‘..And my motto is the same as ever -
I believe in the kindness of strangers.
And when I'm at war with myself - I ride. I just ride..’
(From end monologue of Ride by Lana del Rey,
lyrics & music by Elisabeth Grant & Justin Parker)
Pierre Guillaume has recently released two new stylistically different fragrances, both of which have made their way into the foxy collection. The first, Metal Hurlant is the latest addition to his alluringly complex Collection Croisière, an olfactory exploration of places and spaces, travelling by air, road, water, bike, boat, foot, imagination and wilderness dreams. The second is Shermine, the thirteenth addition to his enigmatic diffusion range Huitième Art, where the focus on purity of form and relative simplicity of materials has created a line of honed and minimal serenity.
|Shermine & Métal Hurlant |
Metal Hurlant is a gasoline patchouli of burning roads, the thrill of hot bike chrome and embraceable weary leather jackets; a fantasy of cling, heat and dissonance. It’s sexy, weird, windswept and oddly dislocated. Shermine is its polar opposite in texture, inspired by the implied cruelty of silvered fur and the aged beauty of bruised iris rhizome, spiked with piquant citrus.
This pair of luminous creations once again showcases the dexterity and virtuosity of Pierre Guillaume as perfumer and technical alchemist. I have been wearing, loving and writing on his work for years. He is the most generous of men with information and samples, something surprisingly rare in companies these days. If I had to choose favourites, which is so hard amid the fifteen or so PG related scents I own, I would err on the side of Musc Maori the ridiculously sexy chocolate scent which makes me smell like Galaxy bars; Felanilla, one of the best vanillas in the business, tinted with flambéed rummy banana; Arabian Horse with its extraordinary equine mane accord; Louanges Profanes, its haunting white lily notes lit by woods and smoke; Poudre de Riz from Huitième Art, the most delicious skin–soft porny powder thing that drives me crazy and the Mojito Chypré from the Collection Croisière, an utterly bizarre collision of decaying strawberries, oceanic fizz and forest dankness. Each scent released is a further push towards new olfactory territory. Pierre has never been particularly concerned with safety and predictability, he likes to throw aromatic curveballs, toy with aromachemistry and flex the walls of convention.
Above all, he is a sensualist, an architect of olfactive desire, the fragrances assembled with chemical curiosity and a consummate comprehension of the skin we’re in. In recent years Pierre has shown signs of restlessness within his Houses, not in a fleeing sort of way but in a pushing and questioning direction. His work has always been exceptionally beautiful and meticulously finished. But he seems to be searching for new ways to express himself. The attention to detail and desire to surprise and seduce us has always been part of the Pierre Guillaume way. All of his work has clarity and purpose, his preoccupation with aroma technologies and symbiosis with naturals makes each of his launches not only lovely to inhale and wear but also to analyse and absorb.
|Shermine/Métal Hurlant |
I’ve been wearing Metal Hurlant and Shermine together, side-by-side, mixed and blurred, the textures colliding and weaving like lovers. I wanted to review both and realised they told a story of lovers, wrapped in escape and sexual desire, on a Harley, burning over skeletal landscapes and shimmering shadowed roads. All I could hear was Lana Del Rey, the voice of broken dreams echoing out over windswept murmured desolation. Her voice possesses a tremulous quality that seems to haunt the mind.
|Lana Del Rey|
Lana’s dreamy, swirling world of damaged Americana, slo-mo whores, cigarettes, velvet dresses, lost girls, bikers, Cadillacs, shimmering pools, daddies, tattoos, manicures, gorgeous menace, glazed boulevards is a fantasy of erotic aspiration. With a blatantly repetitive and echoing self-reverential collection of symbols, words and sexual tropes, Lana has assembled her own yearning mythology of warped and fragile desires. It’s a clever game, spinning and twisting the age old lost girl/whore scenarios out over lonesome panoramas and neon-stained motel rooms.
|Image from Lana del Rey 'Ride' video|
lensed by Anthony Mandler 2012
I have wanted to mingle Lana and scent for ages, but haven’t quite found the right mix. Now, as her new album Honeymoon echoes plaintively around my brain on hazy, skin-trembling repeat and my skin reeks of leather, tarred mirage, sweet, sharp fur and vintage dust; I know I have the materials and mood I need. Honeymoon is a 12-track glide of haunted, hunted woman. I think it’s her best work yet, suffused with sunlit death and a panoramic aching drive-by of what might have beens…
Something about her music moves me so. I know she is in many ways entirely constructed; the former Lizzy Grant has created Lana Del Rey to sing songs of broken dreams and sexual longing in a voice that ripples across the skin like trembling fire. The voice is everything, I could listen forever.
So with Lana on repeat, a man meets a woman. He is languorous, on edge, too many drugs, a night-drunk wanderer, beautiful in his monochrome wasted chic. Delicately pierced, inked with faded cartographic contour lines. He drinks in flickering rooms after the sun has faded or sits by his Klein blue pool teasing ice around a glass with a reflective glassy finger. His life is one of patterns and learned inflections; despite the appearance of louche laissez-faire, Tariel is a creature of repeated rhythms that provide comfort and safety. What looked like boredom and the immensity of detachment is in fact a coping mechanism for a fragile life lived in the shadows of offset cruelty, fucked up parents and vanished siblings.
On a pungent evening, the chill still air threaded with tarry road and gasoline drifting in with welcome night, Tariel is sitting by his lonely pool, legs curled under him, a grey fox fur coat shrugged over his shoulders. A cigarette hangs loosely from tired fingers trailing smoke upwards in a barely unwavering plume.
“Can I get a drink?”
He looks up to and sees a thin, tensile woman in black bike leathers standing at the glass doors of his house.
“I knocked…but here you are.”
Tariel raised his glass, “here I am..what do you want?”
“How about you make something with ice that will wash away the dust and I won’t blow your fucking hands off baby boy”.
|Mr E's Leather Jacket|
She set a gun down on a table and let dark hair fall around her face, tucking a worn ribbon into the pocket of her leathers. Tariel shrugged and went inside, returning with a whisky sour on the rocks, swirling it as he passed it over. She smelled of chrome, heat, sweat and hard-earned exhaustion.
“Baby, you’re beautiful in your silver skin.” She lit a cigarette and blew smoke into the glass. Tariel shrugged and pulled the fur around his face.
“What are you doing here?” he asked, watching her eyes roam his body. “You lost?”
“Are you?”. She ran an ice cube over her forehead. “I’m outta gas, so I was walking the night road for fun.”
He frowned. “There’s plenty of auto shit in the garage behind the pool house..my dumb absent brother left his bikes behind.” Tariel raised his glass to the moon.
‘I’m Diana, huntress, bike-bitch and wanderer,” she said, ‘Wanna ride with me?.. you must be dying of boredom here..I can smell the tedium, the overflowing ashtray and scent of sanitised interiors”, she licked her finger and ran it around glass’s edge. “Every morning someone minutely and pointlessly clean rooms for you that serve no real purpose. I sense white under rot under swab. Are you not exhausted by the repetition?”
Tariel stood, shivered a little and flicked his cigarette into the pool, his coat and skin unfolding vanilla and powder into the night. “I’ll get your juice..”
When he returned Diana was lying on a pool lounger, her eyes closed, golden throat rising and falling in the shifting pool-cut reflections of moonlight. “Your hair smells of burnt intrigue”, he said.
“That would be the point.”
“Where will you take me?”
“Where do you want to go?”
Tariel closed his eyes and swayed. He tipped his blind eyes back to a dark gathering sky. “Ok… ….Anywhere that is not here, anywhere where I can feel blood beat close to mine, anywhere I can feel magnificence and fall.”
Diana took the jerrycan gently from his fingers. “I can’t promise magnificence but I will lead you into beauty and disturbance.”
She stood and held out her hand; Tariel shivered and took her white fingers, walking out of his barren house, following her past dark unblinking glass houses and over roads strewn with forgotten toys. Her black and silver Harley stood patiently in the shadows under a caring tree, waiting for Diana to arrive. It seemed to come alive as she whispered and lay hands on its mirrored surfaces. The scent of leather and fumy diesel was hypnotic. Tariel felt drugged on the aura of petrolic poetry.
She kissed him in the darkness. “Oh sweet bitch, you feel so soft…”. Diana bit into an exposed shoulder, ran her hands over his fur. She climbed on, turned on the beast, revving the engine, screaming it into the night. “Get on.”
He climbed behind her, surrendering to his sudden shuddering fear. It made his skin flush and burn. “Hold me or you’ll fall..”. Tariel pulled his fur close, felt the fluttering texture across his flesh and wrapped himself into Diana’s lithe, coiled form as she leaned into the oncoming force of the road. The darkness hurled past them, wind banshee-like as landscapes ribboned into ink and blood.
Suddenly all was silent, the heat between their bodies was beautifully dark. Tariel slipped the grey fur off and for a singular exquisite moment it shrieked in the wind like wild wings and then snatched up into the slate-blue sky. Diana turned her head; Tariel folded his skin around her leather, burying his face in her extraordinary neck. Death came like love, unexpectedly, with force.
This is how I feel and sense the melding of Shermine and Métal Hurlant, a collision of textures with scarcely any time to breathe, no space in between. Pelt and fur, cold and fire, powder and flame, burn and silken caress. As always chez Pierre there is a sense of velvet technologies at play, deliciously rendered effects and accords alongside his usual haute qualité materials. As Lana’s honeyed vocals settle and the sun drops over her desolate landscapes the full oddity and metallic bloom of Métal Hurlant becomes apparent. This fantasy Harley odour is ostensibly ‘an aerodynamic leather’ lit by gasoline, chrome, paint and steel. Everything whipped into odiferous frenzy as a biker tears down Route 66 in the hot Arizona wind. This overtly clichéd image is subverted by the spatial dissolve of the materials, the seemingly innocuous shift from buzzy inhalation to deeply beguiling alloy of animalic stain and creamy ride.
Pierre has built Métal Hurlant essentially around two opposing dissonances; one between patchouli and jasmine and the other between lactones and sage. The tensions and balance amid these distinctive notes gives rise to the elegantly constructed petrol and hot tar effects that shimmer up as the fragrance settles onto warm skin. The more animalic notes, the whiff of biker jacket and heated boot come from the use and manipulation of gorgeous lush Suederol, Corinal, heady jasmine absolute and dry feral musks. Métal Hurlant feels spacious and tense simultaneously. The vapourous inhalation of careful perversity is lovingly distilled. All around the edges are flickers of burning road, heathaze and introspection. It is a surprisingly quiet scent; yes there is power, throttle and burn, but the power lies in the ability of Métal Hurlant to inveigle its thrilling way into your imagination and set fire to the neural pathways.
Shermine, on the other hand, speaks softly. Like the silvered fur on Tariel’s lost shoulders, it is a perfume of carefully considered beauty. A scent of protection and studied miasma. It has undeniable echoes to me of my beloved Poudre de Riz, one of Pierre’s earlier Huitième Art works, a scent of plundered skin, power and hallowed privacy. The monoï and vanillic secrecy of Poudre de Riz are divinely enacted on skin, making the body fuckable yet deliciously chaste. Shermine echoes this desire and alluring white communion while somehow ramping up texture and tension, effect and rapture.
Essentially Pierre has conjured irises from a field of lustrous argent pelt. I love my iris scents, so this had to be added to my collection and as with all of Pierre’s olfactive work I knew there would be a quirk, a twist to the iris, a layer that would make a beautiful note that little bit more intriguing. I am always drawn to texture in scent; it is an ambitious and sometimes-foolish perfumer that announces concrete, silk, cotton, velvet, tweed accords in their materials. They are so hit and miss and rely on enormous technical skill first and foremost but also a unique enough rendering in order to communicate itself cohesively to a wearer. The perfume collections from Parfumerie Générale, Huitième Art and Collection Croisière all have fundamental transparency of form and yet they all slightly tilted, skewed constructions, the materials both natural and synthetic blended with authoritative and innovative technique. It is the use of the unexpected; the sophisticated inclusion that often sets Pierre’s work apart.
The iris in Shermine is transfigured by a spicy aromatic triptych accord of cardamom, rosewood and lavender that lends a basmati rice and quietly lacquered effect. Iris is an inherently powdered, skin-shimmer of a note; it feels privately profound and sombre. The base of Shermine is reinforced with smoky guaiac wood, patchouli, a poignant vetiver, vanilla and swathes of white musks, settling like ash. The key component in this composition is the addition of Argentine lemon in the top section of the scent; it makes a considerable impact on the texture on the iris, rendering it brittle in places, almost salty. It feels like the tips of silver white fur are caught white in moonlight, dazzling and prickly like needles. It’s a clever piece of olfactory dazzle, the piquancy of the juicy citrus juxtaposes very chicly and curiously with Pierre’s fluent handling of his iris theme.
I can’t wear one scent without the other, I know Pierre didn’t intend them as an aromatic duality, but the textural coincidences and harmony of the two perfumes are for me too addictive to ignore. Separately they are of course perfect illustrations of how Pierre Guillaume likes to play seriously with precisely refined and ingenious blending. Métal Hurlant is a bleak essay in road-trip sensualism, riding in an unexpected and sweetly petrolic haze. I love its rubbered patchouli and blurs of smeared petals. Mixing it with the drowsy transparency of Shermine with its softly bruised and dusted iris seems to bring light and shadows to both sides of the olfactory partnership. Leather, fur, dust, sugar, sweat, fire and road, sun, moon, love, desire and vanishing; these two singular scents fuck like angels in darkness.
‘Who are you?
Are you in touch with all your darkest fantasies?
Have you created a life for yourself
where you're free to experience them?
I have! I am fucking crazy, but I am free!..’
(From end monologue of Ride by Lana del Rey,
lyrics & music by Elisabeth Grant & Justin Parker)
For more information on Pierre Guillaume, Parfumerie Générale, Huitième Art & Collection Croisière, please click on the link below: