May 15, 2014

Frau Tonis Parfum Berlin and Von Eusersdorff New York

Jose Romussi,  embroidery on photo
Chilean artist who lives and works in Berlin
Is it a coincidence that two perfume lines reflecting family traditions originating in Germany have both reached me here in Brooklyn at about the same time?  Perhaps not, as the number of perfumers from the region increase and are becoming more known in the US at the same time.

These two are both manufacturers from start to finish of their own perfumes, evolved in this present day to be aesthetically direct, down to earth, focused, and streamlined.

There is a modern urban feel to both, a clarity and uplift of mood expressed through intelligent simplicity.  A high level of quality and workmanship show through, so please take that for granted on all the perfumes I describe here.

Both have two perfumes that revisit certain classic themes in their own enlightened and sophisticated way.   Both have a citrus perfume using a predominantly blood orange theme, and both have one of their most successful perfumes based on a note that has been overused in the past; that is violet for Frau Tonis, and patchouli for von Euserdorff, and both transformed them into sophisticated modern beauties that are still unmistakeably themselves.

There's much about these perfumes that reminds me of the pervasive Bauhaus design principals that have shaped international design style into this day, especially here in NYC, where many of the Bauhaus artists and teachers took refuge from WWII.

Breuer chair 1925, Metropolitan Museum of Art
From about 1919 to 1933, the Bauhaus taught designers to emphasize the materials used, as chosen and composed to highlight the unique beauty of their individual character, and so become the predominant energy in any composition, be it the reflective glass surfaces of a tall building, the saturated silken color in embroidery or fabric, the grain of wood and strength of steel in a chair, or in this case expanded to include the notes and effects of perfume and its strong association to formative memories.  There was an emphasis on the unity of all forms of art and design.

Forcibly disbanded in 1933, since then the Bauhaus spirit lives on as anyone who has had formal art or design training has been exposed to or even steeped in its principals, as the artists and instructors scattered and fanned out across the world, especially to the USA. Berlin has recreated the atmosphere necessary to be a major creative center attracting artists, designers and musicians from all over the world, picking up much that was once left off.

Frau Tonis Parfum Berlin has a shop located close to what used to be Checkpoint Charlie, and a set of about 26 perfumes which emphasize single elements and can be used in layers, and also others that are more complex, and will make custom perfumes composed from these elements. After some discussion about #37 Veilchen and #41 Orange in the perfume community online, I was intrigued.

Scent Box Luxus Edition online
Frau Tonis #41 Orange is fresh and bright, a true orange;  clear, uplifting and refreshing.  Indeed Stephanie Hanssen, the perfumer herself, wears it all winter as a shield against the sadness of the grey skies of Central Europe's long winters. There is a realism here, like the concentration of many many blood oranges distilled into a vitamin supplement of a perfume.  This is one of the line that is meant to be used as a layering agent, or could be worn on its own.

Though I was reminded of Atelier's Orange Sanguine, since the theme and the notes are similar, Frau Tonis #41 Orange holds a more down to earth and realistic quality, that while incorporating an element of spaciousness and air within it refers only to itself and its materials, and so opens itself to only your own associative experiences with orange, rather than someone else's possibly more glamorous stories of travel or history in an exotic landscape.

There's an initial hit of that first draft of fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning, that you've made yourself of juicy blood oranges, that hold the sunshine and sweetness of pure energy, refreshed by green notes.  It has an unusually good longevity for a citrus and is made in an eau de parfum strength, and is available, as all the Frau Tonis perfumes are, in several increments of size/price online, if you are can't get to the store in person.

#37 Veilchen is a heady yet dry and sophisticated violet perfume, inspired by the spirit of the Twenties, especially as exemplified by the persona of Berliner Marlene Dietrich. Mixing the theme of violet with licorice, the bloom on raspberries and the softest aspect of vanilla transmits the aura of Dietrich's otherworldly and decadent glamor.

This treatment up-markets a perfume note that was almost too common in that era, and shifts its meaning from a delicate ephemeral and often sentimental form of Spring beauty to an assertive elegance that is highly violet,  only this time with a little playful bite and longevity.  It's for those who can appreciate violet on its own terms without the shades of virginal naivety or vintage forms of sentimentality so often attached.

The perfume brings out the evening tones of dryness in violet, as a little swan's down powder puff infused with the fumes from a glass of champagne might pass over skin near midnight dark violets tucked into the decolletage.  This perfume is a floral both sexes can wear, as it is dry as anything; the candy sweetness is an intoxicated ghost wandering the background, and the flower is freshest as it rests in its own darkest color in the shade.

Von Eusersdorff New York is ultra cosmopolitan, as the company placed its creative HQ in NYC, while the director Camille Henfling-Von Eusersdorff from a family of German origin, works from Amsterdam, and has the perfumes formulated in France.  His descent from three centuries of apothecaries and dealers in rare perfume materials, spices and herbs inspired him to revive and renew the old family business with a line of perfumes that connect past and present.

Classic Orange is indeed that, a citrus themed in blood orange, in EdP strength with osmanthus and soft suede leather to hold and extend the fresh juiciness of blood orange while shading it with depth, longevity and power.  Black tea, sandalwood and musk are there but do not read as themselves per se, their purpose is to ground and draw out the full color of the orange so that it stays true over time, focusing in on it with an elegantly modern simplicity.

It's initial freshness smooths down quickly but the blood orange juiciness remains, to a gourmand level of deliciousness. This focus on orange and its essential qualities, using the other notes to push those qualities higher and extend their duration, allows the blood orange as a dominant perfume note to most fully reveal its facets and moods with the refinement and elegance of a minimalist style of material sensuality.

Classic Patchouli is smooth enough to approach something like the creamy natural Indian sandalwoods of yore. The often feared dirty harshly wild and woolly aspects are nowhere to be found, leaving a perfume more like a clear chunk of Baltic amber warming in the sun.  A warm balsamic scent, pleasing and soothing, lovely to read in, to fall asleep in and wake up with.

This is a recalibration and reclamation of an overused costume note of the late 1960s and 1970s. The quality and refinement rescues an important and complex element from the cliches of the more recent past as the perfume centers itself on the clarified aspects of this iconic note.

Jose Romussi photo embroidery
It has an instantly calming effect, as the Classic Orange is instantly uplifting.

Both may usher those sensitive and open to the influence of perfume into the zone of balanced contentment and peace.

I believe these two can be worn beside each other, for example one on the wrists, the other at the neck, if desired.  Worn alone they give you the chance to concentrate on the pure beauty of one element to the limit.

Available in the U.S. online from First in Fragrance, as  both samples at 4 Euros and in  full 100ml size at about 115 Euros.

Additional info:

NPR interview with Stephanie Hansson of Frau Tonis

Jose Romussi, a Chilean artist living and working in Berlin has more images online at his Tumblr.
Photos of perfumes are taken from the sites of the perfumers.  Please follow the links above to the perfumer's websites and online shops, and for more info on the Bauhaus please follow the link to the Met above.

Copyright 2014, Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved

Samples received directly upon request from the perfumers, review and opinon not compensated or commissioned.

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