Stuck In a Fragrance Rut? Here’s how to find your New Niche.

Nick Steward, Founder of Gallivant and award winning fragrance ‘London’


Hands up if, instead of conventional perfume and because you were strapped for cash, you used Vanilla Essence (as suggested by Woman’s Own) or Patchouli Oil (if you wanted to smell like you’d been hanging out in Marrakesh?) Did it work?

Did you then graduate to being a devotee of Body Shop Dewberry or White Musk, before settling on a couple of Major Brand fragrances that became your ‘signature scents’? And have you stayed with those ever since? If the answer is yes, and you think you’re in a ‘Fragrance Rut’, how about venturing off the beaten track for something different to redefine you?

Over the last few years, in line with many things ‘artisanal’ there has been a rise in niche fragrances. These are the ones created and launched by courageous, pioneering entrepreneurs aiming to distil something unique, that will capture the elusive – a feeling, association or memory that other scents don’t deliver. There has never been a better time to explore and discover a new ‘signature scent’.

Now, I’m not going to give you a list of ones to try- that’s no fun. Instead, over the next couple of Blogs, I’m going to tell you three stories about how I found the new brands that I currently love. This is not because I think you should buy them; signature scents and fragrances are just too individual for that. What I want to do is offer some food for thought and suggest pointers to some of the more rewarding hunting grounds. The less obvious places beyond Department Store franchises and the Duty Free at the airport, so you can enjoy making your own special finds.

Part of the pleasure I take in the fragrances has become the unexpected gems of shops I’ve discovered and the people I’ve met in them. And a little disclaimer here – these are my personal passions, I’m not affiliated with any of the names that follow.The first of my favourites is the new London Indie Brand, Gallivant by Nick Steward. I initially read about this collection via the Times Beauty columnist, India Knight (no relation to me, alas) who confesses she is ‘obsessed’ and has now written two articles about how she loves the brand.

Ambery, woody and spicy. Where East meets West. The mysterious Istanbul

Gallivant perfumes are like nothing I have ever come across before. Each of the Brand’s fragrances reflects the essences of the major city it is named after. In the words of their website ‘is about the pleasures of Urban exploration. Sights, sounds, smells…. The collection of unisex Eau de Parfum is inspired by the breezy vibe of the coolest, most creative urban destinations.’

 And India Knight admits she would like to ‘bathe in Istanbul’, ‘and that they all ‘smell really, really good.’ 

She’s right! I’ve now bought three of them as I couldn’t decide – namely, London, Berlin and Brooklyn – something I’ve never, ever done before!

Nomad 2ml sampler Set. Try them all!

The little expedition to give them a try took me to Pulse of Perfumery in Knutsford – one of the few places in the UK outside London that currently stock Gallivant. This is a truly great shop: specialist, independent and selling niche, exclusive and unexpected fragrances.

Pulse Of Perfumery, Knustford

From the moment you enter, your spirits are lifted by the wonderful smells and  the sights of rows of sparkling bottles. The proprietor Peter’s expertise and enthusiasm are a joy and he allows you the time and space to deliberate. It all contributes to the pleasure of discovering something new and different.  So now whenever I wear Gallivant, I have the memory of how and where I bought it as well as the city it evokes.

Gallivant stockists are scattered around the world – perhaps in an off-the – beaten-track ‘fragrance destination’ near you. Why not seek one out, experiment, get distracted and see if you can emerge feeling ever so slightly reinvented.

If you want to learn more about Gallivant, go to

Coming Next -Two more tales to follow in the next few days including:

Finally, as a post script, please don’t get carried away by my prose about niche fragrances and chuck all your mainstream ones out! The collections of the established Fragrance Houses are made with as much passion and attention to detail as the smaller newer brands. In my years of working in the beauty industry I’ve been fortunate to visit one of the factories where the Chanel collections are filled and get an insider view of what goes in to delivering that perfect little package. I’ve noted the time and great care taken to macerate the precious oils. On the filling line everyone wears white gloves so they can handle and inspect every single packaging component – bottles, stoppers, and labels for the slightest flaw. The boxes are then wrapped in Chanel’s own bespoke cellophane because standard film does not have the right level of clarity they demand. And, of course, the smell is wonderful.

And as for the packaging, I regularly marvel at the custom design of perfumes like Marc Jacob Daisy, Dior’s J’Adore or YSL’s Black Opium. They are little miracles of packaging engineering. When you’re next in a Fragrance Hall or Airport Duty Free, try unleashing your inner packaging nerd and take time to admire them.

Leopard print – It’s not too late to Rock It!

First, for the avoidance of any doubt – this piece is about animal print on fabric – not animal fur or skin.

So, to begin – two things that I have resisted wearing all my life – animal print and pussy cat bow blouses. There have been two exceptions to this. The first is back in the 1980’s when I bought an off-white polyester blouse with appropriate Thatcherite bow, to wear with a grey suit, for my first interview for a job in ‘Business’.

Reader, I got the job! It’s possible I still have the blouse, polyester being pretty much indestructible.

More recently I bought some Stella McCartney knickers  – significantly reduced from The Outnet – with a subtle peach leopard print. So subtle in fact, I didn’t realise that’s what it was at first. Stella McCartney makes great underwear, there was no way I was going to return such a bargain despite the pattern or the ‘hand wash only’ instruction (as if……).

Now, unless you’ve been living on another planet, you will not have been able to escape the prints of leopards, tigers and other endangered big cats which have dominated almost every type of clothing or accessory collection ranging from the dizzy heights of Chanel, Gucci et al, to M&S to Primark, last season.

For a while I stuck to my principles and ignored the whole trend, dismissing it as a one-season wonder, but then saw a blouse in The Times from John Lewis (Somerset Range) rather liked it, tried it on in the Oxford Street Store and – here it is! And yes, it’s got a pussy-cat bow as well! What’s more, I love it.

The reason I like it is because the colours are strong, the print is bold and the fabric is weighty and drapes beautifully. Different from some of the ones out there are a bit, well …. Meh. More of a timorous token gesture to the trend

So here I am, looking a bit dishevelled, the bow coming undone, with a generous glass of red wine in one hand and Giovanni Raspini, a brilliant Tuscan artisan silversmith (more about him another time) on the other, at the launch of his 2019 collection.

Now, the good news is that the animal print party isn’t over, there are plenty of lovely new pieces out there for Spring and Summer. So, if you felt you missed out this winter, there’s still time to give it a try. Just don’t be subtle, go for a big statement print and then rock it for all it’s worth while it’s still ‘on trend.’

The Colour Purple

‘When I am an old woman I shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn’t go….’ The famous opening lines of Jenny Jones’s, ‘Warning’? . It’s a truly wonderful poem with some unforgettably vivid images, especially the very satisfying line: ‘running my stick along the public railings’.

Yet although I love the poem, Isn’t it time to challenge it? Would our Baby Boomer generation still agree with the sentiment? Is that what a 21st century ‘Old Woman’ wants or needs to be?

‘Making up for the sobriety of my youth’ was the  reason Jenny Jones aspired to this. However, when we were teenagers of the 60’s and 70’s, were we sober? Ours – the generation who swooned over Elvis, screamed at The Beatles and Rolling Stones, read Oz Magazine under our desks, watched Woodstock, dabbled later in Punk – and a lot more besides?

Scarf from Liberty. Bat wings model’s own!

 We rebelled against the drab, spirit sapping  conformity of the 1950’s, which stifled Jenny Jones. We horrified the older generation by wearing teeny mini skirts, (thank goodness tights had just been invented and heavy beige Max Factor Pan Stick on our lips. Then later it was tie dye tops, cheesecloth, loon pants and floppy hats, followed in the 1970’s by bin liners and safety pins. Not to mention other ideas in the poem like picking flowers from other people’s gardens (if you were a flowerchild) and learning to spit (if you were that sort of Punk)! We did pretty much everything in the poem and more besides.

So, if we have already experienced the exhilaration of our own version of ‘Warning’ in the days of our youth, where do we go from here? How to avoid sobriety and invisibility setting in? I don’t have all the answers but there’s plenty of inspiration out there.

So I thought I’d start, like the poem, with the colour purple, as I seem to have acquired quite a bit of. Here are my very conservative attempts. The shoes above are Bottega Veneta: an extravagant pre Christmas present to myself. They are not only divine but also very comfortable, beautifully made and go with everything. The scarf above is Liberty. Light as a cloud and a Christmas present to accompany the shoes.

Another Liberty scarf. Coat Hobbs from a few seasons ago. Possibly more mauve than purple.

Purple, my experimenting reveals, goes brilliantly with navy and demin, which is just as well. Have a go. I bet your efforts are better than mine. I’d love to see and I hope this has made you smile.