„Recordate lo juorno
ca stive a me becino,
e te scorréano, ‘nzino,
‘e llacreme, accossì.
Deciste a me: “Non chiagnere,
ca tu mio sarraje”.
Io te voglio bene assaje
e tu nun pienze a me.“
Te voglio bene…assaje! I love you very much. Sounds familiar? It’s Napoli, Italia. One of the songs that make me shiver, gives me goosebumps, and one of the first things that come to my mind when you mention Naples.
The famous Neapolitan songs, and my olfactory impression of the city: almost bitter marine scent of the Bay of Napoli when scirocco wind is blowing, the black pepper scent of the typical salami from Naples, blossoming lemon and orange trees, and fried calamari. Or this:
There’s another thing characteristic to Naples: the biggest concentration of high-end handmade menswear in the world. The tailoring, the shirt making, hundreds of tailors in the city and thousands working, hand-sewing: bespoke garments at Sartoria’s. One of these fine houses is Luigi Borrelli Napoli and I must admit I was very pleasantly surprised by their new Discovery Set featuring three Royal Collection fragrances (2016.), telling us a story about fine fabrics, scented embroidery, and sartorial lifestyle.
To understand them better, let’s go back in time to Naples in 1928. Things were different then. Tailoring was something done with great care and dedication, for known customers and upon order. A craft you could make a good living off, provided your supply of materials, cuts, and stitches were done with great care and passion: hours and hours would be put into the making of one single suit.
Anna Borrelli, after a long experience in her aunt’s shop, decided to open her own business in 1928., a small workshop for a small number of customers – connoisseurs. Like the tradition obliges, she made sure that her story and family business goes on.
Luigi Borrelli, the son, inherited the love for a needle and thread and in 1957. founded the House of Luigi Borrelli. The business grew, times were better than when his mother started the business and Borrelli’s became famous for their quality clothes. Never growing too big, never dwindling down.
They were appointed as the official supplier of the royal Savoy Family („Supplier No16.“), offering bespoke shirts, suits, jackets, and ties: all handmade, unique by hand stitching: the collar of the shirt will give your neck a pleasant caress, buttons sewed on by the age-old traditional stitch only expert hands can produce, embroideries at the sleeve vent, buttonholes: details, details matter!
The third generation, Fabio Borrelli, Luigi’s son took over in 1987. and the renowned master embroiders, manufacturing according to old tailoring techniques made this company grow further.
The relationship between perfumes and fashion designers has a long history, so in a way, the House of Luigi Borrelli made not a very surprising move: creating perfumes to match their brand’s personality and image, the DNA of the company. They do not disclose the name of the perfumer signing these three perfumes, it is kept a secret (alas!), but these are finely blended and well-executed olfactory stories: although their garments are made for men, the perfumes are gender-neutral (as all perfumes are!).
I packed the luxury Discovery Set (3x10ml EdPs)in my suitcase for a weekend getaway to explore them further: I realized later on that I made a good decision. These three perfumes covered all my needs/moods during those three days spent at the seaside:
The first sniff of each perfume on blotters made me raise an eyebrow. Smooth. Well-crafted. Deeper than the first impression of elegant simplicity, much more complex and intriguing. Bergamot is the connecting red thread among these three fragrances.
Yet, each one has its own story and personality and each one affected me differently. Only later did I realize that the motto of the House is: „Going back to the past is the secret behind moving forward.“ (Ricercare nel passato – il segreto per andare avanti). As I did, as they developed on my skin:
I chose it as my SOTD early in the morning, on a bright sunny August day. The view from my room? Spectacular:
It felt comfortable, classic, soft and fresh at first. Then I froze in my footsteps: that scent was familiar. That sparkle of bergamot, a whiff of lavender and powdery iris roots? It took me instantly to moments I worked hard to forget: once upon a time I was heartbroken.
A romance is broken off, gone with the wind. A twin flame, lost. I went through all the stages of loss, but one of them I remember in particular.
There was a time when I was in pain, overwhelmed with grief so much that I couldn’t cry anymore.
Broken inside, curled into a fetal position, I found a way to help myself: I ironed, pressing my clothes and linen meticulously and precisely, straightening out wrinkles in cotton and my life.
I ironed like crazy, sometimes even washing full machine loads just so that I would have enough to iron when I felt bolts of emotional, turning to physical pain.
That comforting scent and warmness of freshly ironed cotton helped me get back on my feet. It soothed my pain, made me feel safe, and besides having the neatest wardrobe ever, that scent lingered in my olfactory memory as something that pushed the pain away and made me feel protected.
Is it the green clary sage that accentuates the whole composition with its energy, or is it the musky and herbal aftermath? Vetiver being lifted up by the warmth of my skin? A promising feel of anise in the opening? The unobtrusive union of vanilla and iris?
I am not certain, but I know one thing: this perfume doesn’t bring back memories of evaporating tears that dropped on my cotton shirts as I ironed them (how things can sound funny after you’ve survived them?). It smells like a sanctuary, a comforting safe place I created when I felt waves of pain rolling in. A clean, freshly pressed cotton shirt: so common, seemingly simple, yet so powerful. Very reassuring…I could wear it all year round! This perfume, of course: my heart on my sleeve – not likely.
Top notes: bergamot, rose, lavender
Heart notes: orris, clary sage, oakmoss
Base notes: amber, cedar, musk, vanilla, vetiver
This is what I want to smell like. Complex. A bit mysterious. Showing different facets, self-assured, determined but gentle, fluffy, soft and tender. Emotional. Like a warm smile, spreading from your lips and reaching your eyes, a quick touch of a hand, a sideways glance.
There’s nothing like a touch of cashmere on your skin, impossibly soft yet quite resilient. Its fibers are strong. The duality of this perfume is what attracted me. It is a fine mix of Europe and the East. Of bergamot infused freshness and dry incense – present but not too „churchy“. Of soft vetiver and warm labdanum…
Serious and playful at the same time. Subtle luxury. It is gentle, soft-spoken but quite powerful in a non-obtrusive way, leaving a very lasting impression.
The brand notes that this perfume brings out the idea of respect for power: to me, it signifies respect for all those little dualities that make us simply human. Strengths and weaknesses. The divine complexity of sense and sensibility…very attractive.
Top notes: black pepper, bergamot
Heart notes: incense, labdanum, guaiac wood
Base notes: vetiver, soil, musk
It surprised me: I wasn’t very impressed on first wearing. Maybe it’s because I was still under the impression of Cashmere or it just didn’t fit my current mood. Wrong place, wrong timing: it felt kind of odd on me while I strolled along the beach in a long summer dress and flip-flops, walking around on +36C…I decided to give it a second chance later that evening.
I wore it. Again and again. As this perfume developed on my skin on multiple wearings, I realized that its apparent modesty is, in fact, the strength of its character: it has all the traits of an Alpha male. Or female. People with notable presence, not afraid to stand out, with no need for external validation or lack of confidence – it’s their inner strength and perseverance that you feel even when no words are spoken. This is what this perfume made me feel.
Vicuna Wool is a quite traditional combination of vetiver and citrusy accord, but from the beginning ambery-leather- vetiver vibe is present and strong. In my opinion, it is the most masculine one of the three, yet I wear it with no second thoughts: the more I wear it, the more I feel the sweetness of Cedar and soft Amber in the dry-down.
This perfume is definitely „almost a Chypre“, and that surprised me in a very good way! It always does: I am a big fan of classical Chypres. The so-called „modern“ ones I sometimes struggle to understand, but Vicuna Wool is quite close to the idea. It smells classic, refined, reliable and trustworthy.
The brand states that this perfume refers to a brilliant celebration, but to me, it’s more about feeling assertive, kind, with cultivated skills and a genuine sense of value in this world. Attention worthy, very promising. If a celebration this is, then it is a celebration taking place in an intimate place, with chosen food and fine wines, champagne glasses sparkling in the candlelight.
Top notes: lemon, bergamot, black pepper, elemi
Heart notes: nagarmotha, lily-of-the-valley, oakmoss, leather
Base notes: vetiver, amber, cedar, musk, patchouli
Now, sing along with me: Vide ‘o mare quant’è bello…Spira tantu sentimento… and then the part we all know: Torna a Surriento! Famme campà…!
The Plum Girl
Discovery Set provided by Luigi Borrelli Napoli, opinions of my own.
Photos: Vanja Roller, The Plum Girl archive