In pursuit of perfection: why Elegantes London is the ultimate family of luxury perfumes
Tempus journeys to France to witness the creation of Elegantes London’s beautiful flacons – and discover more about the fragrances within
A glorious cobalt sky hangs over a quiet, leafy street in Northern France. There, two gleaming Bentley Bentayga SUVs sit parked in front of the unassuming buidlings – perhaps the only clues that a profoundly modern kind of alchemy is happening within. Inside one of these buildings, the Waltersperger glass and crystal factory, I’m being introduced to the mesmerising skills of Elegantes London’s artisans. It’s 20°C outside, but it’s easily a full 15 degrees hotter inside the factory. The heat from an open furnace bathes us in a palpable orange glow, as a four-strong team of seasoned Gallic professionals work together with such swift precision and élan that you could be forgiven for thinking that they are mixing cocktails out of fire itself. And, in a way, perhaps they are.
For this is the sheer level of precise, physical poetry required to handcraft the gorgeous crystal flacons that will eventually contain one of the most exclusive, high-end perfume ranges on Earth. A range known simply as ‘Elegantes’. This fascinating final step in the perfume process is the culmination of a six-year journey for husband and wife team Thomas and Dagmar Smit, a disarmingly charming couple who live and breathe the world of fragrances. In 2012, they embarked upon a dream passion project to create the ultimate family of luxury perfumes – and Elegantes London was born.
Later in the day, away from the fiery furnaces and over a much-needed glass of ice cold champagne, Dagmar opens up about how the idea first came about: “It was while we were working together in Prague,” she reflects. “We stumbled upon a Latin proverb etched into an ornate granite archway from 1599, which translated to ‘Elegant people of our time are honourable people who pass on their values to others.’ ” The Latin word for elegant people? “Elegantes.” From there, the couple resolved to create a range of fragrances so exquisite and timeless, that any client wearing one of their 12 ‘Beyond First’ Heritage perfumes would enjoy a scent of understated sophistication.
To pull off such a precipitous feat, they recruited the help of world-renowned perfumer Julien Rasquinet. A softly-spoken Frenchman with an infectious enthusiasm and lifelong passion for perfume, to hear Rasquinet talk about fragrance is akin to being seduced by your most trusted sommelier into springing for just one more bottle of that perfect red; it’s taste elevated to an intricate art form. Better still, Rasquinet comes with an impeccable pedigree, having studied under perfumer Pierre Bourdon (of Davidoff fame).
“The aim of each new creation is to trigger one, true, honest emotion,” he says. For the Elegantes ‘Beyond First’ collection, Thomas and Dagmar gave Rasquinet no constraints – neither financial nor in terms of time. The remit was simply to create an incomparable family of effortlessly sophisticated fragrances. Four years later, after a journey of discovery that took him everywhere from Turkey to Haiti in search of only the world’s finest ingredients, the 12 exquisite perfumes had finally been cultivated and distilled to perfection.
Having put so much effort into creating an excellent elixir, a commensurate amount of attention to detail was needed to craft a vessel to carry it in and, for this, the Elegantes founders turned to Raphaël Cloix, from French design bureau ADN Atelier. For all Rasquinet’s peaceful bonhomie, Cloix is the perfect counterpoint: a taciturn, emboldened ex-pianist – all Gauloises-smoking, self-assured charisma. Both men are equally passionate in their chosen field, but with personalities that are seemingly polar opposites. It’s a testament to the founders’ bullet-sharp vision that these two creative geniuses came to such perfectly harmonious conclusions in the final product.