What exactly is an Eco-luxe perfume?
Descriptors like natural, botanical, artisan, hand-crafted, niche, eco luxe, hand-blended and more are often used to describe small-scale perfumeries and their products. Drill down and you realise that each term has a different meaning and they are not interchangeable. Natural does not equate to organic; botanical does not mean all natural (just partly so in some cases); natural has no single, clear definition and so on. As perfumer consumers, we have a difficult time deciphering the intent behind the adjectives.
At Parfums Clandestins, we use eco-luxe to describe our ethos and style of products and manufacturing because we strive to use only the finest quality raw materials whose provenance is sustainable (more on that below). We chose ‘eco’ because we endeavour to find sustainable ingredients and we chose ‘luxe’ (luxurious in full) not only because of their quality but also the way we want you to feel when you wear our perfumes.
Are your perfumes 100% natural?
Yes and no. Our launch perfume, Eresia EDP, edition #1, is 100% natural as it contains no synthesized aromachemicals and the oil blend diluent is pure ethanol. Our second perfume however will not be 100% natural as we are including materials such as Hedione and Ambrofix which while nature-identical aromachemicals do require synthesizing to create. Hedione is found naturally in jasmine, and Ambrofix is synthesised either from sugar cane or sclareol, a constituent of clary sage. It would be disingenuous of us to to claim however that they are natural materials in the sense most people would interpret ‘natural’ given the processing they undergo.
The aromachemicals we chose are carefully researched. We do not use any fractionated from by products of the petrochemical industry. We avoid synthetic musks as well. Our ambrette musk is derived from hibiscus, and while extremely expensive, we prefer to use this rather than synthetic musks.
We will always indicate the percentage of naturals in any fragrance. For a deep dive into our understanding of naturals and the debate about the word, see our post ‘What is a Natural Perfume‘. As you can see, natural has various definitions – and no legal one – and varies according to your standpoint.
Is a natural perfume organic too?
It may not be. Bona fide organic cosmetics must undergo strict vetting and verification by a certified body such as The Soil Association (UK) or Ecocert’s COSMOS. There are numerous organic certification bodies worldwide. Natural does not mean certified organic. A good many of the natural raw materials we use are in fact certified organic but we cannot source organic ingredients for some scent profiles we require. For further reading on the issue of organic materials in perfumery, see our blog post on natural perfume.
What do you mean by ‘Sustainable Perfume’?
We work hard to build robust, transparent trust relations with our suppliers so we can ask them about the origins and sources of their materials. It is easier now to get the answers as the climate change crisis, and fair and ethical trade is higher up the agenda. Our suppliers, who are mostly quite small businesses too, realise they need to know more about what they sell (us). As a small perfumery outfit, it isn’t easy to have access to all the data and details, but we strive to find out as much as we can about our ingredients.
For us, a sustainable perfume is one based on raw materials that we source from ethical, responsible suppliers who can provide background on their sources (without undermining their own business model). Sustainable ingredients are those that are grown, harvested and regrown with little if no detrimental impact to their local environments and animal and human populations. Their production must also sustain livelihoods based on fair wages and conditions while being conscious of mitigating its adverse impact on the planet.
Sustainable perfumes won’t always use pure botanical ingredients. We may opt for replacers for endangered materials like bois de rose and sandalwood as well as for plants whose harvesting may be environmentally destructive. For us, sustainable wins over 100% natural at all costs. It is difficult to prove sustainability but soon, as our perfume portfolio grows, we intend to use a Blockchain mechanism to support any claims we make. Small makers often have the least clout, despite our artisan and well-meaning origins, to demand transparency from our suppliers.
Rest assured, we are working to sustainable goals and in our packaging and manufacturing as well. We do however need to abide by our courier’s requirements for the shipping of perfume and to use certain packaging to ensure the safe carriage of dangerous goods. We encourage you to reuse our packaging and of course to keep your perfume in its card carton to reduce degradation from heat and light.
For more on the sustainability issues in the perfumery industry, read about ‘How perfumers walk the fine line between natural and synthetics‘ in Chemical & Engineering News.
Are your perfumes acceptable to a vegan lifestyle?
You are wise to ask this as natural, botanical and sustainable don’t exclude the possibility that cosmetics include animal-derived ingredients. Our perfumes are compatible with vegan lifestyles as we do not include materials such as bees wax, honey or ambergris. If we mention notes of civet or castoreum, these allude to the aromas and are from synthetic, non-animal-derived materials.
Cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients sold in the EU can not, since the 2013 ban, have undergone animal testing anywhere in the world from that date. We do not sell in China, which still requires animal testing of cosmetics.
What are the main differences in performance between your perfumes and mainstream ones?
Perfumes with a high percentage of natural ingredients do perform differently from those comprised mainly of synthetics. The main differences lie in sillage – the trail a scent leaves behind – and radiance, which is the diffusion/aura of a scent around the wearer, as well as longevity (though a moot point as lots of natural base notes do last a long time on skin and blotters). Natural perfumes will hug closer to the skin and be more intimate love affairs. This is in part why we are named Parfums Clandestins. If you require more diffusion or strength, apply more often and also consider spraying on clothes such as scarves. For more on how to wear and enjoy natural perfumes, see our posts:
And our post on perfume vocabulary for definitions of radiance and sillage.
Your ingredients include linalool, eugenol, farnesol etc. What are these?
These, and similar chemicals we list on our packaging, are naturally-occurring constituent parts of botanical materials. The EU has identified some 26 potential allergens in cosmetic ingredients and cosmetics placed for sale in the EU must list them on their packaging at point of sale if they are present in the finished consumer product at or greater than stipulated levels. Our perfumes are also compliant with IFRA restrictions. IFRA is a self-regulatory fragrance industry body which has its own restrictions and prohibition on materials.
What is the shelf life of your perfumes?
In theory, a perfume with a high alcohol content, like ours, never expires. All perfumes, whether natural or synthetic based, will change odor profile over time. Naturals will evolve in their flacons more than synthetics and will last better if kept in their original carton and away from heat and light. We put 36 months on the packaging as a rule of thumb but your perfume will be fine to use after that if perhaps a little changed in profile.
How strong are your perfumes?
It depends! Strength is in the nose of the beholder. If you find one strong, use less and spray on skin. If you find one less powerful or lasting, spray on clothes such as a scarf, your hair and nearer your nape of neck, and apply more often. The Sicily Quartet is designed as an opulent range recalling classical perfumes with the traditional structure of three, defined accords and is therefore distinctive.
Why are natural perfumes so expensive?
We pitch our price point to reflect the high cost of using a large percentage of fine quality natural materials. As an artisan-size perfumery, we do not (often) benefit from any economies of scale (flacons, materials, distribution…). There are of course many other reasons for the price of perfumes. Mainstream big name perfume houses will spend very little on the ‘juice’ per kilo compared to niche, artisan perfumers. ‘Nez’ magazine (SS 2019 issue) had a thought-provoking article on what goes into the cost of perfumes. Distribution, then marketing and packaging take the lion’s share with mainstream perfumes. As a small outfit, and selling direct, we can save to some extent on middlemen fees and devote our time and money to buying high-quality naturals. We encourage you to read our blog post evaluating the costs – hidden and overt – of artisan, natural perfumes in particular: Why Natural Perfumes are Expensive.
How and where do you make your perfumes?
We design and formulate our perfumes in our old village home atelier in Malta, an EU island state in the near geographic centre of the Mediterranean. Inspiration for our scents comes from the land, sea, history and culture of the Mediterranean; our first perfumes in The Sicily Quartet draw on a mid-20th century Italian novel – The Leopard – as their muse. Our hand-blended perfumes are created in small batches of around 50 flacons and almost bottled on demand for orders. This helps our natural perfumes retain their scent profile as we keep our stock in the cool and dark in Miron glass for longer.
Why can’t you ship worldwide yet?
It has proved incredibly difficult to ship our perfumes from Malta, but we’ve managed to find an overland courier operating from the UK who can serve EU mainland Europe. Alcohol perfumes are classed by IATA as dangerous goods and are therefore subject to high transport costs and strict limits and regulations. We can ship only by air from Malta and with one courier! As a result, we ship in bulk to our UK storage and holding address for onward EU distribution to individual and retail customers. We can’t fulfill individual customer orders elsewhere overseas, for now at least. However, by mid-end 2020, we hope to have ‘The Sicily Quartet’ EDP available in some key international retailers – online and store front – in the USA and other main markets. If you are in non-EU Europe, we can send sample vials only; contact us directly to arrange this.
How can I sample your perfumes?
We offer 2ml sample vials which are available for EU and Non-EU mainland European shipping. You can purchase a maximum of three samples of the same eau de parfum per customer order. If you later purchase a 50ml flacon, we discount the price of your first flacon by the cost of a sample vial. Also, if you do wish to blind buy the 50ml size, we can send you a free 2ml vial to trial in with your order. In this way, you can return the unopened flacon for a possible refund if you wish. Please read our full Shipping & Returns Policy for details.