Thursday morning. I'm in Gastown with a duffel bag containing roughly 400 vials of volatile essences. This is going to be the first round of creating a custom perfume for Gentille Alouette, a tiny boutique that opened about a year ago by fashion and costume designer Eliza Lau. Gentille Alouette also carries apparel by other indie and local designers, wearable art and unique jewelry pieces.
Eliza is a die-hard perfumista. We met at Make It Vancouver and she fell for my perfumes on the spot. On her first visit to my studio she confessed to me her life-long dream (or as she calls it - her "bucket list") has been to create her own custom scent. When I hear stuff like that I don’t know what to say – I am just awe-struck as to why she has picked me. And I feel humbled and at the same time really excited to work with someone that is so passionate about perfume. It’s rare!
On that visit, she also told me that her favourite notes are violet and orange blossom. With my hyperactive olfactory imagination, I immediately imagine how that would smell and envision a perfume that would smell like a cross between Viola and Zohar… But I must not get carried away. We have to do this properly and explore all the essences that Eliza holds near and dear.
So, that very Thursday last week, the purpose of our get-together at the shop was exactly this: to begin the process of hand-picking the most gorgeous essences, the ones that Eliza has the strongest connection with and feels that would be most suitable for what she has envisioned for Gentille Alouette’s perfume.
I enter the shop. Eliza just got back from a “weekend” the Sunshine Coast (retailers will hardly ever take the real weekend off like normal people) and she’s all happy and relaxed. Édith Piaf’s Non, je ne regrette rien is playing in the background. A most befitting soundtrack for the little shop’s settings and also for the scent that Eliza envisions – seductive floral with a retro wink to the grand dame’s era. We ambark on a journey that will take nearly 2 hours – picking the scents that together will sing the sparrow’s song in harmony… It’s an adventure for both of us: neither of us really knows where this journey is going to lead us. But we both know we will turn whatever we find on our journey into a beautiful and exciting new perfume.
Without this process, creating the perfume will be very much the perfumer’s work without much involvement except verbally from the person commissioning it. I intend to do no shortcuts with this perfume because if it’s Eliza’s dream, than we must make the creation itself something to dream about and look forward to…