October 18, 2006

Aftelier at Henri Bendel

I had a small window of opportunity to get to Henri Bendel today, for the opening of their new Aftelier perfume installation. The second floor has many of the most interesting artisanal perfume product lines, grouped in the same area. Mandy Aftel was preparing for her special group presentation, so I did not meet her, but I was able to sample the fragrances. My favorite was Shiso, based on an old Geisha formulation, which contained unusual ingredients, combining a dark rich spice background with very unfamiliar foreground notes -- shiso leaf and agar wood. Subtle and holding close to skin, it has very strong staying power in that even after washing it remained clearly discernable. Mandy Aftel has been such an inspiration in her writing and deep understanding and respect for the psychological effects of scents and appreciation for traditional materials and production processes, and with her passion for the history and beauty of natural perfume, that it would be difficult to overestimate her influence as a catalyst for the creative rennaissance we are experiencing in natural fragrances today. I sometimes tell people who are unfamiliar with all this that Mandy Aftel is like the Alice Waters of American natural perfume. I find it interesting that both women are based in California, and each focused on and took one of the very primal, mostly non-intellectually mediated senses, smell and taste, and reconnected their refinement to appreciation of the traditional, artisanal methods of production and the importance of the use of the best natural materials available. Reconnecting to these concepts has also resulted in creative combinations and new contrasts using those natural materials and old methods, for uniquely modern results from many increasingly adept and creative practitioners. The audience of enthusiasts are multiplying exponentially.
Above - The Natural Perfume Wheel, from Aftelier, a visual way to link scent experience to description.


Anya said...

Lucy -- Mandy wanted to meet you! It sounds as if you are so polite and thoughtful that you saw she was very very busy and gracefully held back. Bless you, you are a very sweet person.

Your summation of Mandy's influence is brilliant, and psychic to a certain point of synchronicity: her home of 30 years is directly behind Alice Water's Chez Panisse. They are friends. The scents of CP waft up to Mandy's back door every day, and her perfumes have wafted back to Waters.

There must be a natural nexus matrix in that neighborhood that influences tastebuds, olfactory bulbs, minds and, ultimately, the world, lol.

Lucy said...

Thanks Anya. I wanted to meet Mandy too, but when I got there it was getting close to 5:30 so she was probably away getting dinner or a break or getting ready for the presentation. Now I regret I didn't opt for the presentation myself. I am gratified to learn of Alice Waters proximity to her house, perhaps I am developing some form of clairvoyance, that would be useful, now, wouldn't it...