Alberto Morillas: 17 posts

Herve Leger : His Bandage Dress and His Perfume

Courtney Love’s “Doll Parts,” Vogue, and Hervé Léger’s bandage dress are my strongest associations with the mid 1990s. It was the summer I came to the United States, and while my parents tried to put our life together in a new place, I spent those first sweltering months in the American suburbs babysitting my little brother, watching MTV and reading magazines at our friends’ house. My mother had one bandage dress that she saved for special occasions. It was a sleeveless, knee-length piece made out of bands of white fabric. It hugged the body in a seductive way, and yet somehow it looked elegant, rather than revealing. From time to time I would put it on, douse myself in Lancôme Trésor and imagine being grown up and sophisticated someday. If the glossy pages of Vogue teased with their unattainable fantasies, the bandage dress was the concrete embodiment of my yearnings for glamour.

The bandage dress put many under its spell, and it propelled its creator, Hervé Peugnet, to stardom. The young couturier started his career as a hat maker, so the idea of creating a dress out of strips of fabric was inspired by millinery techniques. The bands of fabric were knitted in a panel, rather than cut and sewn, which gave the garments their structure and flow. Peugnet worked under Mr. Lagerfeld at Fendi and later at Chanel, and it was Lagerfeld who suggest that he change his name to something easier for English-speakers to pronounce.  Hervé Léger, as in “légèreté”, French for “lightness,” opened his own boutique in 1984 and dressed many celebrities in the 1990s.

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Aedes de Venustas Grenadille d’Afrique : Perfume Review

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When Serge Lutens came up with an idea for Shiseido’s Feminité du Bois, he was asked so often about his “vision of a woman” that he got exasperated and said that he wasn’t making a perfume that smelled of any woman, that he merely wanted the smell of Moroccan cedar. That was in the early 1990s. I’d wager that today few briefs will surprise a perfumer, even as in the case of Aedes de Venustas’s Grenadille d’Afrique, the request is for ebony, “from crackling sap to balmy resin and from smoky wood to sun-heated stone… [and] also the primal landscape in which it grows.” For this, we have to thank Lutens and other niche pioneers.

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At first glance, Grenadille d’Afrique is a classical Aedes perfume–dry woods, peppery spices, amber, a hint of incense. With seven fragrances in its collection, the New York boutique has put together a coherent, well-edited lineup. Even if it’s famously enamored with incense, its touch is delicate enough, neither the church nor the ashram. Grenadille d’Afrique, however, brings a new element that I haven’t noticed before–retro glamour.

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Yves Saint Laurent Oriental Collection Majestic Rose : Perfume Review

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It’s easy to dismiss the Oriental Collection from Yves Saint Laurent as yet another banal attempt to capture the attention of the Gulf markets. Hence, we have the luxury packaging, high prices and a trite press release. Noble Leather, Majestic Rose, Supreme Bouquet and Splendid Wood are said to be inspired by “the splendor of the East.” But overload of orientalism aside, the collection judged only on its olfactory merits is very good. The ideas are clever, interesting and well-executed. And, as I discovered when traveling in Oman, traditional Gulf perfumery is spectacular enough to emulate.

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In traditional Middle Eastern and Persian Gulf perfumery, rose and oud are important players. With the discovery of oud by European and American perfumes, dark roses have become common enough, and every line worth its prestige brand name has attempted them with varying levels of success. Blend rose with enough dark woods, and even a novice can approximate something vaguely “eastern”, but what makes traditional perfumery and fragrances like Majestic Rose interesting is their use of bright accents. Harmony, especially if we’re talking about dark, rich notes, is hard to achieve.

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Aedes de Venustas Palissandre d’Or : Perfume Review

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Aedes de Venustas is a niche’s niche. A brand developed by Karl Bradl and Robert Gerstner, the owners of the eponymous New York artisanal perfume boutique. In collaboration with several renowned perfumers, they’ve released Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum, Copal Azur, Iris Nazarena, and Oeillet Bengale, all four standing out in the crowded niche field. The fifth launch, Palissandre d’Or, likewise has much to recommend itself.

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The concept is a new take on woods. Palisander, rosewood, is a precious variety, with a bright, crisp aroma that doesn’t resemble a wood as much as a flower. At the same time, it has sharpness and vigor, ideal qualities to weave into woody and oriental perfumes. Rosewood, on its own, is not a common theme, however, so Aedes’s decision to let it strike out solo is brave. Even more so is the request to perfumer Alberto Morillas to make it new and modern.

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Penhaligon’s Iris Prima : Perfume Review

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In the video for Penhaligon’s fragrance Iris Prima, artists from the English National Ballet recount the scents of ballet: sweat, tears, dusty curtains, tiger balm, more sweat. “All of the things you don’t see from the front and that we have to endure, but it’s well-worth it,” remarks one dancer.  Ballet is about an illusion, lightness, magic. When a ballerina glides across the stage on the tips of her pointe shoes, we don’t feel her pain or her strain. We aren’t meant to. For Penhaligon’s to promise us a scent of ballet is daring. Will we really get the whiff of bodies covered in makeup and sweat, rosin covering the floor, musty shoes?

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Not at all, as it turns out. Iris Prima is as prim and graceful as Princess Aurora of Sleeping Beauty. Sweat, blood, tears? There is hardly a trace. Iris Prima captures the same romantic ballet vision that makes many girls dream of white tutus and satin shoes.

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