March 30, 2009

The Power of Scent

“Life is simpler when you limit yourself to only one fragrance.” I read this quote in an old issue of Domino magazine (RIP sniff) and I was struck by its insipidness. The author of the quote may as well have added that it’s also more boring. Why limit yourself to a signature scent when there are so many fabulous, beautifully crafted fragrances that beg to be explored, enjoyed, adored? Just like you wouldn’t own one dress or one pair of shoes, why only wear one perfume? Why not build a wardrobe of scent, much like an actual wardrobe of shoes, bags, dresses, trousers, etc? Like fashion, fragrance can fit seamlessly into your life depending on your mood. And why shouldn’t your perfume reflect that? Nothing can change your mood quite so simply as the subtle whiff of a beloved scent. Scent has the power to calm, uplift, seduce, and transform the wearer. It can leave you puzzled, curious, pensive, enraptured. It can also boost your memory and help you perform better on an exam, interestingly enough.

While I’ve always been interested in fragrance, it wasn’t until I delved into a few blogs last year when my interest ultimately gave way to a full-blown obsession. Through browsing perfume blogs like Now Smell This, Perfume-Smellin’ Things, or Bois de Jasmin, I discovered the secret, glamorous world of perfume, where the subtle science of perfumery is considered a true art form and there are people called “noses” who are highly revered, but who few people outside this world even know about. People like Jean-Claude Ellena, Olivia Giacobetti, and Christopher Sheldrake (all of whom have had a hand in the perfumes pictured above). Not many people know, for instance, that Giorgio Armani can’t create a perfume to save his life. He hires perfumists to do the work for him. These noses are the unsung heroes of the perfume world who often put their heart and soul into a fragrance only to have a design house’s marketing department impose restrictions on the perfume in an effort to appeal to a maximum number of people. So goes the business of perfumery.
By the way, Chandler Burr’s The Perfect Scent is a must-read for anyone even remotely interested in the strange and seductive world of perfume and even if you're not, you soon will be. New York Times perfume critic Chandler Burr chronicles the making of two very different perfumes--Hermes Un Jardin Sur Le Nil and Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely--from their genesis to their painstaking creation and finally to the finished product. Burr writes with a fluid, authentic voice and keen knowledge of scent and science. A fascinating look into one of the most secretive, glamorous, and lucrative industries.

5 comments:

Mary-Laure said...

I find perfume fascinating and so inspiring... So filled with emotion...
I'd love to read that book.

Tartar Sauce said...

lotions and potions, baby!

Joanna said...

Mary-Laure, I'd be happy to loan it to you. It's a fascinating read!

Christie said...

so true! my day job (which currently includes writing marketing copy for fragrances) has led me to become perfume fiend. and now i'm finding that in my spare time i wonder how certain obscure and more daring perfumes smell. (i've got a list running.) so glad to find another sensory fan outside the perfume blogging world.

Christie said...

ps- i'm addicted to chandler burr, despite his problems with phrasing. :)