April 6, 2009

Interesting Perfume Conversations

After going everywhere to try every kind of perfume, everyone gathering at the finale of the Spring Sniffapalooza perfume safari's last stop at Aedes de Venustas has experienced so many enthusiasms and scents over the past two days, that they are still standing only by sheer force of will or the strength of an innately iron constitution. They have become willing to share their uncensored impressions. I learn more about perfume then than at any other time. My fellow enthusiasts have always been my best teachers. People are tired and foggy, in a good mood, and basking in the afterglow of numerous satisfying fragrance experiences. They let down any guard they may have left, and I have the most truthful conversations with attendees who appear like oracles informing me of the most intimate feelings about perfume. This is when I come to see perfume as a prime vector for a soul satisfying mind/body connection.

Ida Meister/Chayaruchama, an eloquent missionary on the subject of perfume, has generously made a point of introducing me to a serene yoga/science guy (who leads a double life as an Iyengar yoga instructor and a research scientist at the Harvard School of Public Health). Jarvis Chen combines meditative calm with interest in beautiful materiality. We spoke about modern tensions between the Eastern monastic teachings on the practice of austerities and an active searching for transcendent experiences of beauty through the sense of smell and the refined compositions of perfume. It is possible to become too attached to the discipline of minimalism as you can to the appreciation of complicated sensual beauty. In balance they can each inform and support the other so neither is overwhelmed or mutually exclusive.

Christopher Voigt of Vetivresse remarked on the difference of cultural standards of perfume beauty as a factor in appreciation. (For an example, Raphaella Brescia, the editor of Sniffapalooza online magazine enthusiastically points to the 5 star you-will-cry Amouage Homage to Attar kept under a bell jar). Can you even smell it? How do you cultivate the ability to appreciate the subtle and elusive beauty of something so outside your own cultural standards? Exposure and experience, maintaining an open mind, research and the feeding of curiosity. On the other hand, you have Amouage Ubar, very easy to like, all beauty, no edge. I smelled it on someone who had to have it because it worked so well on her skin that it gained dimension from her own physical presence, and vice-versa.

Then I got to talk to Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. She is a perfumer who has collected vintage perfumes and flacons for years and plans to open a museum for them. She has the ability to recreate a one-off copy of vintage formulations for personal use. That will be one way you can have the opportunity to know the originals of Mitsouko or Coty Chypre or the classic version of Chanel No. 5, that will soon disappear from availability at any price. We discovered our mutual interest in the Internet subculture specializing in female life of the 18th century, such as Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide (and the English version by Lady Georgianna). They are a forum for art historians and writers to enjoy the feminine side of the history of that time period, and not incidentally the great importance placed on self presentation and the significance and elegance of personal gestures such as scents. DSH has delved into antique recipes for perfume used in the hair powder of the 18th Century. I would love to try that and many of her others, especially those inspired by our commonly held interest in Napoleon and Josephine.

Karen Adams, one of the two Karens who organize all this rich parade, drew me to Les Parfums de Rosine to try the new Rose Praline, an amber rose of high definition, and also the yellow summer rose of Rose d'Ete which I loved also for its bright warm air of softness and spacious dry sweetness. She knows from prior experience (Creed Fleur de The Rose Bulgare 1890) that I am helpless before a very accurate rose perfume. What I don't quite understand is the prejudice against roses these days. True, they are not the personification of modernity, but they are so smooth and beautiful, and an essential ingredient of so many of the fashionable aoud compositions, they are not to be dismissed so easily. It's like trying to live without the color red. The Rosines do personify that modern taste for transparent but defined spacial layers in a composition, unified and grounded by the basic primal beauty of different varieties of roses. If I could afford it I would have taken both the Praline and the d'Ete. But then I have the Creed Fleur de The Rose Bulgare back-listed also.

It's remarkable how while most perfume enthusiasts I know are not people of especially great means, they will still find ways to get their hands on at least one or two fine perfumes a couple of times a year. This year will see I am sure a great cutting back, but there are many who economize elsewhere in order to indulge in this way. I am interested in finding out more about these stratagems and will post on this topic again.

Above, Dante and Beatrice Ascend to the Heaven of the Sun by di Paolo, British Museum -- Looks like they are having an interesting conversation on the wonders of the natural and spiritual worlds.

Do follow my links, they will lead you into many enjoyable diversions...

As a no doubt necessary disclaimer, please consider these recounts of conversations as strictly memories and thoughts of my own, rather than an exact recall of what any of the above persons may have said verbatim. This is more about what I heard that day...

6 comments:

Anonymous said...
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ggs said...

Lucy-- loved reading about your conversations from the weekend--and thoughts on the new Rosine's-- especially since I couldn't make it this Fall. You are so right about how many interesting people you meet at Sniffapalooza events!
--Gail

trish/pikake said...

what a lovely walk through your sniffa adventure. i feel like we just sat down and had tea and chatted about your weekend. makes me hope that my sniffa plans for the fall come to fruition!

~T

Lucy said...

Hi Gail, and Trish,

I hope I get to see you both at the next event, or please make a point of seeking me out if I don't see you first!

These things are so much more dimensional getting others' personal reactions and sharing direct experiences.

Roxana said...

Lucy, this Jarvis Chen that Ida introduced you to sounds soooo interesting. How I wish I could've been there with you all, sigh, like in the Autumn. What fun we had. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and perceptions, a pleasure to indulge in Sniffa Spring Fling through your words.

Lucy said...

Hey, R,

Yes, I recall that dinner we all had together so fondly. I hope we can do it again, and the mix of people was so great.

Ida calls Jarvis a holy man and I think she is right. I love that he has such a refined taste for perfume, too.