The blockbuster fragrance of all fragrances is the only thing Marilyn Monroe claimed she wore to bed: Chanel No. 5. Interestingly, what makes it so irresistible are certain special ingredients, in particular castoreum and ambergris. Special flowers? Exotic plant extracts? Hardly. Ambergris is a substance puked up by sperm whales; yes, that's correct, whale vomit. Castoreum is found in beavers, musk deer and Himalayan civet cats...in their rear ends, courtesy of various anal secretions. Synthetic versions of fecal notes created in the lab, like indole, helped propel Calvin Klein's "Eternity" (1988) to mega-fame & fortune. And Guerlain's Jicky (1889) and Shalimar (1925) were both tinged with smells anal and vaginal, reflecting perfumer Jacques Guerlain's belief that fragrance should smell like "the underside of my mistress."
Not that this would be a surprise to Fido. Dogs and their often embarassing butt-sniffing & licking are merely being honest about what appeals to animals scentwise. As animals ourselves, regardless of what we wish turned us on scentwise, our biological drives are in control.
We become passionate about odors that are pretty much unfit for polite company. While the presence of these animalic and funky notes are noticeably absent from perfume ads & marketing, our modern obsession with fending off germs, battling bacteria and generally doing our best to disguise & rid our bodies of their natural odors has corresponded with a rise in the popularity of perfumes drenched in fecal notes and various scents of secretion. It's as if the more we've tried to deny our biology, the more it bursts through the synthetic, manmade veneer with a vengeance, both leering and downright dirty.
"So many of my friends didn't want to be wearing fragrance after the heady scents of the 80s. I realized that it was time to introduce something that was cleaner," observes perfumer Geza Schoen of Escentric Molecules (left), one a crop of forward-looking perfumers that is attempting to work with - rather than mask - our biology. Their artisanal fragrances are labor-intensive and time-expensive endeavors, and yet, using many of the time-honored techiques of yore, their results are hyper-modern. Like Schoen's three "series" of scents which are limited to two bottles, "Escentric" and "Molecule" - containing a chemical called Iso E Super which Schoen was the first to use in fragrance. (image)
Perfumer Christopher Brosius, whose brand "CB - I Hate Perfume" (right) reflects something he learned odd-jobbing it as a cabbie in the 80s. "Women would get into my car in the evening wearing some horrible scent that made me sick. 12 hours later in the cold freezing dawn, my eyes would still be watering & my stomach churning!" Luck was on his side and a gig a Kiehl's included draming out scents from the company's selection of 128 to fill customer orders. "I quickly became familiar with them, recognized my favorites, and in the six spare minutes I had now and then, I began to do very simple blends for myself. It turned out I was good at it and I soon began to do blends for some of Kiehl’s special clients as well."
Although Schoen was formally trained for five years at the German company Haarman and Reime and Brosius learned his craft by doing, both are devoted to bucking the trend of the loud mass scents that Brosius rails against for behaving like "an ethereal corset trapping everyone into the same unnatural shape." Rather, he seeks to create scents that "enourage you to be yourself, expand yourself and please yourself." And Schoen concurs. "I think smell is the most powerful sense we have, and the most fascinating. It is also quite mystical – you can't see what I do, which gives perfumery a sense of magic."
This sense of "magic", of respect for the work of the artisan, of honoring the trio of body with soul and mind are hallmarks of the FOLKSPUN tribe and the delightful way they embrace the human, the quirky and the handmade. (image)
- Lesley Scott
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