I was in London a few months ago and met artist Sarah Baker in her studio, who also happens to have a perfume line. I had previously taken a peek at her range on the internet as you do and loved the concept of a perfume range inspired by fabrics. An Italian brand called Uermi had a similar idea although there is no overlap in their selections and their ethos is very different. Personally I’m a huge fan of leopard, lace and tartan in clothing so I was already intrigued by Sarah’s choices and collection. I also happened to love her Instagram profile photo. It’s Sarah as Laura Palmer. Oh yes that’s right, Sarah is also a Twin Peaks fan.
Sarah Baker, “As Laura Palmer,” 2011
Fortunately Sarah’s studio in London Fields was literally a hop, skip and a jump down the road from where I was staying and this part of London seems to be a creative hub. Sarah’s art and perfumes studio is a perfume lover’s dream with a range of fragrances displayed and perfume advertising ripped from magazines adorning the walls. There are mock up bottles of her own range around the area too. I really enjoyed being in her world and we had some biscuits and a chat. That part seemed very English, although if truth be told, Sarah is American. Sarah has been in London since her student days at Goldsmiths arts college and you can seek out more detail on her art projects here.
Sarah’s perfume wall by Megan In Sainte Maxime
Now onto the perfumes. Her range is composed of four fragrances: Lace, Leopard, Tartan and Greek Keys. Let’s talk about the bottles first. They are embossed with the named fabric and really pop in gold and black. Each box of perfume is adorned with a piece of fabric inside. Details people!
Sarah explained the composition and inspiration behind each perfume and on first encounter I gravitated towards Lace and Leopard. The fragrance that wasn’t really my cup of tea was Greek Keys, although Sarah mentioned that this is the pick for those taking their first steps out of a mainstream selection. I can imagine my son would love this one in a few years. Subsequent wearings of the fragrances on skin, revealed that I really enjoyed Tartan too, and I’m not sure why exactly it didn’t stand out on my first introduction to the range but it’s good.
Sarah has collaborated with two perfumers for her collection – Sarah McCartney and Ashley Eden-Kessler. Sarah McCartney you will probably know for her fantastic, quirky 4160 Tuesdays line of perfumes, along with a natural range called Modern Lives. Ashley Eden-Kessler is the consulting director of education at the Institute for Art & Olfaction.
Lace // Perfumer : Sarah McCartney // Year : 2017 // Notes : Musk, coconut, hedione, ambroxan, vanilla, calone, jasmine, cedar.
Bella Donna album cover, Wikipedia // Lace by Megan In Sainte Maxime
Lace is a flirty, summer breeze that I wore on hot balmy evenings this year. The overall vibe is a rather uncomplicated light jasmine with a coconut and cedar effect. Lace constructs a nice scent story, there’s a beach feel but not a suntan vibe, more light aquatic. I know many folk can’t bear coconut anything – in food, desserts or heaven forbid perfume, but here it’s a light touch so don’t be put off. I can’t imagine wearing this in the cooler months but it’s perfect for heat. To me this is the lightest perfume of the four, it’s an insouciant, pretty perfume that would actually be a great starter perfume. Since Sarah associated Lace with Stevie Nicks in her perfume description I have to say that I totally see her with this in her Fleetwod Mac days and in her more gypsy styled solo moments circa Bella Donna and Leather and Lace in particular. Think breezy 70’s and 80’s nights.
Leopard // Perfumer : Ashley Eden Kessler // Year : 2016 // Notes : Frankincense, black pepper, cardamom, galbanum, cassis, rose, violet, sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver, labdanum, cetalox, castoreum, beeswax, cashmeran, musk.
Leopard is a more complex and stronger fragrance as the name implies created by Ashley Eden Kessler. At this juncture, let’s have a small detour into leopard print in fashion. I confess that personally I’m a massive fan of leopard and animal print and have various iterations of the theme – shirts, dresses, t-shirts, jumpers, coats and jackets. It’s always been a bizarre hybrid of trashy and sophisticated. I’m thinking of the stylish Catherine Deneuve as a known lover of the print but also the more campish Joan Collins in full Dynasty era for a slightly more over the top version. As a brief aside I spotted Ms. Collins at the St Tropez markets once and she was simply magnificent, fully made up and did not disappoint in the style stakes – no leopard was on show though, more boho luxe. Other classic wearers of leopard print include Kate Moss, Joan Collins, Ann Bancroft (in The Graduate), Bettie Page and even Meryl Streep had a go too. Catherine Deneuve is who I most associate leopard print with, she’s a seasoned wearer. The thing with leopard print though is too much at once can be too much. Double leopard is considered as much of a sin as double denim.This season animal print is everywhere in the chain stores so a good time to dial it down I feel.
Leopard women // Catherine Deneuve, photo from Pinterest, Meryl Streep and Anne Bancroft from Sarah Baker’s Instagram.
Anyway back to the perfume. What’s it like then? Well Leopard is the most vibrant, pulsating fragrance of the four. It roars with life and has a spicy, woody vibe with a strong signature. While it is spicy from the pepper, frankincense and cardamom, there’s also a fruity quality from the cassis. Then comes an underground growl with the heavier hitters and I detect vetiver and castoreum and patchouli. It definitely has a bit of a growl and has reasonably good longevity too. I can imagine wearing this in my leopard get up for a boost of energy. It does smell unusual too, probably the most different of the four.
Tartan // Perfumer : Sarah McCartney // Year : 2017 // Notes : Virginia Cedar, Atlas cedar, cedarmoss, bread, leather, hops, tobacco, buddha wood, hedione, jasmine tea, labdanum.
Take me to the Scottish Highlands please where I can ponce about like the Queen at Balmoral on her estate and then head indoors to the fire with a good shot of whisky. It’s either that or Wings traipsing along singing Mull of Kintyre that are conjured for me with this perfume. And what’s wrong with that scenario?
Tartan people // The Queen and Prince Philip, Vanity Fair// Diana Princess of Wales, Pinterest // Paul McCartney, Pinterest //Charlotte Casiraghi, Sarah Baker Instagram
I love the opening of this one. It’s a little pungent and really conjures up whisky instantly. Sarah specifies Macallan Lalique in her sum up of the perfume on her website that may just be a little out of my budget although the bottles do look incredible. It has a sweetness to it that I like to think of as butterscotch like. Tartan wears well and there’s a hint of warm bread in here too. There’s also a woodsy vibe that conjures the outdoors but overall it feels cosy and warm and perfect for snuggling up to by the fire with a Scottish whisky in hand.
Greek Keys // Perfumer : Ashley-Eden Kessler // Year : 2016 // Notes : Pink grapefruit, lemon, mandarin orange, elemi, rosemary, calone, floral ozone, hedione, cedar, vetiver, cetalox, oakmoss, coumarin.
Greek Keys is not really my cup of tea as I find it overall a little abrasive but I know it has its fans which is a good thing. The opening is nice with a peppery citrus and a melange of fruits. I smell mostly lemon and mandarin before it moves to a woody, watery scent. The base leans more masculine to my nose. Imagine toned bodies on a yacht somewhere in the Aegean Sea and you’ll get the picture.
Sarah’s perfumes can be purchased on her website and there are giveaways from time to time with Instgrammers and YouTubers so keep an eye out. Sarah’s line is well thought out, interesting and I love her attention to detail which isn’t surprising with her artistic background. I’m sure you’ll find a perfume in her range that will take you on a summer breeze, a yacht in the Aegean, a night out or to the Scottish Highlands. 💥
PS : I did see that Sarah will be releasing a new perfume, with Miguel Matos (Fragrantica writer) as the nose. It’s called Jungle Jezebel and there’s an opening party on the 7th of December in London. See Sarah’s Instagram for more details. I can’t wait to smell this one too.
Let me know if you’ve had any experience with Sarah’s line. ✨
Read more about Sarah Baker Perfumes : // Cafleurebon // Colognoisseur // Smelling Great Fragrance Reviews For where to purchase : Please see the Sarah Baker website for further details. A 9ml size is £28 and a 50ml bottle is £120 // Images : Cover images from Sarah Baker // Disclaimer : Samples gratefully received from Sarah Baker Perfumes. Opinions my own.
Hi Megan, I am contemplating taking an introductory perfume course at one those three perfume schools:
Perfumer’s World https://www.perfumersworld.com/
Grasse Institute in France, summer program
The Perfumery Art School, UK-based and online, https://www.perfumeartschool-uk.com/
My understanding is that you went to Grass. If it is true, what is your opinion of their program? Do you have any familiarity with any other school? What would be you advice, if any? Thank you in advance.
Hi Anna. Thanks for popping by here. I have done the summer school at GIP in Grasse but I don’t have any familiarity with other schools on your list. The GIP is very focused on learning your materials – you smell scent strips for most of the first week and you quickly build up a repertoire of materials. The second week you start blending which is great but perhaps you need more time on this section. You also go on some visits to perfume houses and fields. It’s best to time the course with the rose or jasmine season so you can hopefully see these in bloom. The administration is very slow, so you may find that frustrating. They don’t seem to reply to emails quickly – most of the people in my class found this very strange. I really enjoyed the course and it’s a great starter – you really don’t need that much knowledge to just jump straight in. Hope that has helped. If you need anything else, just ask again. Best, Megan
Also Karen Gilbert has face to face courses and online modules – she is UK based. I’ve enrolled for her online course and it goes through the basics really well.
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