December 30, 2012

Perfume from your country?

Readers from this blog from South America, Africa and Asia - I would really love to discover perfume brands from your parts of the world! If you have some recommendations or names or links please enlighten me? Send me an e-mail, tweet or post a comment. Thank you!

December 29, 2012

Perfume jewellery

In 2013, I hope to see more of the perfume related accessories that this past ear has shown some curiosity for. At Pitti Fragranze, an annual perfume fair, it seemed that this is indeed an area that will grow. If it does, it could create a very interesting intersection for perfume and fashion, art and design.

I believe - and hope – that we will see more perfume jewellery. Necklaces with some kind of container, amulets etc are classical pieces that unfortunately seem to have been forgotten. (I love my vintage necklace from Chanel...) It would be interesting to see a contemporary take on such objects, and what other ideas there are out there.

I have found some items such as Aftelier cases and these earrings from Lisa Hoffman.(For vintage lovers go to the auction houses that sometimes have some really exquisite items, or here.) But I am curious to see more of a contemporary twist. A more edgy, avant-garde, rock feeling.

Dutch designer Jody Kocken has created some pieces that I would definitely like to wear. When she discovered that she was allergic to perfume, she looked for solutions that would enable her to still wear a fragrance. She came up with and designed her own solution, ‘Perfume Tools’, a series of industrial jewellery pieces.

The pieces can be attached to the opening of a perfume bottle, the tools then absorbs the scent and work as worn fragrance diffuser. In places where the skin is most vulnerable, the precious metal is warmed up so that the scent can travel. Any skin contact with the perfumed liquid is avoided. This poses some questions of course as we often speak of how the perfume evolves and is affected by a person’s skin. In this case, this dimension is lost. But if the option is to never be able to wear perfume at all – the I think these pieces are an excellent idea. Seeing that quite a lot of people are allergic or sensitive to perfumes, I think all kinds of solutions adapted to this situation are an interesting area to develop. If any perfume maker is reading this I would really love to hear your thoughts on this way of wearing perfume? Are some perfumes more suitable? Can something be done to create perfumes that can compensate the lack of skin exposure?

(All photos from Jody Kocken)

November 29, 2012

Alive thing… do you like me? Thoughts on Michelangelo, space, perfume and cello.

Today I am wearing Sepia. And I am listening to this (if you don't have Spotify try this), 'How to Organize a Lynch Mob' by Diablo Swing Orchestra. Let me tell you why.

About ten years ago I embarked on a plane to Florence. I had been studying Art History for a year and was profoundly disappointed with courses, teachers and exams that had almost entirely killed my passion for art. I got on that plane with a promise to myself, or two actually: to come home and speak Italian and to restore my love for striking angles, composition and color perfection. After a week or so I found myself on a train from Florence to Venice (ok, first I accidentally got on a train to Napoli but that’s another story) with the mission to see a painting that I had seen on posters on my way to school in Piazza Santo Spirito. Actually, it was not the painting per se that I wanted to see, it was the red color of the scarf that a woman in the painting was wearing. Most of that day was spent going to and then from Florence. I was in Venice just for a couple of hours but I did see the red color and it was one of the best and most important moments of my life. 

But my most mind-altering art experience in those months was not this painting. It was seeing Michelangelos unfinished giants. This experience will always be what really made art part of me and I have no idea if I will ever feel as many intense feelings in relation to art ever again. I hope I will, but I am not sure. Experiencing art is very personal, the places it shakes in our minds, the references it awakens. The exact details of why I was affected aren’t really that relevant to anyone else. But I will share one aspect of it with you and you will understand why I am writing about this here. It is sometimes said that there are two types of sculpturers, those that mold an object into an idea that they have, and those that carve out something that is – or not – in the stone. Michelangelo was one of those that perceived the stone as having its own predefined potential for some shape and he was just the person who brought it out. The giant unfinished statues are an example of this process. The stone did not allow him to do more. Watching them for the first time I was struck by how it was hard to tell the exact place where statue became stone and vice versa. I sensed beauty as well as frustration, strength and pain. I also felt a sort of dynamic that I have rarely perceived. As if the process was ongoing. 

A week or so ago, I received a collection of samples from Mandy Aftel’s Aftelier. I read Mandy’s book of course. Not read, read in the present tense as this is the only way that feels right. I read it slowly, as if I am having a slow conversation with it. I underline, go back, return… I have been curious about Mandy’s perfumes for some time now but in a way that I cannot quite explain, I have been waiting for the right moment to experience them. And I knew that I would know when it came. Because this is something entirely different than most olfactory experiences, and definitely different from most perfume experience.

It will take me some time to try all the samples because I want to get to know them thoroughly. Contemplate, go through different thoughts and pay attention to every detail. I am not sure what I expected. But I will tell you my first impression because it was undeniable and very concrete. I sense the care that has been invested in these perfumes. The thought, the poetry, the hands that have blended them. And then this: they feel alive. Not in some mumbo-jumbo metaphysical strange way. They just feel alive. Like those sculptures. They are not being blended anymore, they have been put in tiny adorable little containers and shipped to Sweden and nothing intervenes with them… but when I put them on my skin I have absolutely no idea what will happen. Or if the same thing will happen the next time I wear one of them. They seem to play with my skin and change constantly and I am not sure if I am choosing the perfume or if it is choosing me. If I am discovering it or if it is discovering me. Of course, I am playing with words here… What I am trying to convey is that feeling of an ongoing process.

A few years ago I worked with a theatre director on his communication and brand platform. He taught me something that has been very valuable and essential to me ever since. Apart from his work with the theatre he held courses and workshops with corporate clients from all sectors using the methods that the theatre uses to create teams. One of his key messages was that an ensemble is not about separate stars, it is about being an ensemble – and that – is created not through the excellence of one person or the other but in the space between the individuals. I think about this often. The importance of space. In communication, in relationships, in creativity. The process is not what is delivered from one point to another, the process is what happens in between. And that process is free, and unpredictable and redefines itself every second. Something happens when I wear Aftelier perfumes, and it just keeps happening for hours.

The piercingly beautiful string arrangement in 'How To Organize a Lynch Mob' with Diablo Swing Orchestra's cello master Johannes Bergion gives me that same feeling. As if it is played live every time I hear it, and I need to listen carefully because next time it might not sound the same. If you ever get to see this band live, cancel all your other plans and go. This ensemble sums up everything I have written tonight with their music.

The art of making something that has been captured... feel constantly unexpected. Space?

November 28, 2012

Art or not art?

Big blogodrama right now about the exhibit that just opened in NYC, ‘The Art of Scent’ at the Museum of Arts and Design. It is curated by Chandler Burr, and the first museum exhibition dedicated to exploring the design and aesthetics of olfactory art. Burr's high ambitions are impressive. The exhibit is accompanied by numerous activities that cover perspectives from inspiration to pedagogical seminars.

The discussion that has arisen is one that bounces of the very title - is perfume art? What do you think?

Having spent a couple of years with Art History as my major at university and Art Theory in particular, this kind of question makes my skin crawl and gives me goose bumps at the same time. The question "what is Art?" has after all been the source if many many discourses. I have to admit that according to my own perception of what the term incorporates, I do perceive perfume as Art. And I am not sure I see the value of saying that it isn't. Why? Why should it not be art? How does that separation benefit the perfume, the perfumers or the perfume wearer? I don't understand. What is perfume without the art part of the work? Formulas, proportions... But the result is olfactory poetry and sensation. 

Regardless of how you feel about it, I do recommend you to visit the exhibit. We can draw the conclusion after all that it definitely provokes discussion. And the process of perfume creation is seldom open to the public. 

'The Art of Scent' also takes the visitor on a journey to discover how perfume preferences and intentions have changed from Jicky by Aimé Guerlain to today's perfumes. Apart from Jicky perfumes featured are Chanel No. 5 by Ernest Beaux, Aromatics Elixir by Bernard Chant, Angel by Olivier Cresp, Pleasures by Annie Buzantian and Alberto Morillas, Untitled by Daniela Andrier, Drakkar Noir by Pierre Wargnye, L’Eau d’Issey by Jacques Cavallier, cK One by Alberto Morillas and Harry Frémont, and Prada by Carlos Benaïm and Clément Gavarry.

It is noteworthy that The New York Times filed their article on the exhibit under "Art & Design". You'll find the article here. Another really interesting article on "Art & Design" is this one in Huffington Post where Mary Orlin gives all the reasons why this exhibit is relevant in a very stringent and insightful way.

Chandler Burr also had a prominent role at this year's Pitti Fragranze (annual perfume fair in Florence) where much time was dedicated to highlighting the full value chain of perfume production. I like the influence that Mr Burr has on contemporary discourse. A nice example of his perspective can be found in this interview where he also talks about the part of the exhibit in NYC that allows visitors to discover a perfume without knowing which one it is. A great conversation, make a cup of coffee or tea, relax and enjoy it.

November 26, 2012

November nose

Sorry for the absence. Many projects swirling around in my agenda. Some fantastic perfume projects such as finding the perfect signature scent for a client who wants to smell exactly like she is: unique, creative, boundary-free, interesting, playful, intelligent. Have written two new articles for My French Life that will be published soon. Have had great conversations on perfumes from every angle. Have ordered generous amounts of samples from Gorilla Perfumes and Aftelier that I look forward to experiencing thoroughly.

Amazing Aftelier Alchemy

I have so much to tell you. Just need to collect my thoughts a little. But when I write less here I use Twitter more so why not join me there. I am sylviaz.

In the mean time: embrace autumn wrapped in beautiful base notes and on a tired day reach for the zesty bottles! (I go for Bigarade Concentrée by Ellena for Malle or Byredo's Sunday Cologne).

And remember, the most important rule when searching for your signature perfume:

October 26, 2012

The smell of snow

When I was very very young my grandmother used to spend the winters with us. Every winter when the first snow fell she would tell me the same thing, "if you rub the first snow of the season onto your cheeks you will be young forever".

A few nights ago I went out for a moment late in the evening and instantly I knew. Entering the house I exclaimed "It smells like snow!". Even in such a northern place as Stockholm this is a statement that is not taken seriously in the middle of October.

But then yesterday evening, there it was.

How snow smells? Sweet. Wet. Naked. Young. Secret. Sleek. Light. Transient.

October 14, 2012

Vetiver Tonka & The Great Elegance

I find it interesting that of all the Hermessence fragrances it seems quite apparent that Vetiver Tonka is the most popular one. Not so surprised that many would like it because it is really sublime, but rather perhaps that it makes so many different types of personalities feel really comfortable in it. Personally, I find it extra-ordinary so I am definitely one of the fans. I love having this fragrance on me. It is so elegant and so well-balanced in its presence. But not only that, it is also a fragrance with a lot of integrity and definitely has a little playful or mysterious twist. Maybe it is that perfect mix of extremely being comfortable but also unusual that makes it attractive so many of those who try it. It is not very famous though, outside perfumista circles.

Photo of Jean-Claude Ellena from WSJ

Some facts. Vetiver Tonka was created in 2004, and by Jean-Claude Ellena naturally. In an earlier post on vetiver, I mentioned that one of the things that make it so interesting is how different one vetiver is from another. (If you want an example, find a sample of Vetiver Tonka and one of Le Labo’s Vetiver and you will experience the versatility of vetiver). Not only because of what it is combined with and how it is used in the composition of a fragrance, but also depending on its origin. I find it a fascinating note, vetiver is to me full of contradiction and has a strange kind of depth, tension and coarseness that makes me think of traveling and in particular taking the taxi from the airport late at night in an unknown place and then driving through landscapes that smell of a cool sky but a hot ground. I have no idea exactly where this idea comes from, what specific situation or place but that’s how I feel about vetiver.

In Vetiver Tonka, after The Great Zest that introduces it, the vetiver is wrapped in a soft cashmere hue created by the tonka bean. Some describe the tonka as adding an almost gourmand aspect to this perfume but I don’t feel that at all. On my skin it never becomes really sweet. It just lingers playing its textures. And it’s just so very sophisticated. 

"Odor is a word, perfume is literature." 
Jean-Claude Elena

October 10, 2012

Rose Ikebana

I love a good challenge so I went from Vetiver Tonka to Rose Ikebana. A contrast, to say the least. (The attentive reader of this blog will note that my last post was not about Vetiver Tonka but about Poivre Samarcande. I am not ready with Vetiver Tonka yet, there is too much to think and say about it... To be continued.)

Hermessence is a shared line, but I do find it hard to imagine Rose Ikebana on a man's skin. However, I realize that there are certainly male skins and male characters that would bring other aspects out of this fragrance than the ones that appear for me on me. This is a sad thing to confess, but I have yet to find a rose that gets along with me. I can see the sensuality that rose creates on others, both men and women, but on me it just feels awkward. I want the fresh dewy petal but I get soap. I want the soft velvety texture but I just feel Laura Ashley and English cottage. I want the iconic romance but I just get the cliché. But I am not prepared to give up. Rose Ikebana is not for me though. But I would love to meet someone who wears it in a way that makes the fragrance expose all its nuances.

But enough about me and back to the fragrance. Rose Ikebana has notes of rose tea, infusion of petals, peony, magnolia, pink peppercorn, zest of grapefruit, rhubarb and vanilla honey. Ellena described it saying that it "was created to reflect the touch of silk on the skin". He wanted to capture the contrast of rose petal and crisp rhubarb, a very lovely idea. Ellena looked to the Japanese art of Ikebana, a minimalist way of arranging flowers, for structure and inspiration.

The liaison between the aesthetics of Ikebana and Ellena fragrances is obvious. The focus, the stringent presentation of notes.

Rose Ikebana has a lovely sheer innocence about it. It allows a kiss on the cheek but not more. It also refuses to present itself fully to me, so I am quite curious to hear someone else's divergent thoughts. Also it makes me feel like reading 'The Tale of Genji'.

September 26, 2012

It's an Hermessence romance...

As you know by now Jean-Claude Ellena is a very significant person in my life. :) This man embodies so much of what fascinates me about perfume and my favorites among his creations are olfactory milestones in my life. A couple of weeks ago Chandler Burr talked about Jean-Claude Ellena at this year's Pitti Fragranze. How much I wish I had been there. I now wait impatiently to hear Clayton's reflections on What Men Should Smell Like. He was there.

JCE for president.
September has been a hectic month. I have great adventures going on. Some writing, a couple of little perfume development projects, an extremely inspiring signature scent consultation process going on and traveling. And then actually for most of the time - my day job at a PR company. :) With all this adventurama the scents that accompany me become quite significant. So I have been wearing Neroli Portofino and Bigarade Concentrée at work to keep my mind alert, and Vaniglia del Madagascar from Farmacia SS Annunziata in weekends to relax. But now I need some new stimulation. So I have decided to spend a week with Hermès Hermessence line, one perfume per day. This kind of scent odyssey is an interesting way to discover a nose, in this case, Jean-Claude Ellena. The way the perfumes are composed, the clarity of the scent and the immaculate Ellenesque way of making strong notes feel light and undemanding.

I inaugurated this journey today with Poivre Samarcande, a perfume that is an excellent example precisely of Jean-Claude Ellena's sensitive ability to play with the volume of notes if you permit the music reference. It starts out strong, not heavy, but strong with a direct presence that makes you very aware of the perfume you just applied. On me this last about an hour, not more. Then it just exhales, and lies down on your skin and the incense-like sharp woodiness becomes a soft spice veil. I imagine that lying in a big room a few blocks away from a spice market...a few hundred years ago...this is the scent that the transparent floating flowing curtains would reveal as the wind carried the air over the market to my house. But with only the nicest spices... I love this fragrance. It is so elegant and so clean. Slightly severe. No sweetness, no trying to please. Intellectual. And warm skin that smells of travel to places far away.

Samarkand, or Samarqand, is a city in Uzbekistan. It is on the Silk Road between China and the West. In 2001 it was added to UNESCO:s Wold Heritage List. Samarkand is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world.

The Registan in Samarqand.

Tomorrow is Rose Ikebana day.

PS: You can order your own Hermessence or other Jean-Claude Ellena creations for Hermès directly from Hermès via their beautiful web.

September 18, 2012

The birth of a perfume

To make a perfume is to find a harmony of three or four dominant ‘bodies’ that you smell in your mind. You have an inspiration for a mixture of those three or four bodies, not more. And they will release themselves in such a way that when you have composed the ‘corps’ in the proportions by which you have been inspired when you were in a tranquil, happy state of mind, you will not be able to distinguish one odour from the other among your basic raw materials, It is a perfectly balanced mixture which smells as a separate entity from the odour of each of the three or four bodies you have chosen - and in so doing you will have created the ‘woman’. After that, you have to enhance her, make her more beautiful, do her hair, select her dress, her lipstick, her eye liner, her hat, her wrap - and that is a perfume.”

             Perfumer Pierre Dhumez in an interview with William Kaufman
(William Kaufman, Perfume, E.P.Dutton, 1974)

September 16, 2012

Stay summer stay

Speaking of scents and their power to let us travel in time... If you, like I, live in the northern hemisphere you're probably also starting to notice the temperature falling and the days getting shorter. My vacation was more than a month ago and the tan is long gone. I use any possible way to keep the feeling of summer with me, because there are still sunny days sometimes - even if one is in the office!

This is what I do, scent-wise to hold on to the summer feeling for a few more days. Nothing advanced. But it works for me so it might work for you too!

- I drink a lot of infusions made from fresh summer herbs. I love a cup of tea and a blanket in the autumn but the earl grey also gives me a november feeling. So my summer version is to use fresh rosemary or verbena leaves and some honey or cocoa sugar. Not only does it taste great, the smell is fresh and uplifting. But try to find fresh ones, you need the right-now-ness, dried will be like "remembering".

Lemon Verbena
- When I travel I almost always bring a perfume home because it will remind me of that journey and of that summer. Using this fragrance gives you just enough of that still-away-feeling. If you didn't get a new perfume this summer then maybe you used one more than others. Wearing that will bring some of the summer moments closer.

- The summery perfumes... There are a few safe classics that inevitably sing olfactory arias about sand and sandals to your brain... Neroli di Portofino and Bronze Goddess are two of the most well-known. For a more discrete effect I like to use what is left of sun screen lotions from the summer. Somehow there always seems to be an amount enough for 2-3 weeks more left. Using these lotions as moisturizer (which post-summer office-schocked skin really needs!) gives a soft scent of summer that stays close to the skin.  Be careful however when you wear summer/vacation scents at work since that is also the feeling that you will send out to people around you - so don't smell like a day on the beach for important work meetings! It is not a very authoritative or reliable signal. Use your nice medium sillage elegant fragrances for those days. But for more off-stage days, evenings and weekends - indulge in summer scents for a few more weeks!


Scents and memories are lovers that never part. We can be interested in perfumes or not, enjoy or even notice the smells in a kitchen or not - but we can never free ourselves from the psychological effects of scent impressions. Which is such a good reason to embrace that and really indulge in our own private scent stories, adding olfactory details to important experiences etc. This summer I wrote about weddings and scents, how a symbolic scent will add sensual pleasure to such an occasion but also help you return emotionally to it in the future. I know I am not the only one with olfactory childhood memories, like in my case for example this and this one... we all have them, some good and some bad - so if you are a parent think about how you can give your child future treasures in the form of scents that will bring back precious memories to their adult self. If you want some ideas or suggestions on this, you're welcome to contact me. I remember when Swedish newspaper DN featured an article about my blog this spring I received a letter from a woman asking how I thought she could help her daughter develop her scent awareness and what they could do together, like olfactory adventures. I loved that e-mail.

Scent and memories are like the air and the wind, and they clothe the bond between the present and the past of the senses like few other impressions can. Maybe even erase it. The mind reacts to the scent of an absent person's sweater or scarf to a large extent in the same way that it would if the person was there. For someone like me who has an ambiguous feeling towards time as a concept, this is fascinating.

Two weeks ago I was going through my storage. I have a Dad-box. My father died six years ago, exactly six years ago. On the 16th of September, it was a Saturday that year. He died in an accident. Suddenly he was gone. I have lost other people that I loved, like my grandparents, but then their things and worlds also disappeared, much more than in my father's case. I thought it was extremely bizarre and painful the way he was suddenly so very gone but all the things and scents and smells - that I had never previously even been aware of - were left with me. The food in the fridge, the oceans of books, his car, his cigarettes, the laundry that I had to take out of the washing machine. Everywhere that smell of a person who is just not there. At that time it just made me sad, or maybe it made me tired because of the conflict between presence and absence that it created in my senses, and tired and sad were synonymous feelings. For the next years those smells disappeared. And then now, cleaning the storage, finding the Dad-box, I discovered to my great surprise - because I don't remember doing this - that I had kept my father's perfume bottle. Seems only natural now, since my life is so much about scents, but then...I don't remember that I thought about keeping it. I am happy that I did.

That it is even possible for a scent to give you the feeling of someone's presence or of a moment from your past is..., I know the scientific explanations and the logic, but it just is magical. Extra-ordinary. It is not exactly the presence of that person, because they are not present, the dead are gone. It is not that moment back because it is over. It is more like something in your soul gets a little "now"-place to dance in for a moment. Like you are given the opportunity to open a little box, look at it, reconnect with something that is not as close as it used to be, activate a part of yourself that is connected to it - and then get back to business. Scents give us access to feelings. To our own different inner and outer worlds.

September 4, 2012

Say what?

Perfume lingo... Phuw. I like Philosophy. I really do. And I like softness, love, yoga, the existential mental embrace. All that. But these kinds of rhetorics around perfume just irritate me. I want to ask a hundred detailed questions about what exactly they mean. How they are going to do it. Because these are pretty high ambitions described here, from a psychological perspective. But more than that, I would just really want to know 1) what is in the perfume, and, 2) how they feel about it, what their reflections where in the creation process? I am less interested in exactly how someone at a perfume company has decided that I should/will/must feel when wearing their creation. And I just don't perceive the promise that this bottle is what will "enable me to fully embrace the beauty of living in the present moment each day". If it really would - hey, fantastic! But I mean... seriously. Come on.

August 28, 2012

Speaking of Noir by Chanel...

Lady Gaga at Chanel. Photo by Terry Richardson.

Where is any of this in Coco Noir?

August 27, 2012

Montre-toi misérable!

There is one perfume commercial more infamous than any other. Chanels "Balcony" for Egoïste, produced in 1990, directed by Jean Paul Goude. Égoïste was created by Jacques Polge and is a woody spicy fragrance with sicilian tangerine, brazilian rosewood, coriander, damask rose, sandalwood, vanilla and ambrette seed.

Jean-Paul Goude was born in 1940 in Saint-Mandé. He is a graphic designer, illustator, photographer and advertising film director. His name became famous world-wide for the Chanel commercial but many people knew about him already before because of his collaboration with icon Grace Jones. He directed several of her videos and took many memorable photos of her. Their collaboration was at its peak in the early 1980's and their personal chemistry strong enough for her to become his muse and the mother of a son, Paulo. Paulo Goude has a band, Trybez. Here's a moment of their concert at one of my favorite places in the entire world - Paradiso. Rather crappy quality but still. This is his mother performing on the same stage.

Goude is a universe of inspiration and aesthetic joy. Explore his official website or check out the official documentary video So Far, So Goude. Right now, there is a restrospective hommage to his career in Paris, at Les Arts Décoratifs. Go if you can!

The music you hear in the Chanel Ègoïste commercial is Sergei Prokofiev's "Montagues and Capulets” from Romeo and Juliet. With this magnificent take on the complete version I wish you a lovely Saturday. Valery Gergiev conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.

How not to sell perfume

I work with PR and communication so it is natural that the different aspects of sales techniques interest me, from the rhetorics to hands-on practical details. I am particularly fascinated by this, when it comes to perfumes as I think retail generally does have some work to do regarding consumer communication. The gap between the art, knowledge and stories within the perfume world – and the consumer – is gigantic. This leads to people spending too much money on products that are not right for them, which leads only to confusion and disappointment. People buy to much crap produced without neither heart nor art – because the perfume world allows itself be a slave to sales logistics. And the exceptions to these descriptions - they are much less well-known than they should be. Seriously, je déclare la guerre.

I don’t expect every person who sells perfume to be an expert. Although, that would be amazing... But I do hope that you feel, if not passion, then at least respect for the exceptional product that you sell, and that you have the will to create genuine dialogue.

I would love to spend some time with people who sell perfumes and talk about how we best invite and guide others into this world. Selling perfume is not like selling ”anything”, its like being there for someone who is discovering their inner self, its like being an expert of Michelangelo’s art. For crying out loud, all you sales machines – get your act together!

So. Here is a real-life example on how it should not be done. Today after work I went to a store in Stockholm to try Coco Noir. Inevitable. I have avoided reading reviews, just noticed them, because I wanted to discover it with a clear mindset. However, from my post yesterday (and if you read this blog you know), you can picture my stand on the noir side of things.

And here we go… I get to the Chanel counter, look for paper strips, none are to be found... After a while a sales woman approaches me and asks if she can help me. I answer politely ”No, thank you, I am happy botanizing by myself”. This is sign No 1 that she should back off. She doesn’t. Instead she says with the persuasion special effects of a real estate sales machine, ”Oh, this one is SO GREAT, I wear it myself. I have worn it everyday since I got it”. Ok… let’s pick this army of information apart. 1) I am smelling the perfume to see what I think about it. Not what she thinks about it. I could of course be interested in that and some other day maybe I would be, but today I already signaled that I wanted to be left alone. 2) It is completely irrelevant if she wears the perfume to me. For all sorts of very logical reasons like for example the fact that my skin does not smell like her skin. It is just completely irrelevant. The only two reasons why this information would be valuable are 1) if the two of us were identical or at least similar in a couple of relevant ways – and we were just not, and 2) if I really wanted to be (=try to smell) like her, and I don’t, and its just megalomania on her part if she assumed I do. The natural conclusion when someone is testing perfumes is that they want to find a fragrance that smells like them, like the self that they want to be. Needless to say - she has no idea what about me it is that I am looking for in an olfactory reflection of me - as she is only talking and thinking about herself. So all this information about this total stranger leaves me bored and silent. If she really wanted to talk to me about herself, well, weirder things happen in the metropolitan landscape – fine. But she wanted to tell me what to do (=buy) by telling me what she does, taking for granted that I want to be like her. Don’t ever do this when you sell perfume. You are insulting art when you do. If you don't get this or if it sounds to pretentious for you, please sell something else.

You would think that it would stop here. After all, I was totally silent and not exactly encouraging the conversation. But she had more in store. ”You should know (I just love strangers who tell me what I "should") that this is the last bottle we have, they all went flying of the shelves”. Ok. Should I buy it because everyone else that I don’t know did? Because...? By now I am thinking, ”Please, just stop talking, you seem like a nice girl but this is not working out, can’t you feel that?”. But I feel rude ignoring her so I say, ”Yes, it is exceptional, but not as noir as I expected”. This triggers no conversation. I sigh and walk away to the other Chanel bottles to play around for a while. I pick up Coco Mademoiselle. A familiar voice goes: ”This one really reminds you of the other one, they are very similar. They both contain patchouli.” Please, perfume girl… I just said the noir was less noir than I hoped, what are you saying? It’s like you're comparing a man’s mistress to his daughter.

And then she starts talking about a body lotion that is perfect with the perfumes. I leave.

Perfume deserves more than this. If you agree and if you are in a position where you can do something about it, I will gladly support you in any way I can.

August 26, 2012

Le Grand Noir

I am guessing some of you ran straight to the perfume counters when Coco Noir was released. So, what did you think? Was it as Chanel as you expected, was it noir enough?

I find this launch interesting. As avant-garde and undefinable as The Big 5 was when it was created, the last decades of Chanel olfactory adventure have been less controversial and well, sophisticated but uncomplicated. Noirness stands for something else. For me this step brings some edge to Chanel that is in line with using Alice Dellal as muse. I like this step. But then I am generally into the noir.

The internet is swimming in an ocean of reviews of Coco Noir so I will let you do your own googling. What I do have to offer however in terms of treasures is 1) a beautiful article on the noir from Perfume Shrine that dances with this topic in a elegant, ambitious and exiting way. You will find this excellent piece here. And 2) the magic world of Clarimonde created by magic Lucy Raubertas... get enchanted here.

August 25, 2012

Clayton on skin

Oh, this Clayton on the other side of the planet... When I started writing this blog after having decided to make something concrete out of my scent obsessions, Claytons articles on his blog What men should smell like, were among the first texts that I read for inspiration in my search for my kind of perfume rhetorics. I didn't want to write reviews per se, there is an abundance of perfume reviewers which is great for the market and some of them are striking. But I was interested in diving into a world of reflections rather. And I have a major issue with the kind of language you find in oh-so-many perfume ads and descriptions filled with clouds about "unique fragrances that evoke the sensuality in the soul of what is woman" etc etc... To find Clayton's work was inspiring and refreshing. For some reason he makes me think of one of my house gods, AA Gill. I think I like them for the same reasons, eloquence, sophisticated stringent sense of humor, directness and profound knowledge of matter.

Some time ago I went all OH! about Clayton's article on Ambergris. And today I am all OH! again. Read this article. It is from The Perfume Magazine and it just might make your entire weekend. Made mine.

"So perhaps the aphrodisiacal reputation of these animalic 
odors does not come from the materials themselves. It comes from 
the connection made as they remind us of the scented human 
body, a smell we remember from life’s intimate moments." - C.I.

Clayton, writer extra-ordinaire

August 23, 2012

“Perfume is the salt and pepper of sexuality.”

Frederic Malle

August 22, 2012


I am planning a trip to beloved Amsterdam. Haven't been for two years. Will be hanging out spending money at Skins for sure. But anyone got any other olfactory recommendation? Let me know, thanks a perfumillion!

August 21, 2012

Oh la la!

Have you tried it devils, darlings and divas? What did you think?

August 2, 2012

Clive Christian fans - make yourself known!

I would love to hear from someone who has tried Clive Christians creations. If you are reading this please share your thoughts and impressions with me via comment or e-mail!

Clive Christian Releases The World's Most Expensive Perfume - Clive Christian No. 1 | Gilded Life

Image from

July 31, 2012

After sun comes amber

I must admit, even a base note woman like myself can find pleasure in a perky summery fragrance. Not many, but a few. But I do look forward to boots, blankets and fuller blends. A launch that makes me curious is L’Ambre des Merveilles, a new interpretation of Hermès' Eau des Merveilles from 2004 that will be in stores in August. Eau des Merveilles was created by Ralf Schwieger and Nathalie Feisthauer but the new interpretation is created by Jean-Claude Ellena (as were L’Elixir des Merveilles and Eau Claire des Merveilles). Ellena often speaks of how a perfume's identity and character can be given different olfactive expressions. It is always interesting to study his creations, just take the EdT and the EdP of Voyage, and compare them for example.

Lovely detail with the two bases on the bottle of L’Ambre des Merveilles that can be used to create movement of the sparkly stars.

July 25, 2012

Scents of Poland

I have infinite amounts of scent memories from my childhood that are linked to Poland and my grand mother. From the smell of chicken broth when she opened her window as she saw us arriving by car from the airport - to the Lancôme powder in her handbag. My Poland is a Poland with so many olfactory codes and sentimental signs that go through my nose straight to my soul.

This summer I am spending some time in Sopot and the surrounding area. A place where my mother spent childhood summers and where I have been as a child as well. And so many scents... The fish restaurants by the sea, the corn, the grilled little cheeses "Oscypek" that you can buy as street finger food - and my favorite smell... Gofry. A kind of waffle that you can buy every ten steps, you get them with cream or ice cream, berries, chocolate what have you... I don't eat them but the smell of them that covers the entire coast in a soft vanilla embrace... It's divine. And then there is the pop corn smell by the beautiful outdoor cinema at the pier, the fruits, the homemade soups and pierogi, and the perfumes that leave a trail after all the dressed up people at night.

Oh, and today... the most amazing one. Driving to Krokowa there was this scent outside in the infinite woods. So poetic and so gentle. Sand, sea and warm pine trees. It smelled of innocence, eternity and fairytale.

My beloved Poland. How much you offer all senses.

July 21, 2012

"The poetics of perfume"

Been playing around with words as a tool for fragrance composing... And found a new olfactory-and-creativity-friend! Alexis Karl, Persona Très Cool!

You'll find my word world here:

image from

July 19, 2012

Not everything is top-heart-base. Linear Scents!

Yep, it is true. Not ALL perfumes are created with top note, heart and base. Not all perfume experiences are designed with this narrative. Most. But there are other ways and we should all encourage the diversity.

Brilliant article from Perfume Shrine on linear scents.

Perfume Shrine: Perfume Term: Linear Scents ~Deceptive Simplicity

Vanilla fierceness

I love this. For being vanilla that is not trying to be cute. For being vanilla that a man can wear. For being soft and fierce. For being strong but undemanding. For feeling like the crème in the crème brûlée and like leather. For it's intimacy blended with a feeling of ancient heritage. I really love this admirable creation.


One of my best friends is a flower queen. Totally. She smells of romance, dessert and petals. I have  been dying for ages to see if I can tempt her to leave the flowers or at least go in an olfactory direction that conveys some of her amazing fierceness. This is my first attempt. To be continued. No floral notes what so ever.

July 1, 2012

Voltaire La Petite Mort

Watched Wes Anderson's movie "The Darjeeling Limited" yesterday. Those of you who know your Wes will recognize this.

Two questions...
1) Your thoughts on this symbol and the movie and the relationship? Any thoughts.
2) Do you have other favorite perfume-in-film-appearances?

Let's talk about this. :)

June 29, 2012

5. Rebel with a cause.

My new article for My French Life examines our (mis-)perceptions around icon Chanel No 5.

You'll find the article here. As always - would love to hear your thoughts!

And if you want to know more about Gabrielle Chanel, you'll find a human encyclopediae here.

June 25, 2012

What does a love celebration smell like?

It is wedding season all over the place. Dresses, fabrics, cutlery, eye shadows, hair, scallops, wines, beloved relatives, impossible relatives, speeches, ribbons… But what about scents? Please correct me if I am wrong (I would be very happy if this is the case) but there really is not that much talk about the scents? By scents I mean the general scents like the location, the flowers, the food… But of course also your perfume.

So lets talk about this. If you like perfume, you will want to wear perfume for your big love celebration and you’ll want it to be perfect and special.

What should you think about? Two things: yourself and the other scents at your wedding. The other scents are for example the food, the flowers in your bouquet, other flowers and plants, the setting. Food: for example, if you have a very tenderly flavored menu you don’t want to miss out on that because of your oriental cloud. The flowers you will be carrying – you can create something really interesting here if you play with the scents in your flower arrangement so co-ordinate your perfume dealer and your florist. Other plants – well, if you are in a garden there will be many other aromas around you, they could be heavy flowers or pine or something else. Take this into consideration. If you are in a church it will possibly smell of incense so you might want to avoid carrying more of that.
Contrary to my usual guidelines, I would say that for your wedding day - don’t go complex. Choose something light, soft, intimate and personal but easy. There will be so much going on, so many people, so many emotions and hormones. If you are tired or need to calm your nerves you can of course use some aroma therapeutical ingredients, but generally, be gentle. Also, coordinate your perfume with your partners – the two of you will stay close to each other and it is more pleasant for both you and others of your fragrances are not in conflict.

This weekends aesthetique deluxe wedding: Margherita Missoni
If you, like me, are into the stories behind things you might one to look for perfumes that have been created in a romantic context. By nose couples, or perfumes created by a nose for a lover or commissioned for a beloved. Or other associations to your relationship, such as geographical places or spices that mean something special to the two of you. My top-suggestion is of course, if you can, create your own fragrance for this day.

But here is an idea: change your perfume for the evening and for the day after brunch if there is one. In the evening, whether you switch over to dance floor and bar mode or leave for your celebration-for-just-two, you might want to jazz things up a bit and go more seductive. Whereas for the day after when you will probably be slightly tired – leave the florals and spices and go for something super-uplifting like a nice citrus with few ingredients.

My general suggestion, is that you not neglect the olfactory aspects of your special day. People spend so much time, energy, effort and money on everything from wine to flowers to candles to ribbons to peanuts-or-olives and God knows what – why not make sure that the setting for your love celebration also smells right? It matters. Scents affect our minds, emotions and memories. If you make a conscious thought-through scent arrangement for your special day it can be one of your most beautiful ways to re-evoke the memories and feelings in the future

Why don’t I give you specific names of perfumes, you might wonder. Well – because I don’t know what your skin smells like or what you will be wearing or what kind of person you (and your partner) are or what scents you like, and its most likely not the same as someone else reading this. So see this as some guidance to get your mind started, and if you want a personal consultation please feel free to contact me.

I wish you a fragrant love celebration!

(Naturally you can use the thoughts above as inspiration also for a birthday or other celebration. Any party really!)

June 18, 2012

Italo Calvino

Insanely beautiful word choreography. Here.

"When the olfactory alphabet, which made them so many words in a precious lexicon, is forgotten, perfumes will be left speechless, inarticulate, illegible."

What's so French about perfume?

My first article for My French Life is alive. Reflections on the links between the olfactory world and francophilia. You find it here.

June 3, 2012


I am slightly hooked on reading about alchemy right now and all the fusions between this world and the different aspects of perfume. Would like to twist, turn and blend some thoughts on this with an alchemy connoisseur, anyone out there?

Jan Matejko


Somewhat silent lately, I apologize. Have been on olfactory adventures in Paris and working on a series of articles about perfume for My French Life. I look forward to sharing these with you and promise more action here very soon.

In the meantime I leave you with Debussy's sound of Baudelaire's words. We should talk more about Baudelaire and scents maybe also... And pheromones, I need to share with you some stuff I have been reading about pheromones.
Oh la la...! 

May 23, 2012

A few words on perfumes - and others

We wear perfume for ourselves, but also for others – to ”smell nice” and to define our personality. Whether we want to or not, our smells and perfumes become part of other peoples’ environment - our partners and friends, but also complete strangers. Therefore I would like to talk a little bit about our perfumes and people around us, to be specific: on how to wear perfume in a respectful way.

There are two main reasons why we need to take other people into consideration when it comes to our perfume habits. One is that we need to acknowledge that what smells amazing to one person, can smell horrible to another. When you find your perfect floral bomb that gives you summer meadow bliss and you take the bus to your work – know that at least one or two persons on that bus will think your fragrance is the worst smelling thing ever. The other reason, which is more important, is that quite a lot of people get allergic reactions from perfumes.

So this is what I think. If you take the train or bus, and especially if you go during rush hour, don’t wear heavy perfume that diffuses a lot. (And never ever over-apply. Too much perfume is never good. Never.) Actually, I would even suggest you take your perfume with you and apply it at work. Although if you work in a crowded office – be moderate and conscious also there. At work I recommend choosing a fragrance that sticks closer to the body and is applied on pulse points. So no heavy big sillage drama on your cashmeres or in your hair please.

Airports. This is a particularly tricky one because of the tax free shops. But seriously – would you want to sit next to someone in air plane with their perfume all over your olfactory world view? Exactly. So be moderate or even better don’t fly with perfume. There is only one thing worse than sitting next to someone who is wearing a perfume you hate, and that is sitting next to someone who is wearing 2-5 different perfumes after a tax free shop safari. So if you want to buy perfume before boarding – use the paper strips. Try one fragrance if you really have to. If you are completely lost and want to try all the new launches for the seasons and really want to do it on your skin – please don’t do it before getting on a flight. You can do some of the pre-research very effectively before the purchase by looking perfumes up on websites like Fragrantica and Basenotes and making a list of 4-5 perfumes that you might want to buy. That will make your process more stringent in the actual shop.
The third situation that I would like to put an olfactory spotlight on is restaurants. We all agree that nice food appeals to taste, eyes and nose, correct? Let the scents that the chef has created have the limelight. This will allow you to experience the food with more present senses, and it will also limit the risk of your perfume becoming the main character at the table next to yours. Orientals and exquisite florals are fantastic. But not with oysters. Wear a discrete perfume when you go out for dinner, and choose notes that do not argue with the fragrances you can expect in a restaurant. If you are going to bars or clubs later and want something with more character for that – bring a travel size vial and apply the fragrance after dinner.

Disagree? Please share your thoughts.