Husband-and-wife hoteliers Thomas and Dagmar Smit were the creative force behind the redevelopment of the Augustine Hotel Prague, painstakingly transforming a sleepy monastery into an award-winning luxury residence. It was during this rennovation that Dagmar uncovered a Latin proverb etched into a granite archway, dated 1599. It translated to: ‘Elegant people of our time are honourable people who pass on their values to others.’
These words resonated with the Smits and the quote inspired the name and ethos of the niche luxury fragrance house that they would go on to launch together in 2012, Elegantes London. "I have always been passionate about perfume and dreamed about creating my own brand," comments Dagmar. Thomas, a merchant banker by trade, took The Body Shop public during the eighties among other acquisitions within the cosmetic sphere and had the business know-how to bring Dagmar's vision to life. Their ambition? To create the rarest perfume in the world.
To distill this unique brand of luxurious elegance, the Smits recruited master nose Julien Rasquinet, who trained under Pierre Bourdon. Rasquinet was given the unusual brief of no time or budget constraints in order to create an "incomparable collection" of scents. Rasquinet spent four years travelling Turkey, Haiti and Sri Lanka, sourcing impeccable quantities of the world's finest ingredients.
Also attributing to the high price tag is the distinctive glass falcon in which each scent is poured, which doubles up as a unique objet d'art for your dressing table. Hand-blown by Waltersperger, a historic glass factory in Normandy, each bespoke bottle is crafted from a unique four-piece mould designed by Raphaël Cloix, which resembles the swirling skirt of an haute-couture ball grown. Only 20% of glass production each day makes the final cut (no pun intended), and each falcon is hand-polished for a minimum of eight hours. Once the perfume is finished, the falcon becomes an opulent candlestick holder to sit in one’s home.
The most expensive perfume is the limited-edition Black Opera crystal bottle. It is painstakingly produced over a period of 30 days by an ancient process which involves heating the crystal to 2200 degrees centigrade in order to achieve the bewitching black hue, and is priced at an eye-watering £3,000.
Were the Smits nervous about launching a nice luxury fragrance brand with such a high price tag, in a saturated market where the giants are reporting price dips? “It took two years of research and a number of challenges before we established Elegantes London,” recalls Thomas. “We analysed the market to fully understand where the industry changed and to qualify the difference between fragrance and perfume. It was astounding to discover the number of pollutants and the abundant use of chemicals in the fragrance sector; something that was blacklisted in our vision.”
Elegantes fragrances are heady and hypnotic. It was important to Thomas that the scents that make up the men's collection were "longlasting and smelt of alpha masculinity." The Tabacco-rich Heart is tempered by a surprising touch of cinnamon, for a warm, arousing scent that lingers without knocking your socks off, while Chesterfield takes its cue from the gentlemen’s clubs of yesteryear, conjuring wooden floors and leatherbound books through incense and tuberose, sweetened by mandarin and juniper oil.
The signature Rose Elegantes perfume, which is the focal point of the women's collection, is influenced by the David Austin rose garden. Rare Turkish rose oil is balanced by woody sandalwood and musk, for a sophisticated, floral scent.
Away from the furnaces of Normandy, the Smits reside in Surrey. In London, they can be found at 45 Jermyn Street; the English tearoom at Brown’s Hotel or Thomas’s in Mayfair, where they are members. It is clear that London's landmarks, landscapes and heritage inspire the brand, which is now poised for expansion in America. “We want our clients to feel like part of our family, who cherish traditional family values," concludes Dagmar. "As a brand, we are hardworking, honest, sincere, caring and united in spirit. And we have fun at the same time.”
From £440, www.harrods.com