After two and a half days of nearly slacking off, it was weekend - in other words: time for work... Non stop. Saturday began with an industry-only event sponsored by a supplier. Following that, the SF Sniff was kicking off with Alyssa Harad's book launch at Alexander Books (50 2nd Street, between Mission & Market). And after that there was my perfumery class at Alex Sandor's studio, and before it even ended there was another evening social gathering of perfumers and bloggers. In other words: an overly packed day.
But I want to tell you about Alyssa's book reading, which was a very exciting and heartwarming event. There were about 30 perfumistas gathering at the basement of the book store (many if not all of whom were planning to attend the Artisan Fragrance Salon the following day; and some of them were even coming to my class that very evening!), and Alyssa was telling a bit of her personal love affair with perfumes, and mostly her story of getting married and celebrating her bridal showers with her female part of the family all around perfume. It was a very interesting way to connect between generations (and I am still having hard time uploading the short video I took). The book also tells the story of her discovery of her mother's signature perfume, Femme, before formulation.
Between reading passages from her book, Alyssa passed around vintage perfumes for us to sniff: Femme, Cuir de Russie, Cabochard (all in parfum extrait), Jolie Madame (EDT). They were so gorgeous I had to put some Cuir de Russie on, which is even better than the rather old bottle I have of the same jus.
It was evident from the moment of meeting Alyssa, that she's a kind, warm and intelligent person, and this comes through in her memoir, Coming To My Senses (which, needless to say, I had to get a copy of, and have been enjoying ever since last Sunday evening). I'm only about halfway through, so this is by no means a "book review". All I can say for now is that if you take your perfumes seriously, you will relate very much to Alyssa's story. There are some parts that it feels as if she's telling "our story" - perfume lovers who only thanks to the internet are able to connect and gather information about our little nerdy obsession. And, of those who are not (yet) addicted to perfume - this is a story of a woman going through transformation, discovering a new world and how new doors open to her to access other aspects of the people around her, through smell. More than anything, Coming To My Senses is a story of personal re-discovery and transformation, even if subtle.
For me there is no shortage of emotionally moving parts in the story - viewing the transformation perfume has on her friends and family, including the "old aunts". Modern life's demands, and the overall denial of sensuality and femininity in our culture are things that are close to my heart, and finding them in the book was an affirmation that what we do - perfume advocates - both perfumers and perfume lovers - is important on a deeper level than we may think. I'd like to think that perfume inspires positive change in people, even if "just" by improving their mood for a moment every day.