[CHRONICLE] In the odor of sanctity…

Perfumery in spiritual mode, and an almost etymological return to the very origins of the word “perfume” (from the Latin per fumum, meaning the exaltation of fragrant fumes during rites and offerings to the gods, wisps of fragrance for a closer encounter with the divine and immaterial).


Inevitable marketing recuperation, sacred inspirations and divine figures have always lent their aura to some of the juices that have become veritable must-haves. Just look at Yves Saint Laurent’s Kouros, Rabanne (Puig)’s Invictus and Olympéa, or Jean-Paul Gaultier’s Divine.


Closer to home, the phenomenon is reminiscent of the new awareness and search for balance and well-being. A holistic approach to perfume and cosmetics, which seems to have become the leitmotif of many brands and recent labels.




From the Christmassy mass on Maundy Thursday to the incense burned in churches, from the blossoming lily of the Virgin Mary to the myrrh of the Magi, the sense of smell is inextricably linked to the Catholic liturgy… and, in recent years, has once again inspired perfumers. In 2006, Etienne de Swardt’s brand, État Libre d’Orange, launched Divin’Enfant, a little Jesus with sweet top notes that quickly gave way to something much more intriguing. Fils de Dieu, created in 2012, is nothing less than the brand’s olfactory translation of paradise, with notes of rice and accords from the tropics… Dolce & Gabbana’s Devotion, with its bottle adorned with an ex-voto, is also clearly inspired by the imagery of an Italy as pious as it is glamorous.


Advertising campaigns for Orange Divin Enfant © Etat Libre fragrances; Devotion featuring pop singer Katie Perry © Dolce & Gabbana


Clearly more confidential is Unum, the house founded in 2001 in Rome by “the popes’ tailor” Filippo Sorcinelli, in parallel with his liturgical vestments workshop. For his compositions, he draws inspiration from the sacred oils that perfume ornaments during religious ceremonies, as in lavs, an anagram for Laboratoire Atelier Vêtement Sacré. On April 15, 2019, the Notre-Dame fire inspires the perfumer to create a tribute. Notre Dame perfume extract translates the spirituality of the site in a woody-smoky-floral accord. Stéphanie de Bruijn, for her eponymous brand, also pays tribute to another of the capital’s sacred sites, the Sacré-Coeur basilica, with the aptly-named Sacré-Coeur.


Parfums Notre-Dame © Unum; La Religieuse © Serge Lutens


A little more blasphemous, Serge LutensLa religieuse in 2015, could this be an echo of Diderot’s? In any case, Lutens’ was in white, sensual and deceptively virginal, with an ambivalent construction that swings between jasmine and incense…


Cult perfumes


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Read also > Interparfums announces record sales for 2023 – Luxus Plus (luxus-plus.com)

Featured photo: Divine eau de parfum campaign by Jean-Paul Gaultier © Jean-Paul Gaultier

Picture of Florent Paudeleux
Florent Paudeleux
Fashion and trends consultant, Florent Paudeleux draws on his experience of the luxury, textile and beauty industries to decipher trends. For Luxus+, he devotes his columns to the fashion and perfume industries. As an author, he collaborates on books with artists and gallery owners. www.florentpaudeleux.fr

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