Bored with the humourless mindset on planet fragrance, the Escentric Molecules dudes got together with a couple of like-minded rebel souls, perfumers Bertrand Duchaufour and Mark Buxton and decided to do something crazy together. Something really crazy. So they invented a gang of three fragrance-brewing avatars, wild-eyed mixologist-cowboys, and let them run free in a fantasy Wild West of limitless creativity and maxxed-out sensory overload...
Or to put it another way, these guys just wanna have fun.
What’s different about Project Renegades, first, is that it is created by bona fide perfumers, the kind who trained over years at the prestigious European perfume schools. These dudes know their onion from their ionones.
What's different about them, second, is that they are taking their specialist skills to the wild side. When the artists take over the laboratory it means they can make the things they want to make with no focus groups to keep things boring. They can get on with mixing up challenging, beautiful works of their olfactory imaginations. They can use a high proportion of the natural materials that are priced out of most commercial scents nowadays.
They can get totally out of control with the design of the bottles. A fridge magnet mascot of each renegade’s avatar appears on his fragrance. Whether he has Colt pistols for ears or a Stetson mutating into a cactus – these gunslingers are a long way from your regular bottle design.
And they take these avatars wherever they want to take them, like a mind-expanding fictional world where they can run riot. Hit ‘Panosmia’ to be transported to the psychedelic alt universe of Project Renegades one nail-biting instalment at a time.
“Renegades isn’t edgy, it’s over the edge.”
“Renegades is about playing around, not taking ourselves too seriously.”
“Fragrances aren't daring enough. We are the freaks who are going to change that.”
Buck trends this is Project Renegades
Three perfume pioneers who have always been at the cutting edge are spurring scent into bold new territory, both online and off the beaten track
HOW COME PERFUME IS GETTING SO BORING?
Every time they hung out together, this was the question perfumers and friends Geza Schoen, Mark Buxton and Bertrand Duchaufour ended up asking each other.
The three are known as mavericks, pioneers of the niche fragrance trend that has revolutionised the fragrance world. “We’ve been fragrance outlaws for 20 years,” says Mark. “We left the mainstream and caught the new wave right from the start and it felt like liberation.”
COMME DES GARÇONS, FORERUNNER OF A COOL NEW TREND
In fact, it was one of Mark’s scents, Comme des Garçons’ Eau de Parfum, that many consider the forerunner of niche fragrance. In an era of conventional fashion-led scents, Comme des Garçons offered ideas that were cool, conceptual and paid little mind to commercial constraints.
Eau de Parfum was the first to appear in 1994. It came with the tagline “works like a medicine and behaves like a drug” and smelt to some like a surrealist curry, to others like a medicinal rubdown. Comme des Garçons 2, also made by Mark, continued in the conceptual vein. His brief for it was to create the scent of a swimming-pool of black ink. His next, Comme des Garçons 2 Man, a smoky incense, was described by Chandler Burr, the perfume critic of The New York Times as smelling of “clean, pressed fire, if you can imagine such a thing”. It’s also, Burr added, “one of the 10 greatest works of perfumery art in the world.”
ESCENTRIC MOLECULES CAPTURES THE ZEITGEIST
Mark, Geza and Bertrand all trained within the handful of fragrance manufacturers that between them make almost all scents, no matter what the name on the bottle. That classic perfumer education is long, rigorous and unbeatable. That's the upside.
The downside comes once you start working as a fully-fledged perfumer. “That corporate world stifles creativity,” says Geza. “Some of the really good stuff never gets out. A lot of the mediocre stuff does. If you want to do something really new, really different, you have to go and do it yourself.”
In 2002, he did just that. Settling for a while in London, he made scents for small, quirky British brands such as Ormonde Jayne and Clive Christian and worked over several years with avant-garde British fashion house, Boudicca to create their fiercely individual scent, Wode.
In 2006 he launched his own brand, Escentric Molecules with Escentric 01, a blend of 19 ingredients designed to enhance lab-born molecule, Iso E Super; and Molecule 01, which contains nothing but pure Iso E Super. The super-minimalist approach resonated with the zeitgeist and Escentric Molecules rapidly grew into a cult. As Michelyn Camen of Cafleurebon puts it: “Geza made chemistry sexy”.
“Geza had this idea for a wild ride. He got together with his mates and we just took off with it.”
MEN’S PERFUME? WOMEN’S PERFUME? I JUST WANT REAL PERFUME
It was the desire to put the best materials at the heart of fragrance that drove Bertrand. “I realised that what you get from the big players isn’t really perfumes at all. Real perfumes are too expensive for them to make,” he says. “What you get instead are simulacra of fragrances. That is not the way I want to work. Similarly, I am not interested in categorising fragrances into men’s and women’s. What’s that all about? I just want to make them real.”
Since he went solo, Bertrand has become the go-to guy for niche brands, making perfumes for Jo Malone, Acqua di Parma, Eau d’Italie, and a select few for Jean-Claude Ellena’s label, The Different Company. His closest relationship is with L’Artisan Parfumeur, for whom he has produced a list of iconoclasts such as Timbuktu, Dzongkha and Aedes de Venustas, the kind of scents that led Chandler Burr to call him “an expert in shadows” and “a living Old Master of scent”.