This week Burberry designer Riccardo Tisci launched his first fragrance since joining the fashion label in 2018. Tisci's predecessor, Christopher Bailey, departed having founded a solid reputation for putting out qualitative, non-combative fragrances in partnership with Coty. The Brits do polite so well. Burberry Brit, Burberry Touch and My Burberry were some of Bailey’s key contributions. I was curious to see how Tisci would reshape Burberry’s fragrances, which were in no way calling out for an overhaul. On arrival he redesigned the brand's typeface from a serif to sans serif font, a symbolic gesture, cutting away all excess that is often hardcoded into heritage luxury brands. His alternative was a modern, future-facing vision that embraced the streetwear cultures Burberry had previously been quick to shun. It’s one of the few clothing brands that can simultaneously be worn to a country club in Surrey as well as a Grime bar in Peckham.
Does Burberry Hero draw a valiant line in the sand between what came before and the future? Not as much as I think it could have. It's a perfectly agreeable fragrance, created with the immensely talented Takasago perfumer Aurélien Guichard. The bergamot opening is charged with spicy black pepper and a fruity/camphor note of juniper. This citrus-juniper-spice-woods medley feels like a deconstructed fougère, which subs out the warmth of coumarin and floral geranium to make cedar the true hero of the fragrance. Guichard used Virginian, Atlas and Himalayan cedarwood to create a robust backdrop that smells of pencil shavings and dry, smoky woods.
Fragrance commercials are easy targets for satirists. Unsurprisingly, Diet Prada already posted a meme about the new ad campaign directed by Jonathan Glazer featuring celebrity actor Adam Driver. For Tisci, the actor cast in the role of Darth Vader’s grandson “encapsulates modern masculinity… challenging the duality between strength and sensitivity.” It’s a nice sentiment about the shifting definition of masculinity but the end result still reinforces a stereotype seen time and time again in men’s fragrance advertising – a chiselled topless man surrounded by symbols of virility and power, here, a celebrity in his prime, conquering nature’s powerful ocean with a horse, no wait, he becomes the horse.