We’ve rounded up the most iconic scents that rocked the world of designer perfumery. These scents define “cult classic.”
Chanel No. 5
Auspiciously named after Coco Chanel’s lucky number, Chanel No.5 is recognised as the most coveted scent by women all over the globe. All it took to skyrocket the scent to fame was a short interview in 1954 featuring Marilyn Monroe. When asked what she wore to bed, she replied: “Why, Chanel No.5, of course.”
It is quite hard to not to fall in love with the perfume dubbed as ‘the absolute femininity’ by Dior. The classic fragrance has been described as ‘a flower that doesn’t exist, an ideal’ by its very own mastermind, François Demachy. It starts off with ylang-ylang from the Comoros, followed by the warm notes of Damascus rose, jasmine grandiflorum from Grasse, orange blossom and finally, Indian jasmine sambac – the flower of the gods – for an incredibly sensual finish.
What could be a more appropriate name for a perfume inspired by the timeless love story behind the Taj Mahal? The answer is simple: Shalimar. The word itself directly translates to ‘Abode of Love’ in Sanskrit. Inspired by the undying devotion Mughal emperor Shah Jahan had for his beloved wife Mumtaz, Jacques Guerlian poured a sample of vanillin into a nearby bottle of Jicky. The result is the first oriental fragrance in history, which the world today knows as Shalimar.
As the first unisex fragrance, it is no surprise that Guerlain’s Jicky gained the title of ‘the first modern perfume’. According to legend, this creation was named after a young woman Aimé Guerlain was enamoured with during his student days – and coincidentally, also the diminutive of his nephew, Jacques. The release of Jicky also marked the beginning of ‘emotive’ perfumery that aimed to stir emotions through a person’s sense of smell.
Yves Saint Laurent Opium
Named after the notorious drug, the release of Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium was met with a considerable amount of backlash during its launch in 1977. Despite all its controversies, the sensual perfume, which contains striking notes of mandarin, bergamot, myrrh, jasmine, and deep amber, remains a bestseller for the fashion house.
Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb
The whole idea behind the perfume, which took designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren three years to create, was to ‘spread a positive message through an explosion of flowers’. Unapologetically feminine and musky sweet, the perfume contains top notes of bergamot and mandarin; middle notes of sambac jasmine, freesia, centifolia rose and osmanthus; and base notes of patchouli, vanilla, praline, and amber.
Marc Jacobs Daisy
Inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby, Marc Jacobs decided to create a perfume in honour of his favourite character, Daisy Buchanan. Containing notes of wild strawberry, violet petals, gardenia, jasmine, birch, and cedar wood, the fragrance won the Fragrance Foundation’s FiFi Awards for Women’s Luxe Fragrance of the Year and Women’s Prestige Best Packaging in 2008.
Christian Dior named his very first perfume after his beloved younger sister Catherine, explaining: “With Miss Dior, I wanted to create a perfume scented with love.” A richly-layered, yet timeless scent, the parfum starts off with citrus top notes of Italian mandarin, followed by jasmine and Indonesia patchouli, before concluding with musk as the last trace of memory.
Chloé by Chloé
Chloé by Chloé is fresh, romantic, intimate, sensual, and confident all bottled up in one pretty packaging. The fashion house’s signature fragrance contains peony, rose petals, magnolia, cedar and ambergris – a truly feminine fragrance following in the footsteps of its namesake; the iconic fragrance, Chloé, created in 1975 by Karl Lagerfeld.
As one of the first modern fragrances marketed to both men and women, CK One was the talk of the town when it was first launched in 1994. After all, who could forget its gritty, ‘heroin-chic’ ads featuring a young Kate Moss? Controversy aside, this unisex scent had all the makings of a classic, with a refreshing bouquet of bergamot, cardamom, fresh pineapple, papaya, jasmine, violet, rose, nutmeg, and musk notes.
Anaïs Anaïs by Cacharel
Anaïs Anaïs by Cacharel is a throwback to 1970’s, thanks to its retro-chic packaging. With top notes of green hyacinth and honeysuckle, heart notes of lily, lily of the valley, jasmine, ylang-ylang, and rose and base notes of amber, incense, vetiver, sandalwood and musk, Anaïs Anaïs’ distinctive sweet, powdery scent heralded the start of the era of white scents during the decade.
Eau d’Hadrien by Annick Goutal
Considered by many to be the ideal summer fragrance, Annick Goutal’s Eau d’Hadrien still reigns in popularity thirty-six years after its release and even won the FiFi Award Hall of Fame in 2008. The pairing of its intense citrus notes with a woody base was inspired by Annick Goutal’s deep passion for Italy and the Tuscan landscape.
L’eau d’Issy by Issey Miyake
According to Issey Miyake, “The world’s most beautiful and purest scent, is the scent of water on a woman’s skin”. With this in mind, he went on to create L’eau d’Issy in 1992. Water was chosen as the essential element in the fragrance, followed by a complex blend of musky and woody tones; transparent notes of lotus, freesia, cyclamen and juicy melon, a middle note of peony, lily and carnation, and end notes of cedar, sandal, musk and amber – thus creating a unique aquatic floral scent which is “as clear as spring water”.
Magnolia Nobile by Acqua Di Parma
Inspired by the radiant noble fragrance of magnolia which symbolises a luminous and aristocratic femininity, Acqua Di Parma’s Magnolia Nobile from the Le Nobili collection is a scent that is delicate and intense all at the same time. It opens with crystalline notes of bergamot, lemon and citron, blending into a rich floral bouquet of magnolia, rose, jasmine and tuberose, before finally giving way to base notes of sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver and vanilla.
Bluebell by Penhaligon’s
Despite being created back in 1978, Penhaligon’s Bluebell is still a well-loved British classic. The fragrance has been worn as a signature scent by many notable female figures in the past, including former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the late Princess Diana, and Kate Moss. The perfume starts with the telltale earthy sweetness of hyacinth, rose, lily and jasmine at the heart. As it settles, the flowers give way to spicy clove and cinnamon and the unique textural base note of bittersweet galbanum.