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Dresses, fabrics, cutlery, eye shadow(s), hair, playlists, scallops, weather, tents, napkins, wines, cakes, cookies, beloved relatives, impossible relatives, speeches, ribbons… The list of things that can be part of planning a wedding is endless.

If you ask me an important sense is often neglected. There are perfumes advertised in wedding magazines, and every now and then a story about a particular perfume and a related love story of someone famous, or a perfume created as a love declaration. But I can’t remember a more dedicated piece on the scent aspects of a wedding. (If you have, please share). Some perfume writers and bloggers have addressed this topic in an ambitious way though. I have also not seen proper consultations offered in retail (I don’t count “there is a new romantic lily of the valley out on the market, the perfect scent for a bride” as a wedding scent consultation).

Now you may think, well maybe it’s just not as important and prominent as the dress, music, place, flowers etc… My answer is: are you sure?

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Smells have a very powerful impact on our memories, moods and feelings. So when selecting the details that will create the atmosphere of a wedding, it should be natural to consider also how scents will contribute. It is easier than you think.

The scent of an occasion like this (the thoughts in this post can be applied to any event of significance) is just as significant and influential as the music or scenography. It’s just that there is no tradition of working with it. That however does not mean that we are not affected, and making more personal, emotionally valuable, romantic and wise choices would indeed make a difference.

So, what should you think about? Two things mainly: yourself and your partner (that is one thing) and the other smells at your wedding. The other ones are for example the food, the flowers in your bouquet, surrounding flowers and plants (both decorations and already existing ones), the setting.

Choosing a scent is not very different from the other choices you will be making in that the same criteria should apply. At some point you probably sat down and made a list of what you want your wedding to be like, for example romantic, elegant, unusual, playful, sweet, decadent, personal, sophisticated, relaxed. And you had some ideas on what that would lead to, for example if you and your partner love nature and you want your wedding to be personal you’ll want to incorporate some nature elements into your wedding in setting and menu and clothes. If you are a couple from different cultures you probably put some effort into coming up with ideas on how to add different elements and symbols based on that. If you want a Rat Pack wedding that has influenced your choice of DJ and dress and venue. Etc etc. All these kinds of thoughts and ideas can be translated into scents.

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Your fragrance
Let’s start with you. If you like to wear perfume (or other fragranced products), you will want to wear some for your big love celebration and you’ll want it to be special and right. A wedding is usually an event that lasts for a few hours and as a bride or groom you want to feel fresh and uplifted not tired, uplifted. Maybe you prepared the day before by doing sports and eating and drinking healthy, you have gone to a spa or beautician to add some glow. Scents too, affect our energy, they can help us feel fresh. A scent can also soothe or even make us tired. I would be very surprised if there have not been some people getting married wearing a perfume that either made them tired or maybe even allergic. A wise fragrance choice is one that keeps you in the right mood and supports energy – for example a nice clean cologne or other citrus fragrance for the day and the emotional moments that easily make your body send off extra heat, and then for the evening something more sensual, gourmand or spicy. These two fragrances should be selected so they go well with each other though.

If you feel tense and a little more nervous that you want to feel – it might be unwise to have a fragrance that is too complicated, a more clean fragrance with balanced calm notes will help you relax and feel centered. On the other hand if you are exhausted from preparations, support yourself with something that keeps your mind awake. And of course… coordinate your scent with your partner. You will be close all day, don’t expose yourselves to a scent collision that will not smell nice and give you both a headache. These are just some aspects to consider from a more practical point of view.

Choose a fragrance synchronized with your wedding bouquet. A perfect perfume and a perfect bouquet might clash when in combination if they include smells that don’t go well together. Choose flowers in your bouquet also from a scent perspective; avoid sedating or too strong smell. Co-ordinate your perfume provider and your florist.

Generally, 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. Trust your preferences. While its never right to make a perfume purchase too fast (too fast in this case means for example without taking the time to experience more than top notes) this is really really not the time for a hasty risky purchase. Other things to consider can be looking for a perfume house or creator that you identify with, associations to geographical places (for example places that are part of your romantic history together), perfumes created in a romantic contexts (By nose couples, or perfumes created by a nose for a lover or commissioned for a beloved.) And if you can, maybe consider creating your own fragrance for this day with the help of a perfumer.

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Smell an(d) emotion
Now from an emotional and romantic point of view (and what occasion is there more relevant for that than a wedding) there is so much you can do with scents. It is a fact that regardless of whether we are interested or pay attention to it, scents are very powerful because of the brain’s design. Scents are connected to memories and feelings. If you think about it, you probably have some scent memories that you connect to a person, a place or a situation.

This is the same mechanism that teleports us to places and times when we smell something and suddenly get an image in our head. So imagine how beautiful to use this brain force at your weeding and connect this day to those particular moments. During a wedding scent consultation process I talk to a couple about their romantic history to identify one, or several, particular scents that we can work with. Maybe the scent of the first flowers your partner gave you, maybe there is a spice in your favorite meal to cook together, maybe a smell in the apartment or something from a trip together.
A scent that creates an instant connection to the feeling of “us”.

Not only will highlighting such a scent detail during the wedding add emotion from the past, which will intensify your experience, it will also be coded in the brain for the future. So in one or ten years when you want to relive some of that feeling from your wedding day using that scent will help you.

Scent scenography
Naturally, we are not talking just about perfume but also about the food, the setting, floral arrangements etc. What we are looking for is a consciously created scent scenography for your wedding which supports atmosphere, emotion and well-being. It should be functional and personal.

Here are some concrete things to consider:

– The place your wedding ceremony and party are in already has/have some scents – take them into consideration. If it’s a church maybe don’t wear incense-like perfume, it will be too much. If you are in a garden with trees and flowers – be careful when adding more flowers so not to create an overdose.
– Synchronize the smells in food, fragrance and flower decorations.
– Avoid smells that guests might react to. For example big lilies give many people a headache and they take over so if you have a lovely plate in your menu with delicate tastes it might not get the attention it deserves.
– If you are giving guests gifts, a scented candle can be really special. Create a red thread, for example if you had roses in your bouquet and fragrance a nice scented rose candle will make the day live on. (Scented candles deserve a post on their own…, they are often used to create an atmosphere, sometimes a shortcut. A good candle is great but no candles by the food! And choose carefully.)
– Create a sensory frame that is comfortable for the senses for guests – everything from food to scented candles in wash rooms should be treated like members of one ensemble. Think of scent as a scenography tool.

If reading this made you interested in making scent scenography part of your wedding and you would like some help with that or if you are a wedding coordinator and would like to incorporate this into your process please feel free to contact me for a consultation using the comments section below or by e-mail sylvia(at)interabang.nu

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Not every one cares about the brand behind the perfume. Or the brain behind the perfume, for that matter. And sure, if I discovered olfactory marvel from a perfume house I did not feel strongly for I would still find the perfume extraordinary and wear it. But I do prefer to feel that there is also a person and intention behind the perfume that I can relate to and like. This could be explained with my day-job in PR and communication. I started out as a copywriter so I am interested in storytelling of course. But more than that, I am interested in the special stories that I believe can be found in anything if you know how to listen and how to search. And that’s why I got into communication in the first place. To search, find and tell. 

For this reason there are some perfume(r)s that appeal more to me than others, there are some brands that I feel more comfortable with and more curious to discover. I appreciate a personal declaration and intention, expressions of curiosity, passion and purpose. I appreciate the generosity of those who share more than their product, for example the way Carlos Huber of Arquiste connects all sorts of life dots in his interviews. Or how Jean Claude Ellena invests so much energy into writing books that give the reader unique insight into the life and mind of a perfumer. I appreciate the world of Mandy Aftel enormously, such passion and endless curiosity for the craft and a generous dedicated ambition to share it. Byredo’s perfumes became so much more special to me when I learnt about the red thread with Ben Gorham’s recreation of memories and places. There are many examples, I realize I leave important ones out by stopping here but it has already taken me too long to get to the point. (Then again, that is not really relevant in perfume reflections, the journey is the point.)

First time I read about Jul et Mad I instantly loved the story. Who wouldn’t? It is enough to know that Jul and Mad in “Jul et Mad” are a couple who met and created perfumes together. Yes, I admit in my world creating a perfume together is the most romantic thing any people in love could do. This kind of story only works though if it comes with perfumes that really deliver, otherwise it becomes a somewhat awkward branding concept.

So who are these two perfume makers and lovers? Julien, comes from a science environment with thorough knowledge in neurosciences and biology. This background is combined with an entrepreneurial spirit that has led him to communication companies specialized in the scientific field. He is also a traveller at heart. Madalina, left her native Romania to go to NYC in order to pursue a future in the beauty industry. The first step was the Cosmetics and Fragrances Marketing program at the Fashion Institute of Technology, followed by work at several luxury brands. So far – two separate stories about two separate ambitious individuals who have not yet met. (I can relate to both for various reasons so what happens then gives me double goose bumps).

This is where the magic starts… One day the both find themselves in Paris and in the same café. I know no details of what happens here more than the result of this encounter – Madalina leaves NYC and moves to Paris for love. These two find each other’s hearts but also a share path, which is the creation of perfumes that tell the story of love. The name seems rather inevitable, Jul et Mad. With the help of Dorothée Piot of Maison Robertet they have so far created three fragrances: Stilettos on Lex, Amour de Palazzo and Terrasse à St-Germain.

Stilettos on Lex is the olfactory story about Madalina’s life as a single woman in Manhattan. It is an interesting one, this super feminine blend of independence and softness. I have worn it to work, cinema, girls’ talk-about-life-dinner and a date. On me, this fragrance is really soft and I appreciate the way in which it is sweet without trying to please. It is very easy to wear and manages to combine a soft romantic feeling with something more urban and mischievous. I don’t know how else to describe it. I really enjoy wearing it, but for me it works better in a private context than at work.

Notes
Head : Lemon, Pear, Davana, Plum Liquor

Heart: Lily of the Valley, Violette Leaves, Rose Absolute, Heliotrope, Iris, Carnation

Bottom: Musk, Madagascar Vanilla, Indonesian Patchouli, Atlas Cedarwood

The second fragrance in the story is of course Terasse à St-Germain… The Moment that changes it all. And this is where you can tell there must have been many candid personal conversations between Julien, Madalina and Dorothée Piot because this is a completely different feeling. Just like Stilettos on Lex combined different sides of femininity, Terasse à St Germain sparkles with different energies in a special meeting. Soft, bouncy, sweet, playful. When you know that this is the meeting between two persons you can find that duality blending. And it is so happy, so extrovert.



Notes
Head : Grapefruit, Tangerine, Rhubarb

Heart: Freesia, Lotus Flower, Blue Rose

Bottom: Musk, Sandalwood, Indonesian Patchouli

The third fragrance, Amour de Palazzo tells the story of the couple’s trip to Venice… If you feel any of the seduced infatuation that I feel for this city you will recognize much of that feeling in this perfume. It is dark, flirtatious, deeply sensual and seductive. It is the scent of the beauty of no turning back now. This has nothing of the cashmere softness of Stilettos on Lex, nothing of the playful sunny conversation of Terasse à St-Germain. This is just pure seduction.

Notes

Head : Four Spice (pepper, cloves, ginger, nutmeg)

Heart: Absolute of Violette, Atlas Cedarwood, Leather, Indonesian Patchouli, Labdanum

Bottom: Musk, Oud, Amber, Papyrus, Animal Castoreum

Three completely different perfumes, which could very well be the base of a perfume wardrobe if you add something more work-oriented. I love how they all emerge out of this love story because they are quite different reflections of the energies that exist between lovers. These perfumes remind me of the variation I have appreciated in my own most memorable romantic relationships. How both persons could be many aspects of their personalities and switch between them. The freedom and playfulness that a relationship that stimulates such variation creates.

I really like the background stories that come with each of the perfumes. In fact, I would almost have preferred to have only those and the notes. It seems to me that there are two different tonalities in the Jul et Mad communication, and personally I prefer the more poetic one which to me carries more of the personal serendipity of this beautiful story. I leave you with the three stories and the wish that all may find that soulmate to create with at least once in life.

She’s back! I can guess her presence behind me by the clacking sound of her high heels on this legendary Lexington Avenue… I turn, and it is her, indeed, with her determined walk, her tall silhouette more real than ever… Pleasure for the eye, trouble for the soul… 
A mysterious aura accompanies this almost immaterial apparition while walking, so beautifully, so elegantly… Who is she? Where is she coming from? A divinity descended from a different world? An animated sculpture carved by the tools of what genius? The perfect image from a silent dream, if it wasn’t for the regular percussion of her stilettos…
As in a spontaneous homage, the crowed steps aside to let her pass… Heads turn… Is she aware of it? Nothing indicates it. She seems ignoring the passers-by, her expression is serene, her regard soft but determined… Was that the shadow of a smile floating on her lips? Royal, superb, her image fades away, vanishes. Nevertheless, she offered me the most attaching gift: her unforgettable perfume. On her magical path she left the trace of a subtle fragrance, yet imposing… an obsessive, rare perfume that floats, nostalgically, like the memory of a Lost Paradise. 
Dream or reality? Enthusiasm or despair? All she did was to pass by… The contouring of her figure and the sound of her high heels marked my spirit… I now invoke my luck, hoping that one day I will cross again her magnificent allure on this same legendary avenue…
Her image disappeared, but during her short passage she offered me the most attaching of memories: her perfume…

Paris. Tender sunlight and bright fresh air of springtime. Saint-Germain. A pleasant noise of the conversations all-around floats over the café terrace. From her table, in perfect quietude, she watches the passers-by… when suddenly she observes this elegant silhouette, virile and relaxed, crossing the boulevard in front of her. They look at each other… They are captivated… It’s intense, magnetic… He approaches… keeps regarding her… A moment of inattention, the sidewalk missed… A false step he transforms rapidly in a gracious reverence, accompanied by this charming smile… a bit embarrassed, a bit amused… Everything lasts no more than one second, the handsome stranger walks away… 
His passage leaves a void behind him, and this emptiness, daydreaming, she already fills it with wild and fascinating perfumes inspired by the picture of the young man… Fusions of subtle yet present scents, atypical but almost recognizable, a soft mix but virile at the same time, of a complete ambiguity and yet of an incredible simplicity: the very essence of a growing passion.
A delicate and refreshing breeze, in perfect accordance with the spring fragrances surrounding the terrace, brings her back to reality… She finally looks away from this sidewalk where the seducing silhouette escaped her insistent gaze… 
Then, suddenly, the perfume of her reverie embalms the air, but rather real this time. The beautiful stranger turned around and approaches, also real. He plunges his regard into hers, he walks straight towards her. 





It is truly her… her, Venice, revealing itself to our first avid regards as the unrestricted décor of a dream theater. High facades come out nude from the dark waters of the Grand Canal, slightly veiled by the mist of dawn, nude, but rapidly ornamented by the marble garlands of their bays. The three annunciating sounds of the ball will soon be heard; the costumed guests will animate the ballroom and the balconies with their multicolor embroideries and silks. 
Will the day put an end to this magical night? In the penumbra, an interlacing of winding narrow streets and canals traversed by bridges. Hand in hand. Drunk with love. Drunk from dancing for so long. We wander through these labyrinths charged with history, trying to recover our spirits after this enchanted night: the long passageways of the magnificent palazzo we just quit, its ballrooms richly decorated, so beautiful under the lights of their gigantic suspended chandeliers. 
The first signs of the dawn envelop the so well-called “Serenissima”. The rich and heavy perfume of precious wood and leather furniture, shone and polished by passing centuries, mix agreeably now with the pleasant and cocooning fragrances coming from the surrounding gardens, the humidity of the old stone and the lagoon that follows and surrounds us… We walk aimlessly… Dream or reality? It doesn’t really matter… Here we are in perfect harmony, we feel free, free to love each other, free to taste as one the same happiness… free to appreciate the instant… Every single gesture, no matter how simple, is now charged with profound significance.

PS: Love this – Jul et Mads pinterest. Fun way to share inspiration and references. 

PS: All images in this post from Jul et Mad.

My first impression when I discovered Olfactif (via a post on Twitter) was that I felt intrigued. It felt new, somewhat mysterious but I instantly saw signs of promise of some great perfume coversation.
After reading through a well-written website I understood what it was all about. Olfactif is a new subscription service that offers monthly carefully curated collections of niche perfume samples. The perfumes are selected to show the olfactory width and depth of how a theme can be explored by skilled dedicated perfumer. A theme can be for example ”spring” or an ingredient or something more conceptual. The fragrances are delivered to your home with accompanying ambitious information about noses, brands etc.

This idea appeals to me in so many ways. It will help more people discover the adventures that scents offer us. There is definetely a conflict between the ambitions, artistry and dedication that perfumers have for their craft – and how little of that is offered to consumers in terms of communication. What we get as a result of that is people spending loads of money rather arbitrarily, making error purchases, missing out on the sensations that perfumes can give us. Niche perfume brands are definetely making a difference because many of them tend to be more open, more prone to close dialogue with consumers and build brands in completely different ways than the massmarket does.

I sent the brain behind Olfactif, Tara Swords, some questions thinking I would select a few good quotes and some useful facts about Olfactif because I wanted to share this treasure with you. But I basically cannot bring myself to editing the interview because I like every single sentence of it too much. I hope someday Tara and I will have a coffee and a long conversation about scents and the olfactory aspects of life (and travelling!). Here is our first long wonderful multi-faceted inspiring conversation. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Tara, Olfactif is focused on niche perfumery. So let’s start with this – how would you define niche perfumery?
This tends to be a divisive question, because there are so many criteria you could use to assess it. For our purposes, niche is harder to find. It doesn’t hew to trends. It tends to come from people who care deeply about quality and originality. It appreciates complexity and weirdness and doesn’t worry about appealing to the greatest number of people. It explores what lives at the margins of beauty, which is one reason niche perfume is so interesting to experience. It’s not afraid of making people a little uncomfortable—or of entertaining them.

My favorite difference, though, is that niche perfume is marketed totally differently than mainstream perfume. Mainstream perfume is treated like a beauty product that will make you more attractive to potential mates. That’s the low-hanging fruit for marketers, and if they can go there, they will every time, because it works. But perfume isn’t a beauty product like mascara. If you see a woman wearing the same mascara your mother wore when you were five, what will that make you feel? Probably nothing, because you wouldn’t even realize it. But if you could smell, right now, the perfume that your mother wore when you were five and your little face was buried into her neck, you would probably have an emotional reaction. I think all perfumers recognize that powerful connection between scent and memory and emotion, but niche perfumers allow themselves to do more meaningful things with it.

One final point: there’s a lot of room at the niche table. I’ve noticed that people who are really into perfume can sometimes get a little cynical about it, bemoaning that there are too many brands, that everybody’s calling themselves niche these days, that it’s impossible to keep up, and that there’s too much low-quality stuff flooding the market. I can understand those feelings. But I also think that a lot of these things are cause for celebration. The fact that more people are making perfume means that more people have the freedom in their lives to do something that brings them happiness. It means that more people are taking the chance to be happy, which is an incredibly brave and risky act. It means we live in a time of human history when many people have the luxury of creating. And it means that the Internet has revolutionized the perfume industry in a way that makes you in metropolitan Stockholm aware of Laurie Erickson in hilly little Healdsburg, California. I feel a surge of gratitude and admiration when I see people trying to make a career doing creative work. I see only good things here.

Why is your focus on niche perfumery?
The focus is on niche perfume for a few reasons. First, for people who get big, conscious joy out of the sense of smell, niche perfume is a fascinating space because it really engages your brain and makes you aware of the act of smelling. When you walk into most of the stores where people buy perfume, you don’t find many perfumes that take risks. You find things that are safe or trendy. A lot of people find comfort in safety and in things that have gained mass acceptance, but a lot of people feel bored by those things. The first group can easily find what it wants, but the second group has to look pretty hard.

That leads to the second point, which is that niche perfume is just much harder to find. A lot of this stuff can’t be experienced in person unless you go to cities like New York or Paris. A lot of it can’t be experienced unless you order it online. And in either case, you won’t go look for it if you don’t know that it exists—and most don’t.

So there are consumers out there who would love to explore niche perfume if they knew that it exists. And there are perfumers who would love to have bigger reach but don’t have an easy way to introduce themselves to consumers. The goal is to help make that connection.

One other reason: niche perfume comes with stories. Stories about the individuals who make it, stories about the way it’s made, stories about the reasons it’s made. That’s why a big part of what we’re trying to do is to tie the stories and the artists to the scents. With perfume as with any kind of art, understanding who made it, and why, rounds out our understanding of the art itself.

How do you choose which brands to work with? Who curates? 

I curate. This is an important point: I don’t claim to be an expert in perfume. The people who are experts in this field are the perfumers who can call to mind some 6,000 perfume ingredients and who have so much experience that they can tell you, on command, what each smells like and how it interacts with the others. That is expertise. I am someone who has loved perfume her entire life, and who has smelled—and spent a ridiculous amount of time thinking about—many hundreds of perfumes. And I believe there are a lot of people who could describe themselves the same way.

But while curation is a somewhat subjective process, it’s not just me choosing three scents that I like every month and putting them in a box. In fact, I would argue that curation is actually mostly objective. What are the facts of the scent? Is there something unique and different about the way it is made or the way it stands alongside other things on the market? How do others experience it? What does it seem to evoke in them? What might it evoke in our particular subscriber base, who may be unaccustomed to the type of thing that’s in this bottle? That objective process of research and observation is a much, much bigger part of curation than the subjective.

The selection of perfumes is a long and fairly agonizing process that involves both creative things and less exciting things, like availability. When I put together all of the perfumers who have agreed to work with us, and then pick out all of the possible scents and combinations of scents, it’s a bit like putting together giant puzzles in the dark.


Can you give me an example of a theme?
The April theme is Vignettes of Spring. By the time spring rolls around, I think people are longing for smells that echo the natural changes in their environments, and these first three scents are so full of life and nature that it all came together quite easily. Future themes might be straightforward, like “Tobacco,” or more conceptual and fun, like “Dirty and Delightful.”

Did you have a certain type of person or target group in mind when creating the service?
I have two types of people in mind. The first group—and the much bigger one—is people who love perfume but aren’t aware of the niche world. The second is people who may be aware of the niche world but haven’t really fallen down the rabbit hole and invested the extraordinary time and energy involved in discovering, researching, and exploring new brands. In either case, I think about people who want to experience smelling actively, not passively.

When will Olfactif be available overseas? (For now it is limited to the US).
Overseas shipping of perfume is a pretty costly endeavor. Shipping—on top of the monthly subscription—is probably cost-prohibitive for most international consumers. But if we hear that a lot of people would be interesting in paying the cost of international shipping to join a service like this, we’d certainly consider it. And there may be some other creative ways that we can expand to serve other markets down the road.

A last inevitable question, what perfume are you wearing today?
Today I’m wearing Week-end à Deauville by Parfums de Nicolaï. I can’t get enough of it. The way it transforms over time is captivating.

Thank you Tara for your time. And here are my absolute favorite Olfactif words:


“Practicing the act of stepping out of your 
comfort zone will turn you into a person who can 
find comfort nearly everywhere.”