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The Renegades Fragrances

 

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.


The Gang

Bertrand Duchaufour

Bertrand Duchaufour - Project Renegades

“Renegades isn’t edgy, it’s over the edge.”

Bertrand is perfumer-in-residence at L’Artisan Parfumeur. He also specialises in working with other niche brands such as Acqua de Parma, The Different Company, Comme des Garçons and Penhaligon’s. He works from his laboratory in Paris.

Geza Schoen

Geza Schoen - Project Renegades

“Renegades is about playing around, not taking ourselves too seriously.”

Geza is the creator of Escentric Molecules, often referred to as the ‘anti-fragrance fragrance brand’, and of The Beautiful Mind Series, scents that celebrate women for their brains, not just their bodies. He works from his own laboratory in Berlin.

Mark Buxton

Mark Buxton - Project Renegades

“Fragrances aren't daring enough. We are the freaks who are going to change that.”

Mark is the perfumer most associated with Comme des Garçons. He created their first fragrance, Eau de Parfum, and went on to mastermind many others in the iconoclastic Comme range. He has his own brand, Mark Buxton Collection, and is a partner in Perfarium, which develops fragrances for private labels. He works from his own laboratory in Paris.

Bertrand Duchaufour - Kaleidoscope - Project Renegades
Geza Schoen - Kaleidoscope - Project Renegades
Mark Buxton - Kaleidoscope - Project Renegades

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.”

Mark Buxton

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”.

FROM BEAUTIFUL MINDS TO THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

And so the three friends ran gleefully amok, three bulls in a china-shop, smashing the rules with leftfield accords and free-spirited concepts.

Geza dreamt up The Beautiful Mind Series as a slap in the face to the cynical money-machine that is celebrity scents. Bertrand worked with Meadham Kirchhoff on pop-kitsch potion, Tralala and on scents for Comme des Garçons’ iconic series, Leaves and Sherbert. Mark launched his own house, Mark Buxton Perfumes, and collaborated with Preen to produce Teen Spirit under the Six Scents Fragrance Initiative. He made Vetiver 46 for Le Labo, and L’Air de Panache for Wes Anderson’s movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Geza worked with Wolfgang Georgsdorf on an olfactory organ invented by the artist to play scent symphonies, and collaborated with a pair of trolls (plus Icelandic artist Egill Sæbjörnsson) to make a trollfume for the Icelandic pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

These were the years of ‘peak niche’ when everything from the bonkers to the beautiful was permitted. But then something happened… All the creativity, all the originality, that crazy edge, began to dry up. Instead of being innovative, niche started to become… boring.

“I am a partner in the Nose boutique in Paris, where I have to smell a lot of niche fragrances to see what’s new,” says Mark. “And I began to notice so much saminess. People are copying each other, or bringing out series, you know, my Jasmine, my Orange Flower, my Rose… OK, but so what? If we stop being daring in niche, then we are going nowhere.

GEZA SCHOEN GOES PSYCHEDELIC

Then Geza had an idea. A bit of a crazy idea.

“One night we were hanging out and Geza challenged Mark and me to join up with him and form a gang of rebel noses,” says Bertrand. “He wanted to have some fun with his mates, kick ideas around and do something daring. Something above all, psychedelic.

Project Renegades was born. “The three of us have the same way of thinking about perfumery. No limits,” explains Mark. “And that includes no price restrictions. In commercial products you can be set a brief where you have to produce a fragrance for €8. The only natural ingredient you can throw in for that price is if you piss in the bottle. With Renegades, it’s the opposite. We don’t care what these fragrances cost to make. We put our dream materials in there. This is for love.

“You know how humourless fragrance can be?” adds Geza. “We’re headin’ out West, galloping away from all that corporate bullshit. So we have three fragrances with no caps, but with these fridge magnet cartoon-heads plonked on the front that are so ridiculous and so big we had to have special boxes made to fit them. I love that. It’s completely off the wall. If Renegades is about anything, it’s about this, not taking ourselves too seriously.”

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