I have written about this wonderful perfume several times, here. I don’t wear perfume often anymore but this one has been my signature scent for more years than I care to count. People often comment on it, and every time I go to South Africa, I take little vials of it to my family members who love it too.
Antonia’s flowers was never a mass-produced perfume and always flew a little under the radar. My own florist used to sell it, which is why I started to buy it.
As a student, Antonia Bellanca-Mahoney studied art in Boston and then in France. It was in France, in the markets of Aix and Paris, that she discovered all the wonderful varieties of flowers that she had up until then only seen in pictures – anemones, poppies, mimosa, freesia, and many more. These, too, left an impression on her so that when Antonia moved to New York City, a flower shop on Madison Avenue caught her eye. “They always had lush, painterly flower arrangements in the window.”
She later found out that, in fact, all the flowers had been imported from Europe and the inspiration for the bouquets came directly from Flemish flower paintings. “The connection between art and flowers became suddenly clear to me. I knew that this was exactly the kind of art related work I was looking for.”
After working for others in their shops, in 1981 she opened her own in East Hampton, Long Island, a village on the ocean. She named it “Antonia’s Flowers” and “it was a tribute to all the special gardens of my life.” Remembered for its dramatic and original arrangements, Antonia’s Flowers adorned the parties, garden weddings and restaurants of the Hampton’s elite.
“Being immersed in flowers so much of the time had a ‘sensitizing’ effect on me. I became very aware of the different floral scents – and to me, freesia was and is by far the prettiest. I looked for a perfume for myself that truly captured the essence of freesia in harmony with other flowers and found that there simply wasn’t one. Then, I imagined a perfume that would evoke the experience of entering my flower shop. That’s when I knew I had to create my own.”
In 1982, Antonia began working with the chief perfumer of one of the country’s finest essential oil houses. “It had to be a fresh, feminine bouquet…with a signature note of freesia”, and Antonia’s Flowers was first introduced as an Eau de Toilette in 1985.
Antonia studied art in Boston and France, then moved to New York City, where she found herself transfixed by a flower shop on Madison Avenue. Laden with memories of her days spent playing in her grandmother’s garden, she realized how much the art she had studied and flower arrangements have in common. Fast forward to 1981, when, after working for several florists, Antonia opened her own shop in East Hampton, on Long Island. Antonia’s Flowers quickly became one of the most popular florists in the Hamptons, well known for their tasteful and exquisite arrangements.
Constantly surrounded by her flowers, mostly imported from Europe, Antonia became particularly sensitive to certain scents. Freesia, in particular, was not captured to her liking in any existing perfume. And so, like any true artist—and entrepreneur—Antonia decided that the only solution to her quest was to create her own essence.
In 1985, Antonia’s Flowers Eau de Toilette was introduced, in which notes of freesia, jasmine, magnolia, and lily come together in a bright bouquet.
Over the years, more fragrances followed: Floret, inspired by the sweet peas in her grandmother’s garden; Tiempe Passate, slightly heavier and more sensual, with notes of cedarwood, amber, bergamot, and Montauk rose; and, lastly, Sogni del Mare, a reminder of the sea. Antonia’s most recent launch, Rokka Cologne, is her first for men—spicy and bold, with notes of citrus, nutmeg, and tonka bean. A portion of proceeds form each bottle of Rokka sold will be donated to the Chill Foundation, which provides “opportunities to at-risk and underserved youth to build self-esteem and life skills through board sports.”
Though Antonia closed her flower shop in 1990 to focus on her fragrance business, she will always be surrounded by the floral aromas she dearly loves. Her scents now come in various forms: eau de toilettes, eau de parfums, soaps, and body creams. And, as they are all among the top-10 fragrances sold at both BarneysandBergdorf Goodman(both in-store only) since the launch, in 1985, clearly the world loves them, too.
I love the story of Antonia’s Flowers as much as I love the perfume itself. Sadly this perfume is now out of production. If anyone wishes to know the impact a favourite perfume has on a life, read these comments from one of my previous blog posts. So many women are so terribly sad that their signature fragrance is no more.