January 1, 2014

A Year In Review

Countess Castiglione, my avatar
With Intimations of Things to Come...

Every year the interest in, audience for and appreciation of indieperfumes, micro-niche and artisan perfumes grows.  I find there is so much variety and creativity coming out of this kind of perfumery that it has the force to drive on and expand the ongoing Renaissance in aromatic beauty and olfactory experience.  Increased social media curiosity, discussion and wider sampling demonstrates a wider actual and potential fan base and there is every indication this will all continue to expand in the new year.

I discern interconnection and cross influence between European niche and American indieperfumes, as I see more of the indieperfumers experimenting with mixed media and aroma chemicals in addition to a longstanding commitment to natural aromatic materials, and I see a number of European niche perfumes showing the influence of indieperfumes in the use of non-traditional imaginative stories for inspiration, and especially in the much increased awareness of individual perfumers' unique styles with increasing desire and respect for that expression. A bit rivalrous in the past, I sense the European classicists coming down off their high horses to see what the indierperfumers are up to and the Americans less wary of looking to the classic perfume heritage of the European perfume elite.

I believe the rise in the outreach with such perfumes with crossover concepts, especially in such projects such as Olfactive Studio, Fragrance Republic, events such as FRAGments and the various extremely involved blogger/perfumer collaborative projects, and the various uses of scent materials in sculptural installations will continue to increase over the coming year.

Imaginary Authors, Slumberhouse, April Aromatics, Alexis Karl, Shelly Waddington, Juan Perez, Neil Morris and a number of others came to the attention of new segments of the perfume aficionado culture this year. Each one has their own unique charisma and style of making perfumes developed with primary attention to imagination, personal history and sensuality.

It looks like more men are showing interest in perfume for their own sake, which is a big step for the typical American guy.  At the same time, the gender divisions between perfumes continues to break down, enough so that I expect that eventually there will no longer be two sides of the perfume aisle in perfume stores, because everyone will be wearing everything according to their own tastes alone.

Certain fragrance themes came to the fore, sharing the stage with the Middle Eastern influence of oud which may be winding down a bit after a long and intensive run, such as honey, tobacco, chocolate, cognac, leather and my personally very much beloved evergreen notes.  There has been an increase in references to literature and history as inspiration.  I expect this will expand into the use of specific pieces of music and films.  Of course the noir genre and the western genre of old American films is full of inspiration for indieperfumers.

As the Europeans have always used their own regions such as the South of France and Capri and legendary historical cultures such as the French 18th Century for olfactory inspiration, I see that the American indieperfumers have started their own perfumed tributes to local inspirations and personal nostalgia. In the Pacific Northwest (Slumberhouse, especially Norne, Sweet Anthem) California (Mandy Aftel, specifically Sepia, Sonoma Studios, Shelley Waddington's Carmel series)  NYC and Brooklyn (MCMC, Alexis Karl's urban goth)  and even the burlesque show business glamour culture of Las Vegas/Hollywood (several from Opus Oils who also delves into the roots of blues/rock and roll with M'eau Joe), among many others.

This year vintage perfumes became a more overt inspiration and an increasing number of indie perfumers have began to structure and refer to the styles of the past.  Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has always referred to the classic vintage perfumes of the near and deep past, especially the French fifties and sixties as well as the 18th Century and ancient Egypt.  The book Scent and Subversion by Barbara Herman gave a focus to and increased this interest. My prediction is that this will lead to the more frequent use of animalic tones, made with accords to simulate those effects, as well as the increased use of certain "old fashioned" notes like violet and lily of the valley and increasing nostalgia for and reinterpretation of Chypre styled perfumes.

I expect a lot more delving into garage sales, estate sales and our older relatives' bureaus in the pursuit of the vintage perfumes that remain.  There is that fear that the IFRA regulations will eventually wipe out the European perfume classic heritage and that anxiety makes us love and desire what is left of these perfumes all the more.  As for me, I find the easiest and least expensive indulgence is to find the last remaining vestiges of the style in relatively contemporary perfumes, which are much lighter than the classics but still have that tone, longevity and attitude.  I have found through social media recommendations for relatively inexpensive versions of the vintage concepts in Casimir by Chopard and Courtesan by Worth, which show something of the vintage charms in a milder, gentler, quieter  yet still lovely form.

A number of indieperfumers are expanding their parameters into aromatic facial and body products, incense, teas and flavorings for food and cocktails, a la Mandy Aftel, Aroma M, Ayala Moriel, Parfums Lalun, Monica Miller, Persephanie, Herbal Alchemologie and Blackbird, to name but a few that come immediately to mind.  I expect that this practice will expand and look forward to ever more delicately exquisite creations this new year.

The social media contingent related to perfume on Facebook such as PLP and Facebook Fragrance Friends, the indie blogs and Twitter remains and will grow further into sharing aromatic experiences, providing recommendations, quick takes, sowing excitement, and creating events for this side of perfume.  Alyssa Harad's book Coming to My Senses gave a detailed account of how this world may seduce a covert sensualist into becoming an avid perfume fanatic,  as it leads to an almost infinite range of satisfying fragrance experiences that can both induce and elevate mood and pierce the memory.  On the European side, Denyse Beaulieu's The Perfume Lover both gave the story of the making of the lovely perfume Seville a l'Aube, meant to capture a personal experience, and a personal history of her experiences through fragrances and how they tie into her memories to consecrate them. I look forward to the perfume books certain to come this new year, especially Mandy Aftel's new book.

There are so many interesting writers who have become involved in perfume  This year I found a number of new perfume sites with writers becoming increasingly creative and using perfume as a trigger for expression, presenting highly sensual and enjoyable pieces.  I am thinking especially of Silver Fox, Black Narcissus,  Fragrant Man, Odiferess and Scent Me Mental, which may or may not have begun in 2013 but are new to me this year and make me look forward to their next enthusiasms in the coming year.

This year I fell in love with a number of indieperfumers new to me, including MikMoi, Parfums Lalun, Artemisia, Persephanie, Imaginary Authors, and Slumberhouse among others, and went through all the perfumes (so far) for Shelley Waddington of Envoyage and Kedra Hart of Opus Oils, and most of Alexis Karl's.  It's been a splendid experience.  The creativity quotient grows as the perfumer's inspirations bounce off of each other and so the enthusiasm for it all grows among the perfume mad of today, and I expect there will be many more of us to come.  It seems like every day when I look at social media on Facebook or Twitter there are new names and faces of people diving into olfactory adventures, eager for more and sharing their discoveries and enthusiasms among their own ever expanding social media circles.

There continues to be so many new piercing-ly beautiful indieperfumes coming to my attention that I can only feel fortunate to be able to look forward a continuing embarrassment of riches.

If you want to read more about my take on any of the perfumers  or books mentioned above, please use the search bar and you will find a lot more about them, written over the course of this past year.

Song and dance to listen and see perfume by: Storyboard P, one of our homegrown Brooklyn dance geniuses.  There's a great big story about him in the New Yorker this week.

Copyright 2013, Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved.
Images are borrowed from various sources online, if you have information as to credit please let me know.


The GoodSmellas said...

Happy New Year!

Maggie Mahboubian said...

Very interesting analysis of the past year and glimpses ahead!

There definitely has been a marked interest in vintage perfumes this past year, especially around the publication of Barbara Hermann's informative book.

Every art form has its historical precedents but perfumery's has been "lost" because of its ephemeral, and irreproducible nature. Acquiring perfume artifacts has been the only way to experience its history. And what a thrill it is to encounter these bits and pieces of our collective cultural archeology.

As we share these past and future discoveries in the coming year, I turn to you, to see how they fit into a broader context.

Thank you for a year of dedication to passion, art, intellect and beauty.

Lucy Raubertas said...

Thanks Goodsmellas, happy new year to you all too. You were in fact who I was thinking of the most when I mentioned about how more men are seriously getting into perfume for their own sakes, so keep up the good work please!

Lucy Raubertas said...

Hi Maggie,

Thanks for your kind words. I much appreciate your endeavors with FRAGments and look forward to your next projects, you have a knack for bringing together perfume and people in a way that enlightens.

Parfyme Norge said...

Great blog post!