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Please join me at http://www.senseofscent.nu and www.facebook.com/sofscent for journeys through the olfactive perspective on life!

 

/Sylvia

I should change the wordpress theme for this site for something faster and more mobile-friendly… But I’m not able to find a good solution. Any suggestion from you people out there?

The first post this new year, a year that certainly brings much newness already from the start. At the end of 2013 I quit my job and decided to be my own boss for a while, for the first time in my life in fact. So now I am a freelance communications consultant dividing my time between PR strategy, media relations, social media curation, teaching and copywriting – and my perfume passion and all the different kinds of great projects that brings my way. To inaugurate this new phase in life I wanted to do something inspiring, dynamic and new. This in my case often means travel. I decided to go somewhere relatively far and new where I would not only discover all kinds of new things but also meet people that inspire me and learn things related to my chosen path(s). The answer was: Chicago.

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Jumping from the intensity of the last weeks at work into the new life didn’t allow me to spend as much time on research as I normally like to so I got on a plane to cross the Atlantic with fairly abstract expectations I must admit. I did know that I would meet a super-cool intelligent warm inspiring person, Tara Swords, founder of Olfactif. I knew I would discover a real big city with diversity and more new streets than I would even have enough time to think about let alone discover. I knew there would be many traces of Polish immigrants and great art. I had no idea what Chicago would like to smell or smell like. As a destination for an Inspiration & Scent trip it felt somewhat unusual.

I brought three fragrances with me for comfort and conversation. Two that I have made, and one that was a gift to me.

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On my first day things instantly got off to a great start. I went to Barneys and discovered a brave inspiring selection of perfumes. Who ever chooses which brands to sell there is doing an amazing job. A lot of niche, both well-known and more unusual. A premium inspirational treat for customers looking for a new fragrance.

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And it got even better when we met Dinara, responsible for Editions de Frédéric Malle. A super-pro, with an abundance of charisma, charm and knowledge. Thanks to Dinara we found out that Frédéric Malle himself would be coming for a special event my last evening in Chicago. This perfume house is a favorite of mine and I was really happy to meet Mr Malle who turned out to be a very stringent and refreshingly direct (Dutch amounts of directness even) man with a great sense of sharp intellectual humor.

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As I mentioned, Chicago is where the world’s first niche perfume subscription service, Olfactif, has its headquarters. I had the great pleasure of spending some time with its founder Tara Swords, both learning more about her business and discovering the scents of Chicago together. (Some of you might remember where this conversation started… I am looking forward to it continuing for a long long time.)

I had a unique opportunity to have a closer look at how Olfactif works, on scene and behind the scenes, and I can assure you, this company is a product of a lot of passion for fragrance, a genuine respect for both perfumers and perfumistas and a lot lot lot of hard work. Unfortunately, there is no European Olfactif yet but for those of you lucky to be based in the US, I suggest having a look. An Olfactif subscription is an easy and inspiring way to discover niche fragrances, some from well-established brands like L’Artisan Parfumeur and some from indie small-scale perfumers that make super-interesting work. Every month the selection is curated around a theme and you get loads of bonus info on the perfumer and the perfume in a way that really distinguishes Olfactif. Yes, I love this business idea and how its done – and I have discovered some really interesting perfumers though it for example Josh Meyer (perhaps you remember my tennis romance with Soft Lawn?) and Neela Vermeire. Neela Vermeire’s Bombay Bling was definetely one of my olfactory highlights last year.

From what I was able to see, Chicago does not have any well-known niche perfume store. However, Barney’s definitely caters to the needs of most niche perfume aficionados. And then there are some true hidden gems, such as Merz Apothecary. They had me at their typography, I admit.

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I am so confused and delighted (mixed, shaken and stirred) that there is this place that sells cough drops and Santa Maria Novella and D.S & Durga and 4711 and a thousand liquids for any medical inconvenience you could ever imagine. And Fa shower cream? (That would be where some confusion kicks in).

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One windy day we made a short stop at Sephora where I found these two Atelier Cologne miniatures (why do we do not see more miniatures? So practical. Especially for me when doing consultations…) and got some Tom Ford samples (Noir – love the dry down, don’t get the pour home) and some from a new (?) brand called Tokyo Milk.

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Naturally, scents are not only found in perfume stores and I am happy to say Chicago offered a wealth of olfactive impression in many other places. I quickly became addicted to David’s Tea in Lincoln Park and fell in love with the vegetable selection at Eataly. Not to mention my local Whole Foods where I also found this great yoga balm. (Who would guess badger and great smell would come as one?).

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Chicago is indeed a great art city and among the highlights were a day at the Art Institute and Chicago Cultural Center. The Art Institute impressed and amazed me not only with its extensive exquisite collections, but also the way the space is designed. Immaculate lightning, great air, spacious and very well-written information and enthusiastic staff – details that matter more than we consciously might contemplate.

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What can I say? I hope to be back soon.

 

I get this question a lot these days:

”I would like to buy my man/woman/wife/husband/someone perfume for Christmas, do you have any recommendation? Which perfume should I get?”

I love the idea. But my answer is: no, I don’t really have a recommendation for a specific perfume for your partner simply because I have no idea how your man’s/woman’s/wife’s/husband’s/someone’s skin smells like, feels like, what temperature it is, if they sweat salty or sweet, where they put on perfume, when… what makes them laugh or blush or swear… and several other things about who they are. And my general perspective on fragrance is that it is an intimate and personal choice and should be just that.

There are however 5 good ways around the dilemma. Because, yes, I agree, something scented is a beautiful gift. So if you really want to give one bottle of a perfume here are some examples when it’s a perfect gift.

1) You are a perfumer and have created the perfume yourself.

2) You are not a perfumer but have created the perfume yourself.

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3) The gift is a bespoke perfume. You give the chosen beloved person a session with a perfumer who will create a bespoke fragrance with them for them.

4) The person who the perfume is intended for has already tried fragrance x and wants it/has had fragrance x before and misses it or for some other reason really wants fragrance x.

5) The fragrance your buying is an icon or comes with a story that makes it an evidently interesting part of a perfume collection and a reflection of some special part of your relationship.

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But generally, apart from in situations like the ones mentioned above, I do not really believe in giving perfume as a gift when the giver makes the selection. The reason, like I mentioned in the beginning, is that wearing and selecting the ingredients that blend with your skin and your soul – is a precious and intimate thing. Perfumes, like personalities, are not random, not generic and they are not about what is new or trendy or popular. If you think it is, that’s not very strange as this in fact is how the media often talks about perfume. There are top ten lists, there are what’s new lists, there are perfume bottles that match the latest bag or shoes. But perfume is not just something you put on yourself the way a garment is. A garment comes in a ready size that fits your body and the material is the same regardless who wears it. It wrinkles on you, it wrinkles on her. Perfume is different – not just seems different. It exists with you, blends with your temperature, skin, personality. And not all perfumes are nice to smell to anyone, we can be sensitive to some ingredients and this is hard to predict. To discover your fragrance and your body’s own scents is sublime. Therefore if you want to give someone the fragrance that matches their skin as well as their soul you need to know that person extremely well. Who they are, who they want to be. When you choose a perfume for someone you consciously or subconsciously define this person. This is something that should be done with great care and tenderness. Is it possible? Yes, I believe that one person can discover another so attentively and humbly and curiously that you can sense how that person’s soul would smell like if it was tangible. But it is not very common.

There are fun ways to give someone fragrance. For example, if you know that your favorite person has a favorite perfume house but has not found a favorite fragrance – make a gift out of samples or a discovery kit (if anyone out there is planning a Christmas perfume gift for me… a discovery set from Arquiste is pretty high on my list 😉 ). Many perfume houses have a special discovery set of samples (though it might not be for sale in stores – ask them!). This is a thoughtful effort with a personal touch that offers a beautiful adventure.

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For US readers I know you can find a similar idea in the form of subscription services. The natural choice here, if you ask me, is Olfactif that provides you with a monthly curated trio of niche perfumes.

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And, fragranced candles are actually a very nice option. You can find many options of really nice quality in stores. My favorites come from Editions de Parfums and Byredo. And of course Merida from Arquiste, the scent of Empress Carlota in love.

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(Last image from LA Times article on F Malle http://lat.ms/1jPSS3d)

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Picked some on the way home with a lovely new friend from the course after she told me that in her family in Spain they always picked fresh jasmine to have in the bedroom during a warm night because it smells amazing. Now my room smells amazing.