Ilha Formosa (“beautiful island”) is the name 16th century Portugueseexplorers bestowed on Taiwan when they first sailed past its shores and saw its verdant beauty. And Formosa is how the island came to be known until the mid-twentieth century. Today, Formosa is the name of a new perfume redolent of the isle’s fragrant flowers, fruits and spices.
The fragrance will debut at Bergdorf Goodman on Valentine’s Day. But this is not just another perfume launch. There’s much more to this story. “I don’t think there has ever been a fragrance where the ingredients are indigenous to a country and the fragrance is dedicated to a country. It’s something unique,” says award-winning beauty industry designer, Marc Rosen, who designed the distinctive bottle. “There have been fragrances named after cities like Paris and I did a fragrance years ago called Shanghai, but the concept has never centered on a country. That’s original.”
Another point of distinction is the woman behind the scent — Taiwanese native, Shining Sung.
“The inspiration came to me out of the blue,” says the philanthropist. “I’ll take any opportunity to put Taiwan on the map. Without knowing Marc, this would not have happened. Marc is 99% behind this whole project, so I’m very grateful to him. Our collaboration made this happen.”
“Shining comes from this incredible cultural background — her family owns an extraordinary museum — and has this love for her country,” explains Marc. “She reached out to me and I was so happy to do it for her because she’s such a special person. So, it’s emotional for me also. It’s not just another project.”
“I want to let people know about Taiwan,” continues Shining. “Often, when you say Taiwan, people think about Thailand. It’s about time that people really recognize and appreciate Taiwan for what it is.”
What it is is a country with an incredible bio-diversity. Roughly the size of Switzerland, the tropical island nation boasts steep, densely-forested mountains, lakes, rivers, and coastal plains. It is surrounded by 3 seas, rimmed by coral reefs teeming with life. Consequently, the country is home to abundant animal and plant life. There are over 400 endemic species of orchids alone. One of them, the tiger orchid — the only breed of orchid that has a scent — is a notable ingredient in the perfume.
It’s not a single note fragrance, according to Marc. It’s a mix of notes that are indigenous to Taiwan and depict different parts of the island. Other ingredients include white peony, jasmine sambac, sweet mandarin, candied lemons and sheer amber. The scent is the creation of Master Perfumer, Honorine Blanc.
“It’s very sensuous. It’s a fragrance you can wear from day into night. It’s not a heavy fragrance and yet it’s not a light, sporty fragrance,” says Marc. “The scent is very gentle, like the people of Taiwan,” concludes Shining, echoing the old saying, “The most beautiful scenery of Taiwan is its people.”