S-Perfume Lust and Sloth : Perfume Review

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Magritte48

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Germaine Cellier and Edmond Roudnitska were among the creators who had a chance to compose their fragrances based solely on their own ideas of what the art of fragrance entailed. Roudnitska, who has devoted much effort to make fragrance acceptable as an art form, famously said that he does not allow someone else dictate to him as he composes his fragrances. Cellier rejected accepted cannons and produced a fascinating array of perfumes, from the unforgettable verdancy of crushed emeralds in Vent Vert to the menacing violet concealing the animalic darkness of Jolie Madame. However, in the current climate, it is not realistic to expect perfumers to be able to create in the same free manner without external constraints. What perfumers would want to create if they had the freedom is an interesting thought to ponder. Among the first people who attempted to make this viable was Frédéric Malle, whose idea of giving creative freedom to the renowned perfumers working for him has produced a great and interesting line of fragrances.

Sacré Nobi of S-Perfume also makes a bold step in the avant-garde direction with his line that explores the aesthetic sensibility of a modern artist and his fascination with the sense of smell.

Working with famous perfumers, such as Sophia Grojsman (a living legend is a term that would be most appropriate here), Annick Ménardo (one of her creations is the stunning Bulgari Black, an unforgettable fragrance of black tea with burnt smoky notes), Alberto Morillas (Rochas Byzance, Givenchy Pi, Kenzo Flower and Flower Oriental, among numerous others) and Christophe Laudamiel (Estee Lauder Youth Dew Amber Nude, Michael Kors Island, Clinique Happy Heart), S-Perfume includes four fragrances that are daring in terms of their construction and juxtaposition of accords. Abstract sketches of olfactory ideas, the fragrances manage to fascinate, all the while being wearable.

The two newest additions to the line, Lust and Sloth, were developed as olfactory installations for the Seven Deadly Sins. The first installation of /7S/ took place in Cleveland, Ohio in January 2003 (read the article about the exhibit here). Being concept fragrances, they might strike one as more abstract than what S-Perfume has offered in the past; however, they are memorably orchestrated to explore elements that are not part of the classical tradition. The fascination with the dissonances is what makes these compositions interesting, much like the combination of cool aldehydes and sweet fruity rose in 100% Love). or the metallic coolness and warm leather in S-ex). Such contrasts lend these fragrances an air of suspense; although, their unconventionality may make them challenging to appreciate. Nevertheless, while there are plenty of simply pleasant fragrances, those that are daring and unusual are far and few between; therefore, I cannot but applaud the efforts of S-Perfume.

Lust was a fragrance created by Alberto Morillas to represent the installation entitled “Luxuria,” the Latin word for lust. Experiencing this fragrance makes me regret that I did not see the original installation because Lust juxtaposes the elements in an unpredictable manner. Nothing is sublte about this fragrance. The high pitched camphorous note plunges into the darkness of patchouli, its dry, fiery presence turning into effervescent vapor under the veil of cool earthiness punctuated with leather and rubbery touches. The drydown sheds much of the dark earthiness that characterized the arrangement initially and reveals the scent of hot, balmy skin clothed in the silkiness of woods, bluntly aggressive one moment and suggestively sweet the next. Like a wicked siren call, the drydown beckons one to come closer and closer.

Initially, Sloth may strike one as a delicate orange blossom rendition, calling to mind classical neroli colognes; however, the warm metallic and cool earthy elements dispel this image fairly quickly. Sloth or “Acedia” by Thierry Wasser pairs the clarity of orange blossom with an undercurrent of earthiness, sunny warmth with the coolness of shadows. As the orange blossom attempts to soar, the clinging darkness pulls it into its fold, and while it never succeeds, the tension gives an interesting metallic twist to the composition. Whether it is a suggestion of the name or the relaxing effect of orange blossom, the aura of the fragrance has a serene quality, the wistfulness of which is unsettled by the slowly creeping musky heaviness.

Both Lust and Sloth, while originally intended as art scents rather than personal fragrances, are wearable, especially for those who do not mind abstraction and modern minimalism. Certainly, experiencing them gives one an idea what the concept fragrance might embody and how modern art can embrace the olfactory experiences and be enriched by them. Sloth is a fragrance I found myself spraying on liberally during moments when I wish to forget about the rest of the world, its relaxing and gentle veil being a perfect accompaniment on such days. Lust, on the other hand, is the fragrance that seduced me slowly, its sharpness and earthiness being strange and disconcerting at first and powerfully addictive upon further trials. I do not know if this feeling is sinful, but the ability of this composition to embody the complexity of a given concept is what makes scent an art form.

S-Perfume fragrances are available from STUDIO at Los Angeles Fred Segal, Colette Paris, and Mother Tokyo (03 5433 1748). Moreover, the samples and fragrances are available directly from The Shaping Room/S-Perfume. Lust and Sloth will debut in February, however in the meantime the samples can be obtained directly from the website.

Painting: René Magritte. Dangerous Liaisons. 1926. Oil on canvas. 72 x 64 cm. Private collection.

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26 Comments

  • Laura: Fascinating story! Now I’m going to scurry and see if I can unearth my samples of Lust and Sloth, buried in the post-holiday chaos around here. I think we live in a very vital period, as far as perfume goes! January 3, 2006 at 9:05am Reply

  • Marina: Wonderful review. I fell in love with 100% Love and I admire Lust. I was so captivated by the two that I haven’t given that much attention to the rest of s-perfumes, including Sloth. Apparently Sloth the sin (not the scent)was actually originally called Sadness, so when you say there is wistfullness in the fragrance, that makes total sense and I am wondering if Wasser was aware of the change of name. I am sure he was. January 3, 2006 at 9:39am Reply

  • cjblue: You write so beautifully and evocatively that it’s impossible to not immediately crave what you’re writing about. How much am I dying to try Lust & Sloth? A lot. Not to mention that I just got the entire set of 7 deadly sins bracelets. I need something to wear with them! Wonder: can Lust be combined with Sloth? Hmmmm. In my life they can. :D January 3, 2006 at 10:47am Reply

  • Victoria O: Oh now I see wha tyou were talking about! Beautiful reviews. Not sure I’m drawn to either one, but I may try samples just for the “experience”. When I place my order for more 100% Love.
    :O)
    Victoria O January 3, 2006 at 11:35am Reply

  • mreenymo: I love that painting!

    I think you know how I feel about this line, so I will resist the urge to open my big mouth and say something that would be considered nothing short of inappropriate. :):)

    Hugs! January 3, 2006 at 12:43pm Reply

  • cait: I received these scents in the mail this weekend. I found the sloth fragrance immediately reminded me of the IUNX guimauve cream, which makes sense since french marshmallows (guivmauves) are flavored with orange flower water. It was a good scent for a lazy New Year’s Day on ice skates. Lust put me off, so I can’t comment on it yet.
    I very much like the idea of installations involving scent, though, and would love to commission one. I wonder how much that’d run a struggling gallery. The first issue that emerges is: if a scent isn’t worn on the skin, the whole top note, body, drydown sequence is derailed. What if it’s just hanging in the air, clinging to the artwork? Hmmm, that’s interesting. January 3, 2006 at 1:29pm Reply

  • Cait: Now that I’ve had a look at the website, I noted that with the scent for avarice, the site reads: “The top note is all you shall smell!” and with pride, the scent is so conceptual that it doesn’t exist. I guess the function of the scents in an installation depends on what it seeks to convey. Of course, you could do it Sophie Calle style and have people say, sleeping while wearing scent in order to experience the play of a scent on the body… January 3, 2006 at 1:44pm Reply

  • linda: Wonderful reviews, V! I have to place another sample order because Lust and Sloth seem like very interesting fragrances. Your reviews make me want to sample everything you write about! :-) January 3, 2006 at 3:47pm Reply

  • Katie: Oh thank goodness someone else smelled neroli in Sloth, too. Well, I settled upon “orange-y” as I couldn’t quite define for myself exactly what I wanted to say.

    It’s so interesting to me how differently we perceive Lust. I get no leather intonations. Just warm almost creamy spice mixed with wood and sneakily subtle musk. January 3, 2006 at 3:55pm Reply

  • linda: V, for some reason I cannot get the link above to work to make a sample order. Did I do smth wrong? January 3, 2006 at 4:01pm Reply

  • linda: Oops, I am such a dolt. Nevermind! It worked for me. January 3, 2006 at 4:05pm Reply

  • marchlion: I am fascinated by the choice of orange blossom for Sloth. I think of at as a stimulating smell, although certainly seductive… thanks for the beautiful review. January 3, 2006 at 4:24pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear L, Happy Birthday! Hope that today was a great day for you.

    Both of these fragrances are very interesting, and I think that you should definitely try them. What would I give to see the original exhibit! January 4, 2006 at 3:09am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, thank you. I think that 100% Love is just that for me. :) Glad that you liked it too! Your comment on the sin of sloth being known as sadness is right on the mark. Sloth definitely has a tinge of wistfullness to it, rather than anything dark and heavy I would associated with the concept as it is known now. January 4, 2006 at 3:11am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, thank you for such a nice compliment. I find both of these fragrances absolutely fascinating and deserving of being experienced. I am with you on combining! :) January 4, 2006 at 3:15am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: V, I hope that you will find them interesting, and I would love to hear what you think when you try them! January 4, 2006 at 3:16am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I love Magritte in general, but that painting struck me from the first time I saw it (never in real life, unfortunately). I would be the first person to admit that S-Perfume will not appeal to everyone, however that is the beauty of fragrance–there are many options to suit everyone’s tastes. However, please do not feel that you have to censor yourself. January 4, 2006 at 3:19am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Cait, the idea of combining scent and art is wonderful, and this is one of the reasons why S-Perfume have always appealed to me. The cost of commissioning a fragrance will depend on the creator of the scent, and in case of people S-Perfume is working with, the costs may not be the only obstacle. As for the scent itself, yes, these fragrances lack the traditional structure, as do most of the modern fragrances these days. 100% Love is more of a monolithic composition, for instance, rather than sequential. Lust and Sloth cannot be deemed sequential either. They develop, of course, but their character does not change dramatically from top to base. January 4, 2006 at 3:23am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Oh, yes, I saw that too. It is a very interesting concept, and I really find it thought provoking. I hope that there will be more chances to experience the exhibits like these. January 4, 2006 at 3:25am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Linda, thank you, but maybe you are chastising me? :) If you end up placing the order, please let me know what you think. January 4, 2006 at 3:26am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, neroli is very nice in Sloth, isn’t it? I enjoyed its initial brightness and the constrasts of the composition. Yes, I must say that Lust does not strike me as very creamy or subtle, altough I can see what you mean by spicy. To me, it has a crack of a whip sharpness that soars into the earthy cloud of patchouli before I notice the warm skin aspect. It is exactly what draws me to it again and again. January 4, 2006 at 3:29am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, here it is again: http://store.yahoo.com/shapingroom2000/samples.html January 4, 2006 at 3:30am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Great! Let me know your thoughts on these fragrances. January 4, 2006 at 3:31am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: March, my pleasure! Orange blossom is a scent I find both relaxing and aiding concentration. I often wear it whenever I need to study. In fact, I wore Sloth when I was working on a paper last week, and it was a very productive undertaking in the end, despite the connotations of the fragrance. January 4, 2006 at 3:32am Reply

  • kaie: Hello, Victoria. Are Lust and Sloth already available from Colette? January 4, 2006 at 5:14am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Kaie, I think that February is set as the official release date. Meanwhile, you can order samples from the website. January 4, 2006 at 2:50pm Reply

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