Rose-scented fragrances are a dime a dozen, but with its latest perfume release, RĆzu, conscious cosmetics house Aesop brings edge and intrigue to this olfactory staple.
f youâve ever stepped inside an Aesop boutique or seen a line-up of its bath and body products on a well-appointed vanity, youâll agree that aesthetics are important to the brand. But if youâre a little more clued in, youâll know that its number one criteria for product development is âusefulnessâ, and as such, youâll be unsurprised to learn that Aesopâs latest muse was an icon of modernism â the early- to mid-century art and cultural movement whose catch-cry was âform follows functionâ.
The woman in question, French furniture designer and architect Charlotte Perriand, subscribed to this function-first modus operandi throughout her prolific career, demonstrating âa desire to improve the lives of others through intelligent designâ until her death in 1999. Since then, Perriand has inspired many a creative venture including, in 2007, the Wabara rose â developed in Japan by specialist nursery the Keiji Rose Farm, and now available by the bottle in the form of Aesopâs RĆzu. âThe Wabara rose was the inspiration for this fragrance, both aesthetically and for its unique scent,â confirms Aesopâs global director of innovation, Dr Kate Forbes.
Working with long-time collaborator BarnabĂ© Fillion (the nose behind Aesopâs Marrakech and Hwyl fragrances), the team spent two years exploring different extraction methods, concentrations and mixes of materials and botanicals to recreate the Wabara â an undertaking not without its challenges. âKeiji is a niche nursery and did not cultivate the Wabara with oil extraction in mind,â saysÂ Dr Forbes, explaining that the rose yields only rosewater â not potent enough for perfumery.
So instead, the unisex formulationâs heady, floral bouquet is comprised of Japanese rose supported by petitgrain, bergamot and jasmine, with pink pepper and ylang-ylang offering both fresh and dry hits of spice. Notes of guaiacwood and sandalwood achieve a smoky, woody undercurrent, while the unmistakable greenness of vetiver brings the wearer back down to Earth. Intended to articulate the life cycle of a rose âfrom greenhouse soil, to sumptuous blooms, to delicate fading petalsâ, the complex combination of ingredients speaks also to the commonalities between Perriand and Aesop â a devotion to minimalism and order; attention to craft, materiality and all the senses; a commitment to non-conformity and deep regard for nature.
Nods to the designerâs works too, are present, such as the light metallic note evoked by the Japanese herb shiso. Not only a reference to the way the Wabaraâs petals fade gradually to a copper tone blended with pale grey, this detail recalls the metallic accents that were a signature of Perriandâs designs, and symbolised the then-new and somewhat terrifying tensions between nature and machinery. A major modernist preoccupation, the same and similar paradoxes can be seen in RĆzuâs being at once delicate and brazen; tender and intense; familiar and unfamiliar. Or, as Dr Forbes suggests, âlike a ghost â the trace left after a light incense has been burnedâ.
Aesop RĆzu is available now