The Pink Tartan boutique in Toronto is an expression of…
Originally inspired by retro facial powders, these soft and powdery perfumes are your chic new comfort zone.
It started in the ’80s with a spritz of Love’s Baby Soft. The pink-capped bottle’s powdery clean scent was intoxicating enough for me to want to wear it daily, while its heart-printed packaging was demure enough for my mother to concede. I’d only just entered the double digits and the glass cylinder filled with perfume had been a present. It stood proudly on my dresser. My first of many powdery perfumes.
Since then, my fragrance range and collection have expanded. But powdery eaus capturing the same chic, comforting feel—like Oscar de la Renta Ruffles, Lalique’s Lalique and Chanel No.19 Poudre—remain a constant. Soft and intimate, these scents are reminiscent of simpler times and somehow, in a strange way, a validation of my femininity, my wellbeing, my worthiness.
Powdery comfort, wrapped up in nostalgia
“Powdery fragrances are popular again because they have a clean, fresh feel and a kind of simplicity,” explains Paula Pulvino, the founder of perfume house, Villa of the Mysteries Perfume in Brooklyn, New York. “They feel modern and elegant and yet familiar in certain ways.”
This déjà-vu sensation can be attributed to infancy thanks to almost every mother’s heavy-handed use of Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder on her child. (The household brand even launched Baby Cologne—after Demeter launched their eau de toilette Baby Powder in 2003, but before couture houses like Givenchy, Burberry and Bvlgari jumped on the literal baby-perfume bandwagon in 2008.) Their talc’s smell is reassuring and protective, the effervescent approach to swaddling.
“In an increasingly complex world, this nostalgia and yearning for simplicity plays a part in our attraction to powdery scents,” explains Pulvino. “They have a calming and comforting effect.”
Villas of the Mysteries Fortes Fortuna Iuvat, $85 (30ml) www.votmperfume.com
It’s a trend we’re seeing mirrored in style and design, from Pantone’s 2016 colours of the year: a pale baby pink called Rose Quartz and a pale periwinkle blue called Serenity to the Spring 2016 runways where white button-down shirts, romantic ruffles and lingerie-influenced dresses reigned. “They all represent the soft expression of powder, as well as the fresh and clean elements of it,” says Pulvino.
Powder in perfume
Powder is, in essence and texture, both fresh and soft. A natural and a synthetic ingredient in perfumery, its odour profile is described as being like a retro facial powder—think Max Factor’s Crème Puff, circa 1953—and having a talcum powder dryness. Ironically, it’s usually derived from a variety of other notes such as musk, vanilla, heliotrope, iris, orris root and/or moss that are mix-mastered together to create the favoured effect.
Iris, moss and musk create a modern, elegant element. Violet and heliotrope are slightly more old-fashioned smelling and vanilla transports everyone back to their comfort zone or at least into the kitchen with mom.
“There are many ingredients that can create a powdery effect in fragrance,” says Pulvino. “The musks represent the clean, fresh elements, but the beautiful earthiness of the iris is really the most lovely expression of all.”
Past, incarnations are associated with the heavy floral classics: Avon Timeless, Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps and Estée Lauder Youth Dew. Many others however, smelled as dry as dust. Thankfully, the industry has come a long way with “perfumers incorporating the powdery note to create a fresh, clean, soapy feel to their scents,” affirms Pulvino.
And there are multiple options to choose from. Marc Jacobs’ use of musk with flowers, pear and bergamot in Daisy Dream creates a crisp and vibrant eau. Prada’s manipulation of iris with neroli, cedarwood and benzoin in Infusion d’Iris Cèdre results in an evocative, addictive scent. Valentino’s inclusion of terracotta powder, vanilla and iris with tuberose and sandalwood in Valentina Poudre becomes a heady, mysterious elixir. Villas of the Mysteries blends vanilla and oakmoss with orchid and juniper berries in Fortes Fortuna Iuvat for a smooth and drunken finish, while Chanel pairs powdery notes, iris, violet and vanilla with juicy fruit and red roses for a spicy, seductive effect in Misia, the brand’s most recent launch in the Les Exclusifs lineup.
As for the powdered trend itself, after nearly a century of spritzing, it’s clearly here to stay. “These perfumes will always be popular,” affirms Pulvino. “They feel comfortable, familiar and they smell great.”
From front and centre moving clockwise:
Marc Jacobs Daisy Dream Blush, $90 (50 ml) www.sephora.com
Valentino Valentina Poudre EDP limited edition, $96 (50 ml) www.thebay.com (available April)
Chanel Les Exclusifs de Chanel Misia, $280 (6.8 oz) www.chanel.com
Prada Infusion d’Iris Cèdre, $95 (1.7 oz) www.sephora.com (available April)
Narciso Rodriguez Poudree, $130 (90 ml), www.holtrenfrew.com (available April)