. The heart of the perfume is made warm and rich by a bouquet of jasmine, orange blossom, peaches, rose and tuberose, bringing a sun-drenched afternoon to mind, in a field filled with flowers and herbs. Finally, the base is formed by soft, warm notes of amber, patchouli, vanilla and vetiver, which embrace the wearer, reminiscent of a sultry evening after a radiant day.
Fragrances are structured from three sets of notes that give a perfume depth and character.
This is the aroma that you smell immediately when you apply a perfume. Top notes are often fresh and light and work for about two hours.
These notes don’t come to the fore until the top notes have gone. Often they are somewhat richer and are made up of floral or spicy ingredients. This is the most dominant part of the perfume and works for around four hours.
The fundamentals of the perfume that blend all of the notes together. These are the most intense and the longest-lasting – sometimes for as long as 24 hours.
Our love of fragrances is perhaps as old as humankind itself. There have been countless archaeological discoveries that demonstrate how early man made aromatic balsams and perfumes. The oldest known parfumerie was found in Cyprus and dates back to the Bronze Age (approx. 2000 BC). And the sheer dimensions of the place indicate that even in those early days, making perfume was big business. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans were great users of fragrances and balsams, using them for all kinds of purposes. Even the dead were perfumed in ancient Greece and buried with their bottle of fragrance.
A short world trip through the history of perfume.
The world’s first chemist and perfume-maker was a woman: Tapputi lived in around 1200 BC in Mesopotamia and held an important role in the court. She developed methods for extracting scent molecules, using flowers, oils, plants, resin and myrrh, then adding water and other solvents to distil and filter fragrances. She made notes about her techniques and in doing so created the foundations for producing perfumes.
An important development in making perfumes was the technique of distillation which enabled oils to be extracted from flowers. The Persian philosopher, writer, scientist, doctor and astronomer, Avicenna, who was born in 980 AD in Uzbekistan, is the person who invented this technique, which is still being used today.
Europe’s first ‘modern’ perfume was developed in 1370 on the instructions of Queen Elizabeth of Hungary and became known as ‘Hungarian Water’.
During the renaissance, France became Europe’s perfume centre with Grasse, in Provence, becoming the perfume capital (a title that it still holds). Perfumes were particularly popular at the French court and were an essential way of disguising some of the more unpleasant body odours. During the reign of Louis XV in the eighteenth century, perfumes were used so much that the court became known as la cour parfumée (the perfumed court). The revolution of 1789 did nothing to dissuade the love of the French for perfume. Far from it: in fact there was even a fragrance with the name of Parfum à la Guillotine.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the first commercial perfume houses came into being, some of which still exist today, such as The House of Creed (1760) and Guerlain (1824). Poetic names and artistic bottles became increasingly important for the commercial success of fragrances and fashion houses such as Chanel and Lanvin began by launching their own signature fragrances. In the twentieth century, perfumes were made accessible to a mass audience and became more important as a part of our day-to-day outfits. Wearing a perfume is also a way of emphasising our personality. And fortunately less and less a way of masking other, less pleasant smells.
1. Every fragrance smells different to everyone and also develops differently after it has been applied. So don’t try out a scent on a piece of paper, but on you own skin. Then wait and see how the perfume develops during the course of the day before buying it.
2. Rubbing your wrists together after applying a perfume is not such a good idea: it makes the top notes of the fragrance evaporate more quickly.
3. You can create your own signature scent by wearing layers of different fragrances on top of each other. So first spray on the heavier scent and then the lighter ones so that the first doesn’t dominate. But try to keep it subtle!
4. A fragrance will last for longer by mixing in a few drops with an odourless body lotion.Do not store your perfume in full daylight: the sun’s rays tend to break down the scent molecules. A damp place, such as the bathroom, is also not conducive for the longevity of your perfume. It’s best to find a dry, dark place where the temperature is reasonably constant, such as a wardrobe.
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