Fifteen years ago, before we learned we were leaving carbon footprints and the only recycle bin was the one on our desktop, there was a seed planted by perfumer Mandy Aftel which has gradually grown into a revolution in contemporary perfumery: a rediscovery and rebirth of the ancient art of creating fragrance without synthetics. Perfumus is the Latin word for ‘through smoke’ and for millenniums throughout the world on every continent, doctors, scientists, priests and shamans have used natural blends as medicine or offerings to the gods. Historically, the upper classes had their own private perfumers; icons like Cleopatra, Queen Makeda (aka the Queen of Sheba), Catherine de Medici, and King Henry VIII all used the alchemy of natural fragrance to seduce, bewitch and entice (and to cover the smell of unwashed bodies).
It wasn’t until relatively recently, in the early 1900s, that the use of synthetic materials in perfume ‘replaced’ a time-honored art and it might have disappeared entirely in recent years, save the work of a few visionary natural perfumers. Seven, in particular, have educated me, influenced me, introduced me to, and helped me learn about natural, organic and botanical perfumery.
Each was asked the same two questions: “Why is it you choose to work only with natural, botanical or organic fragrances”? and “What is the difference between organic, botanical and natural perfumes?” As, perhaps, the most comprehensive and authoritative article on this controversial and divisive subject to date - meet eight women who are changing our perfumed world: