Scent Specialist Takes Cardiff Met Students on a Journey Through the Scents of the 70s

​09/11/2016

​Lottie Cooper, Lizzie Ostrom and Jennifer Kate Evans, with Odette Toilette's new book and vintage perfume collection. 

An audience of students, alumni and 70s fans have stepped back in time to enjoy an interactive and nostalgic scent journey through the defining smells of the 1970s at an event hosted by Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Students were given an insight into trends and fragrances from the era and the biggest influences on these scents such as fashion, from fragrance expert and author Lizzie Ostrom

Lizzie, also known by her stage name Odette Toilette, holds perfume themed events around the country, sharing her expertise on perfumes. At her events, she connects perfumes with cultural subjects such as history, literature, film, fashion, art and music, exploring these topics with her audiences through sense of smell.

Lizzie was invited by Sally Grant, CSAD's Senior Lecturer in Textiles and Fashion, to hold one of her famous interactive olfactory events at Cardiff Met's state-of-the-art School of Art and Design. Sally is researching Glam Fashion and the City: from 1969-1975.

Lizzie brought with her a collection of defining perfumes from the era, including lots of 40-year-old vintage original bottles.  Testing the perfumes allowed the audience to engage with typical scents and helped contextualise the defining smells of the 70s against fashion movements, trends and designers.

Some key perfumes, smelt by all and discussed at the event, included Opium by YSL, Jean-Louis Scherrer, Empriente, Charlie and Diorella, by Dior, a personal favourite of Lizzie's

Lizzie showed how each fragrance played its part in defining the times by offering a social commentary and snap shots of fashion that was influential in the era, such as work from designers YSL and Halston.

Lizzie said: "The 1970s is my favourite decade for perfume. It was the era of big budget, blockbuster scent fashion houses like Yves Saint Laurent and Halston. Oriental perfumes like Opium were spicy, animalistic and decadent to go with the 'Me Generation' mood - the notion that everyone should have access to self-expression and entitlement.

"You also had more sexual liberation in the 70s and the open marketing of fragrances which would allegedly have erotic appeal. We saw this particularly in the craze for synthetic 'skin musks', the most popular of which was Jovan Musk Oil, which commercialised and made mass-market the counter-culture appeal of the late 1960s musk and patchouli oils that had been put out there by counter-cultural pharmacies and head shops.

"There were also fragrances that quite deliberately tried to get on the bandwagon of feminism, but flaunting themselves as offering modern-leaning, breezy perfumes for the modern woman - not the bourgeois housewife styles of the past. So think the breezy, green geranium Rose Rive Gauche by YSL as a perfect expression of this mood. "

The event was also a great opportunity for Sally Grant to showcase dresses from her personal archive by Ossie Clark, as well as designs from Celia Birtwell's recent collections for Topshop and Laura Ashley originals, also from her personal archive.

Sally said: "The event was inspirational for all who attended. Odette Toilette aka Lizzie Ostrom, has a unique take on fragrance and cultural history and reminds us of the significance of the financial clout of perfume to the fashion houses they bankroll. Vintage fashion is also a huge area of interest in the UK."