People pass through your life when you are an ‘expatriate’. Some stay their whole lives, others come and go, and you meet them at some randomly assigned point during their life here; some people you wish you had longer.
Such is the case with Katya, a make-up artist – and chameleon – from Germany, who never seems to look the same twice – a very creative and instinctual person who is intelligent, calming, enigmatically authentic, and gentle. After the blizzards of bullshit I was compelled to wade through on Friday, to be able travel to a new neighbourhood in Tokyo – this beautiful red, or purple magnolia, pure-scented and fresh in the rain, on the way up the staircase – and then have dinner and wine with Katya and a couple of her Japanese neighbours (and their dogs……my goodness I finally communed with a dog, called Zero…so lovely and sweet) —— was balm to my soul.
Katya is leaving in a month to study theatre and opera makeup design in Leipzig – she also did some work for Duncan’s film- and we were there to look at a hand made wooden shelf that D had had his eye on for our house (we want it); they will dissemble it, and bring it down here next week for dinner party chapter two, when we can reciprocate the favour.
I imagine that we will rootle through perfume samples and all the scents in my collection ( I always love that after dinner game). It was interesting. At a previous film shoot in Tokyo where Katya was working on my own character, whose appearance required more detail than I would ordinarily need, and the usual ragtag of disparate individuals was accumulated in a dressing room of a film studio, I had brought up some samples and mini bottles of various perfumes with me because I sometimes like to just spread the wealth a bit, bond with people I don’t know (I find that it gears up the conversation). As a part of the bag of tricks, and with her potentially in mind, I had brought two perfumes up with me among them intuiting that she would probably like something less ‘gender specific’ than the fragrances we are usually exposed to, and as it happened I was right: she was immediately drawn to the Patchouli II by Ostens that I said that she might like to try (in a previous review I describe this muted boisé as ‘barely there, with its iris resinoid and violet leaf absolute and cypress oil…….but there is a delicate, natural attenuation I can imagine adding an aura of questioning introversion ( ……‘look inside’) when the person wearing it walks into a room. Almost too muted to make any real ‘impression’, it is this pure quality, like a breath of fresh air through a window in a white room, that will appeal to certain individuals’.
Katya took to this perfume immediately, looking at me with astonished eyes – Wow, this is me, how did you know? (I love these moments when I am right about what a person is going to like and really nail it) as well as the small spray sample of the ultra rare unicorn that is the legendary La Femme Bleue by Armani Privé, and which I hesitated over giving away initially precisely for that rarity, finding this one more difficult at first (I think it had slightly gone past its best in the top notes), but which soon smelled incredible on her after just a few minutes, with its woodchested sawdust-like mellow iris absolute warmed through with unsweetened vanilla and cacao. Unfathomable, erotic – and I should know: as she worked on contouring my face and transforming me into another person, we were intimately connected through all senses, especially the olfactory — – – I often wonder about this with hair stylists, makeup artists, tattoo parlours, masseuses, doctors…..you cannot avoid smelling each other up close, which must sometimes surely be problematic when there is mutual aversion. In this case, I felt that it was the opposite :she was taking to my vetiver oil, and whatever I was wearing with it, and I was practically swooning up close each time I smelled the new perfumes on her skin, which together, one on each arm, smelled truly out of reach : beautiful.
Saturday night she told me that when taking some of her things back to Germany a couple of weeks ago she had been asked to open her case at the airport and put all cosmetics and the like in plastic bags, the way it always is nowadays, and in the process had struck up an enjoyable conversation with a customs officer about scent. “These are so precious, so beautiful…..smell these” she had said to the woman, giving her the Blue Woman and the Ostens Patchouli II to try, and they both agreed that they had not smelled anything like either of them before, that it was a connecting moment.
What struck me about his exchange is the fact that the perfume lovers, with our broad knowledge of perfumery, from the classics through to the department store legends, to the vast proliferation of niche perfumery that is beyond even any obsessed perfumista’s full knowledge any more, are of course aware of the sheer spectrum of olfactory variety that is out there, and tune our daily wearings to that taste. I sometimes forget that the vast majority of people, even those that wear perfume on a regular basis, are still basing their fragrant choices on the prehistoric ‘pour femme’ and ‘pour homme’ tropes of the current department store displays, the crass and monolithic distinctions I have often railed against on here – Katya herself even said that after wearing those two perfumes I gave her she was no longer able to stand the Dolce & Gabbana she had been using hitherto: it is like waking up from a bad dream; finding a scent that is much more akin to your natural taste, and character. A shock of the ‘new’. A perfumed rebirth.
I very much look forward to our next encounter.
(Have you ever also opened up someone’s eyes in this way?)