Mumbai is probably not the first name that pops into your mind when you think of perfumes. Unless ‘Mithi River ammonia’ and ‘local train sweat’ qualify as fragrances. And yet, Paris-based Neela Vermeire has dedicated one of the three perfumes launched under her eponymous label, to the city.
“The perfume Bombay Bling is an ode to contemporary India. We wanted to make it similar to fireworks — where the fruit notes give the wearer an immense boost. It has been called ‘an anti-depressant in a bottle’,” Vermeire says, speaking of the fragrance that is composed of mango, lychee, cumin and tobacco notes.
Vermeire admits paying homage to an ancient country like India was not easy. “I wanted to express my deep connection with India through perfumes, a love letter to the country. Paying a tribute is not something one can do without giving it a lot of thought.”
While Vermeire is actively looking for local partners to expand her small-scale operation to its muse country, Swedish perfumer Ben Gorham has created Encens Chembur under his niche label, Byredo. Crafted to capture the memories of his picnic trip to the once-lush green spot where his Indian mother was born and raised, Encens Chembur contains notes of lemon, ginger and, interestingly, temple incense.
The trend of using India as inspiration for fragrances is not limited to perfumers of Indian origin. When luxury label Hermès made their maiden foray into the country, they timed it with the launch of Un Jardin Apres La Mousson.
According to Bertrand Michaud, president, Hermès India, “In 2008, we celebrated the year of India, for which Jean-Claude Ellena paid tribute with this fragrance. After spending months in Kerala, he was enamoured with the very unique scent of a garden after the rains — a combination of hot spices and cool water. This was translated into a floral yet spicy perfume.”
Other popular desi fragrances
*The house of Christian Dior launched Escale A Pondicherry, an ode to the former French colony. As Kalyani Chawla, vice-president, Christian Dior Couture India, says, “The fragrance does very well for its fresh fragrance made of jasmine, which is particular to India and is light enough for our kind of weather.”
* Perfume giant Guerlain’s Shalimar was created by Jacques Guerlain in 1921, and remains a bestseller.
* Kenzo launched Amour Indian Holi in 2008.
* Niche label Serge Lutens has Santal de Mysore to their credit.