Some advantages to doing this on my website rather than by message: other visitors can read / contribute; easier to find a post than to scrub back through old messages; I can come back and update this page later if I want.
Still experimenting with different ways of using this site. One idea is to use it to follow up on meatspace conversations; could send someone a short collection of links and notes relevant to earlier conversation.
So here are a few links for you, Ally, hopefully relevant to our conversation about perfume the other day. Think of it as a themed mini-directory.
Green Cedar is resinous. It’s very secretive and contained. Nori Cyan smells like the sea—but not in a Jean Naté, fresh, clean, overly simplistic way. It’s more like the actual sea, with a little rot and that live, hunger-making quality of ocean air. These scents were like cool techno music, where the music is so spare it doesn’t feel complete. They’re roomy. You complete the music, or the fragrance, by moving your body around.
If you’re looking for some weird aesthetic exploration to fight off the COVID boredom blues, can I recommend: avant-garde perfume. No, really.
It’s about getting to know yourself over time. Again, it’s like clothes. You start out copying people — your father’s suit, your friend’s blazer — and then by wearing their style you learn what you like and don’t. It’s a journey of self-discovery like any other.
We want to smell intoxicating, and truly intoxicating things are often a little bit nasty — they have an edge that cuts deeper than simple sensory pleasure.
Basically, it’s ‘We want something for women.’ O.K., which women? ‘Women! All women! It should make them feel more feminine, but strong, and competent, but not too much, and it should work well in Europe and the U.S. and especially in the Asian market, and it should be new but it should be classic, and young women should love it, but older women should love it, too.’ If it’s a French house, the brief will also say, ‘And it should be a great and uncompromised work of art,’ and if it’s an American brief it will say, ‘And it should smell like that Armani thing two years ago that did four million dollars in the first two months in Europe but also like the Givenchy that sold so well in China.’
“The COVID-19 pandemic caused an explosion in the use of surface cleaners, and consumers everywhere have begun to look for similarly astringent “hygiene” notes in soaps and laundry products. The coronavirus has robbed many of its victims of their sense of scent, but it has changed the way the world smells for the rest of us too.”
Professional perfumers, at least the good ones, tend to be obsessed with the passing of time—why else would you want to try to crush memories into a paste, to keep the lilacs from slipping through your hands? They often create in order to reconstruct something that has been irrevocably misplaced, even if the consumer never knows it; smell a perfume, and you are likely smelling a chemist’s melancholy, grief boiled down.
Stage 1: Mother’s bathroom
Early adventures splashing on Mom’s Shalimar/ No. 5/ Miss Dior/ Tabu/ Your-Memory-Here with the bathroom door shut. Belief that Old Spice/ Brut/ English Leather is the natural odor that God has caused fathers to emit after shaving.
Stage 2: Ambition and naïveté
Either given a perfume by an adult or inspired to buy one at puberty: a sophisticated thing that embodies an unknown world of adult pleasures and/ or a cheerful cheap spray to wear happily by the gallon.
Stage 3: Flower and candy
Phase of belief that feminine perfume should smell flowery or candy-like and that everything else is an incomprehensible perversion.
Stage 4: First love
Encounter with moving greatness. Wonder and awe. Monogamy.
Stage 5: Decadence
An ideology of taste, either of the heavy-handed or of the barely there. The age of leathers, patchoulis, tobaccos, ambers; or, alternatively, the age of pale watercolors in vegetal shades. An obsession with the hard-to-find.
Stage 6: Enlightenment
Absence of ideology. Distrust of the overelaborate, overexpensive, and arcane. Satisfaction in things in themselves.
If you’re interested, @Ally, there are more links and notes I can send you. I also think I have a few tree-corpse books about perfume around my flat if you come over sometime. Blog post’s already too long, though, so I’ll leave you with this: