- Despite a long history as one of the most prized beauty ingredients, the rose has been slightly off the radar in recent years. Now it’s back with a power that belies its appearance, says CELIA ELLENBERG
As William Shakespeare tells it, it wasn’t Cleopatra’s milk-and-honey-soaked skin that entranced Mark Antony, but her intoxicating rose scent. When the Egyptian queen sent two boats ahead of her to meet the Roman general, their “purple sails” were so perfumed with the floral essence that “the winds were lovesick with them”.
Poetic liberties aside, from the ancient Romans, Phoenicians and Greeks to the French Empress Josephine, rose is an obsession that refuses to abate.
“For the French, rose and rose products are well known for being healing, calming and soothing,” says Olivia Chantecaille, creative director of her family’s eponymous makeup and skincare brand. She associates the plant’s aromatherapy and aromacology attributes with the rare Rosa Centifolia, more commonly known as Rose de Mai, which is grown in the French commune of Grasse, a fertile region that is considered the world’s perfume capital. So prized is the flower’s essence that Chanel has a contract with a singlecredits
Photograph: Ben Hassett / Art + Commerce