May 24, 2009

Roxana Illuminated Perfume: Rosa, Sierra

Roxana's Illuminated Perfumes are the creation of a romantic soul, whose perfumes personify a philosophy of life rather than act simply as a fashion accessory. Seductive because the materials are so precious and connected to an ecstatic experience of nature, she also illustrates a sense of place with a California series of perfumes. These honor the particular local countryside beauty of California, where the dry heat of the Mediterranean climate puts forth extremely aromatic materials in abundance throughout the year. It may be just me but I get a sense of smoke and thick honey in the background, in the two from this series, Rosa and Sierra, that I have tried. There is a soft smoothness overall and the result is a very feminine interpretation of California. Rosa is inspired by the wild chaparral rose, and Sierra is about redwood conifers rising from their forest floor bed.

There is a strong sense of the very personal, in that all the perfumes are handmade in small batches in her studio, where she also practices illustration, in what I call a fairytale manner. By which I mean visual representations of a heightened sense of natural reality, using classical symbolism, as you find in the old illustrations of fairy tales. (If you enjoy this kind of thing as much as I do, see Sur La Lune which has a beautiful illustration gallery.) I know Roxana walks the trails and studies the plants and spends a lot of time conferring with others who are devoted to the landscape and ecology. There is a purity and exalted sense of purpose, mixed in with nature poetry and and an intimate sense of invitation to participate with her in appreciation of the great natural beauties she lives with. This strikes me as a very American, Thoreau-like love of simplicity and wanting to thoroughly delve into what the landscape has to offer.

Her site has transported me on occasion. I especially enjoyed her post about her visit to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens, and her research into the wildflowers there. There is a sense of childlike joyousness about these endeavors which comes through in the perfume compositions.

There is a certain deep quietness inherent to natural perfume. You must keep in mind what was well said by Mandy Aftel, at an event recently in NYC honoring her accomplishments in this area. Which is that natural perfumes are very ephemeral, much more so than other modern perfumes, and hold very close to the body, and are are also necessarily far more expensive, because of the materials and labor involved. They are not a mass market item. They are very personal, because of the handmade aspect of one person often making the whole perfume start to finish, from gathering and making the actual ingredients, to making the actual packaging. There is a dimensional, complex, spacious and lively quality to natural perfumes that are only present in other types of perfume to the extent that they incorporate real and natural materials also. It has been said that no one will ever be able to create a chemical which rivals the hundreds of different components that comprise a natural rose, or jasmine, or sandalwood, or any other plant material. From all the writing about perfumes recently, we have become sophisticated enough to know that man-made molecules have become the largest component of modern perfumes. They offer a definitely enhanced, bigger experience of the archetype of each material or thing they represent and then often combine these with other abstract indefinable aromas, expanding the repertoire exponentially. Perfumes composed strictly from natural materials seem to require much artfulness to keep the elements distinct and to create a composition that unfolds over time in a way that works aesthetically. I am not one who sees myself exclusively in one camp or the other, while keenly aware of a certain rivalry between natural perfume vs. those who use chemical components. I began my interest in perfume from the natural perspective but gradually became aware of the often amazing beauty of perfumes composed with man-made elements. At the same time I am so glad of the work Roxana and others are doing, making beautiful natural perfumes. They are essential in that they keep us connected to the real world through our sense of smell in a primal way, to the wild world.
Above illustrations from Roxana's site.
See Rosa Perfume on Etsy


chayaruchama said...

Yet again, dear Lu- you capture the essence!

I heartily concur; the very soul, and integrity of this lady speaks for itself, in her life, her loves, her work, and her quintessentially Californian optimism.

What a fine piece of work, very perceptive and thoughtful.

Lucy said...

Thank you Chaya/Ida, coming from you that praise is most appreciated.
Roxana is getting a real amount of attention and I hope this translates into ongoing sustainable success. It is inspiring to see someone do it their way and make it.

Greg Spalenka said...

Beautiful, elegant commentary. An awesome marriage of Roxana's vision and your inspired eloquence. Thank you.

Lucy said...

Thanks back, Gary.
I look forward to trying more soon.

Trish said...

Love reading your thoughts on Roxana's creations. I completely agree with the "smoke and thick honey" of Rosa and Sierra. Love those two!

Lucy said...

Trish, yeah, I keep thinking of those wildfires they have in CA, and the bee logo, it's a connection that is not a coincidence, I am sure.