When I saw that Mr Ford was releasing a fragrance named London to celebrate his new Sloane Street 8,000 sq ft emporium of Fordness, I imagined how it would smell. Would it smell of (as my witty friend said) “Kate Moss falling out of Groucho club, Soho on a wet night, broken dreams and illicit men who live on houseboats,” or would Mr Ford try to encapsulate the tradition and gravitas of one of the oldest and influential cities on Earth? I mean, would it really capture the hustle and bustle, the rich tradition, the history, the equal parts poverty & wealth, the gusto and the bright lights and big city’ness of our nation’s Capital?
What it does is a bit of both. Surprising in that it is a rich, dark, woody tribute to London that resonates with sexual tension and after dark allure. It’s the murky, empty side streets of the City on a rainy night, devoid of its wealthy day banker habitues, the heat and dark humidity of London in a hot July, a daily descent into Dante’s Piccadilly line with the rush of hot stale air blowing from an open window and a walk along Brick Lane or the ‘Bello with tempting Eastern smells from restaurants and food stalls tumbling into one’s nostrils. It is exactly as described by the brand, ‘a tension between composure and carnality’. A perfume version of a London Tale of Two Cities.
It is ravenously, almost greedily sexy and just that little bit dangerously seedy (just like London) with its play of rich oud wood and balmy Tonkin Musk. It opens with a rich rush of spices – black pepper, saffron, cardamom absolue, coriander seed, cumin and coffee oils that already have a hint of its feral, down and dirty nature. Then London opens up (as it does to its new inhabitants, drawn by its huge personality) with glimpses of beauty and wonder. Heart notes of geranium and jasmine absolue are swirled in a heavy incense, like the bordellos and Opium Dens of ye Olde London when perfumes were as rich as those who could only afford them. The final lunge is a husky lung full of tobacco resin and leather (much like two other strange and beautiful releases of late, YSL’s Oriental Collection Noble Leather and Ormonde Jayne’s ‘Four Corners of the Earth’ Jayne’s Montabaco). This ensures a grizzly masculine kick of testosterone which is kinda’ sexy worn by a very feminine woman. There’s a heap of cedarwood, vetiver, sandalwood and Dominican Republic torchwood that meet the oud and Tonkin musk but it’s the reconstituted Castoreum and civit that give the feral, offbeat kick to a challenging fragrance. This is London post smoking ban where instead of entering into a fog of smoke in bars & pubs, one enters through the fog and crowd of smokers banished to the pavements for their collective hit and chat. Invisible smoke barriers ban the non-user.
London’s a ballsy, confident woman or a svelte, groomed male with just a little too much self-esteem. Its musky feral scent is equally at home in the playgrounds of Mayfair or Bethnal Green, though I don’t quite think Neasden figures in its make-up. This is London bottled that can relay the seediness of Soho (still) or the flash vulgarity of the cars and swarthy attitude of its Ramadan visitors who trawl Knightsbridge, disturbing the peace and the sensibilities of the SW7 residents. While, on the other hand, we have the epitome of good taste staged at Tom Ford’s new Sloane Street store residence.
Tom Ford’s London, like the city itself, challenges propriety and expectation. It’s the pace and guts of the city bottled rather than the sum of the parts. London is warm. Amber tinged and just sweet enough to steal your heart and hoodwink you into thinking it’s the city of dreams. As Samuel Pepys wrote, “If a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”‘ Mr Ford’s love affair with his adopted city continues.
Tom Ford London is available from the Tom Ford Boutique from September 2013. Private Blend London is priced 50ml (£140) and 250ml (£320).