How The Peninsula Hotels Is Reinventing Its In-House Beauty Products

Years ago, most hotel amenities consisted of rows of tiny plastic bottles filled with dubious concoctions, which were often not fit for purpose. Then came a mini revolution when five-star hotel brands started collaborating with like-minded beauty companies. Products, from luxury brands or top-end spa labels, started popping up in prestigious hotel bathrooms across the world, chosen because they often shared the same ethos or were comfortable ‘bedfellows’ as the hotels they were found in. 

The Peninsula Hotels has taken this notion one step further. Out are the Oscar de La Renta treats by the tub, and – launching in January 2021 – in are new signature bathroom amenities, which aim to reflect the location of each of the different properties. The idea is to give the guest an immersive experience through each individual bespoke fragrance. Working with artisanal perfumers, who live in the hotels’ home cities, the results are crafted products (think: shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body milk and soap) which all have their own custom scents inspired by their given destination. 

The Peninsula Hotels is the first major hotel group to take such a holistic approach in launching a distinctive set of localised, skin-friendly and sustainable bathroom amenities across all of its ten hotels. The new products will not only be an olfactory reflection of each Peninsula destination, but they will also be eco- friendly, using natural ingredients, no hazardous chemicals and with earth-friendly packaging. 

 

“In creating this new line, The Peninsula Hotels aspired to do more than simply provide its guests with top quality bath products,” says the brand. “We wanted to encourage a distinctive sensory immersion in each of our hotel locations. So, we chose creative artists whose knowledge of the region, as well as fragrance expertise, gave them the special ability to craft custom scents truly embodying the essence of their locales. By infusing the bathroom amenities with these bespoke scents, we can offer our guests the chance to experience, and appreciate, their particular travel destinations in a new way.”

The move is in line with an increasing number of luxury brands which are moving away from what is perceived as ‘traditional luxury’ to offering something more genuine and experiential. Importantly, the Peninsula’s new approach is also focusing on the sustainability behind its products – a topical and valuable ‘currency’ right now. Each boasts earth-friendly and skin-friendly ingredients and sustainable and recyclable packaging. Products are made with clean, natural ingredients and aromatic essences, such as shea butter, sweet almond oil and olive oil. They are also gluten-free, soy-free, and free of harmful chemicals, such as parabens, silicone and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS).  

What’s more, the ‘noses’ chosen are an intriguing and unexpected mix of personalities: artisan perfumers who are also artists, tattooists and film directors, for instance, and have under-the-radar travel insight around their home towns.

Here, I speak to three different fragrance curators – based in Beverley Hills, Manila and Tokyo – about their involvement and their inspiration.

Alia Raza, The Peninsula Beverly Hills

Alia Raza began her career as a filmmaker and artist whose work, dealing with the perceptions of beauty, has screened at museums and festivals around the globe. In 2014, in pursuit of her passion for fragrance, she founded Régime des Fleurs – a line of boldly-packaged scents which draw inspiration from history, art and nature. The brand quickly became a cult favourite in the fashion and art worlds, and an influential player in the beauty industry, prompting celebrity collaborations such as a recent partnership with film and fashion icon Chloë Sevigny, who conceived the Little Flower fragrance for the perfume house. 

Alia Raza’s fragrance for The Peninsula Beverly Hills has a similar cult feel. Featuring top notes of Italian lemon, it is distinctly Californian. Fruity top notes of lemon and apple blossom are blended with native botanicals – palm leaf, plumeria bud, California star jasmine – and woodsy essences of sandalwood and cedar. The resulting fragrance is sunny and vibrant. 

“This scent is meant to have the effect of a fresh, cold-pressed lemonade, topped with a slice of sunbeam-yellow citrus,” said Alia Raza. “Spritz it on and it awakens and excites the senses.”

How does the fragrance reflect the culture of Beverley Hills?

The fragrance is inspired by the California desert, which overflows with an abundance of plants and flora, and is ‘caressed’ by the iconic Santa Ana winds. Its aroma also strives to capture the experience of a luxuriant day at The Peninsula Beverly Hills – time spent lounging by the rooftop pool and strolling through the hotel gardens before relaxing on crisp white linens in a guest suite. 

Do you have any favourite places in California that helped with the inspiration of the fragrance?

My favourite outdoor space is the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena. But I also love that in Beverly Hills you can simply walk down the street and soak up the smells of jasmine, orange blossom, and gardenias. I get a lot of my inspiration from art and film so I am often found at The Pavilion for Japanese Art at LACMA. Ultimately, however, for me, the most evocative scents are on the skin of someone you love.

Describe your creative vision.

I started out as an artist and filmmaker – I was making a piece of work about flowers, about fragrance and beauty – using them as metaphors. Then, several years ago, I had finished making a series of videos about an idea I had, of dangerous night-blooming flowers and their toxic perfume. I kept thinking about making the actual fragrance that was in my head, and so I started to research how to make perfume, the ingredients that perfumers use, and the history of it. I became increasingly fascinated, and eventually I showed a fragrance in a gallery, as an art object, and then decided to start a line of perfumes that people could buy and wear. It was a new creative challenge to try something different, and the reaction in the beauty world was really positive. Régime des Fleurs was formed and it took off very quickly. 

How do you go about personalising a fragrance?

Every perfume is its own character. I often imagine a perfume as a person. All the different aspects of that person – from how they speak to how they dress; from their story to their background – it all informs the creation of the perfume. Sometimes, I will have a scene in my head, like a tableau. For instance, I can see a deer hiding in a forest, watching a woman at a lake, and the reeds and grasses growing on the water’s edge. These elements get translated into ingredients and notes in the perfume, and it becomes a story. It doesn’t have to be a nature scene, it can be anything – a city street, or it can even just be a colour. What if water was pink instead of blue? What would that smell like?

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Wiji Lacsamana, The Peninsula Manila

Wiji Lacsamana, a natural perfumer and founder of the cult fragrance brand Radioactive Mushrooms in the Forest, has also worked as a tattoo artist, illustrator, reiki healer and book author in her native Philippines. Her natural perfumes evoke a sense of wanderlust, where the user feels transported to different realms – real, mythological, or purely imaginary.

The scent she has created for The Peninsula in Manila is calming and peaceful, with herbaceous top notes of chamomile and lavender, exotic floral essences of ylang ylang and sampaguita (also known as Philippine jasmine), and warm notes of cedarwood and vanilla. 

The products are infused with some of The Philippines’ most distinctive aromas, giving a fresh and tropical feel. “The fragrance is inspired by the idea of home – a place of comfort and sanctuary,” she says. “It refers to the ‘home-away-from-home’ ethos that The Peninsula Manila offers its guests, with its sophisticated luxury and signature Filipino hospitality. It also emblems the calming green oasis of the Makati central business district, within walking distance of the hotel.”

How does the fragrance reflect the culture of the Philippines? 

This scent essentially aims to embody the feeling of arriving at the hotel. The elegant surrounds, the warm smiles from the staff, and the sense of comfort and care all create an ambiance of welcome. 

Do you have any favourite places in The Philippines that helped with the inspiration of the fragrance?

The Philippines is composed of 7,100+ islands, and one of my favourite islands to escape to is Coron in Palawan. In this town, you will find many, even smaller, but unbelievably beautiful, islands, which are great for snorkelling, diving or just finding peace. You can just lie there and smell the salty ocean and take in the vastness of the sky. 

There are also some lovely parks close to The Peninsula Manila, which I also like to visit. The Ayala Triangle Gardens, for instance, is literally in front of the hotel. Washington Sycip Park is another charming little park, found close by.

I get inspired by unique, artistic start-ups. Great for ideas is a visit to a market – every Saturday, the Salcedo Market is open and you will find a lot of interesting local crafts and foods for sale. The Legazpi Sunday Market is great, too. 

Metro Manila is a cluster of 16 cities and within each city you will also find many little artist hubs. Some of my favourites are: Cubao Expo in Quezon City, this was were I used to hang out all the time. Here, you will find a lot of beautifully-curated vintage curio shops, such as UVLA and Vinyl Dump. Bellinis is an Italian restaurant that will transport you to the 1980’s, and there are lots of small independent stores, like THE Clothing, Twelfth House and Medisina. There’s also a small art gallery called Post (in fact, I used to be part of their exhibits).

The Hub Make Lab is an artist and maker-led space that has reinvigorated a beautiful old building in Escolta, Manila. Inside is a cute little café and a bar, as well as independent stores, where you’ll find handmade soaps and perfumes, furniture, clothes, books. In Makati, there’s Suez and Zapote, where you can find beautifully-designed goods inspired by the Filipino culture.

All year round in The Philippines there are different smells that signal the varying times of the day, and others which tell you of a coming season. Months before summer arrives, for instance, there is a light, floral smell that wafts in the air, almost ghost-like but hiding within a bright day – mango flowers. It is a scent very hard to describe, it is very ephemeral, too. 

There are also many seemingly mundane ‘provincial chores’ that provide very evocative smells. When I was a child, I would wake up from my afternoon naps to the smell of wet soil, very similar to petrichor. It was not as a result of rain, but, rather, it was because of my grandmother who was watering her plants. During the afternoons in the province, too, you will hear the sounds of stick brooms brushing dried leaves and then, a smell: burning grass and leaves.

Describe your creative vision.

Scents have the power to transport you to another place and time. This is not a new notion – it has been written about countless times, because there is so much truth in this.  I like creating scents that can bring me back to favourite memories and sometimes even to imagined places. I daydream with scents. I like my scents to be playful but not overpowering – a gossamer memory you take with you. I try to create scents that mimic vignettes of certain times and places in one’s life.

I like to turn dreams, memories, and beautiful abstract ideas into unforgettable olfactory experiences. Scents have always been fascinating to me. I initially just wanted to create a signature scent for myself, so I geeked out and eventually stumbled further into a deeper world of natural perfumery.

One of the first perfumes I made was a scent called Moonbathing, and it is an ode to my favourite floral experience. I grew up in a northern coastal province in the Philippines called La Union. I have childhood memories of going up the roof of our house at night and watching the moon from there. I would smell the intoxicating heavy scent of my grandma’s dama de noche (night-blooming jasmine) combined with some kind of salty breeziness in the summer air. I haven’t fully recreated it yet but it will always be something I will continuously be working on.

It was Mandy Aftel’s book Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent that really reeled me into the world of natural perfumery. Her vision, her ways, they still inspire me so much.

How to go about personalising a fragrance?

The story, the intention behind creating a fragrance is very important. What is your story? What makes you, you? I think about what feelings are invoked. What times of the day one ‘represents’ – seemingly mundane (sometimes abstract) concepts, but these are very important to me. For The Peninsula Manila, what struck me the most was the way the setting sun lit the grand windows. It illuminated everything inside, like everything was in a spotlight. There is a sparkly feeling that comes with this scene, if that makes sense at all, and I really tried to capture that radiance in the scent I created for them – a little bit effervescent, but also calming and soothing.

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Satori Osawa, The Peninsula Tokyo

A champion of Japanese culture, Satori Osawa is a master of many traditional arts – such as Kado – Japanese-style floral arrangement, Sado – the traditional tea ceremony, and Kodo – the incense and fragrance ceremony. A member of La Société Française des Par Fumeurs, Satori first opened her own perfume atelier, Parfum Satori, in 2000 in Tokyo, where she creates signature scents inspired by Japanese philosophy and culture.

Her fragrance creation for The Peninsula Tokyo is serene, other-worldly and intrinsically Japanese. Featuring top notes of aomoji (cubeba, a Japanese pepper), lemon, and cypress, the scent includes floral essences of iris, jasmine, lily of the valley, and violet. Additional woody notes of cedar and sandalwood add further complexity. 

The resulting fragrance, is breezy, clean, and graceful. “I’ve tried to recreate the atmospheric lighting that guests will experience during a stay at The Peninsula Tokyo: the brilliant, natural light spilling from the large guest room windows and the warm, low light cast by the traditional bonbori paper lanterns,” she reveals.

How does the fragrance reflect the culture of Tokyo? 

The final creation is a harmonious scent that embraces both a universal appreciation of nature, and a character that is distinctively Japanese. It is meant to evoke a sense of serenity and harmony of the Imperial Palace Gardens, which is opposite the hotel, and the traditional Japanese philosophy of finding beauty in the transitory. I hope this fragrance helps to create a soothing, welcoming ambiance for travellers, connecting them to the natural elements of the city in an elegant and understated way. My creation pays homage to both the clean, contemporary aesthetic and the timeless cherished traditions and ingredients that are distinctive to Japan.

Do you have any favourite places in Tokyo that helped with the inspiration of the fragrance?

The Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is one of my favourite places – full of different aromas of plants, no matter what season you visit, and it is always so inspiring to me. The park is very visitor-friendly and ideal for plant-lovers, as most of the plants are carefully tagged with their names. There is also a tea-ceremony room in the Japanese Garden, where you can have matcha tea.

Another much-loved place is a store called Kyukyodo, specialising in incense and drawing supplies. It dates back some 300 years. Whenever I visit the shop to buy incense, I also get a lot of inspiration from the beautiful, delicate Japanese papers found there. Since the Heian period (8th century), we have had a culture of scenting letters and, here, you can also find beautiful Fumi-ko (small incense for letters) and, if you go upstairs, you will also find scented Japanese ink.

The Roppongi-itchōme area of Tokyo is where many embassies, hotels, and museums are located, but it is also unexpectedly blessed with lot of greenery, even though it is in the heart of Tokyo. On the way from my home to my atelier, located in Roppongi, I change the way I go according to the season and enjoy the ‘scent’ of that particular moment. In the spring, I take a cherry-tree-lined path behind the Suntory Hall.  In the summer, I can sense the aroma of water at an artificial waterfall, and in the fall, I stop by the Sen-Oku Hakukokan Museum. In winter, I enjoy mulled wine at the nearby cafe Sakurazaka.

Describe your creative vision.

I was born in Tokyo, so it is a city and culture that is utterly ingrained in my work. I understand that sense of pleasurable attentiveness to the small details in my immediate surroundings. In addition, from childhood, I’ve carried a pocket-sized picture book on flowers around with me and like many Japanese, grew up with a deep appreciation and awareness of the seasonal beauty of nature, so this is incorporated into my perfumes. 

How do you go about personalising a fragrance?

In the case of my own collection, I will try and experience a variety of related realities to deepen the layering of the ‘image’ of the scent (thereby increasing the degree of perfection). If I’m working on a perfume for someone else, it is as if I am taking a pleasurable journey to visualise a scent, while taking the clues from the clients as a guide.

The new products can be found in all ten The Peninsula Hotels from January 2021 – Paris, New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Manila and Bangkok.

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