Founded in 2016, The Zoo is an extraordinary collection of perfumes and olfactive prestidigitation. Not a surprise to discover the iconoclastic talent of French master perfumer Christophe Laudamiel is behind this fascinating array of scents.
Christophe looks like a punk, usually blue-haired, a wicked smile and accompanied by teeny white dogs, small bits of fur often tinted to match his exuberant hair. His look is very much the opposite of the faux-grandeur of the suited and booted strip-sniffing tradition of French nose portraits.
He is the owner and creative director of New York based company Dreamair, dedicated to the composition of perfumes, not just for skin, but also seeking to redefine our relationship to ambient odour in public spaces such as hotels, ablutions, room scent, transport, corporate environments and art galleries.
Christophe is a precise and passionate perfumer, with a sense of odiferous humour and joy. He has a unique understanding of skin and the osmosis of perfumed materials, accords and chemistry allowing him to create a body of work that revels in disruption, gloss and originality.
Christophe’s work brims with bravura innovation and twists on original ideas. The oddity and strange beauty in his work is a mingle of mainstream wit and niche artistry. Fierce for Abercrombie + Fitch is his blockbuster scent, created with Bruno Jovanovic, the fizzing pheromonic allure of musky Bruce Weber boys, sporty teens, beach holidays and glassy woods. Fierce is pumped through stores, permeating the streets outside making for a divisive, yet undeniably pungent experience.
It is impossible to underestimate the ubiquitous hold Polo Blue (with Carlos Benaim) had on the market, so many copycats and yet the original was omnivorous. For a while after launch it could be smelled rolling off jocks, city slickers and teens with their first fast cars, dousing themselves on humid nights.
Youth Dew Amber Nude was his creamy re-working of Lauder’s original lacquered, cigarette-y Youth Dew. Made while Tom Ford was sensualising Lauder, the addition of chocolate and the most sublimely golden amber accord, the result was a beautiful homage to Youth Dew and somehow a perfume for modernity, bared skin and kissing after dark.
The perfumes created for Strangelove NYC are among his most divine perfumes. Made with exquisite materials, particularly a beautiful, lacquered oud dosed through the collection. meltmyheart mixes a photo-realistic high cocoa content chocolate note with oud and ylang-ylang, orris butter ginger and tangy mandarin. Unlike anything else on the market, it has an erotic allure all its own.
The daring and mysterious silencethesea is like a perfumed depiction of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, capturing the moody obsessiveness of troubled Sarah Woodruff gazing off the Cobb in Lyme Regis, fighting to have her maddening love recognised. Oud, ocean, mimosa, white truffle, angelica and blue chamomile exalted by an astonishing real salty ambergris. A mournful work of art.
On the Dreamair website Christophe is described as a scent composer, a perfect way to depict this man of integrity and transparency. He has a strong sense of ethics and would prefer the perfume world was more open to scrutiny. He created A Fragrance Manifesto, a set of commandments that asked the olfactive community to look inwards and search for clarity, reason and truth.
He wants an overall legitimacy and sense of propriety to be adopted and valued within the perfume world. It is a big ask, but one that has already paid dividends as increasing amounts of consumers want to be more aware of what is in their fragrance and how it is sold to them. There has always a certain snobbisme with perfume, a withholding of information, purportedly because consumers might not understand the facts presented to them.
Christophe is their champion, a man aware of scented confabulation but also the technical skills and precise imagination in composing original work. Originality is an elusive thing in any artistic discipline. The pressures of making money vs artistic integrity. Remember the shock of Lancôme’s La Vie est Belle. Three talented noses, Olivier Polge, Dominique Ropion and Anne Flipo and some 5000 mods to produce a bestseller, but arguably sacrificing any real artistic merit. It was and is a huge success. You smell it everywhere, but the safety of if, like Chanel’s Gabrielle, has been carefully weighed against any kind of failure. Christophe’s offerings to the mainstream now seem avant-garde and determinably arresting. He wants us to notice our skin and senses being engaged by aroma.
The Zoo is a fabulous playground and laboratory for Christophe’s talent. It has allowed him to compose an anthology of scents suffused with his laconic style. There are touches of dreamy Pierre et Gilles, Zaha Hadid’s brutalist curves and some ruthlessly tailored compositions that all somehow come together through sheer force of Christophe’s talent.
The mix of sensual storytelling and natural observation is compelling. From the shocking green of Carré Blanc, the juicy green-pink of Rhubarb My Love to the interlocking spiced floral patterns of Club Design and rich tactile resonance of Everlasting, dosed high with immortelle, narcotic narcissus from Aubrac-Auvergne, a billet doux to where Christophe was born.
Each scent has a distinctive character and exuberance, the bottles are year stamped and numbered. Most of all, are giddy with inventive technical skill, the formulae blending Christophe’s innate understanding of natural materials and his love of scent technology. The Zoo is a brand that will open the doors of your olfactive experiences and fling open the windows for good measure.
Return to The Zoo.