Thursday, September 30, 2010
Harrod's The Perfume Diaries
Well, I've learned one or two things from the "Evening of European Perfumery" I attended last week at Harrod's Perfume Diaries exhibit. For one, if you invite company reps, even from the top tier, to give talks about perfumery, you're going to get a bland PR presentation on why their house is so great and on the new/upcoming release. That wasn't really surprising, yet nonetheless somewhat disappointing. The other thing I learnt is that Olivia Chantecaille is even better looking in real life than on photographs. She wore a stunning, minimalist dress in orange which looked very haute couture and clashed violently with the dashiki-like Hermès thing Roja Dove was wearing to prove his olfactory asthetics are far superior to his visuals (as Luca Turin once remarked, most Hermès products are hideously ugly marvels of traditional quality and craft). As you may note this post has been made commensurate to the gravity of the reported event. However, I need to point out that the little exhibit put on by Harrods with the help of numerous perfume houses really is worth while seeing, as they have assembled an impressive number of beautiful and interesting flacons, including a fair amount of rare gems, which most of us will at best normally get to see in books. I also liked the idea of providing little smell stations featuring four scents representative of each decade - if you ever needed proof that things have been going downhill since the late 80s, there it was. But there was a silver lining, too. Chantecaille presented its three fragrances Vetyver, Pétales and Kalimantan and they were old-fashioned in a good way. I know what you're thinking, but no, I'm not saying this because I was hypnotized by Olivia's beauty. The ubiquitous claim of high percentages of top-grad naturals was backed up with facts. Vetyver was very traditional, unisex, green-nutty, drawing on some of the classics, very good, but giving me a headache just as Guerlain's and Lubin's renditions do (beyond that, this was far better than Guerlain's male product, but not quite as convincing as Vetyver pour elle). Pétales is a traditional, natural-smelling rich bouquet fragrance, that I'd prefer over all those ghastly fruity-floral synths from hell on a woman any day, though I wouldn't have minded a tad of dioresque dirt in there. Kalimantan, as the name suggests, provides patchouli spice and amber, not too innovative, but on par quality-wise with classic Lutens juices. It is good to see such a commitment to quality in at least some houses and one can only hope that high-end consumers will register and reward this, rather than jumping after the next fragrance gimmick. The olfactory trail of Comme des Garcons certainly indicates that the glory days of anti- or guerilla perfumery are over and it's time to refocus on basics. Call it slow smell, but that's a subject for some future manifesto.