Deep into Jungle Jezebel
Above: YouTuber Cubaknow reviews Jungle Jezebel
The Sarah Baker fragrance, Jungle Jezebel by Miguel Matos launched in December 2018 has fuelled debate in the world of niche perfumery that raise questions relevant for the contemporary state of luxury fragrances on a larger scale.
While the Sarah Baker brand has always embraced a “gender optional” position for its fragrances, Jungle Jezebel has been its most provocative juice to do date. A special limited edition project, this fragrance by nose Miguel Matos took its inspiration from the cult star, actor and drag performer Divine (born Harris Glen Milstead) as its inspiration.
A veteran of the grittier earlier underground films by director and artist John Waters, Divine later appeared in Waters’ mainstream hit Hairspray (1988) and enjoyed some success in mainstream Hollywood films. General audiences may remember Hairspray —remade in 2007 starring John Travolta and a successful stage musical—without remembering its original star, but Divine remains an icon for successive generations of the LGBTQ audience, bohemian creative communities and fellow travellers. Not exactly the usual source of reference for a luxury fragrance...
The handcrafted packaging—including as set of false eyelashes and a streak of blonde artificial hair paying homage to Divine—for this limited edition of only 250 bottles has certainly caused a stir. It’s fair to say that it’s prompted polar responses: those appreciating its reference to kitsch and the homemade—and perhaps Sarah Baker’s practice as a contemporary artist—showing great enthusiasm whilst others have not.
Yet here’s the rub: controversial or not, Jungle Jezebel as a fragrance has garnered a plethora of positive reviews from authoritative voices respected within the niche fragrance world, particularly those active with video reviews—whether they liked the packaging or not—and during the run up to the 2018 festive period, became one of the top selling fragrances at sarahbakerperfumes.com
The unexpected success of of Jungle Jezebel, originally envisaged as a discrete special project within the brand’s broader offer, raises interesting questions about what today’s discerning consumer seeks in a fragrance. Its performance, with its challenging narrative and packaging, suggests today’s fragrance shopper is far more complex than perhaps assumed by mainstream branding or marketing messaging.
Questioned about the unexpected results, founder and Creative Director Sarah Baker said: “It’s been fantastic working with Miguel on this fragrance. I think we have had that fortunate experience of being aligned all the way on this one. Part of me knows that if you have a unique fragrance that stands apart—and this is one of them—you can put it in a standard, branded bottle and it will be appreciated. But I also think that he has totally understood my practice as an artist and that it’s been a beautiful moment of synergy. Some people in the perfume world simply haven’t got it. But when they’ve got it, they’ve got it totally; juice and concept. It’s too early to jump to conclusions about whether it’s part of the bigger debate about gender fluidity or not.."
Jungle Jezebel was launched at an intimate event at The Queen Adelaide in London 2018. Unlike most fragrance launches, it was open to the public, in keeping with the ethos of the fragrance’s inspiration and the setting.
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