News: 522 posts

Latest news from the fragrance world and other interesting reading

The (Blind) Smell Test at WWD

As promised, today I’ll give you a brief update on The Smell Test series from Women’s Wear Daily. The goal is to blind test recent launches and offer anonymous opinions. All ten judges, myself included, receive fragrances in plain lab bottles, marked only by number, smell at their leisure and offer a rating from 1 to 10. WWD is one of the leading and most influential fashion and beauty publications, and it’s commendable that the magazine offers such a feature.

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You can see the results and read our short comments in the links below. I will only make a few observations: First, all statements claiming that perfume is somehow too subjective to be described or reviewed critically don’t stand the test. The exercise blew this tired argument out of the water again and again.  Yes, everyone has his or her own sensitivities and preferences, but by and large, the consistency of responses has been impressive.

Second, there has been much positive response to the feature. (If any houses have been upset by their product receiving a low score, they’ve kept quiet.) Since WWD is primarily geared toward the beauty industry and its movers, all of this is a good sign. The industry also feels that things can’t continue in the same “let’s drown them in launches” (or “let’s do another Angel/Light Blue/another best seller”) mode, and as s result the attitudes towards criticism are changing.

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Perfume Muse Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn has been a muse for film directors, couture designers, and makeup artists. She also inspired perfumers, and while Givenchy L’Interdit was created especially for her in 1957, many a fragrance creator mentions the actress and fashion icon with reverence. I can understand it, because there is something about Audrey that I find touching and poignant. It’s not just her elegance or sense of style; it’s also her grace, warmth and a certain fragility. Audrey charms as much as she intrigues me.

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This year, the National Portrait Gallery in London is celebrating Audrey’s legacy with an exhibition showcasing Audrey’s life and career through photos. It spans her childhood in Holland and early years as a dancer in London. It then tracks her rise to fame in Hollywood and concludes with her work as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. Audrey worked with some of the best photographers, including Cecil Barton, Irving Penn, and Richard Avedon, and many of her images can be counted as part of pop culture–think the famous Holly Golightly half turn with a cigarette holder. What’s fascinating about the exhibit is the inclusion of rare images and personal photographs donated by Audrey’s sons, Luca Dotti and Sean Hepburn Ferrer.

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Anosmia : Living Without Scents

Whenever I read about hackneyed surveys asking, “which sense would you give up,” and see respondents blithely give up their sense of smell as “the least useful”, I get a cold shiver down my spine. Anosmia is the condition of having no sense of smell, usually as a result of trauma, and it has few cures. It leaches color, texture and pleasure out of life, even more than the loss of hearing or sight does.

anosmie

Anosmia, like many other subjects related to brain and olfaction, is still poorly understood, but what’s without doubt is the suffering it causes. “The biggest shock of my life was tasting chocolate after my accident and discovering that it was the most vile thing ever. Sticky, bitter, pasty,” commented a friend who lost his sense of smell after a motorcycle crash. He also complained that making love was not the same when you couldn’t smell someone’s skin. Everything that brought joy previously now seemed blander, duller, poorer.

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Serge Lutens 5 New Perfume Releases

Only the other day I was reflecting on L’Incendiaire and its self-consciously high price, and today I read in Madame Figaro that Serge Lutens is about to release five new perfumes in the same La Collection Section d’Or. Cannibale, Cracheuse de Flammes, Renard Constrictor, L’Haleine des Dieux and Sidi Bel-Abbès will join the range in October 2015.

lutens section dor

Cannibale — “The cannibal is famished. How can we mention him without a reference to love? It leaves a vibrant acidity on the nose and on the skin, reminiscent of the floral vinegars of 18th century France.” (This and the rest of the descriptions are via Serge Lutens’s Facebook page. Just don’t ask me what any of it means.)

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A Nose for Fashion : My Article in the New York Times

I have a short article on Carolina Herrera’s new Confidential fragrance collection in the New York Times. It will appear in print in the Magazine’s issue dedicated to beauty (on stands June 14th). The selection of features in the Beauty 2015 edition will cover makeup, skincare and all things lovely, so please take a look.

carolina-herrera

As for Herrera’s Confidential, it’s based on an interesting concept melding fragrance and fashion and includes 5 scents. Oud Couture, above, was inspired by the traditional Middle Eastern layering technique that uses oud as a base for other more effervescent notes. The perfumes will launch later this month.

Image via T Magazine

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