It’s almost All Hallows’ Eve, which means a run on black nail polish and lipstick at cosmetic counters everywhere. But there’s another beauty area that is having a noir-ish moment: fragrance. Strange as it may sound, the perfume industry is being flooded by “black” scents with an appropriately dark, intense air.
The most literal example of the trend is Lady Gaga’s Fame (£55 for 100ml), a black liquid that transmutes into transparency on contact with skin (although the smell itself, a very saccharine, Ribena-like concoction, is perhaps less than desirable). Then there’s Tom Ford’s velveteen Noir (£60 for 50ml), Givenchy’s more mainstream woody floral Dahlia Noir (£42 for 30ml) and Chanel’s oriental Coco Noir (£75 for 50ml Eau De Parfum) – not to mention niche noirs such as Lyn Harris’s exclusive Marks and Spencer edition Le Noir (£25 for 50ml Eau De Parfum), Byredo’s saturnine and leathery Black Saffron (£130 for 100ml) and Serge Lutens’ sublimely oriental Serge Noire (£83 for 50ml).
“We are getting much braver with fragrance and want something bolder and more distinct,” says Gina Ritchie, beauty buyer at Liberty’s, of the trend. “The fragrance industry has been transformed by the influence of the Middle East, and the use of ingredients like oud and amber is now commonplace. But these fragrances are darker and heavier and take a lot of confidence to wear.”
James Craven, perfume archivist at Les Senteurs, says: “Black/noir perfumes sell well – especially in a niche environment. Black means traditional glamour, sophistication, elegance – but it’s also safe: ‘You can’t go wrong in black’. Black is traditionally well-dressed and chic in a classic Duchess of Windsor, Diana Vreeland, Jackie Kennedy way.”
And it is season-appropriate. Classic black scents such as Caron’s Narcisse Noir (£95 for 100ml) and Lancome’s Magie Noire (£59 for 75ml) always soar in popularity in inclement weather, speaking as they do of old Hollywood femme fatales in vintage fur wielding cigarette holders and gliding through foggy cityscapes. Mark Buxton, whose new fragrance Black Angel (£125 for 100ml), smells like something Marlene Dietrich might have worn, says he was inspired by the idea of deeper, darker, odours. “I conjured ‘blackness’ by using natural and rich products,” he explains. “Ingredients that have a dark personality for me include incense, vetiver, amber, patchouli, animalic notes and styrax.”
Meanwhile Alessandro Gualtieri of Nasomatto, whose Black Afgano (£108 for 30ml) is both peppery and powdery, says of the scent, “I made it to evoke the best qualities of hashish; it was a quest to arouse the effects of temporary bliss.”
But perfume blogger Victoria Frolova who edits the Bois De Jasmin blog, is sceptical. “Noir may be a marketing tactic, a glamorous concept in words only,” she says. “The bestselling commercial/mainstream fragrances are never really dark and rich. There are so many comfortable, second skin fragrances that are cropping up – Costume National So Nude (£70 for 50ml), Dsquared2 Potion (£45 for 50ml) – that I think the new mainstream trend after noir may be beige.”
Craven disagrees: “I think black will last, if just as a niche trend. Narcisse Noir was created 101 years ago and is still going strong. It set the trend: this mythical flower, perverse, exotic, erotic, dangerous.”
Gualtieri says: “I don’t think black or noir fragrances are limited to a specific period. There have been black magic, film noir and many more examples of ‘darkness’ around for thousands of years.”
www.boots.com (Lady Gaga Fame stockist)
www.marksandspencer.com (Lyn Harris stockist)