As you may have gathered, last Thursday was the UK Fragrance Foundation Annual Awards Night (aka the Fifis) and saw a major gathering of the great and the good in the perfume industry. By a happy turn of events, I found my little old self there too.
I attended as a guest of the Clive Christian team, which was both an honour and a privilege and I thank them warmly for inviting me.
I hadn’t been sure that attending would even be possible, with the night being on a school night, during term time and in London, around 150 miles from South Wales where Fort Scriven is situated. After rearranging my family’s lives in order to facilitate my attendance, and a last-minute ear infection at 5.50am from my poorly son who failed to guilt me into cancelling, I was off.
I may have mentioned before how kind perfume people are. Their generosity and thoughtfulness is legend, and tonight was no exception. I was invited to join brilliant perfume writer Stephan Matthews and Fifi award winner and perfumer Marina Barcenilla for a meet up and catch up prior to the noise and chaos. This meant I did not have to walk in alone and when we reached the venue and I saw the sheer enormity of the event, I was wholeheartedly grateful to have people to walk in with.
There were proper paparazzi and a big sponsored backdrop for better known people than I to be photographed on. Red carpet was everywhere- I have some on my stairs at home, but it doesn’t have the same effect and it’s a sod to hoover. There were sequinned hosts and black tie waiters with champagne holders that could hold about thirty glasses, unlike me. I only had one and stuck to soft drinks thereafter. I had names to remember and an early bus and I could not figure out where my hotel was from a map. Adding champagne would have been a disaster. I might still be there now, looking for the exit.
Stephan and Marina are a hoot to hang out with and I was in awe of their knowledge: not just of the industry but of the process and raw materials. Marina, as you may know, is a talented perfumer and very modest with it. Plus hilarious and sweary also.
I had a chance to catch up with the charming Dariusz, aka Persolaise and a met a jolly good looking chap who looked very familiar. I asked him what he did for a living “I’m a model” replied the charming model Oliver Cheshire. If I was as good looking as him, I’d be a massive big head, but he wasn’t in the slightest and was delightful.
My chum and fume-idol Sarah McCartney arrived around then: a finalist in two categories for Mother Nature’s Naughty Daughters, and looking splendid in vintage couture, with vintage buttons gleaming like jewels. We founded a two-strong campaign to restore the evening glove. Check out our YouTube video above that’s snowballed into double viewing figures.
It was soon time to herd us upstairs to dinner and I was separated from my companions to join my hosts on the Clive Christian table. My eyes had popped out on stalks when on seeing goody bags on every chair, so I popped them back in and tried to look gracious and not like a goody bag greedy guts. Which I am.
The Clive Christian table were a truly lovely team of people and I was particularly bowled over to have a chat with Victoria Christian herself who, let me tell you, smelled INCREDIBLE. (She was wearing Clive Christian V and C together). Luckily, fragrance gatherings are one of the few occasions where you can sniff people you have only just met without getting arrested. Also on my table, I was delighted to see Jo Fairley of The Perfume Society, who I hadn’t seen since I attended her workshop last Saturday.
You will hear more from me about Clive Christian throughout the year as there are exciting launches coming up soon, so watch this space.
After being entertained 1950s style by the fabulous Bye Bye Baby- a superb Frankie Valli style singing act, the awards began in earnest. There isn’t room here to list all the winners, so follow this link to Now Smell This, but we had a lovely compere in the form of Natasha Kaplinksy, who looked great but was too far away to sniff.
I was disappointed that Sarah McCartney didn’t win, but delighted that Marina Barcenilla won for Black Osmanthus. Marina and Sarah are true perfumers who make their own stuff, source their own materials and get their hands dirty. I love perfumers who do that and if it were up to me, I’d create a special category for the dirty hands gang.
The Fragrance Foundation was celebrating its twenty fifth birthday that night and it was fascinating to watch a showreel of perfume ads over the last 25 years. How things have changed! The night was finally over, all bar the dancing, but this tired Cinders could bear no more after a very long day. Finding the exit was like trying to leave Ikea but I just about made it out of there before I turned into a pumpkin.
Them Fragrance Foundation people sure know how to throw a party.
Goodnight, Nos da, Pyjamas.
Who are you wearing?
Samantha Scriven was dressed by The Ty Hafan Children’s Hospice Charity Shop, Cwmbran and the YMCA Shop Blackwood. Jewellery by Marks and Spencer from four years ago. Make up by Avon and Rimmel. Hair by Salon Scriven and two hotel mirrors. Scent of the Night was Le Jardin Retrouvé Tuberose Trianon.