Neil Chapman :





I feel that some of the perfumes in your collection, like Issara or  Melodie D’Amour, are quite ‘accessible’ in many ways. Oudh Infini, by contrast, is almost legendary in its ability to shock (I have come to love it, even if it I do definitely consider it to be somewhat ‘dangerous’.  It is addictive, and quite compelling, but most definitely polarizing. I love introducing this perfume to dinner party guests when they come to the house and registering their reactions). Was this almost controversial effect actually intentional on your part? How did you come to make Oudh Infini ?






Pissara Umajivani:





When a person creates their own perfume, with intention or not, it expresses who they are. Like an artist with a painting, it will express intentionally or unintentionally what kind of spirit they have.



The blend of certain materials can stir up certain emotions and things that we wouldn’t imagine before. Oud has its own animalic sensuality –  very raw, strong, by itself  : for me, the energy in natural oud is as dynamic and powerful as an animal or a moving object.I wanted to capture that energy, the power of the material, but I also added orange blossom oil, vanilla absolute and civet, to play with and temper this dimension. I wanted the formulation to be dynamic, with a sense of action and a life of its own, like a living animal, but there is also a certain sensuality and delicacy to it, so I named it Oud Infini: the sense of the infinite……which matches in spirit a poem written by my father about the feeling of ‘glittering’ in the sky above you at sunset as the light changes in the sky.  I named the perfume after I had finished formulating it.




Each perfume in my collection has its own differing and unique aspects.  La Douceur De Siam, for example,  is much more serene and quiet – it whispers softly. Oudh Infini is more confident. Very direct. More direct than the other perfumes. It represents a different aspect of humanity.





















Some of your perfumes are quite challenging. You are not afraid to focus on aromatic materials that are not often prominent in perfumery, such as the ‘overdose’ of clary sage (salvia sclarea) – an essential oil I have used myself in the past, but have a very ambivalent relationship with personally (it can be a hypnotic and powerful mood changer in certain circumstances ), in your prize-winning Erawan: a green, herbaceous jungle/forest vetiver perfume that is very original. Clary sage takes centre stage in this fragrance, and I am not sure I have ever smelled this before in perfumery. The herb is traditionally used for clearing eyes : to ‘brighten the vision’, and though I very much like the idea of mental, or literal, clarity in perfume,  the smell of that herb is too troubling for me to enjoy on my own skin.









When I make any perfume, the challenge is about pushing myself. I think it is important to sometimes rebel against what society wants you to do, to not conform. To be true to your nature. It’s very important to discover oneself: perfumers often use the same set of ingredients, with the same mindset when creating new perfumes and for me, choosing an aromatic material to feature prominently in my perfumes from a totally different olfactive family pushes my boundaries further. For me, the clary sage note is a very soft and beautiful scent which had not been used so much in perfumery before; I like to sometimes have a kind of ‘underdog’ note – the perfume raw materials that have been neglected, like petitgrain, notes that are not common or popular and turn them into my own perfume. Each raw material has its own character and beauty.






When I make a new scent, I think about complexity, simplicity, the play between these two facets of a perfume as well as interpreting each perfume as a colour.  Erawan is definitely a green : it reflects the scent of hay in autumn. For me, the colour of the essences play a big role when I choose the materials for one particular scent. Vetiver, oakmoss, they are all brown and green and I interpret them when blending them together as I would an oil  painting;  the balance, harmony of colours together – it’s like music. Sometimes this specific ingredient plays louder than the other, sometimes they play together, sometimes they become quiet, it depends on what the perfume wants to tell you and at what stage. I want the perfumes to speak. I want the scents to tell stories.











I definitely agree that your perfumes are very synaesthetically evocative of colours: pinks, corals, oranges, particularly in the ecstatic Melodie de L’Amour; I find Splendiris to be evocative of a soft mauve/lilac (there is a vitality here, where the current Dior and Chanel perfumes, for example,  are not colour bound – are more abstract: fashion ‘image’ based; even vacuous or empty); I feel there is definitely a chromatic light inside your fragrances.






You are based in Paris. But can I ask what you feel might be specifically Thai about your perfumes?












Thai people are known for their hospitality. For smiling. And when people enter the boutique in Paris it is very important to me that they feel comfortable and welcome. We always provide tea or mineral water to clients and people usually stay a while and tell us about their lives while they are trying out different scents in the collection. I love meeting people.  Perfume is not just a product for me. Beauty, art, is something that connects us.






Interpreting my father’s poetry, and turning it into perfume, is a form of meditation.  It heals my spirit. It’s not just a business for me. It’s something I want to do endlessly. When I communciate with people from around the world, it seems that the shared love for smell really bonds people together; scent can reunite people in a very strange way; when we communicate with the beauty of the raw materials,  the non verbal language that they possess is priceless. It’s important for me to pass this on, because in the world that we live in now, with all the wars and conflicts, I want to help people. My goal, really,  is to create happiness in a bottle.




To answer your question further, some of the perfumes in my collection are based on specific experiences I have had in Thailand, for example in La Douceur De Siam, which was inspired by a poem about when the twilight hour comes, and even grief is washed away by the evening light, and the sunset;  the sky turning to pink down by the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok, lost in the beautiful anonymity of life.  I use Champaca flowers, frangipani, and combine them with Thai Chalood Bark – a sensual, woody, vanillic accord from ‘old Siam’ that does make the perfume specifically Thai in some respects;  but even perfume ingredients that are sourced from or are exclusive to Thailand can be interpreted in their own way by the individual smelling them who is not personally aware of the Thai context. Their own culture, their own childhood, will inform their own understanding or appreciation of the perfume. Each person will interpret my perfumes in their own way.





My inspiration can come from many different places around the world, though. It could be from my travels in in Morocco or Algeria; Paris, Moscow.


















Do you like incense? I have a long history of using Japanese incense in my house and am something of an aficionado.









When I was young, one of the first things I remember smelling was the incense that we always use in Thailand to pray to  the Buddha; during the night every night, this kind of smell would pervade everywhere and the feeling of tranquillity that it gave….this aspect has a strong impact on my style.












Production still Uncle Boonmee
















I have written here on The Black Narcissus before about my love for the Thai director  Apichatpong Weerasethukul, the Palme D’Or winner for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,  as well as the winner of  other cinematic awards for such brilliant films  as Tropical Malady and Centuries or a Syndrome.. Both D and I adore his work.  The picture above, in fact shows me in hospital three years ago recovering after major leg surgery, when D brought in the projector one sunny afternoon, and we watched Apichatpong’s latest film in calm, contented silence: the exquisitely strange ‘Cemetery Of Splendour’. It was sublime.



There was a very significant, but beautiful moment where what was on the screen was also happening in the hospital room; a mis-en-abyme moment (me on the bed in the same coloured pyjamas that the Thai soldier was wearing) that felt timeless and liberating, as if membranes were being perforated between dreamtime and reality and I was really healing;  could escape the confines of not only the hospital bed but also even my own body. His films slow the heart down; they put you in a trance-like state as they are so slow and silent – usually just the noises of jungle creatures or insects at night; the resonant voices of his characters as they cross the thresholds between life and death, the real world and the world of ghosts.




Are you familiar with his work?











Yes. The films of Apichatpong are completely unique. They have always been completely different to any other films in cinema. He always takes care of, and focuses on, the smallest details. He interprets images in his own ways, dreams, stories…. meditativeness, the Thai countryside, the forest, the myths of the animals:  Thai legends that have been told by generations; the kind of story that had been lost in Thai modern society. We often don’t look at things in a Thai way any more ; many films in our society have become very ‘Hollywoodian’ and are often just all the same. I know that Apichatpong is sometimes seen as ‘pretentious’, but I don’t think that he is pretentious at all. He gives people freedom to think, allows them to have their own perception, which is another level of art because it doesn’t tell you exactly what. His films focus on the importance of every moment in life; not only the moment we wake up, but also the moment we see a light in the forest; the moment we dream; it’s really another world –  his films reflect a part of the old Thai spirit in Thailand  –  the spirit of simplicity, the ordinary people.





My father and Apichatpong are similar, in some ways, in the sense that they are not appreciated by the majority of Thai people. Both are very focused on the art and honesty, what they want to communicate to people. They don’t tell people what to believe.  They deal with dreams. And dreams are very important. It’s important to write about dreams.  My father always told me we should have a notebook near us, to write about what happened in our mind – it’s important to record it, with a pen and paper. This allows the dreams to grow….

























Pavillon D’Or, your most recent perfume, is a most unusual, green aromatic iris perfume that for me is odd, otherworldly, and yet it strikes me in some ways as being your most ‘personal’ work. The base accord is quiet, but smouldering; very emotive  – a blend of English oakwood, sandalwood spicata and a touch of vanilla combining with the frankincense green sacra and a touch of boronia absolute to create a very tranquil, but also emotionally imploring quality like being alone in a forest at night, lost in the beating of your own heart.




Unconventional essences are used in the perfume, from white thyme and honeysuckle to two varieties of mint, posed against a backdrop of unexpected fig leaves and heliotrope  – it is truly unlike anything I have ever really experienced before. I personally struggle with mint notes, and do confess that this perfume does confound me in some ways  ( I am no mint man ), but I do think the evolution of the perfume, from its sylvan beginnings, to its introvertedly powerful conclusion ,works perfectly. It is very mysterious.





Pavillions. In the aforementioned film by Apichatpong, ‘Cemetery Of Splendour’, staff at the hospital in the middle of the Thai countryside attend to soldiers who have been overcome with an inexplicable sleeping sickness. Jenjira, a volunteer who watches over a soldier, Itt, also gets to know a young psychic woman, Keng, who uses her powers to help loved ones communicate with the comatose men:  there may in fact be a connection between the soldiers’ enigmatic ‘syndrome ‘and the mythical  ancient site that lies beneath the clinic ( a former battle field in the kingdom of Siam; soldiers from past lives usurping the energy of those sleeping above), as they explore ancient palaces and pavillions in another realm beyond reality…………..but still always there, like a palimpsest.



I have seen it said that Yukio Mishima’s famous novel from 1950, The Golden Pavillion  – a treatise on beauty, art and madness – was one inspiration for your perfume, although in Elena Prokofeva’s reviews of three of your perfumes for Fragrantica, (“A Treatise On Beauty”) the writer says that



‘When creating the perfume, Pissara was inspired by impressionist paintings and the image of the golden temple located on the grounds of the Bang Pa-In palatial complex, built on water, as well as the temple’s reflections on water. The flowing, ever changing nature and the lack of permanence of the world around us is what Pissara wanted each flacon of Le Pavillon D’Or to contain. Amid this eternal whirlpool we find the shine within the human soul, constant in its principles and its striving for perfection.”.


Whatever the original inspiration,  this perfume certainly has a quiet, and spiritual aspect to it that keeps drawing you to it. It is definitely grounding.




What kind of space were you in personally when you created it?











It was a time when I went to a completely secluded place: no internet or telephone signals……………a total quietness.












I do that sometimes – sometimes even for months. I don’t have my phone right now. I have lost it – it is at a police station somewhere.



Once, I didn’t even have a phone for a year and a half. Sometimes I just absolutely need the time for introspection, and to not be disturbed.







Yes.  And I feel that we have a need to search for tranquillity more than ever now.


I think it has part of my soul there.

















Photo on 5-18-20 at 7.20 PM



































Filed under Flowers









“It’s true that man should not give in to the dream, but without it, what is life?”





This poem, by Thai poet Montri Umavijani, father of the perfumer and founder of Parfums Dusita, Paris, Pissara Umavijani, in its simplicity, and philosophical profundity, really speaks to me. You might even say my life is based on this push and pull, as is D’s, for sure, as is many people’s ( but not everyone: I feel certain that a majority of people are more rooted, and contented, in ‘reality’…… there  are some of us certainly more lost to dreams, or ‘giving in’ to that impulse to escape into anywhere other than hard facts, railway tracks, and the ticking of the clock.



Les Parfums Dusita specifically promote  Siamese influences in their creations ( I would actually like to interview the owner and maker of the perfumes to ask her specifically about this ); my own knowledge of Thailand is limited to a trip we made to Bangkok and the island of Ko Samui over twenty years ago; a wooden hut on the beach; mosquito nets, the warm waves lapping at the bottom of the submerged poles; the brilliant gold of the royal temples; coconut milk straight from the cool warm source.



Other things : Thai food, which I adore – one of the only cuisines to stir both the appetite and the loins simultaneously  (some French dishes share this attribute, interestingly) ; thinking about this piece I found myself wondering how relevant a link there might between food and perfume ( I had some jasmine and orange blossom yoghurts the other day that blurred the lines quite beautifully ). If British traditional food is simple, plain, pleasing, but unadorned, then Floris, Penhaligon’s, Woods Of Windsor, Yardley and the like perhaps share perfumed characteristics; France, with its rich, complex sauces, has the eroticism of Dior and Guerlain; Italy more vivacious, tasty, easily satisfying – something I find to be true of many Italian perfumeries like Santa Maria Novella, Profumum, I Speziali Fiorentini and so on; and this with its perturbingly satisfying fermented fish sauce bases; chillis, fresh herbs and spices, you can’t help wondering if some of the very pungent aromatic elegance of Thai traditional food will find its way into Dusita.




But first back to dreams. I have written about this before, but one of my very favourite film directors is Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who won the Palme D’Or in 2010 for his exquisite Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives ( Duncan did past life regression at the weekend ……… more on that later ); a slow moving immersion of cinematic poetry that takes you to places you have never been to before nor thought of going ( that is, if you can stay awake: many – finding his films plotless and excruciatingly low paced, cannot). I am / we are the opposite : as Duncan lay sweating in a delirious fever in Laos I wrote about the film Tropical Malady, which for me is one of the best films ever made; on Sunday night we were lost in Blissfully Yours, his second film; in hospital, this time two years ago as I lay recovering from my leg operation and the extraordinary trauma of it all, for both of us, as  we watched his beautifully serene and strange film Cemetery Of  Splendour, the wind outside blowing the curtain gently, mirroring the same scene in hospital, a man with injured legs, with a visitor ( both of us in pale green pyjamas), the breeze blowing in through the curtains in his room, it felt like some kind of passageway into another world : mystifying, yet cleansing and purifying.




All of the films I have seen so far by Apichatpong Weerasethakul deal with reincarnation, in which spirits live side by side with the living,  come back to visit us, or we are suddenly plunged into remembrances of being a Laotian princess from centuries before, being ravished by a catfish; or in the case of Cemetery Of Splendour, soldiers with a catatonic sleeping sickness are fighting battles in other realms, other centuries, a deep belief in other rooms, other lives, which is apparently how many Thai people experience reality.





To preface perfume reviews with all this might seem indulgent and perverse (forgive me if that is so : my reality is not so good at the moment : I have found, and am finding, the adaptation from the surreal thrill of everything that happened in London to the isolated timetable of my peripatetic loneliness unacceptable – something is going to have to change; I have reached a crossroads and feel slightly as though I were drowning ), but Parfums Dusita itself is based, it seems to me, on similar ideas, about giving, or not giving, into the dream; Pissara’s father,  a wanderer who condensed his experiences into encapsulated poetry, apparently, according to one quote I found, had similar feelings about identity to the ones that I do:








He said there were two kinds of journeys, from the familiar to the strange, and from the strange to the familiar, and some of the perfumes I have sampled by Dusita do definitely make me feel like this:












Melody De L’Amour, a ravishing white floral with an animalic, woody finish – all tuberose, gardenia, honey, Indian jasmine  and Mona Nuit Noire sultriness, is quite something: tenderly erotic, potent yet refined- the passion of the above poem suited to its colouring in of emptiness and the void of nothingness ( I often feel at the moment ); Oudh Infini, again, connects a very rude core – on certain days, the sheer animal of the Laos Oud Palao  base is simply shocking, not suitable for society, and yet at others I have understood the poem, which I don’t have to hand – I am on the train, speeding across the countryside to my evening’s teaching assignation, and might not even be able to finish this; it may have to be a two-parter – one moment in the early morning there was indeed a beautiful, noble freshness that aligned with the poetic line about a streak of silver in the morning light painting the whole sky shining gold….




I talked before about the relation of food to perfume, and if there is one. The umami, bodyliness that lies at the base of many Thai dishes: it does seem that this perfumer is specifically seeking a sublimation of erotic impulses almost hidden within her perfumes, an aspect of her style I like on the whole for its forthrightness but cannot necessarily carry off convincingly on myself. The new Splendiris, for me, has some similarities in terms of its musky, cedarwood base notes to both Melodie D’Amour and Oudh Infini – but I think I prefer my irises more plaintive and unsullied.




Issara, a fresh, musky hay scent with vetiver, sage, pine needles and other wood notes, smells absolutely gorgeous on the D and he might even get himself a bottle: sensual yet fresh, it reminds me a little of how he used to be in  Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male back in the nineties, a very natural, warm masculinity with the ideal sillage.



Erawan, a darker, greener masculine based on vetiver and clary sage, is spikier and dark; resonant, like the lovers entering the jungle at night in Tropical Malady and transforming into mythical beasts. There is an interesting music to this scent, even though I am not the world’s biggest clary sage fan ( as some friends of mine know – and you are probably reading this; drinking alcohol and inhaling this herb together can be deleterious to the mind; it can even make you go a bit nuts ( but no details, please ); I probably wouldn’t wear this one for that very reason – the clary sage is quite prominent here – but I do find it original and intriguing.





Of the ones I have tried so far, probably the marvelous Sillage Blanc is the one I would wear most easily myself. In my notes to myself I wrote that it is


‘like vintage Paco Rabanne Pour Homme and vintage Cabochard de Gres parfum meeting in space and falling in love ‘




with this perfume the possible progeny; a gorgeously dry, green and powdery patchouli chypre with an excellent scent trail that brings to mind the classical French perfumery that Pissarra Umivijani obviously respects, and is channelling, yet through a modern, and quite different, thoughtful, fragrant consciousness.






To be continued..











Filed under Flowers