The city of London inspires many things in its residents, but for most it’s unlikely to be a scent – or certainly not one you’d want to wear. Embracing the notion however is a seasoned creative and trend visionary from the beauty business who’s making it her mission to bring the vibrancy and diversity of London’s postcodes to life in fine fragrance. After 20 years working on the some of the world’s most influential make-up brands, from MAC and NARS to Laura Mercier and Bobbi Brown, Rebecca Goswell has teamed up with perfumer François Robert to launch Bex London, a capsule collection of four unisex fragrances blended to evoke places in the city.
SE1, for example, conjures up the Southbank’s historical links with the spice trade using cardamom and driftwood; while W1X uses sophisticated floral notes including white jasmine and violet to reflect the opulence of the West End. No wonder then that these elegant and eclectic aromas are fast becoming a must-have amongst fragrance aficionados. We asked Rebecca to reveal the secrets behind her success…
How did BEX London come about?
I’ve had a long obsession with fragrance, but abstract smells rather than the classics: rain on hot pavement, sun on skin, wet putty, damp cellar, metal, new banknotes (Hong Kong dollars are best!), and Hampstead Heath tube station, which actually smells of 1970’s London Underground.
Why the fascination with London?
I was researching the inner city urban expressionist scene across fashion, art, music and print, and loved the immediacy and energy of creativity at that time. I thought how amazing and unique it would be to capture the true character of London, not as a metropolis but as a collection of individual villages. The idea that you can have a picnic in Richmond Park with deer running through the grass like the African savannah, then within ten miles be shooting an advert in an old shipping container overlooking the Thames in the Docklands is amazing. I don’t think any other city can boast of such diversity or inspiration.
Tell us about your collaboration with François Robert…
I believe in happy coincidences in life. I walked into my office one day and was brought into a meeting with the charming François, who was working on another fragrance project at the time. We discussed my brand and while he loved the concept, I wanted to make the whole line organic, to which he suggested that I call him once I had explored and rejected the natural approach. Once I got that out of my system, we started work on the four fragrances you see today.
How does each postcode become a scent?
With each fragrance I worked in a very visual way, as I do when I create my colour trends. I sent François a series of mood boards for the individual areas, which helped set the scene and give him a taste both for each postcode and for the fragrance references I wanted to use. For example, EC2 is in the City so gin and tonic and coins were central, and for SE1 on the Thames I thought of spices as well as lemons and limes.
Has being a niche brand been a challenge?
Bringing a brand to life is in itself a challenge when you do it on such a small scale, but the supreme challenge is to keep it exciting, new, with secure retail space and essentially sell more. I never appreciated how hard it was to break into retail in the UK as an independent brand – being taken seriously enough by buyers for them to take the risk. For niche brands, product development, production, promotion and marketing has been managed on a budget that is a fraction of what a traditional fine fragrance would cost to create and launch. But the independent brands put more emphasis on the quality, creativity and complexity of the juice, and it’s the juice that has to do the talking. We don’t have the finances to run ads in glossy magazines, but in a world where everything is accessible via the internet, people take time to seek out the rare and the considered.
What has been your Bex highlight so far?
I was recently in a cool and buzzing Soho eatery when a very stylish and striking woman walked past leaving a trail of W1X behind her. She so epitomised the woman I had in mind when I created that particular fragrance that it really moved me! When you create something as personal as perfume, you really do put your heart and soul into each one. It gets really emotional, but keeps things so vital!
What’s next for Bex London?
There are really exciting developments afoot. We are planning a fifth fragrance called SW1X, inspired by the tiny and exclusive Knightsbridge enclave of prime real estate running from the Mandarin Oriental and Harvey Nichols to 1 Hyde Park and Harrods. We’re also in the process of expanding to the rest of the UK, Europe and the USA, then a sixth summer fragrance lined up for launch early 2014… Watch this space!