Hannah Betts' Better…not younger

Hannah Betts’ Better…not younger: Time to dig out your old CK One: 1990s scents are back

  • Hannah Betts celebrates 90s fragrances which have maintained their popularity
  • The UK-based beauty expert praises L’Eau d’Issey by Issey Miyake
  • She also lauds gender-neutral scent favourite Féminité du Bois by Serge Lutens

Bagging the latest thing may be a bonus in skincare and make-up, where tech is thrusting ever forward. However, in perfume it can be something to avoid.

What is ‘new’ is so often not new at all, but a ‘flanker’. Translation: a spin on some already commercially successful concoction, designed to ring every last bit of mileage out of this tried-and-tested formula for those seeking that old chestnut ‘the same, but different’.

Done well, homages with a twist can be spectacular. One thinks of Hermes’s spicy-green Equipage Geranium of 2015, tragically no longer available, which was then house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena’s addictive re-edition of Guy Robert’s 1970 classic.

Bagging the latest thing may be a bonus in skincare and make-up, where tech is thrusting ever forward. However, in perfume it can be something to avoid

More often, however, a tweak will be less a conversation with the original than some cynical attempt to exploit it. In which case — not least during a cost-of-living crisis — better to return to the genuine innovation than be beguiled by some corporate ploy.

Two contemporary classics that have stood the test of time are celebrating their 30th birthdays this year. One is as popular as they come; the other, a cult obsession — namely L’Eau d’Issey by Issey Miyake (£59 for 50ml, boots.com) and Féminité du Bois by Serge Lutens (from £116 for 50ml, harveynichols.com).

When people talk about 1990s scents — currently modish again, along with 1990s fashion — they tend to be talking about Calvin Klein’s CK One (£31 for 200ml, boots.com) of 1994, that fresh, herbaceous splash billed as the ‘first unisex perfume’.

It wasn’t. Perfume was gender-free until 20th-century marketeers came up with this strategy to double their dosh. Note the gender-fluid 4711 Original Cologne (£8.20 for 100ml, allbeauty.com), created in 1792: aromatic citrus, lavender, rosemary and rose with a hint of musk, which will be enjoyed by CK One fans.

When people talk about 1990s scents — currently modish again, along with 1990s fashion — they tend to be talking about Calvin Klein’s CK One (£31 for 200ml, boots.com) of 1994, that fresh, herbaceous splash billed as the ‘first unisex perfume’

Moreover, it was Lutens’s Féminité du Bois that reignited the passion for gender-neutral perfume proper. Like all genuine artistic creations, this scent will be love or hate, heaven or hell, depending on your proclivities. The cedar wood of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains is warmed by the cardamom and cinnamon of the souk, all honeyed leather.

The spicy oriental fragrances of the 1980s were big, blousy, sexy in a cartoonish, knock-you-unconscious manner. Think YSL’s Opium, Dior’s Poison and Calvin Klein’s Obsession. Luten’s aroma is the opposite: sensual, sophisticated, austere in aspects, yet with something clawingly feral about it; cerebral, but suggestive.

As with all Lutens’s creations, if this floats your boat, then you will always long for it. Fans become mesmerised, infatuated. Issey Miyake’s 1990s knockout L’Eau d’Issey you will recognise. The avant-garde designer also loathed the vulgarity of those 1980s heavy-hitters, informing perfumer Jacques Cavallier that he detested every scent with the exception of water.

So Cavallier started with calone, the chemical compound that lends the cool, wet, airy ‘sea-breeze’ quality to washing powder. The addition of rose petals and white flowers came together in a sheer, aqueous floral; hugely imitated, never bettered. The chic Swiss flatmate I had at Oxford in my twenties used to be swathed in it, its minimalist elegance befitting her post-modern design aesthetic.

The spicy oriental fragrances of the 1980s were big, blousy, sexy in a cartoonish, knock-you-unconscious manner

Three decades on, a bottle of L’Eau d’Issey is now sold every 15 seconds in Britain. A flacon of its latest incarnation (yes, a flanker), Issey Miyake Eau & Magnolia (£65 for 50ml, boots.com), sells every 7.2 minutes.

The male version — Cavallier’s woody aquatic L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme (£41 for 75ml, boots.com) launched in 1994 — is still more popular, with one sold every seven seconds. Almost three decades on, it remains one of the more interesting, less crassly butch offerings. I’m guessing a fair few of these buyers are female, seduced by its woody greenery in the same way that women are drawn to the many variations on vetiver.

It’s the stand-alone brilliance of a perfume such as Chanel’s No 5 which is celebrating 101 years (from £65 for 35ml, boots.com), Guerlain’s Shalimar, 97 years (£64 for 30ml, johnlewis.com) and Clinique’s Aromatics Elixir, 51 years (£35 for 45ml, johnlewis.com) that makes us crave them — their originality and exquisite weirdness, if you will. And nothing will ever out-flank them.

RACE YOU TO IT

The Beauty Chef Glow Ageless Inner Beauty Essential (£48 for 30 doses, cultbeauty.co.uk) has been selling up a storm since it launched in Britain two weeks ago. A beauty powder created for fiftysomething women, it is full of good bacteria, helping to burn fat, build muscle tissue, and give skin and hair new life via an optimised gut.

 

MY ICON OF THE WEEK

KEELEY HAWES 

For the 46-year-old actress, most recently seen in BBC nailbiter Crossfire, make-up artist Rosie Octon favours Nars Smooth & Protect Primer SPF50 (£30, lookfantastic.com)

For the 46-year-old actress, most recently seen in BBC nailbiter Crossfire, make-up artist Rosie Octon favours Nars Smooth & Protect Primer SPF50 (£30, lookfantastic.com) and Chantecaille Future Skin Foundation (£64.80, libertylondon.com). Plus a swipe of By Terry Mascara Terrybly Growth Booster Mascara (£28, lookfantastic.com). 

DARK SPOT BUSTERS

With fruit extracts and natural brighteners.

£15 for members, £50 for non-members, beautypie.com)

 

 

From the queen of ‘does what it says on the tin’ beauty, this minimises the appearance of brown patches.

spacenk.com 

 

A gel-like serum, alpha arbutin is a safe, brightening ingredient that cuts melanin production.

boots.com 

An investment for former sunbathers, this super-selling vitamin C serum reduces pigmentation.

skinceuticals.co.uk 

Prevent further dark spots with this lightweight shield.

boots.com 

 

COSMETIC CRAVING 

ZARA Eye Shadows Duos (£11.99 each, zara.com) are pure eye inspiration. One might go neutral with Non Plus and Power, a golden beige and mid-brown, or take flight with the vivid yellow and grass-green of Bonjour and ­Vermont. As ever, with Zara’s slap, the price is competitive, the quality impressive: each shade is highly-pigmented, long-lasting and non-irritating. Or create your own palette of six hues from 24 options in matte, metallic and glitter finishes for £26.44. With you doing the picking, no slot will go unused. Then it’s refillable at £3.99 a tile. My 2022 medley comprises stormy midnights, mauves and greens, offset by a highlighting white.

zara.com 

 

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