"I first smelled Light Blue a very, very long time ago," says Bianca Balti, the stunning face of Dolce & Gabbana's signature scent, in a heavy Italian accent. It's a sublime, crystalline day in Capri, and we're seated on a couch in her hotel suite—Balti, ever elegant, managing to avoid creasing her kaleidoscopic head-to-toe Dolce & Gabbana ensemble. "I was in high school and my aunt gave it to me for Christmas. I remember everybody was wearing it, and when you're in high school you want to do what everybody is doing—and the popular perfume was definitely Light Blue."
I also remember the first time I smelled Light Blue: My grandmother gave me a bottle for my birthday my sophomore year of high school, and, to this day, one spritz of the scent summons memories of warm Texas nights and fervent teenage emotions. But, after spending the past few days doused in the stuff while exploring this beautiful little island off Italy's Amalfi Coast, those memories are being replaced by entirely new connotations: bougainvillea-covered villas, cheerful lemon trees, and lots and lots of gelato.
David Gandy, unsurprisingly, has his own relationship with Light Blue. "What I love about the fragrance is that it has a crisp freshness to it—a vibrancy and sensuality." If you don't recognize Gandy's name, you'll likely recognize his piercing blue eyes and tiny, blinding-white swim trunks from the Light Blue commercials. He's been the face of Dolce & Gabbana's fragrance for ten years (which means that you, me, and everyone else has been ogling those magazine ads for a decade), and while his female counterpart has changed over that decade, Balti, who joined Gandy in 2013, couldn't be better suited for the campaign (shot on this very island). "Bianca's the perfect match for the perfume," says Gandy in his deep, husky British accent. "She has that vibrant Italian madness about her, and she's brilliant."
So what brings me to (arguably) the most scenic place in the world to sit on (definitely) the most supple leather couch in the world with (probably) the most beautiful people in the world? Dolce & Gabbana have put a new twist on their iconic Light Blue scent with the release of Love in Capri (for her) and Beauty of Capri (for him), and I'm here to learn more about the inspiration behind them. The two scents are a new chapter in the storied history of Light Blue—past limited editions have been named after islands in the Mediterranean—and bring the story back to where it all began: Capri.
Gandy and Balti in action. Hold on. Built into a grueling week-long itinerary involving pasta-eating, sunbathing, and wine-tasting is my main mission: finding out how a scent is made. How do you turn a tangible location into an abstract aroma? That, friends, is a question for Lewis Peacock (yes, his real name), a fragrance expert and senior scientist for Prestige Fragrances at Procter & Gamble who worked with Dolce & Gabbana to help develop the two new iterations of Light Blue.
"All the inspiration comes from Mr. Dolce and Mr. Gabbana," Peacock begins, respectfully. "They said, 'It's been 15 years since Light Blue first launched, and we want to go back to Capri, back to where the love affair started.' When you have such a strong inspiration and vision like that it becomes very easy. What is life like? What is the flora of the island? You take the lemons, the citrus, the honeysuckle, all of these elements, then you start to craft it into an experience.
"It's knowing when to stop, actually, which is the hard thing. It's like being an artist: You can keep adding to a painting forever, but when is it actually finished?" -Lewis Peacock
"For the men, we wanted to bring to life the lemon groves," Peacock continues, "and for the women, walking around the island with all the beautiful, scented vines and colorful flowers everywhere. It's knowing when to stop, actually, which is the hard thing. It's like being an artist: You can keep adding to a painting forever, but when is it actually finished? You have to say, 'OK, that's it.'"
We're sitting on chairs surrounded by the original forms of the scents' ingredients: bright yellow cedrats (which look like massive lemons but are, in fact, not lemons at all); cedar wood shavings; sprigs of almond blossoms; and heliotrope.
"Light Blue doesn't actually have a big flower note—it's the case of the missing flowers, really," Peacock says, with a laugh. "The heart of this scent actually comes from what we call an 'abstract femininity.'"
Now that I have a much better understanding of the scent, I decide to take advantage of the fact I'm sitting across from a perfume expert to ask a question I've never received a satisfactory answer for: What is the best way to apply it? I've always been a "spray, delay, and walk away" girl myself, but I can't help but feel that ends up being more of a waste of perfume than anything else.
"It depends on what you want to do," Peacock explains. "The best way to have a full fragrance experience is to put it on the skin—the side of the neck, the wrists—so the warmth of those areas can help the fragrance bloom. The other technique I like is to apply it behind the knees. If you're wearing a dress and gently rustle the fabric, you get these amazing blooms of scent. Or, if you like a softer scent experience, it's nice to spray on a scarf or an item of clothing. You don't have the warmth of the skin to heat it up, so you get a much softer rendition of the fragrance that lasts a longer time." So there you have it, ladies! A quick spritz behind your knees or on your blouse is all you need.
As I sneak almond blossom petals into my bag and struggle to find the sweetness in parting from this beautiful place, Peacock points out that the body's incredible connection to scent means I'm only one inhalation away from being transported back to the rocky beaches and sparkling blue waters of Capri.
"Your sense of smell is linked to your limbic system, which is responsible for deep-seated emotions and long-term memory," Peacock points out. "Meaning that when you wear a new scent, every time you smell it afterwards will then be associated with those memories. You could wear Love in Capri all summer long, and then go two years before smelling it again—and it will still instantly recall those memories of the endless days in the Italian sunshine."