Monday, July 31, 2017

Jeanne Moreau (1928- 2017)









Jeanne Moreau quotes:
"Age does not protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age."
"Beyond the beauty, the sex, the titillation, the surface, there is a human being. And that has to emerge."
"If you want to live your life through to the end, you have to live dangerously."
"You should not separate your life from what you do."

Two American Perfumers And Their Modern Approach To Fragrance


The year was 2005 and people who love perfume had more places to visit on the Internet. Just as independent blogs provided more venues to discuss fragrance, people who has small businesses making and selling their own perfumes opened online stores. Several of them were Europeans*, but the biggest boom was seen in North America, and the majority of these indie perfumers were American women, who joined perfumers such as Maria McElroy (Aroma M), Mandy Aftel of Aftelier, and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz who've been running their own businesses for several years at that point.

If I were to stick pins in a US map to mark the locations of indie perfumeries you'd see a large cluster in California, and a smaller but substantial one in Brooklyn, NY. However, the two of the most fascinating perfumers I could think about are outside these areas in more ways than one. Both Serena Ava Goode (Massachusetts) and Liz Zorn (Ohio) launched their online stores, Ava Luxe and Soivohle, in 2005. Their work couldn't have been more different from the very start.

The first devoted followers of Ms. Goode found her because they were yearning for perfumes that were quickly becoming extinct. Her version of the classic Crepe de Chine is still in her catalog for a good reason: it's fantastic. Ava Luxe perfumes became cult favorites first for the true chypres, probably because 2005 also marked the beginning of IFRA restrictions that practically eliminated them. Then there was Ms. Goode's special touch for creating animalic musks, gourmands, and perhaps my favorites: fig perfumes. Fans cite Ava Luxe's Loukhoum as superior to both Serge Lutens Rahat Loukoum and Keiko Mecheri's Loukhoum. I'm not going to argue with that, as I wear all three (not together, I promise). The Ava Luxe interpretation is, indeed, heavenly.

The aesthetic sensibility of Ava Luxe perfumes has always seemed centered around the pretty and feminine. Bold or soft, the fragrances evoke the classic sensuality often associated with (French) perfume. There's a fascination with the exotic and orientalism that can be traced to the early days of the modern fragrance industry;  these are perfumes that were meant to smell like Perfumes and do so unabashedly. The more modern gourmands scents in the line also make a statement. They're literal and satisfying, offering the comforts of wearing not only Turkish delight but also condensed milk (Milk) and cookies (Madeline).

Soivohle perfumes come from a different place. Answering my question regarding her start as a perfumer, Liz Zorn says:
"I was particularly seduced by the idea of free form artistry juxtaposed against a backdrop of rigid structure. I am a painter and former graphic artist, so creatively there was a bit of an overlap that felt natural to me". 
Ms. Zorn is an abstract painter (you can view her visual art here). The canvases bursting with shapes and colors are not unlike her perfumes. The first whiff always takes me by surprise with a bold stroke that sometimes goes where you think it might, though not always. The collection relies on natural materials (90% and higher). If you've ever smelled raw ingredients in their pure form you know that they're not necessarily pretty. It's the alchemy and synergy of the blending that makes them wearable. It can be an acquired taste, since as Liz says, she enjoys working with "quirky smells" and lists some of her favorite notes: agarwood, mushroom, linden, earthy, green, waxy, gummy absolutes and concretes, lotus blossom and boronia. While not everyone is amenable to mushroomy perfumes, many Soivohle perfumes lean towards chypre, especially leathery or green ones. I was not all that surprised to hear that the one perfume outside her own collection Ms. Zorn wears is  original Caleche. You won't find a smell-alike in Soivohle, but the love of oakmoss is there, whether you go straight to Green Oakmoss or in the wild thickets of Meerschaum.

It's interesting to compare Liz Zorn's untamed chypres to those of Serena Ava Good. These are two different worlds and sensibilities, but sometimes all roads lead to oakmoss. Or to leather. I've been thinking about one of my favorite perfumes in the known universe,  vintage Jolie Madame. There's nothing quite like that anywhere, yet in Soivohle oft-discontinued Purple Rain Smoke you can smell a hint of that, only deconstructed and then reconstructed in an avant-garde way. It's not wistful or vintage-inspired, it's just an extraordinary perfume.

Speaking of violets, I went digging in my sample cabinet (yes, I have a separate cabinet for perfume samples. It's perfectly normal) when preparing to write this post and dug out Soivohle Lilacs & Heliotrope, which Liz Zorn describes as having "vintage feel with a modern twist", and Ava Luxe's Doll Face. So many of the notes are similar, with the delicate florals taking center stage while sitting on a very musky base. Where Lilacs & Heliotrope is a pulled-together grownup, Doll Face is, as Serena Goode says, "precious". It's a comforting and vanillic take on a subject we all know from Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue, with the twist here is the lacy white curtains and delicate miniature china tea set. It's definitely not a case of "If you love this you'll enjoy that", both are wonderful in their own way and deserve the attention of lilac lovers at least for the experience.

Now let's go back to where it all started, in 2005 as online conversation about perfume became more popular right along small artisan perfumeries. The Internet is not what it used to be. Social media has become the obvious place for marketing and introducing everything, from blockbusters to obscure products in every category. It's the new word-of-mouth that was once limited to websites like Makeup Alley and those in the know. In the new reality where self-promotion seems non-negotiable and utterly necessary, Ava Luxe keeps the most minimal presence if any. I'm pretty sure I haven't even gotten a newsletter in years. It hasn't stopped me from buying and restocking my favorites (being able to buy very small bottles means that one actually uses up things), but I'm pretty sure it's limiting the possibility of growth, especially since the glut of new releases obscures the view. It's hard to keep up as it is, and it's easy to forget the It Perfumes of yesteryear.

In comparison, Liz Zorn's perfume business, while being what we call "micro-niche", has a strong visibility inside our not-so-little bubble. In my opinion, Ms. Zorn has managed that which impossible: promoting without being obnoxious about it.  In her words:

"From a business standpoint it’s [social media] a good fit for us. Being in Cincinnati and not New York, having quick access to the public, being able to share our news with a larger audience via social networking is a big plus. I do the day to day social for our brand, and try to keep up with messaging, responding to requests and questions from our social network outlets. I think social has taken the place of the press release. We no longer send out press releases.
As far as how it affects the larger picture, it is somewhat of a double edged sword. There can be a big buzz about something one day and it’s forgotten the next. A story may circulate for a day or two with comments and buzz, then it’s gone forever. This can happen to new launches,events, etc. The constant stream of virtual imagery can be overwhelming. The trick I guess, is finding that happy place between promotion and real information. "

This brings us to the reason for this post. It started on Twitter, when several perfume writers were discussing our disappointment with an Allure magazine piece, The American Perfumers Modern Approach to Fragrance. There are various reasons to give the side-eye to the magazine and the writer, but the most obvious to us was the near complete exclusion of women perfumers. Yes, they do mention Estee Lauder, but as pioneering and inspiring as the grand dame was, she was not a perfumer. She did not compose any of the fragrances bearing her name. Youth Dew, which is discussed in Allure, was created by Josephine Catapano, who deserves to be celebrated for her achievements, as do other women perfumers, American and foreign, especially those who also run their own businesses. We came up with so many of our favorites during that Twitter chat that we decided to do more research and write our own articles. This was the result.

You can read more on Bois de Jasmin, EauMG Perfume Professor, The Scented Salamander, and this guest post by Alyssa Harrad on BdJ. 



*This is where we all should thank French perfumer Victoire Gobin-Daudé who launched her eponymous line in 2002, clearly ahead of her time, and was completely gone from the scene by 2005-2006.


Art: Rudolf Ernst,  The Perfume Makers, late 19th century to early 20th century.


One last note: None of the links above is affiliated nor do I get any monetary or other gain, and they're only included for the reader's convenience.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Currently- July 2017

Bing in Ming by Patricia Hansen


The thing with writing is that it becomes easier the more you do it. The opposite is also true. I'm up to my knees in drafts, lists, bullet points, and snippets. Completing them is another thing, especially since my intention is to change the blog somewhat and make it much (MUCH) less product-centric, but still informative and fun. I don't want to buy every highlighter on the market or swatch all the liquid lipsticks until my skin falls off. My intention has never been to tell you "go and buy (more) stuff" It's about sharing thoughts, opinions, experiences related to beauty and perfume. But just as one can get overwhelmed clicking the "What's "New" button on Ulta's website and getting twelves pages full of things you're supposed to covet and buy, the same can be said about beauty blogging (or blogging in general), especially when you refuse to be a pawn for anyone who's trying to sell something.


Book
After several books  started and abandoned (the most annoying one was The Vintage Housekeeper Circle by Alison May. I thought it was going to be a meditating on vintage housekeeping practices as well as practical advice. Instead I got an unedited FlyLady in a Laura Ashley apron). I did enjoy a  frilly summer reading of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy with its over-the-top descriptions of food, couture, and home decor. Now I've downloaded B.J. Novak's short stories collection, One More Thing, and that's what I'll be reading tonight.

Music






TV
After months of comfort-watching every Star Trek episode from all the series' incarnations, the husband and I moved to contemporary television. We binged on several favorites: Grace and Frankie, The Americans, and Master of None (probably the smartest comedy on TV. Maybe ever). But right now it's all about Orphan Black and Game of Thrones. I had butterflies in my stomach anticipating the latter's season premier.

Makeup
Edward Bess Black Sea Precious Pearl Perfector. It's a silicone primer for those looking for a luminous dewy finish that still has a strong grip on foundation. It's given new life to a couple of foundations I was about to abandon as too drying.

Perfume
Dryad by Papillon Artisan Perfumes. Liz Moores might have created the best modern green chypre. It's like a 70s jumpsuit made of Scarlett O'Hara's green velvet curtain dress.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
A striped silk short shirtdress I bought from Banana Republic at the start of the season.

Food
Cherries. And more cherries.

Bane
The combination of humidity and creepy crawlers that makes stepping out to feed the squirrels into an episode of Fear Factor.

Joy


Also, the "who's a good boy?" conversations I have with George as we settle for the night.

Link
Just in case you haven't read this interview with former British Vogue fashion director,  Lucinda Chambers, caused a big brouhaha last month, to the point of letters from lawyers. As a result a few sentences relating to the way Ms. Chambers was fired got removed. I've read (and saved) the complete article as well as the amended one, and to me the important thing was not the HR kerfuffle, but the insight about fashion, magazines, and advertisers. The story behind the deflated and disappointing cover below, and the reason Ms. Chambers hasn't actually read Vogue in decades.



Quote
" I mean, movies are the worst, because the movie business is failing terribly and they think they have some amazing model that’s going to fix it all, and it all involves hiring a girl with 2 million Instagram followers. Hasn’t worked yet. And then in television it’s the same thing. Parts are offered to these YouTube sensations."
Jordan Gavaris (Felix on Orphan Black) in an interview with Vulture.

Random Thought
Eye shadow topper, lip topper (we used to call it lip gloss), blush topper- a second layer of makeup all over your face. There's a large Smashbox palette out right now that's all about toppers, which reminded of this. What's old is new again. They say that when you've lived through a trend once you should avoid it when it comes back. But what if I like an iridescent blue over my eye shadow?

Wishlist
To get my groove back.

How've you been? What's on your list of loves and banes? Any wishes and recommendations?

See Also

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