Monthly Archives: April 2012

DEATH IN A GARAGE: SYNTHETIC SERIES by COMME DES GARCONS

GlassedLip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TAR

A perfume of self-hatred.

For those in any way S+M inclined, or have a gimp, leather, or torture fetish, and have spent a lifetime searching for a corresponding scent, look no further.

This perfume is tar, this is rubber; your face pounded into asphalt and the apparatus waiting; for a night of complex, breathless and painful autoasphyxiation.

I myself wouldn’t touch this in any circumstances, but as a concept, from bottle to scent, and as a just about wearable anti-perfume, it is the best of its type.

Just spray it on the PVC and wait.

 

Notes: town gas, vapours of bitumen, opoponax, grilled cigarettes, pyrogenics.

 

 

GARAGE

 

But you took it too far. Those exhaust fumes, the car oil, the vehicle grease for lube…

And then the rafters. Even you knew there were limits. And so your quest for a very particular kind of gratification ended in tears. Especially for your bewildered relatives, who found you hanging, smeared in diesel; naked, and pitiful.

 

Notes: vetiver acetate, plastic florals, car seat leather, kerosene.

 

 

DRY CLEAN

 

And so they went to work. Through your drawers, your pockets, your bedroom, as they carved up your loot. And from your daytime clothes, your presentable office work wear, were salvaged some more respectable garments. Which went to the dry cleaners and were treated duly with death-smelling chemicals to de-accentuate the memory of the same.

 

But you weren’t there for any of this, so it really doesn’t matter.

 

Probably the foulest perfume I have ever smelled: one that could literally make me vomit.

 

A product that dries out the oesophagus: shudders your innards.

 

 

Notes: ozone, nail polish, bay leaf, metallic incense, dissolvent vapours.

 

(not one for brides)

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April 2, 2012 · 9:09 pm

Antiperfume – An Introduction

“ I hate perfume. Perfume is too often an ethereal corset trapping everyone in the same unnatural shape…an opaque shell concealing everything – revealing nothing. People who smell like everyone else disgust me.”

– From the CB I Hate Perfume manifesto, 1992.

I love perfume. But I can readily understand why there are many who don’t. Leaving aside issues of environmentalism, chemical sensitivity, and the invasion of private space – how dare you force me to smell what I might not want to? – there is the nature of the scents themselves, which, since the beginning of commercial perfumery, have taken a target demographic, forged a concept, and, through consumer testing, moulded easily digestible, recognizable (and irritating) accords for the masses. As such, what you’ve had essentially is invisible designer branding – olfactory Louis Vuitton (or Topshop) handbags that you smell wherever you go.

In this age of blogo-Facebook individualism, it was clear that the revolution would eventually have to happen even in the invisible world of scent. And it has. Two central figures have featured in this: Christopher Brosius, who started the legendary Demeter Fragrance Library, and then went on to create the cult favourite CB I Hate Perfume line; and Rei Kawakubo of Comme Des Garcons, a brand with some of the most iconoclastic contemporary perfumes on its roster. Others have since followed in their wake, and there is now a whole subculture of underground perfumers making scents with no limits to the imagination. It is an exciting time.

But what is ‘antiperfume?’ If the ideal of perfume is to make you smell good, is antiperfume’s to smell bad? Sometimes it would seem so. But they can also be freeing, funny, and refreshing. There is an almost punk-like anarchism at work here, with such deliberately provocative names as Earthworm, Crayon, Pruning Shears and Dust (the list goes on) by Demeter: Wild Hunt and In The Library by I Hate Perfume; and Dry Cleaning, Tar, and Garage by Comme Des Garcons (which even has a Guerilla Series, suggesting an actual attack on perfume.)

The war cry of Paris outfit Etat Libre D’Orange, who supposedly give their perfumers complete creative freedom, and also published a manifesto, is ‘Perfume is dead! Long live perfume!’ and the results of their labours can be found scattered throughout the perfumed universe. Among them are Charogne (carcass), Secrétions Magnifiques, and Putain des Palaces (Hotel Slut). But are they good smells? It is all a matter of taste. Comme Des Garcons’ Odeur 53, the first widely released antiperfume with its notes of photocopiers, burnt rubber and ‘freshness of oxygen’, is a popular example of this type. I personally think it is vile. It did, however, smell completely new when it was released and that was the whole point.

If you have never found a perfume to your liking, are drawn to the idea of a kind of scented dada, or just see yourself as something of an olfacto-warrior, you might find something distinctive here. You do, however, sometimes have to see beyond the futuristic bravura and hype: the concepts may excite, but more often than not, the scents themselves are more bourgeois, aromatically speaking, than the blurb would have you believe.

Ultimately, the new perfumers are simply trying to expand the parameters of what perfume is: no perfumer will release something he thinks doesn’t smell good. Christopher B, in the second, deliberately contradictory stanza of his manifesto, writes:

“I love perfume. Perfume is a signpost to our true selves: a different journey for the brave to travel. Perfume is an art that shows us who we can be if we dare – an invisible portrait of who we are.’

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Iris Silver Mist (Serge Lutens)

IRIS SILVER MIST / SERGE LUTENS (1994)

A nebulous cloud of pallor and refinement, but with very icy substance, Iris Silver Mist begins with a phalanx of iris, soil-wet yet ashen. It is very grey, scary even, before mellowing somewhat with notes of cedar, vetiver, white amber and incense: notes that lend a softer quality to the blend, like sun-warmed motes of dust.

Only available at the Paris boutique.

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Summer Flowers: Iris

The price of quality iris root being what it is, it is inevitable that niche brands have all been coming up with showcase irises in recent years. Much of current mainstream perfumery is vulgarizing trash, and the cool, powdered elegance of this material presents the perfect opportunity to make an obvious differentiation – iris is aloof and removed. The flowers themselves are even regal: at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo are the famous imperial iris gardens, which flower in late June, guarding the emperor and his wife – tradition has it they ward off evil spirits.

While many irises are almost odourless, some of the purple, white or yellow flowers have a rich, almost oily, deep violet smell hard to imagine in perfume. In fact the scent of iris is not obtained from the flowers but the roots – a labour-intensive process that takes around eight years, from planting the flowers to obtaining the oil. Three years after the bulbs have been planted, the roots are harvested, washed, and sun-dried on lattice trays (the famous Florentine ‘iris saunas’), after which they are dehydrated for about five years. When deemed ready, the bulbs are ground down and macerated in cold water before being steam distilled. Finally, orris butter, one of the most expensive and coveted essences in perfume, is produced, and ready to be made into scent.

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Aubepine-Acacia (Creed)

AUBEPINE-ACACIA/ CREED (1965)

The lemon mimosa. For an entirely different take on the mimosa tree, there is always Aubépine Acacia from the Creed Private Collection series (typically very atypical scents that are as unusual as they are expensive). Les Senteurs, which is one of the only places to stock this scent, describes it as ‘a return to a more gracious age’, the ‘scent of country hedges enhanced with powdery acacias and mimosa’, and the scent is a refreshing alternative to more traditional, powdery mimosas. Starting with a very sharp, citric and green chord of lemon, bergamot, pine and galbanum, the perfume gradually reveals the warm, almond-milk caress of hawthorn flowers and mimosa over hay and ambergris. Fresh, distinctive, and ideal on either sex.

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Mimosaique (Parfums Nicolaï)

MIMOSAIQUE / PARFUMS NICOLAI (1992)

It has been a pleasure getting acquainted with the Nicolai collection: clear, well made perfumes not to think about, just wear (there are no ‘concepts’). Mimosaïque is a delicious, honeyish mimosa – a short, somewhat room freshener-like top note soon cedes to a very real, fluffed up mimosa that is rather gorgeous. Underlying it is a rich, powdery, vanilla base (the perfumer, Patricia de Nicolai is the granddaughter of Pierre Guerlain, let’s not forget), so bear this in mind if you were hoping for a lighter mimosa scent.

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Farnesiana (Caron)

FARNESIANA/ CARON (1947)

This obscure mimosa-vanilla from the house of Caron couldn’t be more different from Champs Elysées and its hard Parisian mademoiselle pretentions. Where the Guerlain mimosa is all about the city and perfect appearances, Farnesiana is a sweet, emotive, maternal refuge from all harshness and external pressure: a perfume to nuzzle, cradle; regress with. The blend gets its name from the latin name for mimosa (Acasiosa Farnesiana), the flower at the heart of  this scent. And the mimosa note in Farnesiana is perhaps the most perfect of all mimosas, the absolute essence of the flowers. Place just a drop of this  elixir on your skin and the heart-rending, powdery mimosa blossoms smile only briefly though before being subsumed in a very edible note of almonds and the roundest, gentlest, but slightly smoky, vanilla.  This is not a ‘gourmand’ though (despite its intimations of cherry bakewells)  – it is far too eccentric. Somehow Farnésiana is not in the least seductive – it is rather a lovely, melancholic escape from all that; the self as confection, a perfume to wear when alone. Despite its deliciousness, a strangely cold perfume.

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