Discover Richard E Grant’s ‘signature in scent’, JACK perfume.
A labour of love and the realising of a lifelong passion, Richard E Grant has launched a new perfume, JACK. As a much in demand actor, writer and director, his head-first dive into the world of scent has been as intriguing as the finished product. We caught up with the man himself to get an insight into the notes, noses and David-and-Goliath style challenges of becoming a perfumer.
Who have you found the most inspirational from your perfume-making journey?
I have been shown such astonishing generosity during the past two years, none more so than from Anya Hindmarch, who first saw me with my head in a gardenia bush in the Caribbean and asked if I had ever thought of creating a fragrance, noticing that I ‘missiled’ my nose to everything in sight. Anya put me in touch with key people and has always encouraged, supported and advised me along the way, whenever I have wavered in my faith or been faced with obstacles.
Marigay Mckee also put me in contact with Roja Dove who ‘educated’ me by testing my nose on a huge variety of oils to get a sense of my ‘palette’. He has ceaselessly advised, cajoled and encouraged me to pursue my dream of producing a scent. Catherine Mitchell at IFF took me on and arranged for me to meet Gina Ritchie and Sarah Coonan at Liberty, who offered to give JACK an exclusive year-long deal, based on my describing the perfume I wanted to create and the quintessentially British styled packaging I had sketched out. They were prepared to take a leap of faith which was crucial in creating the JACK brand. ‘Nose’ Alienor Massenet who transformed my amateur passion into a professional perfume is the person with whom I’ve been able to share my lifelong compulsion to sniff everything, without laughing me out of the room!
What’s the most important thing you discovered about the world of scent?
Anya Hindmarch and Lyn Harris both advised me that ‘Passion is everything. It cannot be faked and this will sustain you through the tough times which you will inevitably face’. All of which has proved to be true, especially when an American ‘Goliath’ sized company sued me for the brand name JACK claiming it to be too like one of their products. The protracted and costly legalese sorely tested my faith, but mercifully they withdrew their suit at the 11th hour and I won the trademark ‘battle’. Perseverance and passion is required on a daily basis. As it’s entirely self-financed, I’ve learnt very quickly that detail is everything and to triple crosscheck every single aspect of the business.
Did you have a clear idea of the scent that you wanted before you started experimenting, or did it evolve slowly?
When I met professional ‘Nose’ Alienor Massenet, I un-pocketed my favourite ingredients onto a restaurant table which included lime, marijuana leaves, mandarin, vetiver grass, pepper, and gardenia petals, which gave her a very clear idea of the earthy, citrusy scent I had dreamt of combining.
Alienor then sent me samples over a period of months which I tested on the Liberty perfume selling team for their expert advice and input, to ensure that it didn’t replicate or remind them of a perfume already in existence. Bev, Ruth, Stuart and Gerry (Liberty’s fragrance team) were ruthlessly honest and along with my friends whom I ‘nose’ tested, we reduced it to a shortlist. Then in the middle of the night, I had a ‘Eureka’ moment when I mixed two of these ‘almost but not quite’ favourites and knew that this was JACK. Alienor obliged and created the formula.
Did you have to sacrifice any favourite smells along the way in order to get the perfect blend?
As Gardenia has proved historically impossible to extract and is therefore always a synthetic, I had to forgo trying to bottle its lightning-like power, but I wanted to create a perfume that had its heady, hypnotic qualities.
How does creating a perfume rank with your acting, writing and directing achievements?
Starting a business has been the real challenge, as I failed all my maths at school, so the bean counting aspects have almost done my head in. However, when it’s your own money, you learn very fast to sniff out who is trying to rip you off. It best equates with my experience of writing and directing my autobiographical film WAH-WAH – everything is personal. All the ingredients are sense and memory ‘triggers’ and I believe that only by making something acutely personal, can you hope to create an original. Every choice and decision, no matter how informed by expert guidance, is yours, so there is no place to ‘hide’. Which leaves you very vulnerable to criticism on the one hand, but also hugely rewarded when it is endorsed and praised on the other. Like acting, you are constantly told you won’t succeed when you start out and similarly many people were very sceptical about my embarking in the perfume business. In the last month prior to launch date, it’s felt a bit like being a migrating wildebeest attempting to navigate across the croc-infested Mara river, wondering whether I will make it to the other side in tact, as everyone wants a piece of flesh!
Who do you see wearing your scent?
From experience, I know that people generally remain loyal to a brand from a very young age, and I am no exception. The scent you choose when you’re a teenager or twenty-something is so bound up with your burgeoning sexuality and need to establish your own identity, that I hope my unisex scent finds favour with the exceptionally brand savvy young generation who aren’t bound by the traditional divisions between what is perceived as masculine or feminine.
How does the Liberty heritage complement your brand?
Liberty is a unique, stand-alone store that is famed for its individuality and great personal service. Not being on every high street ensures that you will find things here that can’t be found anywhere else. Idiosyncratic and individualistic, it is the perfect partner for my quintessentially British JACK brand. Everything worthwhile in Life is personal and the attention to detail at Liberty transmits to the customer. You experience the benefit of the ‘edit’ that the creative team who run Liberty make when you discover the variety of unique things to buy.
How does JACK perfume make you feel when you wear it yourself?
I have always believed that scent is a key part of your invisible wardrobe, armour and identity. If you’re feeling less than confident, smelling good instantly makes you feel better. Our sense of smell is the shortest synaptic leap in the brain to our memory and wearing JACK makes me feel ‘complete’ and confident. The reaction it engenders from friends and total strangers has been unequivocally positive. What more of JACK could I ask for?
Where do you see your perfume brand going in the future?
Like cooks who constantly think of mixing different ingredients, I am always dreaming of scent combinations and have big plans to expand the JACK brand if it finds favour with customers. I am currently developing a JACK candle and room diffuser in time for Christmas as well as a second perfume to launch next year.
Jack perfume is available to buy exclusively at Liberty
As an award-winning paper cutting artist, Hina Aoyama was the perfect choice to help create a fabric representing the Japanese print department at Liberty. In collaboration with the in-house Liberty design team, Hina helped create the ‘Asaka’ print, part of the fourth floor story in the ‘Gallery of Prints’ Liberty fabric collection. Borrowing a design from one of her intricate scissor-cut creations, the reworked lotus print is a beautiful blend of oriental inspiration and British design.
The lotus print used in ‘Asaka’ is one of your most famous designs, what makes it so special?
This lotus is from my work ‘Immortal Lotus’. The concept behind it is to give my past memories a future by thinking of them. As a human being, we know well enough what we did, but never know what is going to happen, although it’s obvious that the past relates and connects to the future. In the piece you can see a dragonfly melting, showing that the time that has passed will never come back. It fades away, and we should hold onto memories while moving forward to live in the future.
Was there a particular theme you wanted to get across with your design for Liberty?
The beautiful ancient lotus grows in the mud; I find smartness and ambition in the Lotus.
What were the differences in creating a design for fabric compared to paper, did you need to adapt the design process?
My paper cutting work is only monochrome. Collaborating with Liberty was colourful, so I found new possibilities. In my monochrome work, I intend everyone to ‘see’ their own colour into the pieces. What Liberty did with my design is very unique, as the designers saw their own colours in the print.
What were your experiences of Liberty before creating the fabric, had you bought any Liberty fabric before?
These days almost all of my belongings are Liberty print! I really love it. I heard that this year a famous men’s brand is using Liberty print, I cannot wait to see it.
How did your designs evolve into the intricate creations that they are now?
Since 2000, when I started paper cutting, I have lived in the Alps and the Jura mountains. I think that all the themes in my work are related to the Earth’s problems: nature, human rights or animal protection.
How do you ensure that the traditional and the modern work together in your artwork?
I am proud to be Japanese-born and also pay respect to foreign culture, so I try to combine this together with my spirit and experience.
Will you be taking anything from the experience of creating a fabric back into your own work?
I can see many possibilities now.
Will you be making anything from your Liberty fabric?
I’m excited to have more things in Liberty print! I’m ordering a dress, and a bag. Someday I want to make a unique Yukata [traditional Japanese dress] with Liberty print.
Designer Alice Stone shows us how she creates a Lily and Lionel scarf
Alice Stone is the creative force behind British brand and Liberty Scarf Hall favourite, Lily and Lionel. Named after Alice’s grandparents, the label is making its mark as a producer of modern classics with a story behind each piece. We went behind the scenes at the Lily and Lionel studio to find out how a design comes to life, and what makes the creative team tick.
Where is your favourite place to work on your designs?
I love to be outside amongst nature. It’s not necessarily to literally design a print, but my thinking process always starts outdoors. You can see it in all of our collections – there’s a constant theme of flowers and animal motifs.
Do you have a specific customer in mind when you design?
In terms of style, I always have in mind the two Kates: Middleton and Moss. Perhaps not an obvious pairing, but I think they sum up our brand style: part rebel, part lady. More than anything though, the Lily and Lionel woman appreciates pieces that are contemporary but will last throughout the seasons to become classics in their wardrobe.
What is your work space like? Do you go for minimal clutter or moodboards and organised chaos?
We were lucky to have our office transformed by my talented and dear friend, Kerri Lipsitz, founder of Old Brand New Interior Design. The space is a real mix of vintage finds that I have picked up on my travels like a huge, antique journal from France that sits in our showroom, and more modern pieces such as a framed scarf from our exclusive collaboration with the artist Thomas Campbell. I like to surround myself with things that are meaningful, from old family pictures of Lily and Lionel to trend boards for next season. They always make me feel inspired and creative.
Do you have any work-day rituals?
If I don’t have any meetings, I like to start my day with a morning walk across Hampstead Heath. The fresh air and serene surroundings make you completely forget that you’re in London, which is wonderful and inspiring. I’m also known for starting my day with a bizarrely-coloured smoothie. I make them at home and find they give me a real boost for the day ahead. I then can sit at my desk and make a list – I love a list, and in fact always use Liberty stationary – of all the things I need to get done.
What’s your weekday wardrobe like?
Simple, sharp and comfortable are my buzz words when it comes to my wardrobe. I always like to wear one of our scarves, which are so bold when it comes to print and colour that they are the focus of every outfit, so I keep everything else simple. At the moment my go-to outfit is leather trousers paired with an over-sized cashmere sweater and my current favourite scarf from our upcoming AW14 collection – but that’s a secret for now!
How do you translate your inspirations into the finished print?
We take our inspiration and give it a fantasy twist, whether that involves playing with colour, scale and proportions, or view. It’s a way of translating the beauty we see around us into a piece that reflects the world of Lily and Lionel.
Have you been on any trips abroad that inspired a particular Lily and Lionel scarf?
Lots of our prints have been inspired by trips abroad. This season’s Coachella scarf was created using a photo we took at the festival in California last year and our Paris scarf was also created using a photo from the balcony of our Parisian hotel room. It’s difficult to go anywhere without coming back with plenty of ideas, not just for prints but for colour-ways too. Going to places with amazing energy like Brazil and Argentina have been truly inspiring for bold colours.
How do your grandparents (Lily and Lionel) influence your designs on a day-to-day basis?
Their influence is an overall sense of wanting to create a timeless piece for people to keep forever. I do always have my grandpa Lionel in mind when we’re picking out fabrics for each piece during the design process. He supplied apparel to some of London’s most glamorous stores and really knew his stuff when it came to textiles. We pick the best fabrics we can find so that each scarf feels lovely to bundle up in.
Have you bought anything from the Liberty Scarf Hall before you were stocked there yourself?
In my pre-Lily and Lionel student days, sadly my finances wouldn’t allow it but I would regularly go and wistfully gaze at all the beautiful pieces – all the staff were very patient with me! Now it’s a dream come true to be stocked in the renowned Scarf Hall.
What’s your favourite thing about the Liberty Scarf Hall?
I love the edit – there isn’t an overwhelming number of pieces to choose from but it still offers a great range. Plus, being housed in a beautiful British institution makes the entire experience of shopping there unforgettable.
Tell us your first memory of Liberty.
Liberty is a wonderful place to get lost in as a child. I remember going with my mother and getting in trouble for running off to go and play with the products in the beauty department.
Which aspects of your designs do you think resonate the most with Liberty values?
I think the fact that we are a British heritage brand really fits into the rich history of Liberty and its status as a British institution. That was evident when we had the pleasure of launching our collaboration with the photographer David Bebber in the Scarf Hall a few years ago. The collection was all about the joys of the British seaside and sold out immediately. As well as that, Liberty has an incredible reputation for being selective when it comes to luxury, and we have the same attitude when it comes to finding the very best fabrics and creating unique prints.
Ever wanted to learn how to make your very own clothing, but found the thought of following a dress pattern more daunting than Everest? Print aficionado, Keighley is here to put you at ease. We caught up with Liberty’s loveliest print designer to pick up some dress making tips, and pry into the world of the Liberty Design Studio and what it’s like to work there. We also got a glimpse of Keighley’s collection of handmade garments – flirty floral frocks, retro A-line minis and a host of snug fleece sweatshirts – all enough to make you green with wardrobe envy.
How long have you been a print designer at Liberty, and how did you end up working in the Liberty print design team?
I’ve been at Liberty for about two and a half years. I studied fashion print at Central St. Martins and was on a sandwich course so I could spend a year in the industry before my final year, most of which I spent at Liberty. I loved it and was offered a job for when I finished my degree which was really exciting.
What part of the print design process do you love and find the most exciting?
I love the actual designing part the most; drawing, painting or lino printing the design. But getting the brief and the research part, when I’ve got lots of ideas buzzing around my head, is pretty exciting too. Once the design has been approved the colouring stage is really interesting. When the design starts to be coloured it really comes to life and it always amazes me how colour can transform the design.
You sometimes go on field trips to get inspiration for the seasonal fabric designs. What has been the most memorable trip you’ve taken with the team?
The most memorable trip was Florence. One of the other designers and I went at the end of last year and it was just incredible. There is so much beauty packed into such a small city. We went for three days and managed to see so many inspiring things, I can’t go into too much detail as it was research for Autumn/ Winter 2015 – which is still very top secret!
Working so many seasons in advance, how do you ensure designs will remain relevant and current?
It’s great working so far in advance because it allows us to almost set the trends and create designs that will go on to inspire others who will use the fabrics in their collections. Our briefs are always so inspiring and within our collections we try to create gorgeous designs and beautiful colours that will appeal to a variety of customers. We also have an innovation team who search for great new base fabrics to put our designs on to. We have recently launched denim and fleece, which are both amazing and so wearable (I think I have five Liberty fleece jumpers now!).
What is your favourite Liberty print, and what does it mean to you?
Oh that’s quite a hard question! I’m going to have to mention a few. I’m quite attached to all of my designs as I work on them for so long, then we can name them after someone and that makes you feel even more attached! I named my very first design ‘Jacqueline Helena’ after my mum; I designed it at St. Martins when we did a collaboration competition with Liberty in our second year. My first design as a designer here was inspired by sound and was named after my brother, ‘Joshua Graham’. I also love ‘Kevin’ (my dad!), a design from Autumn/ Winter 2014 which was inspired by star constellations. From Spring/ Summer 2014, I think my favourites are ‘Sheree’ which was inspired by the Liberty Bath House and named after my auntie, and ‘Jess and Jean’ which was inspired by the furnishing room. I’ve just seen that Sessùn have used it for a dress which I’m really excited to buy. I haven’t even mentioned the designs I love that I haven’t designed! I must just mention ‘Alice’s Garden’, a design from Autumn/ Winter 2013. This is ‘Anna’s garden’ (also a beautiful print which was inspired by a scarf print from the archive) made really tiny and put onto fleece, it’s just gorgeous. ‘Wild Flowers’ from Autumn/ Winter 2014 was created from a paper cut sculpture of a botanical book, it was also printed on fleece, so I made a gorgeous jumper and also recently upholstered my wooden desk chair cushion with it, which looks lovely.
Is it true there is a print named after you? Have you made anything from the design?
Yes! ‘Keighley’ was designed in Spring/ Summer 2012, I absolutely love it and have brought metres of it. I can’t decide what to make, it has to be something special. Luckily, Paige Denim used ‘Keighley’ and made a really cute pair of denim shorts which I obviously bought.
You make many of your own items using Liberty print, what has been your favourite project so far?
When I was interning I collected lots of different scraps and made a quilt which is on my bed so I love waking up to that. But making clothes is fun; being able to see something I like then try and re-create it is great. I went through a phase of making lots of fleece jumpers, but at the moment I seem to be making lots of A-line mini skirts out of the denim and also material from our new Furnishing Fabrics collection. I also really enjoy making presents, it’s lovely to give someone something you’ve made, even if it’s something little.
Many people feel daunted by the prospect of making clothing, what advice or encouragement do you have for those first timers?
Don’t be daunted! It really is quite easy if you start with something simple, like an elasticated skirt, for example, or a T-shirt style dress. The best way to start is to get hold of a garment that you like the shape of and that you can ideally cut up to create a pattern. It’s a really good way of seeing how garments are put together and the more you practice the more you will get used to knowing what the patterns need to look like to be able to fit the body. Trial and error is the best way to learn if you haven’t had any training in it.
Finally, will you be making anything from the new season ‘Gallery of Prints’ collection? If so, which print will you be using?
As we design so far ahead I’ve had the Spring/ Summer ’14 fabric around for a while, so I’ve made a smock dress from ‘Jonathan’, some boxer shorts and an iPad case out of ‘Sheree’ and lots of cushions out of ‘Jess and Jean’, which look lovely. Also, a little rag doll for my niece’s first birthday with a patchwork dress of ‘Sheree’, ‘Jess and Jean’, ‘Jennie and Steve’ and few other designs from other seasons. I went to have a look at the collection on the shop floor the other day and was reminded of how much I love ‘Isle of Wight’, so I really want to make something out of that… I’m not sure what yet.
Textile graduates Harry Barford and Polly Wilkinson founded Draw in Light in 2009, specialising in ethereal and elegant womenswear. Using free-hand silk screen printing techniques, each garment is individual by nature and charged with their signature raw femininity.
The British designers collaborated with the Liberty design team to create a print for the Spring/Summer 2014 Gallery of Prints collection. Their print, ‘Summer’, is a surreal landscape created with the brand’s signature freedom of expression. Harry and Polly would use their print to create clothing, teddy bears and home furnishings. We caught up with them to find out more about their unique collaboration with Liberty.
Having been spotted at Liberty Best of British in 2010, what does it mean to you to be asked to collaborate on a Liberty print fabric?
We felt honoured to be able to collaborate on a Liberty print. It’s wonderful to be part of such a historic side of the Liberty business and wonder what people will be making with the cloth. I’d love to see some kind of patchwork teddy.
How do you think your print represents both your own brand and Liberty?
The Draw in Light signature is based around a free-hand approach to silk screen printing, combined with delicate illustration. This is represented in the landscape and trees. I think the magic of the Liberty team is to take a large scale print like this and put it into a beautiful repeat and scale that works perfectly for the fabric.
What was your favourite part of the design process?
Splashing paint around in our studio and of course coming to see the Liberty print archive – an Aladdin’s cave of print and colour.
Is the design process for a fashion print similar to when you design a print for fabric?
Absolutely identical. I think the only difference in fashion is that you have to consider flattering colour and scale. Really a lot of our prints could be placed on any object; fashion is just our way to display our print.
Did you use any unusual techniques to create your design?
We are very hands on. We mix all our colours from our studio and print with mostly free-hand. This means we can print in a loose, creative way, meaning our prints are really unique. More like ready-to-wear art.
Will you be making anything out of your Liberty print and if so, what?
We have made some cushions. Simple but beautiful! It’s lovely to see the spectrum of colour.
What can we expect in 2014 from Draw in Light? Any new year’s resolutions for the brand?
We are very focused this year. It’s about British heritage and our take on what we consider classic. I think our constant resolution every year will be to be inspired and yet always refine our ideas.
What do you love most about the Liberty store?
The consortium of stock and heritage. We try and visit at least once a month to buy presents and check on our rail.
Discover and shop more prints from the new season Liberty Art Fabrics collection >