Salon58: Conscious

When asked how consumers can start to make a difference themselves amid such a culture of consumption, H&M design alumni McCartney has publicly said the key lies in being more mindful. “We’ve forgotten we make the choices. When you’re consuming, ask questions… With fashion, look at the product and its price point. Look at its environment too – see if there are 700 others on the rail, or three on the rail. Look at how it’s made to understand what’s in it. Think of it like a recipe list, as you do with food,” So, small wonder then that Jackie Burger and H&M collaborated on Salon 58’s latest soirée that focussed on sustainability in fashion this Saturday past at Cape Town’s Gallery Momo. Burger opened the day, in her usual understated but powerful reflection, “looking and feeling good is not about empty-headed consumption, it is all about creative liberation and empowerment. It starts with being comfortable with your personal and authentic self-expression. Fashion should never dictate what we can or cannot wear.”

So, as you’re reading this ask yourself the question, how much did your outfit cost? Chances are, much more than you think. The clothing industry is the second-largest global polluter – after oil – and its complex production techniques and supply chains create a myriad of environmental issues. It takes 2,700 litres of water, according to a recent article on HuffingtonPost to make one t-shirt. As many of us are seriously worried about the drought that is plaguing our country, this simple fact already should give us pause for thought. But slowly education curriculum are incorporating sustainability theory and practice, and encouraging ethical behaviour, amongst its learners. But just as we are all guilty of satiating our ever growing demand for the latest, newest, freshest fashion it was a refreshing experience to attend an event where one of the world’s leading fast-fashion brands is boldly advocating the way forward with their own conscious collections and corporate commitment.

“H&M’s Conscious Exclusive collection shows how the best style can be mindful of the planet to help protect it for the future. It’s such a desirable collection, with pieces made from sustainable materials that you want to wear for seasons to come” said Natalia Vodianova, the face of the campaign and founder of Elbi, a philanthropy digital platform that is offering unique ways for people to support charities beyond traditional monetary donations. To illustrate how easy it can be to take a more sustainable approach to fashion, guests were asked to bring unwanted clothes and drop them into the recycling bins provided by H&M’s global Garment Collecting Initiative. Since its launch, over 35 000 tonnes of garments have been collected. In exchange, shoppers are rewarded with vouchers to use towards their next H&M purchase.

And this was the point of today. Ms Burger, a strong proponent that actions rather than just using our words are what is needed to move to a conscious move to be more sustainable in everything we do every day. Putting their money where their mouth is, the Swedish retailer has committed to radically alter its practices in its 2016 Sustainability Report (read here). The range of trousers, shirts, dresses and skirts is all made from recycled and/or sustainably produced fabrics and materials. Centre stage was a gossamer pink evening gown made from soft chiffon that once was plastic bottles washed up on a beach.

In addition to this trademarked Bionic fabric, H&M is the world’s biggest user of cotton certified by the Better Cotton Initiative. Their goal is to use only recycled or sustainably sourced fabrics by 2030 and to be climate positive through the company by 2040. This undertaking starts with using only renewable energy in the production chain. Burger and H&M’s Amelia-May Woudstra were joined by select panellists for the conversation around conscious living and what it means for each of them. As SARIE editor Michelle van Breda put it, “there is a way of doing things differently in life. There is a way of thinking differently in life.” From a fashion point of view, fashion researcher and anthropologist Erica de Greef pointed out that this requires slowing down instead of constantly racing to keep up. “The industry will change with us if we choose more carefully, responsibly, consciously.”

Seven-year-old Phoebe Ahrens and Kateline Swanepoel added their young voices to the mix and their concern for the welfare of others as well as the planet was a hard-hitting reminder to the adults in the room. Tarryn Oppel, Marie Claire’s fashion director; architect Ilze Wolff and photographer Gerda Genis all highlighted different aspects of this “new way of thinking” – Oppel by reclaiming her off-duty time, Genis by eating to nourish and feed her body and Wolf by reconsidering what spaces included and excluded in her designs. This last point was underlined by creative director Alwijn Burger of Blomboy who used pared-down décor with undecorated white plastic chairs as a reminder that we do not need as much as we often think.

It wouldn’t be a Salon 58 soirée without exquisite drinks in this case provided by The Duchess Virgin Gin and Tonic, Graham Beck MCC and Juicebox’s fresh fruit juice. Johnny Hamman of Slippery Spoon fame served raw vegetable rolls and nourishing broth, and set-up the Snap, Crackle & Pop cereal bar – all served in eco-friendly bowls. This soirée also doubled as the official launch of the H&M Conscious Collection in South Africa and the highlight for many was the pop-up shop where guests could buy their favourites well before the range’s in-store launch on April 20th.

Ms Burger also shared, in confidence of course, that her next salon will be on 24th June and thereafter she will launch a series of smaller, tailored Salon 58 experiences that will focus on personal style. So you have no excuse not to join and experience the magic, wonderment and spherical experience that these soirées truly are.

The farmer’s daughter, the future of retail

There can be no better pastime than a leisurely afternoon walk down the oak-lined streets of Stellenbosch after a scrumptious brunch or lunch with friends. Perhaps one of my favourite pastimes, as you are well aware, is to frequent any of the many chic restaurants or bistros which knit together to form this vibrant foodie community over the weekend. However recently I have also become aware of the rise of speciality shops that are off the tourist beat that is quietly changing the face of retail in the Western Cape.

Leading the movement, in my opinion, is the farmer’s daughter on towards the bottom of Dorp-street in a newly refurbished historic townhouse. Originally housed around the corner in Bird-street, proprietor Retha Erichsen emerged from a short four-year hiatus with a refreshed commercial offering in a new location. True to her artistic nature, the brand had grown up alongside her own two daughters and now reflects her own mantra ‘buy and sell only what I like and love’. Having spent a few afternoons in the shop, I can assure you that her own mantra reflects many conscious consumers looking for quality, craftsmanship and innovative goods.

Resonating with my own ‘artisanal advocacy’ journey of late, Retha views local artisans with an international prism having spent time on-and-off in Argentina and having travelled around Europe. Believing, like I do, that the future of artisan growth and future success is at its core design specific. One of the products which are retailed at the shop is a co-branded Eau de perfume from Keinood Farm and House of Gozdawa. While the consumer market is still in its infancy it is growing as more people start to become aware of personalisation but it is time-consuming with retailers playing the role of conservationist/poacher at the same time.

The thing that strikes you most about Retha, and by extension, the farmer’s daughter, is the passion for perfection. Working closely with a handful of creatives frequently mentioned in this blog such as Stellenbosch luminaries Jackie Burger, Alwijn Burger and Fritz Schoon amongst others whose work fits with her ethics. Be they Kleinood Farm (Eau de perfume), Ceramic Matters (handmade ceramics), Bbellamy & Bbellamy (textured fashion), and Schoon De Companje,Retha can legitimately claim the title of ‘influencer’ or ‘taste maker’. Collaborating doesn’t just end within the arts, though, but now also with Deluxe Coffeeworks who have set-up shop, so to speak, in a corner of the farmer’s daughter offering freshly roasted goblets of dark caffeine delight.

Askies Tannie maar ek dink jy’s wonderlik, Mevrou & Co

I like to celebrate the success of friends particularly when they are nice people to boot. So, I wanted to let you into the ‘secret’world of one of the most creative clothing brands I’ve come across since moving to Cape Town. MEVROU & CO. was created by an eclectic, yet like-minded, group of friends who like to eat, drink, talk nonsense and eventually come up with some kak fancy ideas. Sometimes at Societi Bistro. Sometimes not. But the important thing is the deep bonds of friendship that exist between this amazingly talented group of people.

Like many other great ideas, the business started on Whatsapp when Catherine Raphaely, “the original Mevrou”, created a group called “Mevrou & Co. Secret Stuff” and invited friends to start a small company called MEVROU & CO that would make and sell t-shirts with funny Afrikaans sayings on them. Afrikaans being, as we all know, particularly effective at summing up emotional disorders and, in fact, any state of mind in general.

The company name came about because, much to their amusement, some people from Vermaaklikheid (yes, it is a place) insist on calling Catherine “Mevrou” and it became a “thing” among this group of friends. The “& Co.” represents both die “ander mevrouens” as well as the many wonderful and creative friends with whom they have collaborated to develop the product and brand and who have also generously represented the brand on their Instagram campaigns.

So who are they? “The Mevrouens” consist of Maybe Corpaci (Yes, that is her real name but that is another story…) who is half Italian/Half Afrikaans (but a totally amazingly funny individual), half English/half Afrikaans Mary-Anne Grobler and Catherine who is a 100% English speaking Capetonian.

Nothing good is ever simple and choosing only six Afrikaans sayings for their slogans was the first challenge. Next, making a stylish, classic tee shirt of excellent quality at an affordable price is no easy task. However, although they don’t take themselves too seriously, they take their quality very seriously and are proud of the product which has now entered the wardrobes, and lexicons of the Pretty Young Cool Things who hang out at the best spots around town.

The tees are simple – unisex, crunchy cotton and are cut in a boxy, relaxed style. The neckline is a hybrid and is not too scooped, nor too high. Anyone can wear them – hipsters to braai masters – male, female or kids – no matter size and shape, they are a versatile separate for one’s wardrobe.

They can be styled in many different ways as can be seen on their Instagram and online campaigns. Proudly designed and manufactured from scratch in Cape Town, South Africa they wanted this brand to live online and therefore chose Instagram (@mevrouandco) as the primary marketing platform. Not just because they wanted the marketing experience to be visual, simple and effective but also be all about friendship just like the company.

Going forward, the Mevrouens want to continue developing the brand to include sayings representing as many South African cultural groups as possible. With their latest ‘Jew Crew’ range with a deluxe, deepest navy blue, velvet print was recently launched for festive holidays (yes, easy gift for both the Christmas and Hanukkah gift-giving frenzy which is upon us all) and they hope to have IsiZulu and IsiXhosa tees available early next year.

There is just too much moeilikheid out there at the moment and we want to make people smile and enjoy our togetherness as opposed to our otherness!

As they say, get it while it’s HOT!

Orders can be made via their online store http://www.mevrouandco.com.

Salon58: Stardust

SOn a sweltering hot day in Stellenbosch this past weekend, a constellation of guests gathered for the final Salon 58 soirée for 2016. Entitled Stardust, Jackie Burger, true to form, presented a playful celebration of fashion, food and all things beautiful that stretched well into the night. Apt perhaps given the theme for the day’s festivities.

“One of most exciting movements in fashion is the ‘break-all-the-rules approach to dressing that challenges dress codes. It calls for fresh ideas and creativity from the design fraternity and from us,” said Burger at the beginning of the soirée. The dress code for Stardust, black-tie presented us with an opportunity for a little tongue-in-cheek challenge to play dress-up and allow personal style to triumph over convention. Having attended enough black-tie events in the past few months it was a welcome alternative to the stuffiness that comes with dressing up. But then you already knew that about Ms. Burger’s events. Stardust follows in the footsteps of the seven previous soirées by celebrating South African fashion and making it accessible to all by pairing couture with vintage and wardrobe staples. Burger herself chose to wear a design by Durban designer Gideon and says of her look, “I love the whimsy of the top and chose to contrast it with a vintage pleated couture skirt I found in Paris years ago.” Looking back on her two years at Salon 58, the experience of being an entrepreneur, she said, “It maps my challenges and personal need to push my boundaries to grow in a collaborative and experiential economy. It helped me to rediscover the power of following one’s dreams and taught me a new mental fitness, thanks to its unpredictable nature.” But as she continued to tell of her Muse’s murmurings, I was reminded of a recent coffee date with Ms. Burger that was only supposed to be a catch-up but nearly two hours later we both had to dash out of the restaurant to salvage what was left of our afternoon appointments.

From this came the idea for Stardust as a way to create and share magical moments, “to make memories of friendship and unique moments that perhaps fall by the wayside because we don’t have enough time or are too tired to make the effort. Besides, magical moments are what the festive season should be made of.” That’s the thing about Ms Burger – she herself is so alluring. Insightful. Inspiring that you walk away energised to go out and make the world a more magical place through art, design, words or even consciously thinking about what you’re going to wear that day.

This idea, of unique moments and finding those within our every day, was carried through in the conversation led by Dr Yvette de Villiers that turned to our expectations of the festive season and also what is expected of us. She focused on escaping the habits that keep us in “survival mode” and replacing a sense of duty with joy.

Because it was the final soirée of the year, Jackie elected to work with several collaborators who had been with Salon 58 almost from the start. Juanita Kotze (The Rare Librarian) created a playful fashion production to show the breathtakingly intricate fashion by KlûkCGDT, Gideon, and Stefania Morland, all paired with shoes from Spitz. In the spirit of the evening, actress and producer Marlida Ferreira took to the floor in a design by Gideon and sparkly rollerskates. (As Gideon said, “Dress-up is about returning to the innocence of childhood and losing the inhibitions that we allow to define us.”)

Ferreira was joined on stage by award-winning actress Erica Wessels, soprano Magdalene Minnaar, actress Sarah Kozlowski, designer and artist Saskia Wicomb, designer Juandi Andrag as well as Kotze, the curator of the fashion theatre production, The Starduchesses. All are redheads, in line with David Kriel of Institute Aesthetics’ prediction that red is the hair colour for now. This was reinforced when he invited guests backstage to see and experiment with playful, flirty up-dos and small, sleek buns, with the compliments of Redken, and in his talk on the rise of red and pink in make-up as well as hair. “Texture is big too – it’s about volume and big and bold hair. It’s about fun,” he said.

MAC Cosmetics’ senior make-up artist Raine Tauber set the tone for the evening by treating guests to a dusting of glitter as well as MAC’s Nutcracker Sweet Holiday makeup collection. The shimmery pinks and plums are a little bit naughty, somewhat nutty and spot-on for the celebration that followed.

Next up came Salon 58 cocktail hour with Simone Musgrave of Musgrave Gin who treated guests to their artisanal Pink Gin made at their distillery in Salt River. Musgrave’s gins are made with African botanicals and the Pink Gin owes its lovely pink hue to rosewater and rosehip while their Jitterbug Perfume is made with beetroot – in a nod to Tom Robbins’ cult novel. In the course of the tasting, she shared the story of Musgrave Gin, which is the story of her family too.

Last but in no ways least, Hanneri Visser and Studio H, together with Woolworths Food, created visual and culinary installations for all the senses. A black liquorice chandelier, a black-tie braai with braaibroodjies made with an iron and chocolate skulls in balloons that guests had to pop were all on the out-of-this-world menu served with beer shandies from Devil’s Peak Brewery made with Juicebox juice, and Graham Beck Brut Rosé NV.

Salon 58’s Stardust shopping experience consisted of meticulously crafted leather clutch bags, belts and accessories from Missibaba; Coast and Koi’s new range of jewel-coloured shoes adorned with the most fantastic details and embellishments, and a selection of handmade items by Retha Erichsens’s The Farmer’s Daughter. Marcos and Istvan of Basilei Confectionary’s fudge introduced guests to their handcrafted luxury fudges that proved wildly popular.

The entire fairytale setting for the evening was created under the direction of Alwijn Burger from Blomboy, Eduan Roos of A Create and the talented David Brits. Brits created the huge black and white artwork that formed the backdrop to the conversations and salon in front of guests’ eyes.

In parting, Burger said, “I humbly thank each and every one who graced my life in 2016 with their creativity, energy, passion and generosity, especially those who attended the soirées and allowed me to share my visions and dreams. I invite everyone to join us next year – starting with the first soirée on 1 April.”

They say that in life there are only two things which you have no choice, death and taxes. I would like to propose a third, if I may: attending all of Ms Burger’s soirées.

Pars pro toto, Veld + Sea Foraging

I had been invited a few times as a guest of The Botanist Gin to attend one of their foraging excursions for influencers, trade and media however due to scheduling issues I was never able to attend. And so, with the past few weeks a blur of airport waiting lounges, hotel suites and the back seats of cars crisscrossing the Western and Northern Cape I had just found my land-legs when friend and co-owner of Mother’s Ruin (@royalrant) messaged me asking to join her this past Saturday for a foraging and cocktail masterclass.

And so at the crack of dawn, when polite society usually gather at the trendy hotspots along Bree Street to brunch, the awesome foursome piled into her car and headed out towards the Cape peninsula to spend the day under the tutelage of Roushanna Gray, proprietor of Good Hope Gardens for a masterclass in foraging and cocktails. The lullaby rattling of bottles of booze gently rocking us into a quite meditative slumber as we hugged the shoreline of our beautiful city-state. Before I begin, I have to make a confession. While the concepts of sustainability, eco-friendliness and biospheres are not foreign concepts to me they tend to not be the weighting factor I use when making purchasing or lifestyle decisions. Just like I know smoking is bad for me (I still smoke occasionally when drinking), not be distracted by my cell phone when driving (I still occasionally check the playlist on the entertainment console) and that pretty people will most likely be bad in bed (I still occasionally think that maybe they’re having a bad day rather than being a bad lay).

The same applies to anything within the tree hugging and bunny fucking categories.

However, the more I engage with these knowledgeable people and learn a little more I seem to be slowly changing my perception. Take for example Kobus van der Merwe known as a chef’s chef he has created something truly magical at Wolfgat in Paternoster. Friends and I had lunch there a few weeks back and experiencing his coastal foraged lunch was sublime. Truly something magical and worth the drive out. And so, everywhere I seem to turn I have come to realise that foraging is slowly crossing over from being a fad to becoming a true way of life not just in Cape Town but the world. The transition from hipsters to mainstream has already taken place and pretty soon the commercial potential of foraging for small, craft-based brands will be the new ‘new’ staple. But back to Caitlin. And Rohshanna whose passion for wholesome food has been in her blood since she was a little girl.

“I had no plant knowledge. Everything I know now, I learned through research, exploration and my love of food. I grew up with a mixed heritage, so there was a lot of ‘fusion food’. My life out here, and my passion for wild edibles started when I fell in love with my husband Tom. My mother-in-law, Gael, is a botanist so we would go walking and she’d teach me how to identify plants. This nursery has been running for 30 odd years.”

But in an odd twist, as the rise of the artisan is on the ascent so seems to be a way of getting back to nature. Organic farming replaced the mass-produced farms and now we are almost full circle with foraging which was essential before the introduction of agriculture. And there we all sat, a group of strangers around a quaint farm style table learning about the difference between cordials, tinctures and syrups. How to infuse and how to let your imagination run wild before we … Uhm … ran wild foraging our own leaves from the nearby nursery.

Usually, I go into great detail about how amazing the food was (truly amazing!), try and convey every detail of the occasion (informative, entertaining and engaging!) and how it made me feel. The truth is that I was overwhelmed. My senses were overwhelmed. My mind was overwhelmed with so much information that seemed to make sense. Something inside me seemed to click into place. Understanding how dependent we are on things that are so unhealthy, not just for us for the environment. How we need to get back to basics. Back to the things that we, as an evolved species somehow lost.

But before we all slip on our Hunter boots and rush out to the nearest rural pasture and try and be a modern urban Bear Grylls and think we can live off berries and bark and squirrels, here are some of Roushanna’s important tips on how to eat wild:

  • Identification is the most important part! Ask an experienced guide or local. Observe, taste, smell, touch, make notes.
  • Plant the edibles in your garden. It will teach you how to identify them more easily out in the wild, as well as to develop a taste for them.
  • When in doubt, leave it alone: be 110% sure of edibility.
  • Know which parts of the plant are edible and which aren’t. Also, know how to prepare the parts.
  • Never forage in a polluted space.
  • Tread lightly. Only take enough. The rule of thumb: harvest 1/3, leave 1/3 for re-growth and 1/3 for other animals.
  • Indigenous edible plants are ENDANGERED; this is why it’s so crucial to tread lightly and to grow them yourself whenever possible.

 

For more information, visit www.goodhopegardensnursery.co.za or follow them on Instagram: @goodhopemursery or Facebook: Good Hope Gardens Nursery.

None has ever become poor from caring, The 10th Inyathelo Philanthropy Awards

Five outstanding South Africans, working in fields as diverse as education and surfing, were last Thursday honoured for their contributions to sustainable social change at the tenth annual philanthropy awards of Inyathelo, The South African Institute for Advancement, in Cape Town. Nominations came from peers, members of the communities in which the philanthropists work, and the non-profit organisations (NPOs) that they support. The awardees are chosen by a panel of independent judges.

For those not in the know, Inyathelo is a (non-profit organisation) NPO that works to sustain and strengthen civil society organisations and grow local philanthropy in support of a vibrant democracy in South Africa. The three pillars of its work are strengthening civil society, building higher education and growing local giving.

Inyathelo acting executive director, Nomfundo Walaza, said that the awards are part of Inyathelo’s commitment to building a vibrant democracy in South Africa.

“Our awards seek to inspire others to give by recognising the incredible role models who live and work among us. Philanthropists pay a critical role in benefitting society through their interest, passion, generosity and foresight.

“At Inyathelo we hope that in acknowledging the individuals who commit their funds and resources to better the lives of others, we will encourage others to do the same.”

The guest speaker was Sangu Delle, a dynamic Ghanaian entrepreneur and social activist known for his non-profit work helping under-developed communities to access clean water, sanitation and basic human rights.

Katherine Brinks, the founder of the Cape Town not-for-profit organisation Little Brinks, received the community development award. Her organisation runs several projects, including a lunch programme at Buren High School in Ysterplaat for over 250 learners, a foster care programme and, most recently, a safe house for children aged from newborn to four years old.

Cape Town surfer and social entrepreneur Tim Conibear received the community sports development award. Waves 4 Change offers a surf therapy programme in Muizenberg for children from Lavender Hill, Khayelitsha and Masiphumelele.  Children aged 11-14, who have experienced trauma, acquire new coping skills and personal strength through surfing.

Attorney and CEO of the Dream Factory Foundation, Lusanda Gwayi, was the recipient of the philanthropy in education award. The Dream Factory Foundation works with young people to help them articulate their dreams and make practical plans to achieve them.  The foundation works with 10 Western Cape schools, focusing on grade nine and ten learners, who are making academic choices.

The award for philanthropy in youth development went to Gauteng activist and entrepreneur Neftaly Malatjie, the founder and CEO of The Southern Africa Youth Project. The organisation has branches in Atok, Daveyton and Diepsloot.  Typically, young people are enrolled in life skills and capacity-building short courses and then linked to a job or entrepreneurial opportunities.

The Yach family received the award for family philanthropy. Through The Mauerberger Foundation, the Yach family supports numerous education, community and cultural projects, many of which empower women and members of disadvantaged communities in South Africa.

No apparent sense of irony, Abercrombie & Fitch First Instinct

In the past, just the name Abercrombie & Fitch would send the girls and gays into cold sweats with recollections of buff bodies, scantily clothed models somewhere preppy’ishly chic with a hint of provocative and alluring. It was certainly the hottest brand of clothing as I came of age helped along with Bruce Weber campaigns which speak to a certain aesthetic. And wish fulfilment. And then suddenly something went horribly awry. A series of marketing missteps promulgated its decline as the brand became decidedly less Newport and more New Jersey. It even paid a considerable sum for product anti-placement preventing an MTV reality star from wearing its brand on-air. Burberry experienced the same before Angela Ahrendts arrived.

But that was then. The brand entered South Africa through the back-door of the Stuttafords department store. Just in time for my first serious pay-cheque but somehow as I got older, the brand came to represent misspent summers of my youth and opportunities. I would love to say that I didn’t buy it because my taste had matured to something more sophisticated [it had from college preppy to bespoke Tom Ford suits] but that wasn’t the point. I didn’t buy any of the product available in South Africa simply because I refused to pay a premium for it. Besides, there are many wannabe home-grown brands like Kingsley Heath and Stellies who have carbon copied their merchandise, advertising and retailing experience.

So that’s where the story would have ended. A retail tragedy perhaps but at a recent menswear magazine’s fashion event at which the appropriately headlined sponsor happened to be Abercrombie & Fitch First Instinct all my feelings about the brand bubbled up to the surface. From the stereotypical shirtless models (on a particularly cold Mother City evening, nogal!) who greeted you at the door aggressively trying to spritz you (despite already being gently clouded in Tom Ford’s Private Blend Oud Wood) who didn’t seem to be able to engage beyond the instruction to smile, flirt and spritz and move on. ‘No manners in the ordinary sense, no small talk, no apparent sense of irony,’ as Francis would have commented.

Truth be told I disliked the event for the sake of it. The venue? Snarky comment. The magazine? Snide retort. The crowd? Eye-roll worthy. I was ten kilogrammes overweight in a room of beautiful people not comfortable with what I was wearing. A nod to my friend @cloudsdrummond though who called me out on the fact, told it like she saw it and pointed this out the very next day. The lack of my usual sartorial style, not the bratty behaviour. So despite hating it, I did manage to catch-up with some really good people I haven’t seen in a long while. So while our sort doesn’t really mix with the Shimmy summer crowd, it did seem like it was the apex of Cape Town’s social scene.

It wasn’t until I opened the goodie bag handed out on our exit did I discover ‘the liquid encapsulated in a clear bottle of straight lines that presents a rippled surface allowing the slate hue of the aroma to be seen while the sides of the bottle are accented with silver touches branded with the label of the aroma matching the functional textured stopper’. The cologne is the product of leading perfumer Phillippe Romano (of Inter-Parfums who are the go-to for luxury branded scents) who was the nose behind Abercrombie & Fitch’s First Instinct cologne recently launched worldwide. My bias towards the brand would have meant I’d never have given it a second thought. I’m a Tom Ford boy after all.

When describing the process that went into imagining and producing First Instinct, Romano explained: “I wanted to create a modern fragrance that balances both the fresh elements of fougère with oriental warmth. All the notes together, create a scent with a worldwide appeal for the Abercrombie & Fitch man and beyond. The confident man who is not afraid to express his feelings.” For those who are interested in the details, the top notes include an aromatic gin & tonic accord combined with Kiwano melon; middle notes offer spicy Szechuan pepper, airy violet leaves and tangy citrus and base notes are comprised of suede musk with raw amber. The most important thing to know is that it’s actually quite a comfortable scent to wear.

So I’m mature enough to admit when I am wrong. I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. And while we’re being honest, I admit I kinda like it and will definitely wear it more often.