J. Crew is looking backward in time to inspire the brand’s new push forward into beauty.
The brand linked up with niche perfumer Arquiste to produce not one, but two scents that capture the opening of “Exhibition by 31 Women” on January 5, 1943. Developed by Givauden perfumers Rodrigo Flores-Roux and Yann Vasner, the scent seeks to bottle the atmosphere of the celebration of the first all-female modern art show in the US, which was curated by Peggy Guggenheim. “The Exhibition featured artists like Frida Kahlo and Helen Frankenthaler. Guggenheim had oak chairs so patrons could sit down and admire art. The walls, floor, and ceiling were all done in wood,” Arquiste fragrance developer Carlos Huber explained to Women’s Wear Daily. “Of course she didn’t just serve wine and sparkling water. There were Manhattans, negronis, and gin-and-tonics – all these cocktails that were popular during that era.”
The result, which will hit all 269 J. Crew stores and its eponymous site on Monday, was No. 31 and No. 57, a split that occurred during the development. “We were originally aiming for one fragrance," said Huber, “But as we kept meeting, we realized there were two distinct scent stories that everyone loved, so we went with both.”
Aged whiskey, cinnamon bark, labdanum, and vanilla comprise No. 57 to reflect the warm amber glow of Guggenheim’s gallery. “No. 57 is abstract, mysterious, enveloping and feels layered,” he said. No. 31’s red Vermouth, eau-de-vie accord, Bulgarian rose, and damson plum throw back to a lighter, more whimsical sort of vintage. “This scent is sparkling and radiant, but still sophisticated,” Huber explained. “We incorporated dark plum, which was a popular note in fragrance in the Forties. It’s fruity but very elegant.”
Though there are no further fragrances in the works yet, the power of a popular perfume may be enough for the brand to dive further into the beauty pool. “There’s always a possibility of more products because we’re looking for things that we love so we an then share with our customers,” said Tom Mora, head of J. Crew women’s design. “Of course we’re hoping that we’ll capture all J. Crew customers with these two perfumes, but we just might have to do more.”