Fragrance Friday: The Virtue release a deconstructed fragrance duo, inspired but a sad but beautiful tale

When it comes to Aotearoa-based fragrance brand, The Virtue, you know the arrival of a new scent means something very special has been brewed, and often with a backstory all its own.
Taranaki-based Creative Director, Brooke Lean is the woman behind The Virtue, and who has a profound talent for capturing moments that move the soul, bottling them into something that stirs us profoundly on an emotional level, transporting us to a moment in time that has deeply imprinted upon us. After traveling the world, she returned home to Aotearoa with her family and continued to pursue her passion as a photographer tasked with capturing special moments in time, before her creative spark alighted on a new proposition. She gradually began to explore the idea of creating a “full sensory experience” by which to recall those moments, “a catalyst to memory and imagination, something that can transport us to another realm”. Thus, The Virtue was born.

But back to matters at hand, which is the brand’s latest release – a deconstructed duo designed to re-tell a tale of life and legacy using fragrance as the medium. Called Mary Mary I and Mary Mary II, the pair tell the story of Mary Katherine Lyons, one of several passengers who boarded the Lady Aislinge in Dublin in search of a better life. The Lady Aislinge docked in New Plymouth in the winter of 1882, and according to public records, Mary found work as an oyster girl by day and a ‘fallen woman’ by night to support herself. She disappeared in the winter of 1894, rumoured to be with child of a prominent townsman. There are many theories behind Mary’s disappearance, but her warmth, feminine charm, charismatic persona, and the scandal and mystery behind her departure still lingers on the ocean winds of the rugged New Plymouth coastline well over 100 years later.
Brooke was enthralled by Mary’s tale, and spent months researching and creating a fragrance to capture the essence of the folklore of Mary. The talented creative soon discovered that a single fragrance wasn’t going to do justice to the local legend and instead created two intoxicatingly different sensorial experiences to tell the story of Mary. The first ‘Mary Mary I’ attempts to personify her existence, the second Mary Mary II’ her legacy. “Fragrance is able to add depth and incite emotion that words alone struggle to capture. I’m honoured to be able to attempt to tell Mary’s story in both life and death using fragrance as the medium” explains Brooke.
Brooke worked with local artist Ronelle Pienaar Jenkin designing a visual piece to accompany the fragrances. Upon researching further into Mary’s life, death and the rumour and scandal that accompanied it, not only has Ronelle created a stunning series of visual works, she also wrote a piece of poetry. The lead piece in the visual concepts has been hand printed onto 50 limited edition, salt rinsed silk scarves along with the poem Ronelle penned, capturing Mary’s story in look, feel and verse and when sprayed with the fragrance, providing something that attempts to translate Mary’s story richly as a multi-sensory experience.

From the get-go I was totally entranced by Mary’s story, and Brooke has most definitely done her justice in the creation of two extraordinarily beautiful and completely unique scents. Mary Mary I is powdery, gentle, sensual and feminine, but her underlying strength is captured in notes of cedarwood and sandalwood that reveal a classic base of musk, patchouli and just a hint of incense. In contrast, Mary Mary II is gloriously windswept, rinsed in salt, unravelling, then completely undone, yet never more eternally alive. Think: a fragrance that is green and earthy, and deeply evocative of Mary’s most likely untimely end and enduring presence in the seas off New Plymouth. I can't pick a favourite just yet, both are as intoxicating as each other, and so perfect for different moods.
Alone they stand as two powerfully moving scents that inspire a whole collection of emotions on their own. However, when layered together, the two combine to provide a completely different, highly unique olfactory experience. The raw ocean and earthy notes of Mary Mary II cut through and neutralise the powdery soft old-world overtones of Mary I, resulting in a completely genderless fragrance. Perhaps it’s the ending Mary truly deserved... a tale retold and a life celebrated.
If you have not yet discovered this absolute compelling brand then I highly recommend that you do – and that you won’t be disappointed. The Virtue’s range of ten fine fragrances are available online and with an expanding wholesale network, head here to find out more.


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