January 2, 2013

A European Fragrance Vacation – Puredistance M and Opardu

I have an idealized vision of Europe, which in my mind remains eternally elegant, sophisticated, civilized and enlightened. I have always thought that the inhabitants have arranged matters so that they are getting plenty of fun out of life. All are comfortable, or at least never desperate, everyone freely well educated and reasonably calm, beautifully dressed and standing straight, with clean streets, great fresh food, and layers of priceless treasures everywhere.

I have cultivated and renewed this view over and over with films since the days of Truffaut and Godard, novels and poetry from the 19th Century to the present, modern music both pop and classical from Kings of Convenience to Arvo Part, and the ravishing images of fashion media fantasy from the world of couture.

I have been there, and I read the news, so I am aware that in reality life is not so easy there, to say the least, as is the case everywhere in this long hard period of economic downturn. Still, I hold to that internal picture I have built of Europe, because it reflects a way of life built around its pleasures great and small, and we all need to believe there is a place where all your favorite things hold sway. My internal continent of Europe is like a vacation for the soul. I have heard that Europeans often idealize New York the same way we do them, only for what must be completely different or even opposite reasons. I am very much aware of the cross pollination going on between the two.

One thing I know is true, Europe it is a place and even a state of mind where fragrance is the focus of sophisticated attention and those who understand how perfume can be used as yet another form of personal expression.

I am glad to see the number of independent niche perfumers growing in Europe. They follow the pattern of having a central figure who is something like an art director or publisher or film director who produces perfumes based on their own developed and refined tastes. Their perfumes are made to express a feeling, a time of year, a mood, an atmosphere, and exalt the beauty of both simple and complex pleasures.

One such niche perfume house is Puredistance by Jan Ewoud Vos, who put together the perfumers and the concepts, in a method similar to that of Frederic Malle or Serge Lutens.

I recently received several samples that transported me straight into an ideal European alternate reality. The concentrated elegance if of Paris, London and Vienna and all that those powerful place names convey within themselves. The general style of the line is of refined modernist luxury.

Opardu is inspired by lilacs in the rain and an illustration by Kees van Dongen, a Fauve expressionist from the book Perfums by Paul Valery. The perfumer Annie Buzantian also created Puredistance 1 and Antonia.

It creates  a subtle mood, a feeling of lilac, that fugitive delicate and slightly elegiac floral, as it emanates from the skin into soft air, carried by the warmth of the body’s heat. Or imagine the flowers just opening in dappled sun reaching through their leaves, quickly brushed away by a breeze.

The opening has a fresh cut open green citrus that reaches out from the gardenia and tuberose. The spiciness of carnation is well in the background. This is a true Perfume, something I can imagine worn by a young Anna Karina in an early Godard film, or Catherine Deneuve in an early Truffaut, still quite the stylish young ladies for all the casual Sixties attitude. The headiness of ephemeral and reckless youth is definitely there too, imparted by the gardenia tuberose and lilac. Soft as it is, it persists and clings to the skin tenaciously.

I am not typically red lipped or high heeled, at least not as a matter of course, but this fragrance instantly brings me in to that world of glamor, even if just internally. A European woman’s beauty and glamor always seems to be the end product of effortless and overflowing femininity, but is more likely the refined result of the strictest self-discipline and rigorous self-editing. Simplicity married to luxury, this perfume and style of feminine glamor is the result of applying an innate sense of balance and proportion, married to an all important sense of the poetic. This perfume personifies a glossy refined yet lyrical edginess I have long associated with the image of modernist European femininity.

At the other end of the spectrum is Puredistance M by Roja Dove, a leather chypre, infused with mosses and bergamot, cinnamon and musk. Designed for men, it would also be worn by the kind of woman who wears leather or suede jackets and tall boots. The initial hint of a fruit tang burns off and a fine tobacco’ed musk sinks deep into the skin and takes up long term residence.

This is headiness of another kind, a push-pull between stimulating energy and a narcotic buzz. This one holds the qualities of a leather that is at the same time bracing as a cup of strong coffee and as warm as a soft cotton shirt that is supple from wear, cozy enough to fall asleep in. Dreamy. The astringency of the chypre style is most definitely there yet moves into animalic territory with the musk and the warmth of cinnamon.

Both are perfume oils in 25% strength. Both have heightened the reality of my inner fantasy life, the dream that takes place on vacation in one of the  legendary capitals of Europe.  An inner experience of what it might feel like to live in a light romantic film co-starring Deneuve and Leaud, or even something a little darker with Belmondo and Seberg.

This soft power is one of the reasons I am such a devotee of the creative skill of modern European niche perfumes and search them out. They create an atmosphere I'd like to live in.

Please try this music to listen to perfume by:

Madeleine Peyroux, singing Getting Some Fun out of Life on a Paris street

Lyrics (in case you want to sing along):

When we want to love, we love
When we want to kiss, we kiss
With a little petting, we're getting
Some fun out of life
When we want to work, we work
When we wanna play, we play
In a happy setting, we're getting
Some fun out of life

Maybe we do the right things
Maybe we do the wrong
Spending each day
Wending our way along

But when we want to sing, we sing
When we want to dance, we dance
You can do your betting, we're getting
Some fun out of life

Maybe we do the right things
Maybe we do the wrong
Spending each day
Wending our way along

But when we want to sing, we sing
When we wanna dance, we dance
You can do your betting, we're getting
Some fun out of life

Images above:
Seberg and Belmondo in Breathless, Godard, 1960 (nice film clip selection)
Puredistance flacon from their site
Kees van Dongen illustration from Perfums by Paul Valery
OTK Boots by Stella McCartney

Disclosure:  The perfume samples were sent to me by the company upon my request.  My opinions are my own and I am not compensated in any way.    

Copyright 2013, Lucy Raubertas, all rights reserved.


Juraj said...

Hey Lucy,

I like this post a lot! Especially the part about Europe. Well, we organize things and we really do have a plenty of time for fun :)

I also recieved Puredistance samples and liked M the most. Provocative, strong, determined, deep and rich...very James Bond type of a perfume for me.


Lucy Raubertas said...

Hi J, thanks for stopping by. I have seen others say that Puredistance M is like the leather interior of a very expensive car, so I get the James Bond connection.