Karen Walker Fragrance Launch & Interview Excitement!

Karen Walker launched three new fragrances, starting in New Zealand – and Ever So Scrumptious was invited to try the scents and meet Karen Walker herself.

For international style-lovers, Karen Walker brings fresh, wearable Antipodean quirkiness, especially with her successful eyewear line. For style-conscious New Zealanders, Karen Walker is the gateway to investment style with “accessible luxury”. Karen Walker jewelry is often the first silver or gold piece a young woman owns. And now the brand has branched out into another area of accessible luxury with fragrances.

Fun out front at Karen Walker for Kirckaldie and StainesThe fragrance launch event in Wellington was everything fabulous about style in New Zealand. Cheerful redheads flourished giant balloon letters to greet us, making our day more surreal. Inside, several stands with the three perfumes awaited us, with vivid cards for spraying samples. There was a sparkle of excitement amongst the handful of people, always renewed, who waited in a loose queue to meet Karen Walker in person. Where else is a globally famous designer going to be so accessible?

Karen was polished and relaxed, pausing to grab shopping bags to package up inflatables, or to hand out macarons to astonished fans.

Karen Walker serving up macarons at the launch of her new fragrances in Wellington

Karen Walker clearly felt at home in Wellington

A little rough-voiced after chatting with well-wishers and fans for two and a half hours, Karen made the time for a short interview with me about the fragrances.[Read more]


Jo Malone Boutique Launch and Giveaway!

More fragrance adventures! This Tuesday, I was invited to attend the launch of the Jo Malone fragrance pop-up boutique at Kirkcaldie and Staines here in Wellington. Of course, I went!

They’ve carved a corner out of the second floor of Kirk’s. It’s not the the serene sanctuary of the Jo Malone boutique in Auckland, but it is enough room for the full Jo Malone range, and it’s next to the cafe to allow time to make fragrance decisions. We were pampered with flutes of bubbles or juice, delicate canapes chosen to offset the fragrances, and the soothing tones of a harpist.

MaloneLaunch-partyThe full Jo Malone range was there -26 fragrances and additional home scents for candles and diffusers.


The full Jo Malone fragrance line within reach

Based on the crowd, the powers that be might have underestimated Wellington’s appetite for Jo Malone. Tuesday night, after two days of operation, they had already sold out of the Cologne Intense of Tuberose Angelica.


A tremendous crowd around the Jo Malone brand ambassador (center, floral dress)

In the Jo Malone line, the standard colognes have fewer notes than other lines – the idea is that you combine and layer two or three of the colognes to create your own scent. But I enjoy a simple fragrance with clear notes, and I think they’re very wearable on their own, especially in New Zealand.


The promise of elegance in serried ranks of bottles – the 30ml sprays are well within reach

I asked the Jo Malone acolytes what they would recommend for…

  • Someone just getting started with fragrance? The clean and crisp international favorite of the line, Lime Basil Mandarin.
  • Someone femme? “Peony and Blush Suede layered with Wood Sage and Sea Salt.”
  • Someone intense and edgy? One of the Cologne Intense line. These seem to be less for layering – even on the sample slip they were oily and strong. Once sprayed on the skin, these weren’t going anywhere.

Blue Agave and Cocoa wasn’t in the forefront but it’s the sample slip I keep coming back to. Wood Sage and Sea Salt is just made for New Zealand. And there’s a green tomato scented candle??


Trying to choose a scent diffuser: challenge accepted

I look forwards to going back to revisit some of these – the pop-up boutique is open until the end of December. Mark Conroy (our scent sommelier from here) also says that there are going to be some other interesting new fragrances launched at Kirk’s in the lead up to Christmas.

Thanks to the Jo Malone brand ambassador I have a FABULOUS giveaway for you – a boxed Pomegranate Noir candle. MaloneLaunch_candleThis is 200 grams of lush, ripe fragrance deliciousness with a 45 hour burn time. I will be selecting the winner at random this Friday night. To be in to win, leave a comment on this post telling me when you would light up this candle. Getting ready for a glam night out? A romantic night in? A decadent party? Telling sad, romantic ghost stories?

The winner will be selected at random from the comments. You can enter until 6 PM Friday the 10th, New Zealand time. This giveaway is only for people with a New Zealand mailing address.

The only problem with the Jo Malone approach emerged later in the evening. I was at a gathering of friends. Someone said, “You smell nice. What perfume are you wearing?” And, after the fragrance layering, the answer was complicated…

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Fragifert Fragrance in Wellington, NZ

In late September,with the Capital! Steampunk group, I spent an hour and a half at Fragifert: a small, exquisite boutique perfumery in Wellington. It was a wonderful way to beguile a rainy, early spring afternoon.


Francesco van Eerd, the master perfumer at Fragifert, shows us German camomile extract – which is naturally blue!

For visitors, Fragifert is conveniently located at the top of the Kelburn cable car next to the Botanic Gardens. To Wellington perfumistas, I say: don’t be dismayed by its tourist-target location. Visitors make Fragifert sustainable as a business, but behind the fantastical Victorian displays is a deep love and knowledge of perfume as an art. Francesco van Eerd, the perfumer and proprietor, has studied in Europe and got started in Wellington’s markets before establishing his salon and expanding his range.

Van Eerd enjoys visitors, and gave us a tour and shared a video of the Fragifert concept with us. Serious perfumistas were delighted by the distilling technology, and felt our fingers itch when we looked at his “perfumer’s organ” desk.


Fragifert’s recreation of a “perfume organ” – the classic center for composing and creating scents from base notes.

You can have a sample…but you need to work for it by getting 4 out of 7 results right in an interactive fragrance quiz! We worked our way through the scents hiding in the bell jars on the wall. I was shocked to only get the minimum number right, as was my botanically knowledgeable partner.


A friend who won a sample after running the fragrance gauntlet.

Scented paper slips awaited us, but many of the fragrances underwent a profound transformation on our skins. Our favorites were the seasonal Autumn and Winter scents, velvety Satrape, and the newer men’s scents. The on-note single botanicals also had their fans. Violet and carnation spurred us to discuss popular Victorian perfumes. “This lilac! It smells exactly like the lilac growing outside my window when I was a little girl.”

For our group, Fragifert’s most controversial scent of all was the gorse botanical fragrance. “Oh, I love this. It smells like summer.” “I HATE this – it reminds me of cutting gorse, that’s a pig of a job!” We detected the warm note of gorse in the Autumn scent.


Prepared fragrance slips: a great way to share many scents with a group of 15 people.

Capital!Steampunk dressed for the occasion – between the rain and the fact that I had just come from a photo shoot for a web client, I didn’t. We were all welcome, though those who were in their steampunk finery looked perfect in the jewel-box of a shop. Afterwards, everyone was invited by Capital!Steampunk to a hotel high tea.


I was sadly short of photos of steampunk attendees on the day, but here’s a handsome couple, with the lady in red the mistress-mind of Steaming Stiches and Elisabeth vM.

Fragifert is launching a unique, custom-distilled NZ botanical range later this Antipodean spring, and provides perfumer’s workshops if you want to make your own unique scent. I’m going to sound like a commercial here but with the holidays coming, Fragifert’s scents are great unique gifts to send overseas in small packages. Important now that NZ Post has raised their rates, and now that I have bombarded my relatives and friends with fifteen years’ worth of merino, tinned butter, wildlife and plant magnets, and other Kiwiana.


More fanciful Fragifert furbelows


Fragrance Exploration: Accessory and Perfume Swap

The second part of our fragrance day, an accessory and perfume swap, was an intriguing glimpse into how perfumistas and the Internet have changed the cultivated edges of a beauty industry. First, let me announce our giveaway winner, chosen at random – Hester! Thank you everyone!

So what is it like to throw a fragrance and accessory swap? The swap came together naturally, with Made Marion Craft hosting us at their store and a local fragrance appreciator sharing her knowledge of how to sample perfumes. On the swap afternoon, we had a table of necklaces, other jewelry, scarves, gloves,and hats; some shoes; a merry widow; four full-to-1/4-full bottles of fragrance; and about 150 perfume and fragrance oil samples.

I'll have this one and this one and this one....

This is what 150 perfume samples looks like.

150 samples? Whaaaat? Allow me to explain.

These sample vials, ranging from 0.5 to 2 ml of fragrance, are what enable today’s online perfume fans. You can acquire samples and “decants” from most online fragrance vendors and there are two or three places that will send you samples from thousands of fragrance lines – all for a price, of course. But that price is modest compared to buying a full bottle of all those scents  ($2 to $6, depending). (Surrender to Chance is the favorite amongst NZ buyers; Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab was one of the originators of this practice.)

These samples are now a kind of currency amongst fragrance fans, and they are swapped or sold on for modest sums. The more rare, artisanal, and complex the sample, the more the perfumistas are intrigued. Once in a while, a sample leads to a full bottle purchase – which is often decanted in part to share with one’s fragrance friends. Fragrance producers large and small, realizing this, have gotten a lot tighter about handing out fragrance samples – I noted this comparing my NYC shopping trips in 2011 and 2013. At the same time this has given a boost to artisanal and unusual fragrance producers – their works are now mailed around the world. Many smaller producers, and I’m using BPAL as an example here again, have bloomed thanks to these samples and related e-commerce.

So we were all rapt for a demonstration of how to decant perfumes into samples ourselves, using a combination of decanting supplies and scientific equipment. Our demonstrator, Alison, took us through three methods: using disposable droppers, using small funnels, and using a scientific pipetting kit. Use recycled styrofoam to hold your sample vials in place, and tinfoil to make an improvised funnel!

The happy miscellaney of sampling fragrances: styrofoam, tinfoil, disposable droppers, travel bottles.

When swap time came, the 150 samples were like a bunch of flowers to some very avid honeybees. The jewelry and even the partial bottles were neglected for the sample box and bowl. During the swap, there wasn’t much perfume in the air – it wasn’t the best time to open the sample vials.

Jewelry started attracting attention again at the end of the swap, and the shy question was: “It’s OK if I take this apart and remake it?” Of course it was! Send it forth to find its destiny! With this answered in the affirmative, the remaining jewelry was swiftly reduced by half.

Was a fragrance swap a good idea? Yes. The biggest challenge in throwing a real-time fragrance swap in a smaller metropolitan area was getting enough perfume aficionados informed, then in the same place, at the same time. A couple of people said they’d be up for an accessory swap but were allergic to fragrances.

What’s up next for fragrance exploration in Wellington? In the springtime, another swap probably, and we are looking at a visit to Fragifert – I look forwards to trying their NZ botanical perfumes.

Wierdly my camera now smells like perfume after this weekend

If you’re sampling lots of fragrances to share, you may want rubber gloves!

The lovely Bridgette

Fragrance Exploration, Wellington: Kirckaldie and Staines + Mecca

This past Sunday, a group of ardent perfume fans descended on Wellington’s most venerable department store, Kirckaldie and Staines. We were there to sniff, share, and experience a range of fragrances while bouncing opinions and experiences off each other. We were very fortunate, because Kirk’s had set up an hour’s perfume encounter for us, and we also experienced fragrances at the Mecca Cosmetica area of Kirk’s cosmetics floor.

Even at 10 AM on the Sunday morning after Daylight Savings, there was still a crowd waiting to get into Kirk’s. Some of us were soignee; I was tired and blinky. We were met by the front door fountain by Mark Conroy, a tall, blue-eyed, career fragrance expert. He greeted us all smoothly, blinky and beautiful alike, and invited us in. We trooped past the space-age lighting of the cosmetic area to Kirk’s fragrance department, and the fun began.

The fragrances of history, waiting for us at Kirkcaldie’s


Mark Conroy prepares a scent strip for our delectation


“No, wait – smell it on my wrist!” Coffee beans to the right, scent strips everywhere.

After listening to our group and getting an idea of who we were, Mark took us through classic French scents from Chanel, YSL, Guerlain, and more. “It’s good to smell some of these as reference notes,” said Mark, handing around slips of paper sprayed with Mitsouko and Chanel No. 19. “The Italians have a very different approach to scent,” he noted, handing around Acqua di Parma, which I fell in love with instantly. Thanks to Mark, by the end of the hour, I’d learned that while I  like the idea of a “green” perfume, I’m more drawn to perfumes with a citrus or amber note and a woody base. In between sniffs, we refreshed our noses by smelling… coffee beans!

The lovely Bridgette

Sampling scent strips – the way to try

Just as marvelous as the perfumes was being able to share them with like-minded people.* Suggestions and ideas and personal perfume histories were shared. “You know what you’d really like? Can we try…?” I gained a sense of how perfumes really do act differently on different skins, and how they express personality and a subtler sense of beauty. And I learned about scrubbers – perfumes you can’t wait to scrub off your skin!

We wrapped up with some more modern fragrances, such as the Elie Saab line – extremely popular right now, but very different from the weighty classic scents. We started asking about prices – and we were agreeably surprised. Kirk’s fragrance range has become more affordable thanks to some international market changes. Some standouts from our hour of exploration:

  • Bvlgari Blue –  One of us said,  “This is what I wear when I need to wake up on a dismal winter’s morning.” It starts out as GINGER and more ginger, and dries down beautifully.
  • 24 Faubourg by Hermes – I was very taken with the cashmere-sweater-nuzzleable quality of this, along with the markedly pretty bottle. As the blogger Perfume Queen says about this fragrance, “Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you the smell of money and happiness.”
  • Miss Dior Originale by Dior  – Several of us were smitten with this revived classic. Mark told us the charming story of how the fragrance was created for Dior’s sister.
  • Thierry Mugler Angel – One of several love-or-hate ones, this elicited long stories about when-I-wore-Angel and the comment “This smells like…like the sound of a 90s modem.”
  • French travel perfume bottles – Kirk’s stocks leakproof travel perfume bottles in two shapes. Transfer some of your favorite into these to take it with you securely. High-end yet affordable, most of us picked up one or more of these.

Getting ready to fill a travel perfume spray straight from the fragrance bottle. How cool is that?? The narrow pen-like shape is airport security friendly, too.

After one more hit of coffee beans to clear our sinuses, we went over to Mecca, ten yards away on Kirk’s first floor. The lovely Charlotte gave us a review of their perfume lines. Standouts from our Mecca visit were:

When store lighting and outdoors lighting collide, we all look like lemons

Getting ready to sniff some more at Mecca Cosmetica with Charlotte (left).

At the end of our visit, perfumes and travel perfume bottles were bought, and notes were taken away for future purchases. “I don’t really buy a fragrance the first time I smell it,” one of us declared. That’s why, even in the age of the Internet, the glass-and-light perfume counter is still the place to go, and for those of us introduced to perfumes online, there’s nothing like getting together with like-minded souls.

"Suede and peaches, you say?"

Sniffing thoughtfully with friends: what the morning was about.

For those of you who weren’t able to make it, and who live in New Zealand, I have a little giveaway. Courtesy of Kirk’s and Mecca, comment below, here on the blog, to be in to win:

  • A voucher for a complimentary makeup application at the cosmetic house of your choice at Kirkcaldie and Staines.
  • Nine carded/boxed perfume samples – Si by Giorgio Armani, Miss Dior by Dior, MaDame by Jean Paul Gaultier, Coco by Coco Chanel, Pleats Please by Issey Miyake, Eau de Sisley 1 by Sisley, Calyx by Clinique, and (drumroll please) two Serge Luteyns samples – L’Eau Serge Lutens and Chergui.

A random selection generator will be used to choose the winner, who will be announced this Friday.

SUPER thanks to Kirk’s – they were absolutely delightful all the way and treated us magnificently. I’ll be back, once my bank account has recovered.

Kirkcaldie and Staines, YOU ROCK.

The fragrance team at Kirkcaldie and Staines – we weren’t posing, this just happened.


*It’s not all women – several men were interested in the event, but couldn’t make it.

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Fragrance Explorer Day – April 6th

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For those of us in Wellington, I have put together a Fragrance Explorer Day, on Sunday, April 6th. I was inspired by seeing how much fun fragrance lovers overseas have at events like Sniffapalooza and perfume master classes.


Discussing the event with several fragrance-loving friends, and with some friendly retailers, I’ve done my best to keep it accessible and interesting. The morning is shopping-oriented, and the afternoon is dedicated to a demonstration and a swap. And there wil be time for people to just talk and get to know each other. Some people are signed up in advance – serious fragrance aficionados. Some of us are into vintage and “rescued” scents. Everybody over 18 of all genders is welcome to attend.

10 AM – 11:30 AM – An in-depth hosted visit to Kirkcaldie and Staines with a fragrance talk, followed by sampling their selection of Guerlain, Chanel, and Estee Lauder scents, and exploring their Mecca Cosmetica fragrance area. This is free! Plus, if you choose to acquire a Kirk’s fragrance on the day you will receive a gift with purchase. Please sign up ASAP for the Kirk’s visit – this is strictly limited to 15 people, and only 10 places are left. Use the form below to sign up!

11:30 to 2:00 PM – Rest your nose, stop by a cafe for lunch with us, and we might sniff in at one or two other places.

2:00 PM – At Made on Marion Craft, there will be a fragrance and accessory swap. The swap starts with a fragrance sampling/pipetting demonstration to help us share our perfumes, and the swap itself begins at 2.30. The swap has a koha (cash donation) entry that will be donated 100% to Women’s Refuge Wellington.

Swap items will be tallied up for swap credit. You are welcome to bring: perfumes, fragrance oils, costume jewelry, bags, scarves, hats, and gloves. Perfume samples and partially used/tried fragrances are welcome. The swap is limited to 30 – 35 people – again, use the form below to sign up.

Note: Your contact information is confidential and I will not distribute Fragrance Explorer information to anyone for commercial purposes.

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Saturday Follies: Silk and Perfume

Some links! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

A thought-provoking essay on beauty, grooming,  and how this translates to “emotional work” in a partnership.Thanks to Already Pretty for the link.

Already Pretty also has a great piece on how sleeve length impacts your look. I’m so pleased that sleeves are returning to summer garments after our long fashion nightmare.

Silk top on sale at House of Fraser. I fear I’m too short for it, but maybe you?

Another trend that pleases me: silk garments. This fashion trend is cycling  through to thrift stores super-fast, because people don’t know how to take care of their silk garments without drycleaning. Here’s instructions on how to handwash silk. The darker/more vivid a silk garment is, the less you should wash it.

Attention online Antipodean shoppers: House of Fraser in the UK, a large department store, is having a 70% sale on their summer stock AND their shipping is 10 pounds flat. I like the bohemian-romantic East dresses and the geometric Mary Portas line.

Current obsession: queer French perfumer Germaine Cellier. “Cellier infamously dedicated Fracas ~a voluptuous tuberose scent conceived for “femmes”~ to the beautiful Edwige Feuillère, while she promised the butcher Bandit to the “dykes”.” There is no historical roman a clef about her…why? This means I have to write it. I owe this new obsession to two friends, one the dame who thrust the book Perfume: The Story of a Murderer into my hands and said, “You have to read this,” and the other the damsel behind Unseen Censer, who sent me Cellier’s leather-and-violets scent Jolie Madame.