August 23, 2006

Luca Turin

Reading his perfume reviews or anything he writes is a true pleasure, and now in the midst of the Emperor of Scent, I find the most interesting part is the story of his childhood and development of his personality and his relentless development as a perfume aesthete. I really was delighted to learn that he wears women's perfume if he feels like it, just because he loves it so much and has the ego not to care what anyone else might think. The story of his serious pursuit and inquiry into the way our sense of smell works is interesting, but now that those questions have been answered, and the Nobel has gone to the team that was able to scientifically prove their theory, LT's vibrational ideas can be put to rest, and we are left with what I personally found of far more interest in any case, that is his highly developed persona as it has focused on the appreciation of fragrance and perfume. He is inspirational in the quality and intensity of his concentration and devotion to his own predilictions. It appears that he has the most attraction and excitement for those scents containing new scent molecules blended into the fine haute-French perfumes presented by the legendary designer companies. It is no secret that he is impatient with and not a particular fan of any emphasis on the use of natural essences or the hand made perfume category. Personally I feel he has shown he can appreciate those few whose background and aesthetic presentation match more closely the mysterious and elegant European couture sensibility. In fragrance and scents, it is context, as it is in everything, that a great part of the attraction and openess to appreciation of what is really there lies. If you are in love, everything is good, if you are not in love, it's all bad, and all you do will be viewed with an essentially critical eye. That said, I think LT has served as a galvanizing force for the new energy in the appreciation of the use and creation of perfume in general. His biographer, Chandler Burr, who learned to appreciate perfumes through association, will now be presenting his views on a more regular basis in the NYTimes, the paper of record, as we say. Even though this choice may slant and influence the aesthetic away from those producers primarily engaged in naturals, it is still important and exciting that the subject matter of newly created scent is finally being taken seriously enough to have a columnist devoted to it, as it now being treated as one of the arts and part of the integral style of our day. Mandy Aftel, because she is also very active as a writer and shaper of modern sensibilities, will be a force who will work to remind and enlighten the cultural world in regard to the use of essences and natural materials. All this foment and debate and discussion and activity adds to the creative energy now suffusing the pursuit of the creation and appreciation of many different styles and types of perfumes and fragrance. It's such an exciting time for fragrance right now, as it has become an element and art form attracting intelligent and creative people everywhere. Because it is now the new art form to pay attention to, thanks in part to the doings and goings on of such fascinating figures as Luca Turin, we are going to be the lucky recipients of more diverse creativity in this field in the near future and times to come...
Photo from the North American Lily Society (One lily in a room will suffuse the entire space with scent, it is almost too much...)

7 comments:

Anya said...

You have a very balanced and insightful view of all this LUCY ;-)

It is indeed a very exciting time in the history of perfume. Centuries ago, perfumers were held in very high esteem, their new releases met with excitement, often created under royal decree.

Then a bit of a slump, then post 1900 came the rise of the cult again, lol, and now a full-fledged revival of interest in all aspects of perfumery, from the NYT to the everyman on the street -- witness the blogs, indie perfumers, perfumistas.

And, yes, Luca really did help trigger it all. Mandy brought naturals to the masses and has started a new age of perfumery at a scale never seen before on the planet, homegrown from Oslo to Oklahoma.

It will be exciting to follow the course of all this; I think it is a turning point in perfume history, and only bodes well for us all who love the lovely juice.

edwin s said...

Hello Luccia,

What a wonderful post! It reminded me of the character in Patrick Süsskind's Perfume. My all-time most loved and most reread book!

And the lily...always beautiful to look at!

Lucy said...

Hey Edwin, nice to see you back. Yes, this guy would be right up your alley, I think, you would enjoy the Emperor of Scent.

Anya: Further into the book now and after reading about LT deeply inhaling of some of the most noxious man made concoctions on earth in pursuit of proving his vibration theory, it is not really surprising he would have no patience with those who are concerned about toxicity or environmental issues in relation to perfume. They describe the other people around, who knew the properties of these substances begging him not to even open the containers but he blithely ignored them, and he maintains he is none the worse for wear, and he's not worried about his future health, either. Then shortly after there is a discourse on the French taste for very rank smelling cheeses, for the finest wines created by the action of fungus and bacteria, and how if Americans were involved they would ban half the cuisine of France. Probably true. Nonetheless, there is obviously a big difference between the discovery and exploitation of the happy accidents of naturally occurring fermentation on ancient, lovingly cared for grape vines and family dairies, and the kind of poisonous and corrosive man-made molecules he was playing around with at the time he was working on his theory. Being open to one kind of decay and smell of decomposition is one thing, using the other chemicals especially in a way where they could escape into the environment is another. Not to say that the perfume companies are using such corrosive or dangerous materials. Apparently they use outside testing which adds a lot to the cost of the products because they don't want to get slapped with lawsuits if their creations end up causing reactions or disease. So that is somewhat comforting to know. I am sure there is much more to know about it all. I can't imagine that all this stuff ending up in the water supply as it is washed off or evaporates is having no effect on nature itself. To what degree, that is the question. Nature can absorb an awful lot of blows, as we know, but it is beginning to appear that all the small blows are adding up.

edwin s said...

Can you believe the bookstores here haven't got a single copy of it? I had to place an order for the paperback. No luck with books lately. Oh well. Fingers crossed that it'll come soon. Thanks to you, I'm dying to read it.

Lucy said...

Edwin - can you get things through Amazon in Kuala Lumpur? If so, click on the link to the right in my sidebar (I will receive a tiny commission) or on one of the blue links in the post. If you can't receive it that way I will order a used one and have it shipped to you. You, of all people, really ought to have it, because I know you will really enjoy it...

chaya ruchama said...

I find much pleasure in contemplating that lovely lily...

A delicate reminder of how, in so many ways,what is delicious and pleasurable can become toxic- be it a question of dilution, distance, exposure, routine.

I, too, feel energized by all the excitement surrounding the field of fragrance-though I have my concerns, and I share yours ,regarding the use of "allergens"[ever since childhood, I've craved the odor of oakmoss, ambergris, civet] of natural provenance.

I'm struck,also, by our collective good fortune-in that we can span time , and distance, to impart/share information and thoughts via computer...

Being a neophyte to this process [and having been dragged,literally, kicking and screaming into the 21st C. by the need to pursue a different position at work],I still possess childlike awe regarding the infinite possibilities afforded us.

I feel privileged to communicate with you all.

Lucy said...

Chaya, you have a unique viewpoint and the ability to communicate it well. I wonder if you might not enjoy starting a site of your own?