Monthly Archives: March 2014

American Perfumers

Liberty tree

Next month to celebrate being a US citizen in a more cheerful way than filing taxes, I thought it might be fun to do a series of pieces and some interviews on and with US perfumers.

It’s been on my mind for some time that this needed to be done.  No one enjoys classic French perfume more than I do, but the changes brought about by IFRA regulations are having an undeniably stultifying effect on European perfumes, and market pressures are leading to a kind of lock step similarity in releases. It seems to me that the future of perfumery may be partially in the US. Continue reading

Florals that Define Us

freesia for spring post

Is there a particular flower scent that is your signature floral? Something you return to over and over and find addictive, something that speaks to you on a molecular level especially in spring time?  Of course I know we’re supposed to be lovers of orientals, or florals, or chypres, and identifiable by all sorts of methods, but really, all of us have a floral that does a lot of our self definition for us even more effectively than pant cuts,  skirt lengths, or color choices, and that we return to with the warm weather, just like swallows to Capistrano. Continue reading

Caribbean Crocus

crocus for saffron post

There seem to be almost no crocus yet this year in New Jersey.  Spring is so late here that I begin to think the whole spring floral show will be truncated, which is something that almost never happens. Spring will be less seasonal panoply than a botched Buzby Berkeley number, with the daffodils stumbling into the middle of the crocuses’ act.    Normally there is a week in between the chorus lines of yellow, white, and purple, on front lawns and the Can Can petticoat whirling dance of King Alfred and Ice Follies daffodils. Not this year.  This year we will have one of those brisk Springs, that zip bulging 80 degree temperatures into weeks designed for 50 degree weather.  But this is North America, and sometimes the cues for seasonal show times get mixed up, as though an addled stage manager and not Mother Nature were in charge. Continue reading

Hyacinths in the Air

still life with hyacinthIn Britain it might be bluebells, but here in North America one of the best clues that Spring has really arrived, is this scent: grassy, pervasive, and fresh.  When I smell it a cascade of images always runs down the surface of my mind: Easter services I’ve sat through in buttermilk colored southern churches, huge bouquets in white wicker baskets, bristling with pink, blue, and yellow hyacinths in front of altar rails, and the bowls of faience pottery we always had at home, with forced hyacinth bulbs in them every March. These last, just because. As my Mother said, we were good and tired of winter. Continue reading

More Powder to You: Luctor et Emergo and Farnesiana

woman powderingTo powder or not to powder?  It’s not even a question of the nose, no matter how shiny, but of what wafts off your skin.  Powder these days carries with it the suggestion of the infantile. I bet this has to do with a major brand of baby powder co-opting what must have been a popular scent of the thirties or forties, and sending it, in millions of talc bottles, to nurseries around the world with the result that when we smell powder, we tend to say, “Oh, that’s for babies.”  Continue reading

Over to Spring

snowdropsHow many people who wear perfume are seasonal I wonder?  Many aren’t, the folk who wear perfume as a fashion accessory or who have favorite notes that they always wear.  If you adore vanilla, or if amber is your personal vice, it’s difficult to exile the essence for six months just because of a little planetary activity.  You know what you like and what you like accompanies you all the time-in one formula-or another.

This strikes me as being efficient and polished and disciplined. Selectivity makes so much sense on every level, including the budgetary one, and wouldn’t you know?  I just can’t. No matter how much I talk myself down, there are always about six to ten scents in my wardrobe every year, and I change them as soon as the seasons change.  I can’t help myself. Continue reading

Working Definition of Beauty: Deneuve and Beautiful

deneuveMy brother as a boy once irritated me very much  by passing unkind judgements on the looks of all (or very nearly all) the females we knew .  In exasperation, I asked just who he did actually find attractive.

“Well,” he said after some long internal deliberation, “I guess Catherine Deneuve is sorta good looking.”

He was not the only one to think so.  Back in the day, around the late seventies, Chanel itself had hit a low point in No5 profits.  Their eventual salvation came with the hiring of Catherine Deneuve as the face of No 5. Her selection boosted sales immediately, and if you think these choices are slam dunks, just consider the recent debacle of hiring Brad Pitt as the face.  You can go wrong no matter how beautiful your model is, if the aforesaid model does not connect in some way with the aspirations of your audience.  All the women in the world wanted to look like Deneuve in 1978, but in 2011 not many of them wanted to look like the Pittster, and there were presumably not enough male buyers of No5 to make up the deficit. Continue reading

The Green Ladies: Odalisque, Eclipse, Le Temps d’un Fête

DSCN7128Wouldn’t you know it? As I’m writing this the skies are turning that cotton wool gray that proceeds snow,* six to ten inches of snow, the weather channels say, and it’s already March.

This makes me yearn for green perfume, the lateness of this year’s winter aconites and snowdrops, and the non appearance of the crocus, put me in mind of all that I’m not smelling this year. Even if they bloom those flowers are going to be two weeks later than usual, and that’s probably an optimistic estimate, too. Continue reading