Passion Points: Spa/Wellness
A Discussion with Victoria Christian, Clive Christian Perfumes
Clive Christian’s house of perfumes has a past deeply intertwined with history. After all, the brand created Queen Victoria’s personal perfume (along with Prince Albert’s; the couple ensured the two scents complemented each other), and was crowned in 1872 by Victoria herself. Often overlooked, scent is the most reminiscent of the five senses, as explains Victoria Christian, Clive’s daughter and the ambassador for this 150-year-old brand. In fact, infants develop their sense of smell before sight or hearing in order to bond them to their mothers.
Though made for men and women, Clive Christian Perfumes are not colognes or eau de toilettes. A common misconception, perfume, cologne, and eau de toilette are not gender-specific, but refer to the concentration levels of the fragrances. Perfume is the strongest, lasting up to 24 hours, eau de toilette’s medium concentration leads to a 2-5 hour long duration, and cologne is the weakest, typically lasting just 1-2 hours.
Even one spritz of C for Women powerfully demonstrates how 170 roses go into making a single drop of these famous perfumes. Victoria Christian finds a similar exuberant density in many of the cities she visits while promoting her family’s company. The energy of Moscow, Dubai, Cannes, and San Francisco lead them to rank among her favorite destinations for business or leisure.
This frequent flier recently sat down with Indagare to discuss perfume, her travels, and restaurant tips in the South of France.
The Clive Christian perfumes contain scents sourced from around the world. Can you tell us about some of your favorites and where they come from?
In Victorian times every flower and ingredient had a meaning – tuberose signified voluptuousness and pleasure; violet was the symbol for devotion. Rose de Mai from the South of France was highly prized and now sits at the heart of all our perfumes. In ancient tradition, the roses were placed around the bed during childbirth.
Without question my favorite ingredient is Egyptian jasmine, associated with Isis, goddess of the moon. The flowers are plucked from the Nile banks at dusk, when they are most ‘alive’ fragrantly. Jasmine has a legendary history: it was sewn into the sails of Cleopatra’s barge for her journey to meet Mark Antony. Legend has it that the scent was so intoxicating, he fell in love with her on the breeze as she sailed towards him. Egypt is a place I have yet to visit, though it has always held a fascination for its history and ancient culture. I love to visit the British Museum in London and gaze at the tombs and mummies. I would like to travel back in time and see the pyramids and cities as they were in the time of Cleopatra, perhaps this is what has held me back from visiting nowadays.
As the Brand Ambassador for Clive Christian, you are constantly travelling. Where are your favorite destinations?
I am huge fan of France – from Paris to the Mediterranean Sea – and I try to spend as much time there as possible. When staying in the South of France I love to sail to St. Tropez for lunch at Club 55 – their fresh vegetable platter is a vision of health and vitality (a nice balance to the local rose!) and the gentle shade and live music makes for a glorious, relaxing atmosphere. For an extra health kick I would suggest foregoing the boat taxi to shore and swimming in, then drying off and browsing in the 55 shop.
Any recent discoveries?
Last summer I discovered a little restaurant called La Charivari (170 Route Agay; 33 (0)4 94 82 00 66) at the top of a hill in Agay. The entrance is hidden by overgrown leaves but once inside, the huge restaurant is illuminated by twinkling lights and a beautiful 180-degree view over the bay.
In Cannes I always reserve a table on the beach at the Carlton Hotel one evening during the International Fireworks Festival. The show lasts about half an hour and is set to music representing a different European country each week. It is the best experience in Cannes I have ever had and I make a point to go every year.
Where do you stay in Paris?
I stay in a different hotel each time I visit Paris to get new feels for the city. La Tremoille (14 rue de la Trémoille; 33 (0)1 56 52 14 00) is great for L’Avenue Montaigne shopping and the star-studded people-watching is so fun at the outdoor tables of L’Avenue restaurant. The filet de boeuf there really is excellent. The Ritz is perfectly located near Place Vendome and the Sunday brunch with a live pianist is beyond your wildest dreams. The dessert room always reminds me of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory!
What are your favorite U.S. cities to visit?
In Atlanta, the Atlanta History Center (130 West Paces Ferry; (404) 814-4000) is a must-see followed by dinner at Aria (490 East Paces Ferry; (404) 233-7673). In San Francisco I always try to go to the ballet and watch my favorite dancer, Maria Kotchetkov. I also enjoy browsing the vintage shops in the Haight-Ashbury area. But New York City is my spiritual home. When I am there I don’t miss anywhere else. I adore every view from every angle at any time of day in Manhattan.
Are there places you find particularly inspiring or renewing?
In my work I often travel to Moscow. I love this city as it has a little of New York’s energy. In Dubai, it seems like everything is possible. I have been travelling there for the past five years and am amazed by how rapidly it changes and its level of activity. For example in the city’s malls, shoppers can go from the stores to scuba-diving.
What are your favorite shops abroad?
Lane Crawford in Hong Kong is really fantastic, but I mainly shop at Harvey Nichols in London. I’m really quite a reluctant shopper, preferring quite a pared back wardrobe of essentials – usually in black!
Do you have a travel uniform? What kind of clothes do you find particularly well-suited for travel?
I usually travel in a black or olive-green turtleneck and jeans, or (although I am not fond of the word) jeggings. I take three scarves with me, a couple for warmth. Scarves can easily change the look of a simple outfit.
What is your favorite item of clothing? What do you never leave home without?
Perfume is my consistent invisible accessory. I am totally loyal to the Clive Christian collection and own one of each of the eight perfumes. Usually if I travel for a short period, I will take one perfume – writing this in Berlin, I brought C for Women. If I take a longer trip I will take the Traveller Collection, which has a mini version of all of the perfumes. This way I can select the perfume that best suits my mood and the occasion.
What is your most treasured possession you’ve picked up on your travels?
I always have a camera with me and shoot sunrises and attempt to capture the energy of a place. If I ever stop traveling, I will print and compile all my favorite shots into a book.
I always send postcards to my friends and family and one to myself so as to have a checkpoint of everywhere I have been. I also pick up matchboxes from lovely restaurants and bars.
Do you have a packing routine?
I am fond of packing – in both directions; it appeals to my sense of order. I used to travel with practically everything I owned, “just in case,” but I now pride myself on packing efficiently. I make a list of must-haves for the trip and lay everything out so i can see my ‘travel wardrobe’ and identify any missing pieces. As soon as I arrive at my destination, I put my iPod on “shuffle” and unpack – this always helps me to relax.
You are always on the road for work, where do you go to completely unwind?
A massage after a long flight is so restorative, so I try to stay in hotels with good spas. For example, when I visit Atlanta I stay at the St. Regis and check in to Spa 29 (88 West Paces Ferry; (404) 563-7900). The founder owns vineyards in California and at the end of your treatment you are presented with a glass of heavenly red. After living in New York for seven years, I scoured every spa in my hometown, London, for an experience and quality of service to match the norm in Manhattan. The best I could come up with is Urban Retreat (Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Road; 44 (0)20 7893 8333). They offer incredible manicures and pedicures from Leighton Denny.
I am a big fan of a piano bar. In New York I head to Bemelman’s at The Carlyle to hear Chris Gillespie. When in London, I love The Lanesborough Library. Finding a cozy, inviting spot where I can just relax into the music is such a treat for me.
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