There is a strange thing in the perfumers’ world: we don’t need any ice breakers. For those of us already familiar with each other’s work, it’s not uncommon for our first meeting to feel like reuniting with a long lost friend. Independent perfumers work in such isolated environment, that we seek each other’s companionship virtually and it is more often than never that before meeting one another, we have corresponded via email and exchanged samples of our work or raw materials in the mail.
Yosh's path and mine crossed when we discovered our mutual interest in spies. We both have perfumes that are inspired by this mysterious world – Yosh with her Ginger Ciao perfume (and fictional character…), and me with Espionage, both of which just so happen to be our best-sellers too! This was a few years ago, and I was thrilled when the opportunity finally struck to visit in San Francisco and that Yosh was not only available to meet me, but also graciously invited me to stay at her home AND throw a perfumers’ party especially for my spontaneous visit!
As soon as I arrived in San Francisco, I headed to Barneys to meet up with Yosh. I had very little time to spend with her, unfortunately, as the trip from SFO to downtown took longer than we anticipated, and also, I had a previous engagement with Mandy Aftel, of which I have just finished blogging about moments ago, so I was in a bit of a rush... We got briefly acquainted, and I got to see her lovely display at Barneys and meet the sweet people who work at the cosmetic and fragrance department there, not to return there until the next day to thoroughly explore what they have to offer in the word of scent.
I didn’t get to see Yosh again till a few hours later, at her home in a beautiful, old San Francisco building. Yosh must be a gifted feng-shui master (knowingly or not – I haven’t asked her), because the moment you enter her home, you feel welcome and comfortable. Just like the lady who inhabits it, it’s bubbling with life and so hospitable and at the same time very peaceful and serene.
When I arrived with Laurie Stern of Velvet & Sweetpea Purrfumery (who picked me up from Berkeley), Yosh’s home was full of perfumers and scent artists, gathered in her studio space around a table with many delicious treats that everybody brought and made, including beautiful salads that Yosh made, pretty red Velvet cupcakes, wine cheese, and Laurie brought an incredibly delicious plum & almond tart, and also gave me this beautiful honey she harvested from her own bees – I swear to you, it tastes a little rosy, they probably feed off geranium flowers!
Oh, and I almost forgot about the amazing homemade limoncello that Laurie brought - she made it from those HUGE variety of lemons that have very little pulp and very fragrant peel, and it tasted as if there was vanilla in it (but there was none - just lemon zest). Needless to say, it was the best limoncello I've ever had.
Among the guests were no other than Jeanne Rose - seasoned aromatherapist and herbalist, pioneer natural perfumer and world renown educator, and fellow Canadian independent perfumer Ineke Rühland and there was also a teacher from San Francisco . It was a fun surprise to meet in person Yuko Fukami from Parfum Phyto, who is who participated with me in the Midsummer’s Night Dream Scent Event, and I got to smell her creation Dreams – a delicate perfume with sweet osmanthus and an overall subtle powdery fruitiness. She also makes Neriko (Japanese kneaded incense, which is similar to kyphi), so our interests are not limited to perfume alone and I’m hoping to see her this week when she’s visiting in Vancouver! Another surprise was meeting artist Bruno Fazzolari
and finding out that he teaches a full term perfume course at the California College of Art.
Ineke brought out no less than four (!) new perfumes that she's working on to show us, and we all marveled at the beautiful packaging design and tried them on. They were all floral and pretty and inspired greatly by her beautiful garden, and quite different in concept than her abecedary collection. And I shared my last few scented chocolate bars and showed my little traveling perfume wardrobe of recent and upcoming creations such as Smiling Country, New Orleans and Oras, and a couple of other scents that won’t be released till 2012. It was a true perfume party, and there were even more perfumers in the room than there were in the party I was at in Grasse in 2009. San Francisco seems to be buzzing with creative independent perfumers that collect scents like bees do with pollen…
And despite the fact that we are all technically speaking “competitors” there was no sense of that word in the air, but the opposite – a sense of community, and one that is very supportive, inspiring and encouraging. We ran ideas about anything to do with raw materials, packaging, marketing and creative process and enjoyed every moment of it. The last of us partied till the wee hours of the night, which seemed almost effortless, despite the fact that I woke up before 3am that day to catch my early morning flight…
The next morning we woke up early enough to get some things done, but late enough to not feel exhausted; Yosh fixed up the most delicious breakfast of granola, yogurt and fresh ripe peach; and than showed me some of her perfumes.
I was instantly smitten with Yosh’s newest perfume (launched at the end of 2010), Sombre Negra – a dark, woody and spicy-warm dusky vetiver, accented with patchouli, tobacco, choya loban opoponax oakmoss, davana, pink pepper and mushroom. Experiencing this very “serious” perfume was of course contrasted with Yosh’s sense of humour as she sprayed it on a “moustache” – her funny invention of scent “strip” that makes you look as if you’ve just grown a Groucho Marx moustache every time you smell something…
Than I set off to Barneys by Union Square (the photograph you see is of her beautiful display there, of both her parfum oils in the flacons, and the new EDP spray bottles, which have invisible spray tubes – ever so elegant!), before I headed to my ultimate destination – Sonoma County.
Last but not least - what is your favourite Yosh perfume, or any perfume from the San Francisco perfumers mentioned in this article, and enter to win Ineke's Vol. 2 deluxe sample collection (of her first 5 perfumes).
* Photos courtesy and copyright of Yosh Han, unless stated otherwise.
P.s. All these events took place June 29-30, and recounted after I got safely back to my home in Vancouver :-)