One of the best things about independent artisan perfumers is how they manage to melt even the hearts of cynical people who've smelled too many mediocre major releases and have been watching the perfume industry go to hell in an overpriced bee bottle. It's been shown over and over that there are still real artists who put their hearts into their bottles, creating scents out of love and really good ingredients.
Hilde Soliani from Parma, Italy, is one such artist. Her scents tell stories of laughter, loved ones, her favorite places, and cherished memories. Each one creates a sincere emotion, something so sorely missing from just about any mainstream release nowadays (what exactly does something like Magnifique make you feel?). Soliani is now launching a third group of perfumes. The first, Ti Amo ("I love you", 2005) was composed around flowers and their symbolic meaning. The second, Teatro Olfattivo Di Parma (2008) was inspired by her love of the local theater. The most recent one, Profumo e Gusto in Libertà is all about haute cuisine.
Sampling six scents from all three collection has reminded me once again not to judge a perfume by its notes or description. Notes are merely a suggestion , but the best thing is letting the fragrance show you what it can do. When it's well-made, that is.
Il Tuo Tulipano (from the Ti Amo collection)- It's a fruity-floral. A gorgeous, succulent fruity-floral that reminded me what this much reviled genre can and should be when not created to please a faceless, senseless focus group. It's an embodiment of the color red: red fruit, huge red flowers. It makes me want to wear a pretty little sundress and go prancing somewhere, preferably with a red tulip or poppies in my hair. In this little vision-fantasy I'm also singing to the birds and butterflies and they don't attack me just so I shut up, which shows you what kind of magic Hilde Soliani has weaved.
Sipario (Teatro Olfattivo Di Parma collection) is another one I was supposed to hate. I don't do pineapple. I don't even wear Ananas Fizz. But this Pina Colada scent is so much fun that it won me over with its happy, optimistic ways. Sipario is the ultimate beach fragrance and would make one forget all the bikini neurosis and just have fun.
Mangiami Dopo Teatro is a melon fragrance. That alone could have made it atrocious. But somehow this bright citrus and creamed fruit is nothing short of delicious, and takes me back to my own melon memories, the honeydew my mom used to cut for me, drizzle with honey and garnish with mint. This melon is all about love.
Vecchi Rossetti (Teatro Olfattivo Di Parma) is a delicate wood and flowers combination. I get more powdery violets than anything else, and it has an air of antique pink porcelain, carved wooden figurines and a well-stocked dressing table. It reminds me of the good perfumes of yore, pre-reformulations, when elegant leather notes didn't scare away young women.
Bell’Antonio (Teatro Olfattivo Di Parma), the most unisex of this group, is a holographic experience. Wear it and you're in an Italian coffee shop, where the roasted aroma is slowly surrendering to the cigarette smoke in the air. That's actually my problem with this scent. I love a good tobacco note in fragrance, but I absolutely hate the real thing and have been a life-long anti-smoking advocate. Wearing Bell'Antonio makes me and my clothes smell like a smoker, and I just can't deal with it. Interestingly enough, on my husband the perfume is much cleaner, but even the little tobacco he gets bothers him. It doesn't change the fact that this is a beautiful perfume, just not for us.
Acquiilsssssima is a new scent from the Profumo e Gusto in Libertà range. It was inspired by chef Claudio Sadler. It's clever, original and shows that not all marine notes were created equal. While it evokes salt water and fresh air, there's none of the horrible, stomach-turning note Calone. Instead, you get a play on salty and sweet, like a transparent Fleur de Sel Caramels. There's a hint of spice and jasmine, of all thing, and the big surprise here is how well it all works together. This perfume (like all the others, actually) is complex, layered and always evolving.
Hilde Soliani perfumes are available from New London Pharmacy in NYC (beware of their utterly outrageous shipping fee) and Luckyscent/Scent Bar in L.A. (though they only offer Il Tuo Tulipano out of the Ti Amo range). The Perfumed Court has samples of all the scents from the first two lines. I can't wait for the entire Profumo e Gusto in Libertà to be available here, because two of the scents sound beyond scrumptuous: Saaliiisssiimo is a risotto with saffron and liquorice, while Doolciiisssimo is about a custard cream with cherry flavoured leaves of tobacco pipe. You can read more about them in this Perfume Shrine post.
Photo: Parma, Teatro Farnese by Judith Barath from worldisround.com