Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fifi Awards Voting begins!

Last year, The Fragrance Foundation sponsored the creation of three social networking pages, in MySpace, Facebook, and Iqons. The profiles became the main source for consumer voting, and home to exclusive FiFi Awards content. Online fragrance voters helped catapult fragrances like Marc Jacob's Daisy and Prada's Infusion d'Iris to top honors. Their response also led to the creation of the first FiFi Award for bloggers. This year, your favorite fragrances are relying on you even more. Online voting will begin at 12:01am, Monday, April 27th and closes at midnight on May 15th.
The 2009 Hall of Fame Award has already been announced here, with this year's honors bestowed on designer Marc Jacobs.
Check out the links:
Facebook FiFi-Awards,Iqons FiFi Awards,Myspace Fifi awards,FifiAwards.org

Monday, March 30, 2009

Home-Made in NYC Scents

An interesting article in the New York Times came to my attention focusing on the work of artisanal perfumers Dsanddurga. David Moltz and Kavita Ahuja collaborate and tell us how they begun their small-scale venture:

He distills some of his own oils, and he experiments and mixes his creations in his apartment in Manhattan with his partner, Kavita Ahuja. Everything is bottled and packaged by hand.“We thrive on the collective spirit of our friends in New York City who put their heart and soul into their own arts and crafts — jewelry designers, painters, screen printers, architects, clothiers,” Mr. Moltz said. “A good deal of our close friends make something with their own hands. We share information and wear each others’ creations, etc.”

Read the rest of the article following this link.

Thanks to Diavalano/mua.

Merci pour tout! New Boutique Merci in Paris

A new store with a unique concept has opened in Paris, set by Bernard et Marie-France Cohen ~Camille Goutal's aunt (Annick's sister)~ called MERCI. Some Goutal perfumes and scented candles will be sold there, as divulged to me by the good people at Annick Goutal. The concept of Merci is born out of a basic ethical principle, becoming a revolutionary idea within parisian stores, and it has been dreamed of for three years now. Orchestrated by Marie-France Cohen (the creator of the famous kid's brand Bonpoint), the new space of 1500 m2 at the Boulevard Beaumarche proposes a mix of fashion, homeware, books, cosmetics, hardware, haberdashery, vintage articles and even a restaurant. The list goes on...
And all with a good cause, as attested by the name which means of course "thank you": An aid foundation for child protecting organisations, beginning with those focused on Madagascar, one of the poorest countries on earth. Because our life isn't worth but in the desire to give, Merci was born out of that noble idea to become much more than a "concept store". With the enegy and enthusiasm of young and old alike it promises to become a ray of optimism in an ill-ravaged world.

The chances to enjoy Merci and contribute to a good cause are many: There's a café- library of hand-me down books with home-baked bread and marmelades and even a little snack for noon. A flower section offering ideas on how to "dress" your balcony, you garden or your house. The section PAP (Luxe and Creators) for women, men, children and accessoies, which will encompass brands that are doing away with some of their profit margin thus offering their products at -30/40% discounts.
Among them YSL, Stella Mc Cartney, Azzaro, Barbara Bui, Isabel Marant, Forte Forte, Swildens, GAS by Marie, Paul & Joe, Jérôme Dreyfuss , Goyard, Marie-Hélène de Taillac, Noguchi, Aurélie Biderman, Stone, Bonpoint, Bonton, Zef, Oona l’Ourse and their own name brand Merci Merci. Also there will be a section for house decor and textiles at comparable level of quality and price.

And what interests perfume lovers especially: A small Goutal "laboratory" orchestrated by Isabelle Doyen (with fragant juice based on natural essences) sold in simple flacons at -40% discount off their regular prices, thus making away with their own profits.
The address is Merci, 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais 75011, Paris and if you're in Paris it is recommended to check it out!

The design was created by Be-Pôles graphic studio, 6 rue Beaubourg, 75004 Paris — France.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Interview with master perfumer Jean Claude Ellena

The first thing I sense in Jean Claude Ellena is his jovial, warm manner upon “C’est Jean Claude Ellena!” (This is Jean Claude Ellena!) Me, perfume writer and immense fan of his work, I feel a sense of elation as a dream has come true, due to extraordinary circumstances: a one-to-one interview with one of the truly Greats! His graciousness in granting me personally and the Perfume Shrine a big segment of his precious time is obliging and I can sense how truly charming his personality is; the things you have heard about that part are not tales. Like him or not, there is no doubt in my mind that Jean Claude Ellena is writing history as we speak. His coherent vision, his distinctive, instantly recognizable style, and his understated sense of chic have ushered in a new form of perfumes’ authoring that revolutionized the industry and has several esteemed perfumers following his lead. In 50 or 100 years from now, people will talk about him the way they’re talking about Jacques Guerlain, Germaine Cellier or indeed his former mentor Edmond Roudnitska. Not to suggest that he hasn’t cornered enough attention already! His appointment as in-house perfumer at Hermès has penned more lines than the latest Pulitzer Prize and waged quite a few jealous tongues in private. He remains unaffected, intent on his own ~admittedly ambitious, as befits his Aries, Scorpio rising, personality~ personal Ithaca; the journey is just as much an enriching pleasure as the final destination!

This interview in my mind had a core theme all along: Mare Nostrum, the Mediterranean, that infinite source of inspiration for civilizations aplenty and so I began by asking him a rather unusual question: “I have always entertained the ~wonderful to me~ idea that you have some distant Greek root in your lineage as both your demeanor & philosophical stance on life and your style of simple, austere and confident strokes is echoing the ideals of this civilization. Chandler Burr writes somewhere in "The Perfect Scent" that Ellena means “the Greek”, which is correct [Hellena is the official name for Greek, as evidenced in the now defunct royal title ‘King of the Hellenes’]. Being Greek I had always wanted to ask whether there is some truth to that, much as it is for Bulgari for instance (whose grandfather was indeed Greek, immigrating to Italy). At any rate I perceive you as very Mediterranean-inspired. Do you agree?” Jean Claude is thinking this over: “I can’t say that I am certain on this, don’t have records, but my grandmother did come from the Eastern Mediterranean, a long-time ago, the family traversing though Italy in the beginning of the 20th and finally residing at the South of France where we’re today. It’s true; the place has played an important part in shaping me, but also the ideas of the place, the ideals if you please. The Mediterranean spirit, the classical spirit of uniting beauty and la raison (reason, logic, sense) is very much my own too. This is something that has roots in Greek philosophy where beauty and reason were one and the same, but also in the problematic of one of my most favorite authors, Albert Camus. There is the entangled connection between beauty and logic, something that is very important to remember today. There is too much reason and reasoning behind everything today, especially with the Anglo-Saxon way of thinking in business, which is a bit “loud”, a bit all too present. We sidetrack beauty in favor of reason and that’s not how things should be, perhaps! My perfumes are constructed with the intention of no tricks, no labyrinths. You have to say “Ah that smells good!” That’s generous, that’s very Mediterranean. Then again there must be a minutely thought-out process, a methodology behind everything down to the last detail. But in general our century has lost la sensibilité, the sensibility; human beings have forgotten about it, resulting in a mass-market approach to everything ~products, relationships…Jean Giono’s books give that sense to life, that life has no inherent logic, no pattern. We have lost that sense of sensing the world, its strangeness and its charm”. The beautiful quote of Camus comes to mind: “At the heart of all beauty lies something inhuman, and these hills, the softness of the sky, the outline of these trees at this very minute lose the illusory meaning with which we had clothed them, henceforth more remote than a lost paradise... that denseness and that strangeness of the world is absurd...”

Jean Claude’s own childhood and young age opened up vistas to this beauty that he appreciates in subtle and finer things. It’s inevitable that picturing him growing up in a family of perfumers in Grasse (his father and brother are also perfumers, as is his daughter Céline), amidst the wonderful paysage, reading Jean Giono when he was 30, I wonder if he ever dreamt that one day he would arrive where he is now. “Absolutely not! It never occurred to me. I was doing badly at school, so my father said ‘you have to work’. And indeed that’s what happened. I started in the industry and learned from the craft. Even as a small boy I’d go with my grandmother for flower-picking at dawn in the Grasse fields. At 16 I began work at Antoine Chiris in Grasse, one of the oldest perfume houses in the world and with my 4-years experience when in 1968 the Givaudan établissement opened a perfumery school in Geneva I went there. I was the first student to enroll at that school!” He apprenticed under Maurice Thiboud, even at that early time simplifying the formulae to their essentials. “I was lucky in that I met a lot of people, I learned from them, they said I had potential and they encouraged me. I was never sure of my talent, whatever that may be; but I am very certain that I enjoy immensely what I do, I can tell you that!” And now his daughter Céline is continuing in his footsteps. “You must be very proud!” “Indeed I am! Family is very important to me”. His tie with his wife Susannah, of Irish and artistic ancestry, goes back 40 years and he has kept close ties with his extended family. They all live close by and spend every Christmas under the same roof. A very Mediterranean thing, I might add!

It was at 19 that Jean Claude Ellena got interested in Roudnitska, prompted by an article in a magazine given him by his father titled “Advice to a Young Perfumer”. He found in it the spark of a new direction: simplicity! The thought has taken a specific shape in my mind: “I can’t help noticing that the Spartan outlook in life in general requires some maturity; Greeks used to say “Laconism (ie.being simple, to the point) means Philosophizing”. Usually when someone is new in any profession they want to add, to augment, to impress, to go over the top! In perfumes, that means more power, more diffusion, more notes, and more ornamentation. Your own style is pared-down, loving to subtract: if you can say a whole essay in a few lines, you do so! Do you feel that this is something you learned from Roudnitska, or was the path to simplicity and maturity in your own life that necessitated this stance?” He laughs merrily as he recalls an argument they had with Roudnitska one day talking about philosophy. “Oh, but we had fun with Edmond! Good times together! We both believed that beauty is synonymous with generosity. He was very important to me. He opened a door to perfumery; he showed a new way, that things had to be simpler than they were at the time when a formula might contain hundreds of sub compounds representing various notes. But I like to think that I am going further, progressing what he started. This Spartan outlook you talk of is a necessity that has some ideal behind it and it also has quite a French expression in music. If you listen to Ravel or Debussy ~whom I both love very much~ there is this aspect of discreet pleasure, of sensuality, an intellectualism that is not devoid of sensuousness, of sensory pleasure in its simple melodious form.” As pleasure is a sensory notion, at this point we revert on his fragrances’ style: they have the sexiness of a woman who doesn’t flaunt her charms, but rather hides more than she reveals, instigating the desire to dig deeper and see what lies beneath, and leaving things to the imagination. “This is much more interesting, more intriguing! I like that idea. I try to follow it in my perfumes.”

You might be wondering how we have come thus far without mentioning the word minimalism ~it has become almost an axiom that whenever Ellena’s name is uttered in perfume circles, the word minimalism ensues. As if it was his manifesto. I feel that some people misunderstand the term attributing to it only the “transparent”, “watery” effect of many of his fragrances while on the contrary reading his book Le Parfum in the Que sais-je? Series I understand that he attributes to it the sense of playing “note for note”: devoid of sentimentality. He is categorical on this: “I don’t ascribe myself to minimalism; this is a misconception of my work. Simplicity is not minimalism and I don’t consider my perfumes minimalistic. The thing is they don’t try to say a lot of things at once; they are what they are! They provoke an impression, a feeling, which often requires months of reading behind it. They are simple, delicate, but like we discussed before, like Impressionistic music, they certainly have sentiment, they’re not only a mental exercise!”
“Apart from the aesthetic choice is there also some practicality into opting for sparse formulae? One tends to rely much less on ready-made bases like it was customary in the past, therefore there is better control of quality/supply of raw materials (and less variability on their standards), and also it gives the opportunity to start one’s own small niche house, like you did with The Different Company. Would you agree?” I ask him. He’s quick to do so. “Of course there is the technical aspect as well. As you correctly surmise, it’s easier to control the quality levels that way and to be completely certain of the vocabulary one uses in authoring. To bring you an example, I used to use Haitian vetiver + vetiverol + acetate vetyverile but I was never satisfied. Now I have a special distillation of vetiver, tailored-made for me. Why am I doing that? Because vetiver ~which is a material I adore~ has a very earthy feel. That’s its charm but it also often overshadows the top notes, it tends to engulf everything at its stride. So this concentrée de vetiver bypasses that problem and allows me to work like I want to. On the other hand there are two patchoulis on the raw materials market today, the “clean” one which you can smell in a plethora of fragrances and the real one. But whereas the “clean” one is popular and can be incorporated easily into a formula it lacks character, it has a one-dimensional personality. On the other hand real patchouli has a distinctive character, is multi-faceted and aids my formula into being what it is, when I choose to weave it in. I only use real patchouli myself.”

The luxury market is a vast theme for discussion but one he is quite eager to discuss. I sense that Hermès has largely emerged as the ne plus ultra chic luxury house (which it always was, in its way), but also gained momentum in its perfumery section over other luxury brands ~even over Guerlain which is a classic perfumes house, at least in the eyes of perfume lovers who seek distinction. In great part this triumph can be attributed to Jean Claude Ellena: a coherence of style that never seems to try too hard (at least in the outer effect, not the creative process, naturally!). I ask him if he believes that being appointed in-house perfumer for Hermès in 2004 has been a change of course for the company, five years now into it. He doesn’t want to take full credit: “It’s a deliberate direction that Jean-Louis Dumas Hermès and Véronique Gautier have taken and I suited them. I collaborated with them into a new wave which was pre-decided for Hermès but also evolved along the way. The brand wanted a different kind of product. There was no artistic director for the perfumery section before and although I had created Amazone Eau de fraîcheur for them in 1989, I didn’t know they wanted me for in-house perfumer till the question was asked. Our first collaboration with newly appointed Véronique was for Un Jardin en Méditerranée in 2002. But I ask questions to my own style, I show a new generosity and the result came out such as you see now. The power at Hermès is that the artist calls the shots. There are no focus groups, no marketing research on what we should launch. Only very few people decide on the finality of the launch. Hermès is very quality focused”. It is a small, traditional house that wasn’t initially thought of in relation to perfumes, but which has gained a respected following. “We are not going after big money, but after good money. We propose very sophisticated products for those who have a taste for them. We do not want to become too big, just be on a normal level. The increasing of an already superior quality is in my mind the only way out of the current economic crisis ~which hasn’t hit Hermès for what is worth. I like that we have an honest approach to the customer. It’s as if we say to them ‘If you like the product (and I do want them to like the product obviously), it’s OK and we’re very pleased. But even if you don’t like the product, that’s OK too’. I don’t want to break my back trying to cajole or deceive the customer, trying to ‘win’ them at all costs, be everything to everyone! There would be dishonesty in doing that and I don’t like it. I prefer to attract the ones who can become attracted in the first place. We’re not trying to outdo everyone in this business!”

At this point our discussion takes a path into other perfumes in the upscale, luxury game, a game that is ferocious, despite appearances and although tact dictates I cannot reveal the names discussed (it’s not very hard to guess anyway) he literally chuckles mischievously as I mention that his Hermessences have created several followers of the concept down the road! He is quick to point out that the prestige card is being played a lot, which might implicate the novelty factor that the exclusive Hermessences had in the first place, being a series of fragrances to be circulated only through Hermès boutiques; as well as the big size of expensive products. “There is a very obvious, easy way to show quality, Ellena says. You either increase the price or you increase the size. These are both very visual interpretations of luxury and the eyes play an important role in the luxury market. As to whether a big bottle has any real relevance, if there is a demand for it from the customer base, then why not? I don’t find it a bad thing in itself assuming there is a use for it.” When I point out that in perfumes a big bottle poses a very tangible obstacle in being a monetary investment when building a vast collection for the fragance enthusiast (as it is such a commitment over smaller ones), he reflects a bit on the market at large. “I do think there is no more excitement due to too many things on the market. There is too much product out and companies driven by the economic approach often don’t care for repeat customers, those loyal to one or two fragrances. They know that new brings in money, so they’re launching a hundred new things instead of focusing on less. I can’t say that I approve.” However one cannot dismiss the fact that products aim to sell, even if on a level-headed schedule. Therefore my question on marketability has some bearing on this. I have been curious along with many whether the transparency and watery effects predominant in this school of perfumery which Jean Claude represents are targeted to the Asian market which abhors opulent Westernized creations and applies scent very delicately. “What would you have to say to this, Jean Claude, in relation to your scents created for Hermès, especially the latest Un Jardin après la Mousson, Hermessence Osmanthe Yunnan, the exclusive Japan-only issue Eau de Ginza based on cherry blossom {Eau de Ginza was part of specific Hermès creations- including a silk scarf- especially designed to celebrate the Hermès Boutique of Ginza re-opening in 2006} and the new Hermès Colognes?”
Since we are dispelling myths, we might as well shatter that one as well: “There is no such planning or aim behind all this. It’s not borne out of a marketing strategy, but out of an aesthetic choice mainly. It’s true that Eau de Ginza was aimed for exclusive distribution in our Ginza Boutique in Tokyo, but in general the Asian market doesn’t really feature too much in perfume buying. They are not buying many fragrances, or if they do, they only buy them for the presentation. Hermès is a smaller-scale brand, a family controlled business with a very upscale profile. It’s very well known in Japan, but not predominantly for our perfumes, more for the silks and leather goods. Hermès is very popular in France, Spain, Italy and Germany, in Europe in general, where the perfumes sell well, and comparatively not very prominent in the USA. It has a very European profile and aesthetic and this is tied to its history. It hasn’t ventured outside its boutiques, like so many designer brands have, like ~to bring an example~ Chanel or Armani have their accessories such as sunglasses or watches available outside their stores. Hermès is boutique-only with the exception of some of its perfumes and only that. This keeps a certain level in everything but also a certain smaller scale recognisability; which is fine by me!”

The notion of fragrances thought out in relation to the house’s tradition and the markets in which it is most popular brings us to the latest offerings by Hermès: a new Colognes Collection (the Hermès Colognes are more than a trio, rather a Collection with upcoming additions…) comprising Eau de pamplemousse rose, Eau de gentiane blanche (2009) & Eau d'orange verte (1979). Eau d’orange verte, originally titled Eau de Cologne d’Hermès, was created for Hermès in 1979 by Françoise Caron. Eau d’orange verte has notes of orange, mandarin, lemon, mint leaves, blackcurrant buds, oakmoss and patchouli. The other two were created by Jean Claude Ellena to launch later this spring along with the older one as a trio presentation [1]. Eau de pamplemousse rose is “somewhat classic,” with notes of grapefruit, orange, rhubofix and vetiver while Eau de gentiane blanche is aimed as “a counterpart to traditional cologne,” without any citrus notes. It contains notes of gentian, white musk, iris and incense. The bottle design for Les Colognes Hermès is uniform, derived from a carriage lantern, and housed in the signature orange of Hermès, sealed and wrapped in a ribbon-like sleeve. How did the concept came along? “The concept of the Cologne Collection came with the desire to make real perfumery, the artisan way. The Eau d’orange verte one has been a very successful Hermès fragrance because it’s simple and sophisticated, in other words it is a product which philosophically has its ties with what Hermès stands for as a house. Cologne is a product that has a rich history behind it, it’s linked to the past, to the beginnings of Western perfumery and the fragrance industry and it also has a very Mediterranean sensibility about it, l’oranger, le bigaradier, the citrus fruits, the refreshing part; but here is the challenge, to make it modern again, to tie it with today’s sensibility and needs! The Eau de pamplemousse rose is not pink grapefruit, like it might be translated; it is grapefuit and rose.” I interject that he must like that grapefruit accord as he has used it in In Love Again and Hermessence Rose Ikebana, as well as a smaller facet of it as a small rosy wink in Kelly Calèche and I ask him whether he has thought about his next Hermessence. He laughs good-humouredly once more, he laughs a lot in fact ~I sense he’s much too polite to contradict me even if that weren’t so~ and he nods. “It’s a couture version of the accord; you must smell it on your own skin! There is a special finish to it, which can be sensed when applied to the skin, can’t put it into words that well. I work on two or three projects at a time. Work a bit on one, have a little vacation, occupy myself with another. The latest Hermessence is Vanille Galante of course and we haven’t thought about a new one. It will come...”

The mention of couture brings me to another question: “Many perfumers do custom-made perfumes for wealthy patrons for a hefty fee and it’s been very au courant in ‘diluted’ form by some niche brands that supposedly ‘mix’ something for you or encourage layering of simpler notes to create something unique for each customer. Would you mind elaborating on your own antithesis to “parfumerie sur mesure?” He doesn’t hesitate one bit. “I don’t want to lie, therefore I don’t like custom-made perfume making. If you come to me and say you want something for yourself only and you describe it and it turns out you want something like Shalimar what am I going to do? Make something that pleases that side of you, something that will please your ego and conform to your desire. It would take me a couple of days and I could lie and say it took me months. But that’s not creation! There’s no vision or real artistry behind this, as it only demands a good technician. As I consider myself a good technician I would certainly be able to create that which you want, but I wouldn’t want to do that. Would you love the result in six months from now? Or would it be just a passing whim, something that you liked without knowing why and how? A mere pleasing of your ego is just that ~a phase, a whim, a caprice! That’s not the way to make something lasting. I prefer a more artistic approach, that of the couturier. A couturier designs a dress for a show and you see it at the defilé and admire it and say I want that, but for me. And therefore I take it and adjust the measurements to suit you, but it’s still my creation, my vision, an artwork which has been slightly tweaked for you to claim it as your own and that way you can appreciate it as art rather than artistry.” It is such conviction which separates Jean Claude from the many that are devoting their talents to a rich clientele which demands things on a whim.

He’s also very committed to the present. In the words of Camus: “Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present”. Ellena’s style doesn’t do the tango (ie.one step ahead, two steps back). There is no nostalgia or atavism in his work: his gaze is on the here and now and on to the future. Even in his homage to previous scents, such as his L’Eau d’Hiver for Frédéric Malle is to Guelain’s Après L’Ondée, there is a sense of modernity. “How do you feel about the perfume-enthusiasts’ community who is so attached to classics of older times, some which are revered without the people in question even having the chance to smell them as they truly were at their prime?” He ponders on it philosophically: “You’re absolutely right! One cannot really replicate an era, or how an old classic smelled like. The fragrance has changed due to various reasons, but the sensibilities have also changed resulting in a fake experience. But in general there is no sense in nostalgizing. Because nostalgia brings along a sense of regret and regret means sadness (tristesse), and this doesn’t make sense for the creation process. There is a feel of decadence in nostalgia and of the end. Mais on ne peut pas construire l’avenir seulement sur l’histoire! (One can’t build the future only on history). Therefore we may admire the past but we must look into the future”.

Talking about the perfume online community, I am aware that you are aware of its voice. Do you feel that in some small part it can shape some directions in the market? Is it something that you sometimes discuss with your colleagues?” Jean Claude is quite encouraging: “I am most certain that it can. There is an interest in what people discuss online”. And what about the new trend of corporate blogs (I mention a few names)? Is Hermès thinking of launching one too? “No, it’s not an Hermès way to communicate and I am convinced personally that the consumer can see the difference between a real blog such as yours and a blog handled by a brand, powered by a company only for promotion. And this might have some bearing on the issue at hand as well, which is sad. However, we had created an online page for Terre d’Hermès which was encouraging a sort of dialogue between us and the audience. We asked for visitors to write their stories on perfume in general, not just Terre d’Hermès or Hermès for that matter and we would publish the best, the most passionate ones channeling their feelings about perfumes; we had received more than 1000 mails, some of them were wonderful!”
[If you go to this linkyou can click on "Perfumer, Alchimiste et Poète" for a clip of JCE and on "Contes" to read some of the submitted stories, a couple of which are penned by Jean Claude himself].

As I have gnawed on what seems like close to an hour and a half of his time, I am recapitulating bringing this full circle with his life-views. Over the years reading intently about his work I recall many little tidbits; I had greatly enjoyed this quote of his: “I don’t create from a brief but from an experience I live. It might be an experience on the spot, on a real place, as for the Garden-Perfumes; a souvenir from an experience within Hermès, as for Kelly Calèche inspired after a visit at the Hermès leather stock; or a personal creative challenge around a material, as for the Hermessence collection. For me, creation means to try to build a road while walking". So from all the experiences in your life, which one is the most precious which you would have loved to turn into a perfume? I ask him. It’s a question he doesn’t want to respond to with something specific. “I can’t say that I want a specific experience embottled. I do not desire to be understood on isolated pieces, but on my body of work; nor do I want specific segments to characterize my spirit. There is a certain volonté (desire, volition) in me to grasp things out of life, all experiences are good, even the bad ones, I take everything and get nourished by them each day. I don’t know where it will lead in the end, but I am walking on the path all the same. The world is not perfect, yes…Mais malgré tout, je regarde la joie!", he accents his words with great emphasis, with passion. (Despite everything, I hold on to the joy). Are you an optimist then? I tentatively ask. “Je suis un pessimiste heureux” he laughs heartily with his generous, charming, very Southern-French way. A happy pessimist, then, like the hero of André Blanc, Henry de Montherlant [2] ...that’s Jean Claude Ellena!

Sincere, heartfelt thanks to Jean Claude himself and the Hermès team for the consideration of the PerfumeShrine.
Copyright ©Elena Vosnaki for the Perfume Shrine, All Rights Reserved.

[1]The Hermès Colognes Collection will work its way out into the world starting in May at Hermès boutiques, and then in June Hermès fragrance doors including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman. By early 2010, the Hermès Colognes Collection will reach a total of about 300 U.S. doors, including Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Sephora.
[2]Montherlant, Un pessimiste heureux by André Blanc was issued in 1968 by éditions Centurion.

The matter of the potential of his scents for reformulation has been already addressed on this article, therefore has not been included. Related reading on Perfumeshrine: Jean Claude Ellena, Hermès

Friday, March 27, 2009

The 2009 Hall of Fame Award of The Fragrance Foundation’s 2009 FiFi® Awards goes to.....

The Fragrance Foundation is delighted to announce that Marc Jacobs will be honored with the Hall of Fame Award at The Fragrance Foundation’s 2009 FiFi® Awards and celebration on Wednesday May 27th in New York City. The Hall of Fame award is voted on by The Fragrance Foundation’s Board of Directors and is presented to an individual who has brought extraordinary ingenuity, creativity, dedication and inner resources to bear, not only to their company’s success but to the fragrance industry as a whole.

Rochelle Bloom, President of The Fragrance Foundation, observes:

“Marc Jacobs is the epitome of a true fashion innovator. His talent is simply breathtaking. He brings a fresh, delightful, joyful approach to everything he does. Last year, we were thrilled that he won a FiFi ® for Fragrance of the Year with Daisy and we are honored to present him with the Hall of Fame Award.”
“I love the notion of daisies.” says Marc, “I wanted to evoke the feeling that you get when you see them-happy, youthful, whimsical and sweet connotations."Rochelle Bloom continues

"Marc’s contribution to the fragrance industry started with his very first signature fragrance and now encompasses many different and delicious aromas all imbued with his personality and flare. He has built a fragrance brand with a broad appeal and brought along with him a whole new generation of loyal fragrance lovers for the ride. Bravo to Marc for reaching out and embracing these modernistas!"
From the time he entered Parson’s School of Design, Marc Jacobs has been a fashion designer to the core and a skillful fashion entrepreneur. He designed his first Marc Jacobs label collection in 1986 and was the youngest ever designer to be awarded the fashion industry’s highest tribute: The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Perry Ellis Award for New Fashion Talent. Since then he has built a fashion empire that literally spans the globe with retail stores in London, Paris Tokyo, Moscow, Madrid, Istanbul and Athens. Described by Vogue as designing “resolutely informal, wholly luxurious garments that confer on the wearer a youthful, anonymous and effortless chic”. "It's been really rewarding to make this foray into fragrance," explained Jacobs. "It's fun to smell our fragrances on people on the street and it all feels very in sync with our collections. We work really hard on the fragrances and it is nice to be recognized for that".

Pic of Mac Jacobs via Visionnaire

Blunda's Natural Perfume Exhibitions

I got sent some interesting news for those who watch the all-naturals front of perfumery and are interested in attending exhibitions and workshops that include or focus on them.

"This weekend, March 28, open an 8-month long series featuring 8 perfumers and their olfactory art at this unique perfume studio at the heart of Los Angeles. Blunda's Natural Perfume Exhibitions open this weekend with Laurie Stern of Velvet & Sweetpea's Purrfumerry. Laurie's perfumes are cruelty free and made of botanical essences only (except for bee products) and are phthalate free". Spaces are extremely limited, so please RSVP by via email with the title "RSVP for Perfume Exhibition #1 March 28, 2009" and number of people participating or by calling (323) 658-750.
Next Exhibition: April 18th, 1-5pm – with Ayala Moriel. We will come back with news when that materializes.

Two Perfumers Talk: Christophe Laudamiel and Pierre Guillaume

Prompted by the upcoming exhibition Esxence, the first perfumers' exhibition held in Milan (you can read details here), I am honouring two talented and prolific perfumers who are emeging as major players in the industry: Christophe Laudamiel and Pierre Guillaume.
Christophe Laudamiel, Fine-Fragrance Perfumer at International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. since year 2000, will be participating in Esxence with Humiecki&Graef, an emerging niche brand. Here, courtesy of Seed Magazine, Christophe Laudamier talksin the “Design for the Invisible“ lecture, in occasion of Mind 08 – The design and Elastic Mind Symposium. He talks about the sense of smell, its mystery, our infinitive capability to smell and how perfumery is trying to harness and enhance those capabilities in different ways, in fine fragrance, as well as fragrance designed to enhance interiors or inspired by other artistic project; even how dolls or cleavage are "alive" due to their smell! With a portfolio of scents as varied as Estee Lauder Youth Dew Amber Nude, Island Michael Kors (with Loc Dong), S-ex for S-perfumes, Clinique Happy Heart, Ralph Lauren Polo Blue (with Carlos Benaim), Abercrombie & Fitch Fierce and collaborating on the recreation of scent-impessions for the Thierry Mugler coffret on "Perfume, Story of a Murderer", he's extremely versatile!

Seedmagazine.com Seed Design Series

And on this video Chandler Burr talks with Christophe Laudamiel about the coffret based on the novel by Suskind, Das Parfum, turned into the film mentioned above.

Pierre Guillame is already touting his manifesto with the slogan on his own site Pafumerie Generalle: "Exhale your Difference". Here he is talking (in French with Italian subtitles) about one of his fragances, Louanges Profanes, which can be seen on his site. (Clip via Extrait.it)

Since I really love Pierre Guillaume's Cozé, Musc Maori, Un Crime Exotique and a couple of others for Parfumerie Generalle, pehaps I should return with more personal impessions!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Warm Weather Aquarelles part 1

Warm weather almost de iuro demands a lighter disposition and a scent to match it. One which might unfortunately be dismissed by serious fragrance enthusiasts as...watered-down. Not unjustly market reality has objectively proven that often this is not too far off the mark, making many of us wary of summery editions as non-sensical or even a blatant rip-off. Yet sometimes a twist here or there might make a previously opaque and opressing scent just right and pliable to more ethereal moods. The latest edition of French Vogue has a small selection of recommendations for diaphanous and refreshing fragrances for the warmer months ahead. The choice is among some of the latest or upcoming releases and -let's be realistic- it is to be expected in a publication which is largely dependent on advertisers. This is why you will not see niche recommendations on this list, but instead major players in the industry. In fact there is a bit from everyone, so that no major Group is left out. But perhaps I am meowing too much! The main interest and the reason I decided to include the selection on PerfumeShrine is that it allows a glimpse into how the French -and consequently the European, and further on the international- market is shaped. Here is the list of 10 spring and summer scents with commentary and links to articles/reviews of my own.

Dior Miss Dior Chérie L'eau: The fresh accent of gardenia promises to take the popular flanker out of the super-sweet gourmand territory of candy-country Miss Dior Chérie ~ though I simply adore its commercial! In this version I like the lightly green colour and the simpler flacon. (sug.retail price: 59,01€ )

Essence de Narciso Rodriguez: Supposedly a light fragrance based on musk, which surprisingly is formidably tenacious to the point of never quiting (musks tend to hang on for a long time). A smidge of amber warms the proceedings giving the warm skin feel, although the overall impression is one of laundry day; the soapy aldehydic impression very prominent! Not as distinctive as the regular Narciso for Her and its many confusing concentrations, more unisex, but quite pleasant in an unexpected way.
Full review here. (sug.retail price: 72€)

Beige de Chanel : Frangipani, ylang ylang and jasmine bring out a discreet note of honey, making the whole smell like upscale shampoo. The "clean" trend hasn't expired but has conquered even the mightest bastions. Pretty, if a little unexciting for the price and exclusivity. Full review here. (sug.retail price at Chanel boutiques: 200€).

Flora de Gucci : Floral as suggested by the name, based on rose and osmanthus (a Chinese blossom of almost suede-like apricotty tonalities). I expect quite a bit of clean notes too! Full article here. (sug.retail price: 50€).

Burberry Summer Here we tread on fruity avenues once again: litchi, mandarin and blackcurrant ally with "water jasmine" (hedione is more like it) and rose. Reportedly very fresh and scintilatting. We'll see...(sug.retail price: 55€).

Calvin Klein CK One Summer Another limited summer edition of CKOne (there is one evey summer, mainly changing the bottle colouring) focusing on grapefruit, orange pulp, mandarin and fresh mint for a vitamin cocktail when there is shortage of energy. Personally I don't expect it to distance itself damatically from the tried and true of lime on a clean musk gush of frosty wind. (sug.retail price: 49€).

Eau de Shalimar by Guerlain The sunny notes of bergamot and citron bighten up the vanillic base making it excellent for summer and any other time time-tested regular standby Shalimar is too much. Full review here. (sug. retail price: 86€).

Flower by Kenzo Spring Edition The smashing best-seller of powdery notes in the poppy-crowned bottle, Flower by Kenzo, has several limited editions. This one focuses on mandarin and ginger accents that contrast with the violet and white musk notes of the original.(sug. retail price: 49€).

Very Irrésistible Récolte/Harvest 2008 by Givenchy Givenchy has adopted the habit of picking one note of the bouquet of their fragrances each year and investing in a specific harvest of it that is meant to denote millesime quality, such as in wines. An idea that was first explored by L'Artisan with their Harvest scents. This year's Very Irrésistible will highlight Rose Damascena, harvested at Isparta in Turkey. I haven't sampled it yet, but I recall being impressed only by the Organza Jasmine Harvest 2007 (sug.retail price: 90€).

Angel Sunessence by Thierry Mugler. Bergamot and hibiscus will garland the well-loved patchouli and vanilla accord of perennial best-seller Angel, lightening it considerably. If the previous twist on classic Angel, Eau de Star, is anything to go by I am curious to test this one! Full article here. (sug.retail price: 59€)

On the second part I will propose my own warm weather aquarelles recommendations. Stay tuned!

Esxence: first olfactory exhibition by perfumers

April 2 marks the opening of the round table discussion "Perfumers speak" (at 11:30), part of the exhibition Esxence, which will take place in Milan, Italy from 2nd April though 5th April 2009. Esxence is the the first professional fair show dedicated to niche perfumery tagged "The Scent of Excellence" hosted at Spazio Pelota, Via Palermo 10 in Brera, the artistic centre of Milan.
Professional noses of French, Italian and British origins will be upfront with the public, granting them a glimpse into the secret cosmos of the fragrance industry, allowing them to see a bit of the Science and the Art of perfumery, the originality and passion that drives them. According to the official info:

"In Italy the art perfumery has gained a relevant dimension not only in terms of revenues generated but also in terms of number of dedicated retailers. The innovative distribution approach that has been developed and adopted by the Italian market in the last few years has attracted the attention of many international operators. The quality and excellence involved in this market are what make it at the same time vital and respectful of traditions, in addition to being highly responsive to new ideas that may flow against the current. Esxence is created to be an international house, a place where opinions meet along with experiences, proposals, provocations and know-how. Esxence will host main firms, Italian and international distributors that will support the firms, along with the press, buyers, Italian and international retailers".

Mark Buxton and Stéphane Humbert Lucas, prolific creators in the service of numerous niche brands (let me remind you of Comme des Garcons), Erwin Creed, descendent of the famous Creed dynasty and on the helm of the historical house, as well as Lorenzo Villoresi, the well-known Florentine creator with his own line of artisanal fragances, will all participate. Sebastian Fischenich and Tobias Mueksch will be the protagonists in the "Theater of emotions" project on Friday April 3, at 14:30 as well as Antoine Vuillermet, perfumer for the Breton brand Lostmarc’h.

Last but not least on Friday April 3 at via Brera n.6 there is also the public presentation by Pierre Guillaume, creator of Parfumerie Generale, of his newest L’Eau Guerrière, belonging to “Collection Privée”.

The list of participating brands can be seen here. Admission is by invitation only, but you can download the invitation on this link.

For information call: +39 02-72023334
Click for map of centre Pelote via Google Maps

Pic of M.Buxton via Elternhaus and of Guillaume via Pafumerie Generalle.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My favourite fragrance is discontinued...now what?

Having your favourite beauty product discontinued is akin to been betrayed by a trusted friend. The pain is acute, even if the matter is not so serious. When it comes to fragrance, and even more a signature fragrance, then the issue becomes a bit more alarming. There is a feeling of not being able to find a substitute, of disillusionment, of never being able to be identified by the smell people have been associating with you for so long. What to do? Luckily there are some tips which might help, same as with other beauty products.

The first place to go to track down a much-missed favourite is the manufacturer:
Call the brand’s customer-service department to ask about potential leftover inventory, upgraded formulas/names or comparable substitutes.
For Estée Lauder brands: You can find products discontinued in the last 24 months through the company’s Gone but Not Forgotten program; you can buy up to six pieces, depending on availability. Call 800-216-7173 to start your search. Other companies who sell discontinued items on their site—Lancome-usa.com, and Moltonbrown.com. Some brands such as Clinique.com, 0r Lancome-usa.com feature online alerts, so customers have fair warning when discontinued goods are disappearing. Don't say it came out of the blue!

If the manufacturer is unable to track down an old fave, here is a site worth checking out:
Vermontcountrystore.com: Its niche is hard-to-find items, and customer service will track down products for which they get a lot of requests, even if the site doesn’t carry them. When an item is no longer manufactured and demand is sufficient, the site buys an original formula and reproduces. Also NellButler.com has several older items which might have disappeared from other online stores. You might have to ask an email about price and availability, but it's worth it to track down something elusive.
If you still have no luck, you should try: Ebay.com, Amazon.com and Overstock.com: These sites can list discontinued products because they work with private individuals who might have the items you're asking for. Since the goods offered come from third parties, however there’s always the risk that a product is old or wasn’t stored or shipped properly, so read the fine print carefully regarding any return policy before ordering and ask questions to the seller. An honest and reliable seller is never afraid or reluctant to answer your queries, on the contrary they welcome them as it means you're seriously thinking of buying their merchandise.
Makeupalley.com: You can find in-depth information on tons of products, including discontinued ones, at this social community of beauty-product consumers. You can post a product request on the Swap Board; if another member owns the item, you can negotiate a trade. Check out Scents Splits too: this site works with members of MakeupAlley -and a couple other perfume boards- who are either "splitting" their bottles (this means they share the juice with other interested parties, decanting by hand into vials and negotiating prices and shipping to you) or selling bottles, full or partial. If you see something tagged as vintage it means it's either discontinued or the formula has changed irrevocably ~usually, although not always~ for the worse. Again you can ask questions and negotiate a deal for what you want. Last but not least, there is The Fragrance Foundation: For detailed information on just about any fragrance that’s ever existed, go to fragrancefoundation.org and click on Fragrance Directory.

More tips on May 2009 issue of ShopSmart.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Mystery of Egyptian Elixirs

Stakte, Susinum, Cyprinum, the Mendesian, Kyphi...Ancient Egyptians used various unguents, essences and aromatic fumigations as a means of well-being and communication with the divine or the dead. Such was the identification of Egypt with perfume production, despite other ancient civilizations dabbling in perfume making, that during Julius Caesar's Roman triumphs, alabastra (essence vials, the term being alabastron/αλάβαστρον in Greek due to the material used, alabaster) were tossed to the crowd to demonstrate his mastery over Egypt!
Although aromatic substances were abundant in Egypt, accesible even to humble labourers, manufactured pefume was a rare commodity reserved for sacred rites, the rich or for export. Images of lotuses being worn and sniffed pose an embarrasment of riches in ancient Egyptian iconography and yet this indigenous and common at the time blossom does not feature in perfume formulae. On the contrary, imports like myrrh, frankincense, cinnamon and cassia were favoured, suggesting that either the extraction methodology was lacking or that tastes ran to the exotic (much like now!) opting for the essences of Arabia Felix (happy Arabia).

The perfumes for personal use had more or less a standard way of composition, resulting in an expected response from the consumer, much like today's customer knows what to expect from a specific commercial perfume: Susinum was based upon the aroma of lilies with myrrh and cinnamon in balanos oil. The Mendesian featured myrrh, cassia and assorted gums and resins steeped in oil and was named from the ancient city of Mendes (production soon went outside the borders of the city). Cyprinum was not named after Cyprus, the Greek island in the east Mediterranean, but based upon the scent of henna (Lawsonia inermis) along with cardamom, cinnamon, myrrh and southernwood. But who were the innovators who first thought about them? Egyptian perfumers from Canopus or olfactory artists from Ashkelon, Cyprus or Sidon? Pliny and Dioscorides regarded the Egyptian product to be superior over all others at any rate. Mendesian is named after the ancient city of Mendes, although eventually that perfume would be created elsewhere, even outside Egyptian borders. The Mendesian featured myrrh, cassia and assorted gums and resins steeped in oil. Stakte contained an even stronger aroma of myrrh ~the formula demanded bruised myrrh itself, or the resin added to balanos oil.

Sacred perfumes were forbidden to use by common folks. The infamous Kyphi (depicted above, recreated by Sandrine Videault) which is documented from Greek authors of antiquity ~indeed the word kyphi is Greek in itself~ such as Dioscorides, Plutarch (in Isis and Osiris) and Galen with slight variations is perhaps the best known. Unfortunately for us the Egyptian priest Manetho's treatise Preparation of Kyphi is lost. Recreations have been attempted by various perfumers, including Sandrine Videault (interviewed on these pages). But kyphi is not the only sacred one.

Another sacred perfume has been discovered by archeologists on the walls of the Ptolemaic temple of Edfu, in the valley of the Nile at Louxor. Based on styrax extract, it was reserved for assuaging the ancient deities of Egypt. The long preparation demanded at least 6 months for the ingredients to mature properly!

The formula included:

- 0,575 litre of carob sugar (Ceratonia siliqua)

- 1010 grams of dry frankincense

- 600 grams of styrax

- 25 grammes de aromatic calamus (Acorus calamus L.)*

- 10 grams of lentisque (mastic) resin

- 15 grams of violet grains

- 0,5 litre of mixed wine and water

From all the forms of ancient Egyptian methods of aromatizing (fumigation, incense burning, pomade and fragranced oils) only one seems consistent with what we consider perfume today: aromatic perfume-oils. Vegetable oils were used as a carrier oil for the essences and two were favoured above all others by the ancient perfumers: balanos and ben. The reason was their naturally neutral odour which would minimally interfere with the final fragrance and the fact that they would keep fragrance longest. Balanos oil comes from the fruit of the Balanites aegyptiaca tree although nowadays no oil is commercially produced from it. Ben oil also circulated under the names moringa, behen, baq or horseradish tree oil (Moringa pterygosperma or M. aptera.) and was used in various therapeutic purposes as well.

The flacon containing perfume was as impotant then as it is now. Alabaster, according to Pliny, was the finest material for the safe-keeping of scent due to its non porous nature. Egyptian alabaster is a very fine grained variety of re-crystallized Eocene limestone (calcite,CaCO3) whereas in modern usage alabaster is a fine-grained, massive variety of gypsum (hydrated calcium sulfate, CaSO4.2H2O).
Varied perfume flacons have been excavated in large numbers. One of the most romantic excavations has been the Ulu Barun (at the Turkish coastline), a big galley loaded with fragant materials which dates to the time of Nefertiti. Chronologizing it was possible thanks to the fortunate discovery of a gold signet ring with Nefertiti's cartouche on it, which suggests a royal commission. Along with the fragrant materials, bars of blue glass were unintentionally designated to the depths. One could dreamingly hypothesize that the amazingly similar to modern aromatherapists' vials colour of the glass could be intended for perfume bottles, however no such evidence exists.

*It's interesting to note that although calamus is also referenced in the Bible (Exodus 30,23) as entering the composition of a sacred perfume for God made by Moses, it must be some other fragrant plant, as Moses was in the middle of the desert.

If you have an interest in ancient Egypt and the perfumes adorning its lifestyle, I highly recommend Lise Manniche's Sacred Luxuries: Fragrance, Aromatherapy and Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt, Cornell University Press, 1999 which contains actual ancient perfume recipes.

Related reading on PerfumeShrine: Ten Monoliths (Kyphi), Djeji by Guerlain, Saffron's history in perfumery, Chypres' origins, Fragrance History articles.

Formula ref: "Parfums de Rêve", Editions Atlas 1997
Pic of the temple of Edfu in Louxor, Egypt coutesy of
webshots.com; alabastra drawnings via biblepicturegallery.com; pic of Kyphi recreation by S.Videault copyright Jean François Gaté, used by permission

Jo Malone expands to Eastern Asia

Takashimaya, one of the most popular shopping spots in Singapore, has been chosen to host the newest Jo Malone venue. The shop-in-shop boutique, mimicking the master plan of the London Sloane Street flagship store (including a Tasting Bar) is part of a greater plan by parent company Lauder Group to expand in Southeastern Asia and the Pacific region. The contract has been signed between Lauder and the Lane Crawford Joyce Group for exclusive distribution of Jo Malone products in 7 territories: Hong Kong (already hosting Jo Malone since last July), Singapore, China, Taïwan, Macau, Malaysia and Indonesia. The company is determined to face the economic crisis difficultes and come out victorious.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Galivanting aimlessly during the weekend

All cats come out in the sun, is a popular saying. Like them, I sunned myself. And these are a few of the things I snapped.

The open air market has flowers for sale. In cellophane and metallic-looking wrap, they stand proud: lilies, roses, petunias, freesias... People come and go and stare at them. Who will take them home?

The market also has olives. Lots of them. In all sizes, shapes and quite a few shades.

The lilies have blossomed. Those are cala lilies. Almost obscene. They remind me of Diego Rivera.

Surprisingly, so has jasmine! Yet, I can never be sure whether it is jasmine that has withstood the cold or new jasmine. It seems like I see jasmine all-year round!

With wisteria (glycine) I can be sure, though! These are the hypnotically fragrant, powdery spicy "grapes" of spring. Soon the whole place will be covered with them.

All kinds of things grow in the sun. Even clean socks!

Butterflies seem unaffected though! Harvesting the nectar...

There is retro-chic with a nod to bygone times. (I'd like to have an etched glass-door like that in my own verandah).

And then there's reto-retro! A 60s brand of lingerie and swimwear. Minoan-style...or not.

Shall we go in?

Sure, but let's first grab a bite!

All photos copyright © helg/Perfumeshrine

Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta in Villa

Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta In Villa is a new packaging twist to the Aqua di Parma Italian brand of fragrances Colonia Assoluta (a citrus aromatic developed by Bertrand Duchaufour and Jean Claude Ellena in 2003). This time drenched in green instead of the luminous yellow trademark packaging of Acqua di Parma, it is meant to represent a pastoral view of green fields in Tuscany where teracotta-tiled villas reside, encompassing twelve natural ingredients including Italian citrus, blond wood and spicy accords. The aim is to appeal to both men and women, while the packaging is given a green bulb atomiser in the recent trend for old-fashioned glamour.

Colonia Assoluta in Villa will be available in 200ml/6.8 oz flacons of eau de toilette, launching on the market in April 2009.

(pic: Sfilate.it)

The Market Share of Young Women in France

According to Maryline Le Theuf (Source: cosmetiquemag, mars 2009) and a survey of 2500 women between 15 and 24 years of age in France (NB the survey was conducted through 18 May 2008), the annual budget of hygiene/beauty products of that demographic (15% of the French population) has been raised to 240 per year corresponding to 22 purchases in the same time frame. The amount spent by those over 25 is 262 per year for the same number of purchases, explained by the slightly costlier items purchased by women with greater economic independence.
The percentages are grossly taken by makeup (85% of this demographic in contrast to 63% total in France) and hair products (I guess we all recall our troubled identity-searching teenage-hair- days!). It's impressive however to see that those young women buy a lot of products off catalogues and the internet on what concerns fashion and the trend extends to perfumes, with 52% of the 20-24 year olds having acquired 4,5 products via the Net. Makes you re-think the retail prices on several fragrances, doesn't it?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Aftelier Living Pefume Exhibit ~and Lumiere by Mandy Aftel: new fragrance

Mandy Aftel needs no introduction. Everyone interested in natural perfumes ~and in perfumes period~ has given at the very least a passing glance to her writing in Essence and Alchemy one of the most jam-packed with delicious info papeback to ever come out fom the printer's. Now Henri Bendel, the iconic New York retailer announced that it will hold an exhibit Living Perfume: The Natural Alchemy of Mandy Aftel April 18 – May 11, 2009, featuring the perfume, the craft, and the collection of leading natural perfumer, Mandy Aftel. Henri Bendel is the exclusive retailer of Aftel’s Aftelier line of hand-blended scents which are created from the world’s finest natural ingredients.

This interactive and historic exhibit will showcase the extraordinary materials that bring to life the art and science of natural perfume. It will be created and installed using the responsible design principles of sustainable materials and eco-friendly sourcing, and draw its inspiration from the natural world where natural fragrance originates.
"It is rare to have the opportunity to usher in a new art form, especially one that embodies such great beauty. We consider Aftelier to be the leader in natural perfume and are excited about sharing it with our customers through this historic exhibit" states Claudia Lucas, Senior Vice President of Beauty & Gifts for Henri Bendel.
All Aftelier Perfumes are created by Mandy Aftel, author of the award-winning Essence and Alchemy: A Book of Perfume, a publishing success in seven languages which prompted Vanity Fair to dub Mandy “angel of alchemy”. Yet Mandy has touched earth too, also designing several custom blends for Hollywood stars, writers, and restaurants, as well as private labels. The recipient of the Sense of Smell Institute’s Richard B. Solomon Award, Mandy Aftel stands in the threshold of a new art form that is set to create new directions given the attention it has been receiving by connoisseurs in recent years.
According to Mandy: “As potent as it can be, smell is the most neglected of our senses. Rational precepts and the industrial age have separated our minds, bodies and spirits, and further separated us from nature. Natural Perfume, created from natural materials and aromatics is a multi-layered phenomenon: In a breath, we are able to reconnect with the natural world and ourselves in new and profound ways.”
Thus the Living Perfume Exhibit is dedicated to the sense of smell, aromatics, and the art of natural perfume, with interactive learning opportunities for the public. The Exhibit will feature Aftel’s body of work: her perfumes and oils, her research and writings, her personal library of rare books, graphics, and artifacts - to offer a unique and foundational view of this world.
The Living Perfume Exhibit runs from April 18 through May 11 on the 3rd floor of Henri Bendel. Not to be missed!

Mandy Aftel is also introducing a new pefume in her all-natuals line, called Lumière which means of course Light." Lumière is a sheer elegant floral composed of the precious essences of boronia, blue lotus and sacred frankincense. A sophisticated floral that is restrained but sensual. The base chord is built upon notes of fine green tea absolute and the rarest of Frankincense ~boswellia sacra from Oman~ with its ethereal and mysterious resinous woody notes. Lumière's exquisite heart features Tasmanian boronia with its aroma of freesias and raspberries, and the transparent watery floral note of blue lotus". Aftelier uses no artificial colours, no synthetic fragrances, no petrochemicals, no phthalates, and no parabens
Lumière will be available in 0.25oz for $195) and 2.2ml mini size for $60. (NB: The price is justifiable due to the very high cost of all natural raw mateials) The one quarter ounce perfume comes with a complimentary mini kit! Contact info@aftelier.com

See the whole line at: Aftelier.com And you can download the catalogue here.

Fleurs de Bois by Miller Harris: new fragrance

After Fleurs de Sel (Salt Flowers) and the fantastic L'air de Rien, niche British brand Miller Harris is launching another fragrance, this time called Fleurs de Bois (Flowers of the Woods) composed by resident perfumer Lyn Harris. Despite the name however the fragrance belongs to the citrus aromatic family of scents, rather than the floral or woody, being redolent of moist grass and dewy mornings (dewy is very au coutant lately it seems, judging by Un Matin D'Orage and Vanille Galante).

The notes for Fleurs de Bois are: galbanum, green grass, Sicilian lemon, green mandarin, rose, rosemary, jasmine, iris, oakmoss, patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver and birch.
Fleurs de Bois will be available from May 2009 in 100ml and 50ml bottles packaged in green with the characteristic botanist design of Miller Harris on the box and flacon. More info soon on the Miller Harris site.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Flora by Gucci: Images from Past and Present

In the latest fragrance Flora by Gucci advertisements the historic Flora print sufaces in a campaign shot by Chris Cunningham in a cornfield in Lativa featuring Australian model Abbey Lee in a butterflylike long silk chiffon gown in the middle of more that 40,000 silk flowers moving in tempo with the wind and a remix of Donna Summer’s hit “I Feel Love.” Inez & Vinoodh photographed Flora’s print advertising visuals while the fagrance launch will be backed by a dedicated Web site for the scent that will go live at the same time as the official introduction of the scent on the market.

The inspiration for the floral motif (and name of the fragance) comes from vintage collections by Gucci in which the big, romantic distinctive patterns of flowers and butterflies were strewn across silks and canvas on scaves and bags respectively.
The Flora bag was actually designed for princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly, in 1966. Bags have been at the core of the Gucci brand and as another head of a designer brand (also famous for their bags ~and not only), Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel has said: "'[Bags] make your life more pleasant, make you dream, give you confidence, and show your neighbors you are doing well. Everyone can afford a luxury handbag". The floral pattern was re-issued years later by Frida Giannini, creative director at Gucci, seduced by its playful brightness and is adorning the 2009 collections and the advetisements attached. Surprisingly, the floral motif is mostly on the clothes and less on the packaging of the new perfume which is quite monochromatic in black and white. “I was in love with the idea of a floral fragrance, and having the idea of naming the perfume Flora, everything was consequential. I wanted to give Flora a new freshness, so I decided to keep the same floral pattern but make it not so literal with all 25 colors, but black and white, more graphic and correct for the project,” said Giannini.

The fragrance developed by Firmenich for Procter & Gamble ~who owns parfums Gucci~ is a sophisticated floral (of course!), aimed at the younger clientele featuring citrus accords, peony, rose, osmanthus, pink pepper, and sandalwood.
The new feminine fragrance is the second Gucci women’s scent, following Gucci by Gucci, created under Giannini’s creative reign at the Florentine fashion house and when comparing the scents, Giannini said Gucci by Gucci channeled the powerful Gucci woman, while Flora addresses a sensual, younger woman. “Flora is lighter, the floral scent of course evokes a younger consumer, and she has a hedonistic, daring side. I don’t want to say that Flora is the daughter of Gucci by Gucci but maybe the younger sister,” Giannini elaborated. “Flora is another side of the multifaceted Gucci woman. “We have a huge space for the development of new scents, and now we are trying to build a new category. I want to re-create an entire panorama of scents under my vision.” Ambitious plans, no doubt!

The Gucci Flora fragrance line includes eau de toilette spray 30 ml. for $52, 50 ml. for $65, and 75 ml. for $90; deodorant, 100 ml. for $35; body lotion, 200 ml. for $45, and shower gel, 200 ml. for $38. The fragrance is set to launch globally in early April but is already available online at Neiman Marcus. (where there is a beautiful picture of the bottle as well)

Pics via Ines Zaikova, iofferbag.com, businessweek.com.

August sample draw winner.....

......is none other than Charlotte Vale! We will be in touch so I can send out the sample your way.

Thank you all for participating and stay tuned for the next one!

Astor Place by Bond no.9: new fragrance

Bond no.9, the brand that is synonymous with New York toponymia translated into fragrances is launching a new fragrance this April, called Astor Place, inspired by New York’s most vibrant arts-and-style intersection. The history of the place is quite interesting:

Back in the day, when Downtown was Uptown, nowhere in New York was grander than Astor Place—the enclave stretching between Broadway and Third Avenue, and floating between 14th and Houston Streets. Here, where much of the land was owned by the early 19th century fur-trading philanthropist John Jacob Astor, were situated the city’s greatest theaters, a row of colonnaded Greek Revival townhouses to rival Regent Park’s in London, the hallowed neo-Romanesque Great Hall of Cooper Union, the Renaissance-Revival Astor Library (now the Public Theater), and the neo-Renaissance shopping emporium John Wanamaker. Even the intersecting traffic thoroughfares added to the swirl of energy. Every street that enters the Astor Place energy field disappears and morphs into another street when it exits. (Eighth Street becomes St. Marks Place …Lafayette Street becomes Fourth Avenue … the Bowery becomes Third Avenue.) Astor Place kept a low profile through much of the 20th century. But then in 1967, Tony Rosenthal’s multi-ton gravity-defying geometric black metal sculpture, informally known as “the Cube,” was installed on its vertical axis right in the center of the plaza where Lafayette meets the Bowery. A bit to the south, that spacious promenade, Lafayette Street, is home not only to the acclaimed Public Theatre, where its see-and-be-seen Joe’s Pub now beckons to a stylish late-night crowd, but also to the Astor Place Theater. Ensconced in Colonnade Row, it was there that Sam Shepard’s plays were once performed, while Blue Man Group has held the subterranean stage since 1991. Berthed in the ground-level spaces, meanwhile, are a series of ultra-elegant mid-century home furnishings shops.
This fascinating glimpse of a historical place is meant to be embottled in the new fragrance and it remains to be seen whether it succeeded.
According to Bond, "the Astor Place flacon echoes the angles and cubes of the Rosenthal sculpture, the famous marker of the neighborhood – and renders them in the richest array of colors ever seen. All this is placed again a golden background, paying homage to the Astor fortune and philanthropy". The scent aims at merging downtown with uptown. A seductive fresh floral – flanking freesia with poppy and violet leaf and flanked by the smooth, deeper notes of teakwood and musk. The description of the official pyramid is playfully over the top as per usual, so I will spare you the novelette and will get down to hard, specific notes for Bond no.9 Astor Place: violet leaf, mandarin zest, red poppy buds, orris, teakwood, musk, amber.
For Mother’s Day Bond no.9 is offering Astor Place in a limited-edition Swarovski bottle – delicately decorated with topaz crystals.

Available at Bond No. 9’s four New York City boutiques, www.bondno9.com, 877.273.3369, and at Saks Fifth Avenue nationwide at $145 for 50ml and $220 for 100ml of Eau de Parfum. Astor Place Swarovski Limited-Edition for Mother’s Day will be $300 for 100ml.

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