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What Happens When Art Collides With Perfumery?

By Renée Batchelor

The last two fragrances in the Les Toupies III are Galileo and Fanfan. From the three collections, the bottles for these two scents are the most rounded and curved, to reflect the natural exuberance of these scents.
 
Courtesy of Parfums Henry Jacques
The last two fragrances in the Les Toupies III are Galileo and Fanfan. From the three collections, the bottles for these two scents are the most rounded and curved, to reflect the natural exuberance of these scents.

Luxury Perfumer Henry Jacques created a new category of perfume with the launch of Les Toupies in 2019. Combining a design feat — exquisite crystal flacons that were also functioning tops — with beautiful perfumes, these fragrances became instant collectibles for true connoisseurs. The first chapter Mr. H and Mrs. Y told the story of French elegance with a couple scent that included notes of cedar leaf, sandalwood and tobacco for him, and ylang-ylang, tonka bean and jasmine for her. The second pair, No.16 and No.81, were deeply rooted in classical haute perfumery, but given a modern twist. No.81 combined citrus notes with layers of smoke and wood for complexity, while No.16 played off the classic rose de mai ingredient, with a lively floral top note and a honeyed trail.

The final duo, Les Toupies III, completed the collection. Anne-Lise Cremona, the CEO of Parfums Henry Jacques, said, “This chapter is probably the one that stirred up the most discussion between us. We wanted so much to translate several important facets of Henry Jacques within these couple of perfumes. We wanted to express our reverie, the freshness and ambition of youth and its wonderful poetry. It was a real challenge to transmit our vision of these very commonly used themes, make them our own, but we finally did it and the result surpassed our imagination.”

The first scent, Galileo, is a very European take on perfumery that blends notes of lavender, Italian mandarin, tobacco, myrrh and amber. “Galileo has a head full of stars, as we like to say. It has high ideals and a strong will. It is a perfume that we thought of for men. It usually does not go unnoticed and has a lot of personality with its patchouli side but also a true depth to it,” says Cremona.

The second perfume Fanfan, is a soft, Parisian-inspired fragrance with an underlying intensity. “Fanfan still feels beautifully mysterious to me to this day. This perfume is very special and allies the greatest refinement — with its iris robe — with a much younger and exuberant aspect. It represents perfectly the young woman I dreamed of, infusing the world with her natural joy,” says Cremona.

Courtesy of Parfums Henry JacquesFanfan from Les Toupies III. All images courtesy of Parfums Henry Jacques.
Fanfan from Les Toupies III. All images courtesy of Parfums Henry Jacques.

Now that all six fragrances have been released, it is clear to see that they form a kind of family — complementary both in terms of the perfumes and the flacons — while each remains distinctive. “We call them the ‘Toupies Family’ and that says it all. A family is not just a collection of individuals. A family is group of persons sharing a common history; they relate to each other, complete each other. In a family you will also find the most dramatic opposite personalities because that is how fraternity is, one goes one way and the other one will take another,” says Cremona.

Collectors are spoilt for choice — not only are these incredibly collectible as objets d’art, they each have a distinctive perfuming language that will appeal to sophisticated noses. “Our Toupies are six limited edition perfumes, meant to be collected, sharing a common thread. They are held in these incredible toy-like spinning top crystal flacons. These perfumes have been conceived as a whole and are meant to complete each other, answer each other and tell together a stronger story than on their own,” says Cremona.

Designing a Top

To separate the perfume from the bottle is almost impossible in this case, as Les Toupies really represent an engineering marvel. Christophe Tollemer, a renowned interior designer, is also the creative director of Parfums Henry Jacques. Working on perfume bottles required him to put on a different hat. “In some ways it is like opening a completely new book, discovering a new world with new rules. In many ways, however, it is always the same story. It is all about proportion, space, balance and most of all respect for the past. In that sense, I had very few doubts and knew what I wanted and what would be good for Henry Jacques,” says Tollemer.

The process of making these flacons was not an easy one. “There was a huge gap between my ‘simple’ idea of a spinning top flacon and the reality of making a hermetic, threedimensional, handblown crystal laying on two angles. Absolutely each facet of these flacons had to be worked and reworked until the right balance could be found and the perfume could just rest inside these crystal objects,” says Tollemer. In particular, the tops and the dabber were very difficult to perfect. “It was an endless back and forth with the crystal makers, and design adjustments had to be made. It was a tour de force. Even after months of testing, the final production still had about 50 per cent of waste due to the complexity of the bottle,” says Tollemer.

Courtesy of Parfums Henry JacquesGalileo from Les Toupies III. All images courtesy of Parfums Henry Jacques.
Galileo from Les Toupies III. All images courtesy of Parfums Henry Jacques.

When it came to conveying the sense of movement for the bottles, he was inspired by the tops children played with. “My first desire was to create a series of perfume flacons that would look like an actual collection, like we used to have as children. The aerial, gracious and dynamic shape of the spinning tops is indeed what brought me to the Toupies concept. The movement is something very beautiful to infuse in objects that have forever been still,” says Tollemer.

While Tollemer found the conceptual portion of their creation to be intuitive, with his original sketches strongly resembling the finished pieces, the technical process was much more difficult and required many prototypes throughout the two year-period in which they were conceived. Now that all six tops have been completed, Tollemer is able to enjoy them as a whole. “I feel very satisfied when I look at them together, each filled with its own perfume. This is how I always imagined them, as a colourful group of characters of different shapes and sizes. I think it brings all of us back to our childhood,” he says.

The emotion and the intention behind the project certainly resonated with Henry Jacques’s customers. “This project has taken so much of our energy and required tremendous creative and technical power, and the clients feel that they have something very special in front of them. Not everyone can afford an Henry Jacques masterpiece but everyone has a kind of reverential admiration when looking at them and smelling them,” says Cremona.