Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Hunting For A New Beast - Tom Ford Private Blend Styling

Tom Ford wants us to mix things up. Literally. For the last few months, the staff at his Private Blend counters have been trying to encourage customers to indulge in what you and I would call layering, ie combining two (or more!) perfumes in the hope of creating a novel effect. But of course, Mr Ford has to give the practice his own name: Private Blend Styling. In addition, he doesn't want us to have free rein when it comes to choosing the scents; he's devised his own list of recommended pairings. And he's even worked out ideal application ratios: two sprays of Perfume X to one spray of Perfume Y, and so on. After all, Styling is a serious business.

Forgive me if I sound facetious, but this sort of enterprise always makes me chuckle. I don't begrudge Ford an attempt to shake his customers out of their comfort zones and jolt them into sniffing his impressive collection with a fresh nose. But I'm of the opinion that layering - no matter what name you give it - should remain an interference-free activity, far removed from any clever-clever diktats issued by a brand going through a brief phase of control-freakery. Come to think of it, I'd say it should also be far removed from the geeky musings of critics such as myself, whose role ought to remain the appraisal of individual pieces of work which have presumably been put together as an expression of a singular vision. Because the truth is that no matter what the likes of Mr Ford and Mr Persolaise declare about layering, people will carry on doing it exactly how they've been doing it for years. And there's nothing wrong with that, in the same way that there's nothing wrong with enjoying a mayonnaise and Marmite sandwich, even if that's a combo that will never earn you a Michelin star.

Having said all of that, I should just spare a few lines for the 'styling suggestions' put forward by Ford. I experienced them at Harrods' Salon De Parfums, but I confess that, despite the beauty of the setting and the expertise of the staff, I wasn't convinced by the project. The reason for my scepticism was simple. In almost every single case, the combinations were anything but: they were just one perfume sprayed over another. I couldn't stop smelling them as two separate entities. And I was struck by the thought that, much as I love Philip Glass and the Scissor Sisters, I wouldn't want to listen to their music at the same time.

However, there was one exception, a moment when the entire exercise made sense. First came 1 spray of Tobacco Vanille, followed by 2 sprays of Plum Japonais... and suddenly the axis of my perceptions tilted. The sweetness of the former was tempered by the retro woodiness of the latter. Smoke latched onto fruit. Resins eased themselves onto louche booziness. And a new beast emerged, greater than the sum of its parts.

If you fancy finding out whether a similar experience awaits you in the Private Blend range, head to a Tom Ford counter now. Or you could just do what most other people will probably do: spray a whole load of stuff on yourself in the privacy of your own bedroom. The choice remains yours.

[In case you're interested, some of the other recommended combos are: 1 part Jasmin Rouge followed by 2 parts Santal Blush; 1 Tobacco Vanille followed by 2 Jasmin Rouge; 1 Santal Blush followed by 2 Tuscan Leather; 1 Tobacco Vanille followed by 2 Café Rose; 1 Oud Wood followed by 2 Neroli Portofino.]



  1. Maybe the whole point of this exercise is to sell two perfumes instead of only one? Or even three perfumes if you consider the mixing ratio, lol! It may be a new trend. I have heard recently that Heeley also suggested layering some of his perfumes, like Cardinal (incense notes) with Oranges and Lemons (citrus notes, obviously).

    1. Hi Neva,

      Yes, I'm sure you're absolutely right. In fact, I believe Tom Ford staff encourage customers to buy one of those super-large bottles of '2 spray' perfume.

      I hadn't heard about the Heeley layering. Perhaps they'll all be doing it soon...

  2. Tom Ford doing the Jo Malone layering thang.... Persolaise , I guess I will have to be open minded as I layer lots of weird things together.
    Perhaps ... Patchouli Absolu + Noir de Noir might be interesting .
    BTW Le Labo Oud 27 and Mitsouko EDP ( current juice ) is fantastic together . Really makes Mitsouko deeper .
    Cheers !

    1. Oooh, interesting! I'll bet the inky-metallic quality of the Le Labo really emphasises the mosses in Mitsouko. Hmm... I'm intrigued...

  3. I did notice the same thing at the TF counter in the local department store. I don't think the SA's were particularly skilled at the blends but it did appear to me the whole idea was to sell two fragrances instead of one.

    My biggest issue with layering TF in particular is that in many cases more than one or two sprays would be too much. So, putting on 1 Tobacco Vanille and then 2 Santal Blush sprays would make me smell to high heaven. I may love the combo but I keep such experiments only to my house.

    1. Oh, don't worry about that too much :-D Let the world smell your gorgeousness!


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