What Has Happened to Clive Christian?

There have been several acquisitions of some of the founding brands of niche perfumery. For the successful brands which have been acquired by the experienced cosmetics companies it has turned out to see expansion of availability and greater visibility. Of the brands acquired over the last few years; Le Labo, Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, Atelier Cologne, By Kilian among them it has been a positive. I can say I had worries about the brands losing what made them stand out enough to warrant being acquired. So far, the creative teams have remained in place and the biggest change has been finding new points of sale. Three years on from the first of these I would say any concern has been misplaced because they all have continued to be niche while part of a conglomerate.

In hindsight I can say the experience in marketing and distribution a big beauty brand brings to the partnership makes sense. If you want to see what happens when those who know nothing about the beauty sector decide there is money to be made you just have to look at the acquisition of Clive Christian by a consortium of investment houses led by EME Investments. One big difference is that the brand had fallen into debt and needed an infusion of capital to stay afloat. This is when EME came along with three other investors and bought the brand.

Prior to the acquisition Clive Christian was one of the first ultra-luxe perfume brands. Starting in 2001 they positioned themselves at exclusive stores around the world touting the quality of their ingredients as part of the reason they were so highly priced. For many years they had that part of the new niche sector all to themselves. As the years went by there was more competition for what had to be a limited consumer base.

From 2001 until 2014 they released six pairs of perfumes one each for men or women. Overall, they were a collection which stood for a specific aesthetic centered on luxury and exclusivity which made the modest release schedule part of the larger strategy. Within those twelve releases over thirteen years; one of them, C for Men, is one of my all-time favorites.

Now with the new owners Clive Christian has released 26 (!) new releases since June of 2016. I’ll do the math 26 releases over 15 months. At the same ultra-luxe prices for the most part. There is no reputable perfume brand which would ever take that level of release rate if there was an experienced beauty company behind it. I cannot imagine there is more support for an additional 26 Clive Christian perfumes than there was for the prior twelve.

Worse the whole enterprise cheapens the brand. We can argue about the merits of the perfumes but the way they cultivated their exclusivity and quality matched their aspirations. What does 26 new perfumes communicate? Avon released 25 new perfumes over the same time frame for a tenth of the price…or less. It certainly isn’t exclusivity or quality.

There have been several financial people who have convinced themselves that there are profits to be found in the niche sector. They seemingly misunderstand how much part of the brand reputation plays into the desire to own it. You can’t just say, “look luxury and lots of it” the truth must be in the bottle. In the current collection of 26 these are as cynical a group of perfumes as you can imagine. There is not a single one of them I would want on my skin for any extended period of time.

The answer to “what happened to Clive Christian?” is the moneychangers entered the temple armed with spray paint and covered it with graffiti.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Review Clive Christian L for Women & L for Men- British Depth

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The ultra-luxe category of niche perfumery has been expanding, especially over the last year or so. Some of that expansion seems as ill-advised as the releases that carry the high price tag. Clive Christian was one of the original ultra-luxe perfume houses and they still hold the Guinness Book of World Records title of World’s Most Expensive Perfume for 2001’s No. 1 for Men & No. 1 for Women. One of the things I admire about the brand is their dedication to making sure the money is in the bottle instead of on the bottle. Clive Christian and his daughter Victoria Christian have dedicated themselves, as creative directors, to the brand which carries their name to also reflect their innate British style. It has been two years since the last new release by Clive Christian now for 2014 we have a new pair, L for Women and L for Men.

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Clive Christian

C stood for Clive and V stood for Victoria so what does L stand for? According to the press materials it stands for Love. As perfumes L for Women is a powerful fruity floral and L for Men is a spicy woody pastiche. Neither perfume is innovative about their structure. What differentiates them is the concentration of the raw materials which often shows subtlety to the note which can only be detected when such a high concentration is used. In both of the “L” perfumes it is this which makes them so enjoyable to wear.

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Victoria Christian

L for Women opens with a densely green accord made up of a mélange of Black, Pink, and White Pepper. Davana supplies the strawberry preserves quality. This is one of those ingredients which is provided in overdose and that allows for the green and woody facets to be discerned. A green accord is also used to accentuate the green. The final result in the early going is like a pot of fine strawberry jam surrounded by ivy. The heart is a classic pairing of jasmine and Damask rose. This is a heady olfactory opiate. It is so powerful that at first it is hard to get close to it. Wait it out because once you allow yourself to settle into it the intensity contains hidden delights. For me it is the way the indoles of the jasmine suffuse the spicy core of the rose. The floral lightness abounds but it is the raw animalic center which fascinates. It all ends up on a woody base of vetiver, cedar, and musk.

L for Men is my favorite of the two which is maybe as it should be as after all I am a man. It also carries a rose in the heart but where L For Women is all about the rose in L for Men it mainly acts as a transitional note from the spicy opening down to the very woody base. This opens with a tart selection of citrus, mainly grapefruit and petitgrain. Then it is subsumed in a tsunami of spices. Cumin, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and probably others crash in a wave over the citrus. It makes for a very lively early development. It carries a vitality along with the depth. This opening really checked off all of my boxes. I was sort of sad to see it begin to attenuate as the rose acts as an attention getter before the base notes come forward. Vetiver forms a woody nucleus to which cedar, fir balsam, and oud are added. Just as with the spices on top the woody notes are all in high concentration and instead of being cacophonous they come together in a woody harmonic convergence and vibrate for hours on my skin.

L for Women & L for Men lasts for 14-16 hours on my skin with above average sillage.

As I mentioned above the money is in the bottle and both L for Women and L for Men show me the care in the use of the raw materials used to make these perfumes. The intensity and concentration of both of these could have led to a hot mess if done poorly. Instead they are studies in how deep you can go with a typical architecture like fruity floral or spicy woody. The answer as provided by L for Women and L for Men is it is nearly fathomless.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Clive Christian.

Mark Behnke

New Perfume Release Clive Christian “L” for Men & “L” for Women

One of the things that happened when I attended Esxence that I was sworn to secrecy about was I got to get a sneak sniff of the next new set of perfumes from Clive Christian. Unlike many perfume houses Clive Christian does not release new perfumes every year, the last release was 2012’s “V” for Women and “V” for Men. This always makes it exciting when a new release is announced. Here is the press release for the new Clive Christian “L” for Women and “L” for Men which will be released exclusively to Harrod’s on August 15, 2014 and sell for £ 225 for 50 mL.

As his loyal fans will have noticed, it’s not every day that Clive Christian launches a new perfume. Not for him the endless stream of the “new”, the “fashionable” and the “latest”. He waits until he finds something that he completely loves, a perfume that captures something of his spirit, that is truly beautiful and that, as always, is made up of only the most precious of materials in their purest form.

Joining his “C” and his “V” Perfumes in the Private Collection, Clive has selected the letter “L” from his name to become the final addition to what is now a trilogy of luxury perfumes. The Private Collection consists of perfumes that are amongst his great personal favourites – “C” for Clive, “V” for Victoria. And now “L” for Love, the most important, yet also the most invisible ingredient in every relationship. Love is the perfect emotion to bind this collection together.

“L” for Women – a Fruity Floral perfume with classical ingredients of Damask Rose and Jasmine  at  the  heart. The rose was seen as a symbol of beauty and femininity by the ancient Roman noble women; they used to wear garlands of roses around their necks, bathed in rose water and perfumed the soles of their feet with rose oil. The perfume is spiced up and modernised by the addition of Pink, Black and White Pepper notes at the top, together with green foliage and dried fruit notes of Davana, bringing to mind images of a darkly romantic dense green jungle. Base notes of Vanilla and Cedar add a smooth sweetness, whilst Patchouli, Vetiver and Musk add depth and a nicely contemporary touch of something a little edgier and woody.

“L” for Men – a Spicy perfume with a glorious celebration of precious woods. It takes the wonderful smokey-green aroma of Vetiver and combines it with Cedar Atlas and Fir Balsam to add rich sweetness, with some Musk for sensuality and spices to bring the whole base notes alive and enhance the beauty of the Vetiver – the oil of tranquillity.At the top of the traditional pyramid, Grapefruit leads the way with a bright citrus note, which also livens up the natural green-citrus notes, whilst tones of Oud, Rose and Petitgrain Mandarinier round out the whole and give it a nice modern, distinctive edge. During the Roman Empire, the rose was a symbol of power and was used to honour returning armies and later to perfume sophisticated celebrations.

I hope to have samples soon to review this.

Mark Behnke