Fashion, Clutter, Trends, Seasonality...

If you're puzzled by the title of this post, I'm not surprised. There seems to be little connection between these three words. How this came up in my mind is by observing how other designer friends of mine work and how easily they can move from one collection to the next as the seasons change. They can abandon completely a certain style (or a whole bunch of styles) from last year or even last season, and just move on... Snap!
Like that.

Of course, you can see some connection between styles, or gradual development of a certain pattern from season to season. But with all due respect, these folks (i.e.: fashion designers of all sorts - clothing, bags, accessories, bikinis, jewelry...) can just do something else every season and get away with that.

And I envy them for that!
Yes, I do.
Because perfume used to be the one thing that people don't change with fashion. It used to be the person's "second skin" which they identify with, and maintain regardless if their outfit is gray, blue or green; or if they're wearing a flapper dress or a jumpsuit. It used to be unrelated to fashion altogether until Coco Chanel introduced her No. 5 parfum. And even than, perfume was complementary to the fashion, rather than part of fashion trends.

Nowadays, however, there are "trends" in fragrance that change every 1-3 years or so. Some three years ago or so orris was all the rage, and orris butter disappeared from the market faster than you could utter its name. Than it was agarwood, which became a staple for any self-respected niche house. And now it may be tuberose or lily - at this point I just don't even care!

The longer I am in this business of making scents, the less sense it makes to me and the more inclined I am to just do my own thing and disregard what's going on out there. At this point I just find it overwhelming and a little discouraging that there are indeed trends. I know this is just a mood of mine and that too shall pass. However, right now, I feel no inclination to follow a trend or even launch any new perfume this year. Next year, maybe. If the timing seems right. I have about 5 perfumes that are pretty much ready to go as far as formulation, name, concept... I just don't want to launch them right now in this atmosphere where you must have at least one new perfume every season if you want the media - magazines and blogs mostly - to pay attention to you.

My publicist sent out press releases introducing my brand (which was pretty much undercover for its first 5 years of existence, and had nearly purely online publicity for the past 4 years, lead 100% by yours truly, who was doing all the footwork of being involved in perfume communities and offering my expertise and engaging in passionate discussions about anything perfume related - from raw materials to vintage perfumes, to taking photographs of my own bottles to contribute to community forums). Yet, now that finally hardcopy magazines are getting to known about my brand, it's not enough for them that what I do is unique and unusual and that they've never heard about me or smelled my fragrances before - all they want to know is what new perfumes I'm going to launch.

I apologize in advance for ranting and venting - but I'm getting a little fed up... My profession walks a very fine line between the sacred and the profane (perfume has spiritual and religious significance to most people; yet the first topic of conversation with a layperson about perfume will ultimately lead to pheromones within the first 20 seconds of conversation); expertise and quackery (no one REALLY can predict how any combination of notes would smell like together, not to mention on any particular skin!); and the thing that I'm most concerned with no: the fine line between it being a commodity, a fashion accessory or an art form.

Are my perfumes verses of poetry that are only uttered once they touch the skin? Or are they an adorement for the body, just like makeup or jewelry? Or, perhaps, they are nothing but a fashion accessory to make a statement about one's style and social status, selected carefully yet randomly to match your outfit, leather bag and a pair of stilettos?

So what is it really? Do I need to roll in a new perfume every season, like a fashion house, and dispose of all the oldies - in order to be noticed and survive in this competitive market? Or do I just go about my business in whatever pace I feel like for introducing my new creations? The latter seems like the way to go - following my own heart and my path. Having the freedom to choose when and where is the right timing for something to come out...

Yes, it would have been nice to launch a new fragrance this winter; and I had one planned out but an element is missing there that is out of my control so that means that the timing is not right (it was going to be launched along with a complementary tea, but that tea is not nearly ready!). My focus this year was going to be on the complementary products, such as the body products, and also the new chocolate bars - as a way to expand the experience in which fragrance can be enjoyed and incorporated into modern lifestyles to enhance, enrich and bring moments of sensual pleasure that descend above mere hygene or skin care. To me, having those little rituals on a daily basis is part of the "art of living". It is part of how I feel I can make a difference and make the world just a little better for my friends, family and clients.

My philosophy in my own personal as well as business life is that of maintaining a balance. A day is not complete if I don't include certain elements that I made a priority in my life. If every day could be my last day on earth, than I'd rather spend it doing what I love and what I care about the most: spending time with my loved ones (family and friends), being creative and productive doing my art and work, taking care of my physical body so it's well nourished and active and feels part of this beautiful world, and also spend some time for reflection, relaxation and quite.

The latter seems to be the area most people around me find most challenging to pay attention to - and the experience I'm trying to create at my studio for my guests, as well as the actual products I develop - are designed to fill that gap. Come to my studio, and you will have to slow down your pace a bit because the colours here are both crisp and serene. Because when you come in you will step out of your shoes (both literally and metaphorically) and make some time to sip tea, savour truffles, and explore the different perfumes I created, or the natural raw materials, which are like keys to long forgotten chapters of our own history, and to unexplored realms of the depths of our souls.

Layering Fragrance - with Style

Long time ago in a middle-school far away in the 80’s, 12 and 13 year old teenage girls would create layers of colours in their clothing by wearing their clothes out of order (the short sleeves or tank tops on top of the long sleeves) or folding the undershirt’s sleeves over an overly open necklined sweater to make the colours of the under layers show on top. Layering has since evolved into a far more fun, loose and creative way to mark one’s individual style – turning even the most mundane pieces into something special simply by the way they are put together.

While this works fantastically well in fashion, and is an interesting way to put into use and create a new look out of many different favourites without looking indecisive, the perfume equivalent of layering is not quite as exciting for the most part. Not in my opinion, anyways. For several reasons: One, being the performance of layered fragrances. I feel that just like wearing a long sleeve shirt under a sweater, you see the sweater but you don’t see the shirt. Not quite, anyways (unless the sweater is very loosely knit or has holes). When I layer scents that work well together, I always smell the top one (the last one applied) better than the first one. The first one will remain very much in the background. Perhaps there is too little time for the scents to truly interact and for their molecules to bond and create something new.

Two, and this is the most disturbing one – is that more and more perfumes are released as a collection, exactly with the idea of layering in mind. Part of it could be a way of getting more attention in the very saturated market. But the result is - guess what? - an even more saturated market, with less and less perfumes that stand on their own rights.

To me, a perfume should be a complete entity. An olfactory story with a beginning, middle and end, and unique characters (notes) interacting within. This is scarcely found in collections that were designed for layering. One reason being that in order for the perfumes to interact well with one another without clashing, they should be simple enough to not provoke an olfactory dissonance when blended.
I would like to suggest a different approach to layering. One that is still fun and creative, but a little bit more sophisticated and takes into account that we deserve to wear complex and rich fragrances that can stand on their own. But we are also entitled to some fun and playing with them sometime too!

Instead of layering fragrances on top of each other, in hopes that they will create a new scent – create layers that peak through one another, sometimes overlapping and other times standing on their own so you can enjoy the scent the way it is. This can be done by wearing different fragrances on different parts of the body. I discovered this can be truly fun when I encountered several body products that I really liked their scent, yet seemed mellow enough to accommodate another fragrance on the wrists. Don’t forget to take into account your shampoo or conditioner or any other hair product. Many of them are so highly scented, that they should be considered when you design your olfactory aura for the day…

Azuree body oil goes fantastically well with a light spritz of Chinatown. The two scents have very little in common, but the result of the mix is sultry and exotic.

I find that Lovely body spray or Liquid Satin applied as a body spray is fabulous with Chanel's No. 19 Eau de Toilette applied to wrists and other pulse points. This is particularly fabulous on a hot day.

I’m also very fond of a few of Aveda’s haircare and styling products. Here are a few that have quite a significant scent on their own and a perfume that pushes them to the background to create a mood for a perfumed centerpiece:
Air Control Hair Spray:
This dark and rich spray could be worn as a fragrance if only it wasn’t so sticky (well, that’s how a hairspray works, right?). The dominant note there being labdanum, it is very sweet yet earthy. I like to wear it with Youth Dew parfum dabbed carefully on the wrists and behind the ears. This is best in cooler weather.

Aveda’s Sculp Benefits conditioner has an intense vetiver aroma, and can be a nice way to balance the sweetness of a chocolate based perfume such as Comptoir Sud Pacifique’s Amour de Cacao.

And their Elixir leave-in conditioner smells mostly of ylang ylang and geranium. I like to use it to keep me hair smooth in an up-do when a little black dress, pearls and a dab of No. 5 extrait is required...
Alba Botanical’s Coconut Milk Body Cream serves as an excellent companion to tropical white florals, such as Songes by Annick Goutal.

And Jo Malone’s Vintage Gardenia goes on the skin particularly well with a little caffeine boost from Nyakio's Kenyan Coffee Sugar Scrub. It actually layers quite well with Black Vetyver Cafe too (The only way it makes me close to satisfied with layering these fragrances on top of one another is apply a spritz of Black Vetyver Cafe sandwiched between two layers on the Vintage Gardenia - one on the botton and one on the top). I really wish there was a Black Vetyver Cafe bath oil to use instead...

Crabtree & Evelyn's Lemongrass & Brown Sugar sugar scrub is an interesting combination between a body butter and a sugar scrub. It has a rich lemony scent supported by impressive amounts of frankincense and peru balsam oil. The latter appears also quite significantly in Opium Fleur de Shanghai, which explains why the two are so great together. An interesting combination of freshness and luxurious resins...
I also like to wear the same sugar scrub in a gloomy winter day to uplift my spirits, and add a dab of No. 19 parfum, worn with a mossy woolen sweater...

What I enjoy about these layering combinations is that I've found a way to pair together a scented body product whose fragrance I enjoy, along with a favourite fragrance - yet the two complement each other rather clash together. When wearing them this way, I can always bring my wrist to my nose to smell the perfume alone, while overall, I just smell the two interacting and wrapping around me, creating a new fragrance aura.

* Images illustrating this articles are courtesay of Susie Bubble, AKA The Layering Queen of Style Bubble - the most innovative and fun fashion blog you can find on the net.
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