July 10, 2013

FRAG-ments:18 Indieperfumers

Organized by Maggie Mahboubian, of Parfums Lalun, this was an event that brought together 18 indieperfumers in a collective called FRAGments, at an extraordinary location in Los Angeles for a day of presentations, moderated discussion, and pop-up shopping that  also interconnected with a poetic sense of space.  The sculptor's studio/gallery in Highland Park where it took place is filled to the brim with all manner of beautifully wrought imaginative pieces and the perfumes were placed within on specially constructed presentation units designed by Maggie. She used her architectural background in combination with her perfumer's understanding of interaction.

This all started through Maggie's  conversation with Clare Graham, a sculptor and prop maker, because she did what we do, that is, enthusiastically introduce a curious person with a sense of beauty to her involvement with indieperfumes.  This prompted the generous offer of his space to hold an event, to introduce more people to indieperfumes in a physical space.

Indieperfumers, unless they have their own boutiques,  have so far interacted with their public mostly online and through word of mouth and venues such as this site, so this event was meant to reach out with a physical experience of the gorgeous materials, concepts and compositions of these perfumers, and to showcase their individual creativity.

As Maggie puts it so well:
As the genre emerges from the secretive confines of the commercial realm, a shift is taking place that is fueled by a desire for new olfactory experiences, a rapidly growing fragrance community and the proliferation of bloggers attempting to capture the essence of this work.  It is a cultural movement towards a new awareness and sensibility; one of the capillaries moving away from arteries, of individuals fragmenting from the mainstream."

Followers of this site know I have written about my own indieperfumes event, Clarimonde, last October in NYC,  which was rooted in a historical, literary and dream-like aesthetic, to engage the imagination and open the experience of five specially constructed indieperfumes to participants of a masquerade.  It aimed to integrate the sense of smell and the beauty of the perfumes into a personal experience, referencing details of the past and present and inviting the consideration of the eternal, immortal powers of beauty and romance, as expressed through the ephemeral nature of the perfumes and their illustration of a legend of lost love.

The FRAGments event was also intended  to grow and engage a public who might be entranced by the experience of indieperfumes and direct interaction with the perfumers within an imaginative environment.  The perfumers brought perfumes that reflected their current work and engaged directly with the attendees, to speak about the process of making perfume, their motivations and individual expressions.

I know there will be more events around indieperfumes and it will be a good way to directly engage with such perfumes and gain familiarity with the perfumers' unique styles of beauty. 

It's lovely to have so many gorgeous things gathered together in one place, to give people a chance to try a variety of  these highly individual styles of indieperfumes, in real time, giving an overview and a context within their own predilictions. These indieperfumes must always be tried on skin to get any sense of their true nature.

I was not at this event but I can tell from the perfumes that were there that this must have been an extraordinary experience. So many truly astonishingly beautiful indieperfumes where gathered in one place, many with their perfumers there, available to speak to.

I know and love the work of several of the perfumers that participated in FRAGments and have written about DSH, Roxana of Illuminated Perfumes, Ayala Moriel, Parfums Lalun  and Envoyage before.  I will be writing new stand alone pieces on them in the near future. 

The FRAGments perfumers have made expressive and beautiful bodies of work,  so I hope you visit the links within for full listings of notes and bios of the perfumers, and consider trying their sample sets if you are not yet familiar with their perfumes.

Here are notes on some of my favorites of the perfumes that are both new and known to me.

I was immediately smitten with samples of Persephenie's Datura and Leatherwood, as seriously gorgeous perfumes, and enjoyed her straight ahead simple but elegant Neroli Infusion.  They are naturals, created by an artist in other media who has learned how to compose with aromatics, and makes several kinds of body products too, with intriguing ingredients lists.  Datura is an accord of the night bloomer; jasmine, lily, caramel and musk arise in a softly glorious presence.  Leatherwood has fresh moist tobacco leaf with wine, basil and wood notes that evolve into a deep and engaging tone.

Persephenie presented a perfumed painting, which makes me recall Sigmar Polke's use of highly fragrant spike lavender oil.  I hope she and others go on to include a wide range of resinous, herbaceous and other aromatic materials in oil paintings and other visual works.

Rebel & Mercury, already well known for candles, now makes botanical perfumes, of which my favorite was the tongue in cheekily named Groovy Garden. This is a greenly herbaceous basil and galbanum with a clementine honeyed sweetness, imparting the atmosphere of a shady tree on a hot day.

House of Matriarch's Ambre Vie, is just that, glamourizing your everyday life through an amber sepia lens, that uses over a hundred natural elements, the most important listed as costus, dragon's blood, and ambriene. It grows in strength over the course of wear, starting as a powdery sandalwood amber, with the effect of warming up on the skin as it blooms out to grow ever more narcotic over its development.

The Maj is an interpretation of an ancient Indian attar Majmua, combining vintage natural attars of kewra, kadam, mitti and vetiver.  Threads of each of the attars within the composition arise over time and arrest the attention, bringing you into another world of strong spirits and earth.

Mikmoi stands out with a unique clear and fresh aesthetic, beautifully and sharply detailed with internal complexities. Vesper starts with an aperitif-like accord of fig leaf, black rose, suede, myrrh, frankincense and amber behind it all.  It pulls up together to a deliciousness that is bright and lively yet anchored by a distant shadow that throws those exquisite details into relief all the more.  The other perfumes also share that structure, but move in from different directions.  

Aldwych references the essence of old school masculine elegance with Wilde's green carnation, absinthe and aged patchouli. Ao is an extraordinarily accurate marine fragrance with faint tuberose, coconut, ginger, distant fire, amyris (a citrus) blue plai (something like strong ginger/tea tree) which effects a looping moment of refreshing sea breezes.  Itoh has peony and pink lotus florals held within cedar, pemou wood, tobacco leaf, held against a tiny edging of oud.  They are all startling in their pleasing brightness within an edP form, an effect which I have found before only in more ephemeral and fragile colognes.

I was delighted to find that Jolie Laide (unconventional beauty) has named her perfumes after some of my favorite films of the French New Wave, my favorite of which is Jules et Jim. Fully botanical perfumes, they are subtle and soft.  Jules et Jim captures the French feel of sophisticated romanticism, with oak moss crossed with lavender absolute (a much stronger and headier version of lavender) and bergamot.  It references a freshly laundered shirt on a body that just came from rolling around in the woods. Masculin Feminin is a smoky floral and tobacco that is biting in its strength of interlocked classically yin and yang forces.

Sebastian Signs has devised a new texture of natural gel created from argan oil to carry perfume, with the basic themes of Leaf, Petalum, Seed and Root accords enhanced with decorative embellishment notes.  All are botanically sourced.  My favorites are Leaf and Root, especially together.  Rubbed into skin,  one on each arm, they create an atmosphere of breathing inside a growing dark-green leaved plant, as it holds close to the body, melting into the skin and becoming one with it.

Artemisia has a delicate refined feminine style.  I was very taken with Saveur de l'Abricot, a soft and gentle waft from a slice of that fruit hinting at the earth from which it sprang. There's a comforting taste of a fragrant liqueur that holds well on skin, rendering  a velvety and deliciously subtle sweetness that has a soothing and relaxing effect, with a fragrant presence not like anything else I know. Ondine is also super soft.  It hints at a bouquet of narcissus just taken away from a room, which left an imprint on the air, held there by myrrh and kewda attar.  It's refined yet energetically youthful.

There were also perfumers for whose work I have a long standing preference showing new perfumes, such as Ayala Moriel's Zangvil, a spicy oriental with a ginger tang reaching out through a cozy amber.  She travels further down the gourmand road to produce it in tea form also, so you can both drink and wear the perfume.

There is a bright and a dark angel in botanical perfume form from Roxana of Illuminated Perfumes, Blossom and Fig. 1 Noir, the two sides to every story and life.  The citrus herbal brightness and the resinous dark loamy earth, as centered in nature and its cycles of night and day.  Her style of perfume is rooted in the materials she creates herself from infusions and tinctures that capture the spirit and  beauty of the landscape she inhabits.  They illustrate the fairy tale/mythic qualities the perfumer brings to her perfume concepts and realities.  More on these later, in the meantime you can browse through several  prior posts on this line.

Laurie Stern brought several of her beauties, continuing in the classic traditions of fully natural perfumes, including  Honey, full of rarely sourced bee-derived materials.  I have written about her late-Victorian California style of products and perfumes beforeFleur de Caramel is a one her most richly sensual, a warm soft caramel infused with cognac and frangipani flowers. Her beneficially fragranced face and body whipped creams must be experienced to be believed; they are like nothing else in rich texture and melting goodness. I love her use of the classic fond of jasmine grandiflorum with roses, in the 19th century style.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz of DSH sent several perfumes, of which I will write in more detail in a post of their own, but suffice it to say for now, both  Matsu and Iridum floored me.   Her style is one of elegance whose restraint serves to draw you in more deeply as the perfume evolves over skin.  They are both intellectual and physically ecstatic experiences.

Iridum revisits the influences of the ancient Egyptians, as a continuation of her prior Egyptian collection, of which I have written before.  Orris, incense, woods, the celestial movement of the stars in a cool night sky, DSH specializes in perfume sensations that capture the subtle yet primal experiences that live in our bones and calls them out so we can reacquaint ourselves with them.  Matsu is a deeply green deeply wooded path that leads through the balmy forest air of my dreams.

DSH is so prolifically creative it helps to have some direction or an idea of what samples to try from her extensive library. I would recommend these two immediately, and of course the seductive "twilight blue oriental" with a memorable violet and blood tinged velvet accord created for Clarimonde, Paradise Lost.  For all their disciplined elegance, these perfumes hold and project strongly, while retaining a shimmering silken quality.

Shelley Waddington of Envoyage Perfumes  brought several of her new perfumes, and I will post in much further detail on her body of work soon. In the meantime, I will say that I know her best for piercingly gorgeous florals that capture the essence of white flowers.  Tagetes Femme uses marigolds as a vehicle for conveying a feminine presence within a garland of dry florals and soft woods, lightly dusted with powdered honey.  A Study in Water is a meditative calming portrait of full immersion in  what seems to me a lake of cedar water, full of living things, deeply refreshing to the spirit.  It was part of Monica Miller's Primordial Perfumes series.

Maggie Mahbouhian of Parfums Lalun, the organizer of this event, is rooted in the Persian tradition of fragrance, which she has modernized with her personal style and touch, using hand-made elements that display a deep understanding of the fragrance materials.  I have expressed my love of her Quatar Rose before.   Jalousie is a complex, deeply green-hearted immersion in a wildly herbaceous version of Nature.  It's a plunge into the distilled and magnified sensations of a summer day in a countryside of open fields, big old trees, ferns, mosses and creamy full blown flowers that tint the air you breathe with creamy sweetness.  Based on a novel by Alain Robbes-Grillet.  I am curious about her seasonal skin care too, and will report back.  I love the pairing of sculpture and perfumes together (photo left).

Phoenicia Perfumes, The Rising Phoenix and Essentual Alchemy perfumes strike me as having an affinity to the traditionally masculine side of the aisle, expressing aspects of smoke, fougere, tobacco, and the purely and strongly herbaceous aspects of the natural fragrance spectrum, sometimes detailed into Chypre and Gourmand styles with uniquely personal twists.
I don't  have samples of the Yosh and Sweet Anthem perfumes that were at the event, but have written about them both before. For Yosh's White Flowers as stimulating impossible desires, and for Sweet Anthem as a strong part of the burgeoning Pacific Northwest indieperfume scene, that I know to be soothingly casual, forthright and strong.

This is a long post but actually only an impression, a snapshot of the event.  I could not cover everything but wanted to express my excitement about how much energy, exploration and creativity is going on in indieperfumes right now.

Most of the 18 perfumers brought several perfumes, so I can only convey an impression of the myriad forms of richness and creativity that the day gathered together.  I feel so lucky to be living in a time of new artistry in fragrance expression that ties us more deeply into our strongest but most neglected of senses, that of smell.

Copyright 2013 Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.  Photos used with permission of Maggie Mahbouhian, the photographer.  Samples provided by her as organizer of the event.


Sherri Sebastian said...

Thank you Lucy for this thoughtful and thorough review. Looking forward to meeting you in person and would love to learn more about any future events that you host as well! and of course, big thanks to Maggie for all of her hard work and dedication to making this event absolutely amazing!

Lucy Raubertas said...

I look forward to more too! Maggie is amazing.

Maggie Mahboubian said...

Thank you Lucy for such a thoughtful and beautifully written overview of all the fine work in the event. It feels like you were there! I'm so looking forward to reading your expanded essays and share your enthusiasm for future events and creative endeavors. Off to read your post about Sigmar Polke!

Lucy Raubertas said...

Thanks for bringing me the samples Maggie, and I hope to see more such events in future.