There’s one designer whose perfumes I’ve always considered the very antidote of a “fashion house fragrance”. You know the sort – a campaign featuring some leggy doe-eyed whippet skipping through a meadow, whispering some inane comment about “being true to myself” whilst the end shot is her staring coquettishly at the camera while clutching the scent bottle. (The contents of which are inevitably some pear and Ylang Ylang blandless…) The same can’t be said for Bella Freud’s punchy, potent concoctions – as one would expect from such a fascinating character coming from such a creative and eccentric family.
Her sister, Esther Freud is the author of ‘Hideous Kinky’ a memoir of the two girls’ upbringing in Morocco with their bohemian mother Bernardine. Her father is the painter Lucien Freud, while her great-grandfather was some bloke called Sigmund…
Her idiosyncratic designs and iconic slogan jumpers have put “tomboy-chic” firmly back on the fashion map and her fragrances are just as covetable. Rich and intoxicating, there’s nothing “pretty” or “safe” about these scents, they have a backbone and a story behind them and the latest addition: Psychoanalysis – in both perfume and candle form, is case in point.
With its rich smoky, leathery character, is definitely a perfume for the grown ups. It begins batting its eyelashes with pretty neroli notes, barely masking a strong heart of tobacco flower and cedarwood. Given its name, it’s a far cry from the archetypal “hysterical young girl” on the psychiatrist’s couch, and more like someone who’s suffered a few knocks in life, analysed herself and managed to just about emerge out the other side without the guidance of some Freudian father figure. It’s the delicate beauty of Marilyn draped in a pink bed sheet, combined with the steely resolve of Katharine Hepburn puffing on a cigarette in a tailored suit.
The candle is equally beguiling, the same bouquet heightened by the richness of amber, but I have to say for me Psychoanalysis works better as a body perfume - but that's all down to personal taste.
To learn more about the scent, we were invited down to meet with the lady herself at Liberty, where she held court over breakfast. What I loved about Freud is we didn’t feel we were being formally presented to, as she explained the story behind this new fragrance.
“I feel that with perfume you can reveal something about yourself: you can be a bit sexier with a perfume or a bit more frosty or whatever it is you want to suggest. I’m hoping each person will interpret this fragrance themselves, within the context of something thoughtful and sensuous, really.
“To be honest I don’t know that much about perfume, but I know how it makes me feel and that’s really what I’m aiming for. This perfume reminds me a bit of quite macho men who smell very delicious– for some reason I always think of the film director Luchino Visconti. He was so elegant and relaxed within himself and so macho - and he’s gay. There’s a confidence about that that I find reassuring. So much of life is about getting dressed and styling yourself a certain way so you can relax and be confident - and daring as well.
“The perfume and candle have the same names but the candle is slightly richer. I like the idea of someone writing and this fragrance coming in through the window like a breath of fresh air while you’re having your cigarette and black coffee. There’s a sense of this émigré kind of thing that I like. Alongside the fragrance, we’ve also created a series of illustrated cards that have been such fun to do. I wanted to do something playful, using all the classic “isms” whatever they’re called, invented by Sigmund Freud.
“Psychoanalysis – to me, is the idea of a man so intelligent and deep, who holds your happiness but can never fulfil it. The smell of the leather couch is reassuring, while the fragrance of orange blossom and cigars opens your mind and heart. And I suppose I happen to have an analyst who’s terribly good-looking, which has been a very useful life lesson!
“I noticed as I was a young woman, that if I met someone who was attractive, I completely lost my self-possession. I’d say way too much, or hardly anything - then go away and think about it for years and years! But having this handsome man [my analyst] being so compassionate and attentive to me has been very useful. I’ve been able to somehow not drive him away or just end up over-sharing - and I’m so grateful to him. This is a man whom I’ve had so many kinds of fantasies about and yet what’s interesting is that the relationship doesn’t have to go anywhere in particular in order to be a success. The success of my relationship with him is just having a relationship - a very kind one. It’s been enjoyable and as I get older, it’s really fun as well
“[With the smoky accord of this scent], I suppose I instantly think of Sigmund Freud and with his cigar, while the smell of orange blossom is an eastern European Jewish thing and an Arab thing as well. And I feel a connection to them - a soul connection.”
Psychoanalysis is available at Liberty London from September 15th