Rouge Bunny Rouge’s Alexandra de Montfort on their new perfumes
As perfume aficionados probably know, cult beauty brand Rouge Bunny Rouge recently launched a trio of perfumes aptly titled Chatoyant, Vespers and Lilt.
The marketing material also seemed to come from the mind of a poet in the thralls of the green fairy (excerpt: “Fine-spun lemon rising in bergamot bubbles causes raptures of purring delight as flashes of citrus and milky fresh coconut-like tones announce orchid’s arrival”). So I decided to interview the company’s founder and creative director, Alexandra de Montfort, about the journey that led them to these first three scents and their very evocative names.
What prompted you to launch perfumes as well? And no less than three.
The sensuality behind our brand translates well to enjoyment for all the senses, so perfume was a natural progression of our work. We have been developing fragrance for three years and had enough material to launch more than three but we wanted to see how people would react to our range first, before we decide to extend it.
Do you have a personal connection to perfume more so than with other beauty products? If so, can you tell me about your earliest memory of being enthralled by a perfume?
It is a difficult question to answer for someone who started a beauty company. Your sense of smell is more primal – as well as being an art form – and this connection runs very deep for me on an intellectual level as well as a sensual level. Even when it is not educated and critically reviewed, smell and its jewels, reflected in perfumes, give honest replay; we know immediately if we like something or not without being professional critics. We named our collection Vapours of Captured Memories because they are instantly capable to teleport us into a moment in time from the past with precise incision like nothing else can. My earliest memory being enthralled by a smell was in my grandmothers’ summer kitchen, she was baking bread. Still, till today, it is one of the most comfortable and home defining smells for me. If we are talking about being truly enthralled by perfume, not borrowing what Mum has, this is not exactly an early memory. I was already 14 and we were on a skiing trip to the Dolomites in Italy. I spent my pocket money for the duration of that trip on the first day in a perfumery, by buying Joy by Patou. It was love for something I didn’t understand but felt compelled to posses and be able to smell again and again.
What was the inspiration behind the perfumes?
We started with 5 mood boards and briefs based on the stories from the Enchanted Garden. Painting pictures in our clients’ mind’s eye is a defining characteristic of Rouge Bunny Rouge and our perfumers were treated like clients. I put a lot of work in to the elements that make it possible to lead the perfumer with me into a precisely set stage, where they should be able to interpret in an olfactory way to where we are. This could be an emotion or a place or a person. From there the story is taken out of my hands and written by them, I serve as a curator and editor of results. I listen to the story they tell back to me and I either guide it into a different direction or change the set props a bit or I let myself to be taken into their new story, finding some of their detours and scenic routes better than my original idea. It is a mercurial process built on respect and searching for something, like the equivalent of a person you don’t know but would love to have dinner with and get to know them better.
Why these names? Was it auditory? Was it linguistic choice? What story were you trying to tell?
Our names were based on auditory and linguistic choice but above all semantics; I love to get into deeper meaning of the words and try to get as close as possible to their connotation. The names, in this case, reflect the golden thread that serves as a backbone of what each of them represents.
Lilt refers to a siren lilt, a song so beautiful you cannot resist it, even though it is leading you into temptation you know might end up in personal ruin. It is about ultimate and uncomfortable seduction, where your mind succumbs to both the carnal and the beautiful.
Chatoyant refers to a ‘cat-like’ character of an orchid, which is one of the strongest notes in this fragrance. It is a study about deliberate behaviour and texture with comfort and whimsy, present in equal parts. The fragrance structure is quite linear in its timeline, but it ebbs and flows for the wearer, the opposite of readily submissive – quite cat-like.
Vespers refers to an evening prayer, on the eve of a hot summers day: you are entering the cool of the church, leaving childish fun behind and feeling spiritual focus. Vespers is also about the dichotomy of warm and cool.
Who wrote/decided on the copy? It’s the most delicious description on a perfume I’ve ever read.
Thank you. Our writing style is perceived as purple prose on occasion and I can see why this is [the case]. The ultimate goal, though, is to be able to take people with us and that when they smell the fragrance it is clearly reflected in how we described it. We are not writing it just to scramble all the main ingredients together, but to paint the picture of where we are and what we are feeling. I write the copy personally but not without help, our lovely copywriter Fran keeps me both on track and less hermetic.
The publicity images swing somewhere between elegant ‘40s vibe and fairy tale imagery. Are these perfumes for a grownup Alice in Wonderland?
Throughout the existence of RBR I have been creatively blessed and proud to have worked with some of the most imaginative people in their own field. Our drawings have been made by our long term collaborating illustrator Anna, based in Russia, who likes dark tales. Our brand story is inspired by Botticelli’s Primavera and Victorian era fantastical tales for grown ups and Alice is a part of that world.
As for whom our perfumes are for… I am not an elitist when it comes to fragrances; they are for everyone who gets enchanted by them but if I would have to pick a trait, these are perfumes for women that feel the poetry and wistfulness of life.
If you could give each to a historical figure (anyone known) who would it be and why?
Lilt as Salome
Chatoyant as Kate Bush
Vespers as William Blake
I leave the interpretation to readers.
What is your beauty routine?
My beauty routine starts with healthy lifestyle, and the following simply cannot be repeated enough; get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, eat healthily, stay out of the sun & be in love. I pay attention to skin care, but not religiously. I like to try new things and keep what I find works for me. RBR products are made with love and knowledge so I swear by all of them but what I use the most in my everyday life are predominantly less colour-driven items. The reason for this is that I test all of our products and something new is always in various stages of current development so in terms of colour it is whatever the latest thing I am working on is.
What’s the one product you wouldn’t leave the house without?
My bag always contains at least 2 lip balms and the latest testing samples of our fragrances, which I continue spraying throughout the day making mental notes.
LILT TOP : Green Leaf Accord, Fig Leaf HEART : Peach, Coco, Violet BASE : Vetiver, Musk
CHATOYANT TOP : Bergamot, Lemon HEART : Orchid, Jasmine, Rose, Lily of the Valley BASE : Sandalwood, Cedarwood, Musk, Vanilla
VESPERS TOP : Bergamot, Cinnamon Bark, Violet Leaves, Black Pepper HEART : Green Apple, Muguet, Rose, Violet BASE: Cendarwood, Musk, Sandalwood, Vanillla
You can buy 50ml for €97 from their website.
Photos kindly provided by Alexandra de Montfort.