Crafts as Cure

In Ukraine, there is an old tradition of embroidering a rushnyk, a hand towel, during dark periods of one’s life. It matters less what’s embroidered than the process of doing so. Once the rushnyk is done, it’s tied to a tree branch and allowed to decay. This way, people say, one’s worries and dark thoughts become scattered.

I don’t know if my great-grandmother Asya followed this tradition consciously–at any rate, she was far too practical to hang perfectly good fabric in the garden, but she wove her own cloth and embroidered. Even the most ubiquitous items in the house like newspaper holders and bread bags were embellished. Her most beautiful embroideries, however, weren’t meant to be seen. They were her undergarments.

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Contemplating a Peony : 5 Perfumes for the Peony Viewing

Cherry blossoms may be the flowers most strongly associated with Japan, but the peony is another beloved bloom. If you visit Tokyo in late spring, you can spend your days wandering the most beautiful peony gardens. The most striking peonies are the ones called botan in Japanese, or tree peony. They indeed appear as if they’re growing on trees, and their flowers are much larger than the more familiar stem peonies known as shakuyaku. Their colors, textures and, of course, scents vary dramatically.

So I’ve selected several fragrances that use peony in different ways, ranging from fresh and light to dark and warm. I also would like to share several favorite spots in Tokyo where peonies are displayed in all of their splendor. While going there is not possible for most of us, we can still admire the photos on line and dream up our perfect peony perfume.

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Recommend Me a Perfume : April 2020

Our “Recommend Me a Perfume” thread is open this week. You can use this space to find perfume recommendations, to share your discoveries and favorite scents, and to ask any questions about scents, aromas and flavors.

How does it work: 1. Please post your requests or questions as comments here. You can also use this space to ask any fragrance related questions. To receive recommendations that are better tailored to your tastes, you can include details on what you like and don’t like, your signature perfumes, and your budget. And please let us know what you end up sampling. 2. Then please check the thread to see if there are other requests you can answer. Your responses are really valuable for navigating the big and sometimes confusing world of perfume, so let’s help each other!

To make this thread easier to read, when you reply to someone, please click on the blue “reply” link under their comment.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Why Enjoying Scent is Important

“Is there any point in wearing perfume these days?” asked one of my readers, arguing that in our socially distant reality, perfume is becoming an irrelevant accessory. My first thought was that since we wear perfume for ourselves, being alone or in a crowd doesn’t change the pleasure it gives us. (I also wanted to point out that right now is the best time to wear perfume, since fewer people might complain about it.) Yet, the question had another layer to it, and it was about the order of priorities. How important is the enjoyment of scents now when we face a crisis?

First, let me separate perfume as a luxury product from the idea of enjoying scents. Anyone can spend a moment of their day smelling something beautiful–blooming flowers, a cup of coffee, their baby’s hair, and doing so consciously is what makes these pleasures more intense. The reason I started recording videos teaching smelling techniques is because paying more attention to our sense of smell is vital for our physical and mental health. A large fraction of our genetic makeup is devoted to olfaction. Our sense of smell is neither “primitive” nor “dispensable.” As anyone suffering from anosmia, the loss of the sense of smell, can testify, food and intimacy become bland when the scent component is gone.

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Ballet Inspired Perfumes

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” This wonderful quote nonetheless misses the mark. Music can be captured in words just as dance can be used to understand shapes and forms. What’s more, perfumers working in collaboration with ballet artists have shown that one can even smell adagios and allegros.

In my FT magazine article Ballet in a Bottle?, I describe several perfumes inspired by ballet or created in collaboration with ballet dancers. The results are fascinating–the spirit of ballet has a lot in common with perfumery, from its ineffability to its complexity.

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From the Archives

Latest Comments

  • Silvermoon in Recommend Me a Perfume : May 2020: I also highly recommend SMN. Perhaps you could try Citta de Kyoto, Tobacco Toscano, Nostalgia or Fieno (all quite different, but at least a place to start). However, my main… May 25, 2020 at 3:49pm

  • Sarah in Recommend Me a Perfume : May 2020: It is a long time ago that I have had a Guerlain Cologne. Looking forward to discovering it. Thank you for the recommendation. May 25, 2020 at 3:39pm

  • Sarah in Recommend Me a Perfume : May 2020: Have you had the chance to try Fleurs de Citronnier from Serge Lutens, very delicate, elegant, subtle and it lingers on the skin. What about Citron Noir from Hermès ?… May 25, 2020 at 3:33pm

  • Tati in Recommend Me a Perfume : May 2020: … I meant it SMELLS like Moscow Mule … oh my. May 25, 2020 at 3:26pm

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