Discover the secret and intimate language of floral fragrances.
After many years spent sourcing the finest, freshest flowers for our perfumes, we have come to know their fragrance and their feel. Yet we have often wondered where these common associations originate from. Why do we express love with roses, or associate sensuality with Jasmine? These connotations are certainly not new. In fact, a little digging shows us that by the nineteenth century floral symbolism was in full bloom, and plants exchanged hands as tokens and messages throughout many levels of society. As this 'Language of Flowers' gained momentum, it defined concise ways to read flowers, depending on their colour, cut and even whether the petals were open or closed. Today, despite floral symbolism celebrating its peak 200 years ago, we still invest flowers with meaning when we celebrate spring with daffodils, send red roses to a lover or give lilies in death.
With these floral traditions still embedded in our national consciousness, it is interesting to see what our choice of fragrance say about us according to these codes.
Keep faith with Kerbside Violet
Once known as the ‘flower of modesty’ for the way it hid such beautiful petals behind heart-shaped leaves, the delicate violet flower has been symbolic of fidelity for many centuries. In patriarchal society, its symbolism became particularly related to female faithfulness, with renaissance writers like Shakespeare linking the flower to tragic and chaste women such as Ophelia. Centuries later, gothic writers such as Rossetti also drew on this symbolism in the popular portrayal of ‘consumptive women,’ noting the frailty and sweetness of both flower and female.
Violet perfumes themselves grew popular in the nineteenth century, notably in France, where they were adopted by and associated with important figures like Marie Antoinette and Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1936, Pierre Berdoues created “Violette de Toulouse” to commemorate the loss of a loved one, which renewed the international popularity of violet fragrances.
While violets have had their symbolism used as a patriarchal tool for the passive, faithful female for many centuries, the plants themselves are anything but dainty. In fact, violets are tough. Their roots are difficult to disrupt and they can survive in sparse, heavily urbanised areas. When we walk down spring lanes, these tenacious flowers are one of the first to beat back the snow or break through the cracks in the concrete to greet us. Let us reject honeyed, synthetic violets and remember the sweet, green strength of this flower after centuries of misunderstood delicacy. Give the sweet, grassy paradox of our Kerbside Violet perfume to someone will love the scent of blossoming spring lanes after a cold spell.
For the love of Imogen Rose
Rose is one of our most beloved fragrances. Indeed the root of its popularity is difficult to pinpoint, as we can trace its usage back to the Ancient Egyptians and the Romans, who used rose water as a tonic and fragrance. This tradition gained popularity once more in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when high quality rose or rose water was considered currency in some royal circles.
For centuries we have associated rose with love. According to Greek mythology, the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, pricked her foot on the thorns of the flower and coloured the petals with her blood, while Cleopatra perfumed her palace with an abundance of the petals to seduce Mark Antony. Yet roses could also have dangerous political connotations, and for centuries were placed in rooms to impose secrecy and silence on committee members. A period of bloody civil war is even named ‘the War of the Roses’ because battling English families each adopted alternate roses as their emblems.
The prickly nature of the rose translated into the strict rules surrounding their symbolism in Victorian culture, and past lovers had to ensure they had rose-giving down to an art. The type, colour or even shape of the flower could change the meaning of the message, in stark comparison to nowadays when we are likely to perceive all rose bouquets to symbolise love.
The damask rose we use happens to fit in beautifully with our buying principles, traditionally being symbolic of ‘freshness’ and ‘brilliant complexion.’ As we know, the rose is wild and prickly for all its beauty and so our Imogen Rose blends layers of floral sweetness with deeper green notes. Give this nostalgic perfume to the person you love for all their complexities and hidden meanings.
As pure as Death and Decay
Lilies are another flower, whose symbolism has become somewhat reduced from what it once was. Nowadays we often associate graceful, while lilies with death, yet this relationship has grown from their symbolism of purity. Prior to placing lilies on graves, the plants were placed over the marital bed to symbolise passage into adulthood, and were also associated with sovereignty.
Commercial lily perfumes became particularly popular in the 1950s, yet much of these were synthetic blends, because the scent of the petals does not translate into a strong fragrance. Lily perfumery therefore is somewhat an illusion hinted at in fragrances for many years.
So why do we give lilies in death when they have been associated with royalty and purity for centuries? Such a strong association could have grown from religious ideas that innocence is restored in death, and the majesty of state funerals. By honouring this new ‘tradition,’ we have created a modern role for the lily and infused these regal flowers with emotion.
Our rebelliously named Death and Decay perfume may be a soft and delicate, tribute to lilies in apple and rose, but reclaiming these majestic flowers for everyday use is a defiant move. Who will this fragrance bring courage to?
The next time you spray your perfume think about the emotions invested in your fragrance choices. Are you celebrating the traditional language of flowers or reinventing these floral codes?
Despite floral symbolism celebrating its peak 200 years ago, we still invest flowers with meaning.