Wednesday, 29 June 2011
I was standing in a hotel, tracing my fingers over the ice crystals that had formed on the outside of the window. My skin exuded immortelle, burnt sugar and lavender. My lover was still asleep, but I was up early, imprinting Eau Noire on my skin, Paris and my memories.
There is a beautiful void in Eau Noire, a gathered darkness I still find incredibly compelling. It is my thunderstruck, lightning ripped sky. I am partial to melancholy. Indulgent perhaps, but introspection requires silence and time alone, something it seems to be increasingly hard to find in this buzzing, light-filled, socially obsessed world. Eau Noire slowly filled the room with soft cedar and liquorice. Trails of violet and vanilla and settled like the remnants of a waking dream. I kept thinking tweed, tweed, dark green tweed. I’d packed two Harris Tweed jackets, re-cut and fitted to me more sharply and they looked wonderful. I’d been wondering what scent to wear with them: something with tar and leather? A counterpointing vanilla and amber with a whisper of iris? Perhaps a neglected Guerlain; Vol de Nuit, or Jicky? Or maybe Sycamore by Chanel, woodsy and grassy, with a whiff of crushed hazelnuts and a sense of twilight as cypress rises and blends with a beautiful Vétiver note.
I had been toying for years with the concept of a scented wardrobe, matching and layering fragrances with shirts, jackets, accessories, colour, texture, mood and skin. Mixing fragrance with the vagaries of thermal motion: skin and the delicacy of the evaporation curve. I like to take time and think about how I might enhance a fabric or an outfit with the right fragrance. The reverse is true as well; fragrances can be framed and enhanced by texture, finish and detail. You can play with or against the grain. The concept of silk on steel if you like. Powder and heliotrope with dirtied denim and killer heels. Oriental rose and leather buried (only just..) under Burberry Prorsum tailoring. Or the simplicity of limes and orange blossom wrapped in cashmere and walked along a city riverside.
Saturday, 25 June 2011
Fragrance is as important as fabric on our skin. We wear it so close. It moves with us, shapes us, defines us and can utterly change who or what we want others to think we are. So many of us neglect the importance of scent in our daily lives and the power and charge it carries. Yet we must all dress every day, some of us with care and attention to detail, others pull on utilitarian business wear with little thought or care. Some choose to blend in; others opt to stand out, demand attention, and draw the eye. It’s not easy, it’s not always natural. It can be stressful, boring, challenging and disturbing. And it can be glorious, liberating, sensual, performance, artful and life enhancing. Like a painter laying out tools of the trade, tubes of favoured colours, brushes, knives and rags; images and impressions rolling around his head, an impact to be made.
This can be done with clothes and underpinned with scent. Think of scent as your canvas primer, soaked into skin, just waiting for the final flourishes to be layered across the surface. Imagine say a businessman, a simple grey suit, beautifully cut, erotically charged by a layer of Tabac Blond under a crisp white shirt, just enough to say: I am besuited, but my heart beats to a different darker drum, come close enough and feel the rhythm. The devil is in the detail. This detail can be scent.
Some years ago I went to Paris with my lover. Paris is a city I kind of love and hate in equal measures, depending on my mood. I was loving it then, it was cold, strikingly so, crystalline sun striking low off the pavements. We walked everywhere; I was obsessed by the architecture, the light, the energy flickering through the jaded, overwrought streets. Paris is always heartbreaking at night. It is a cliché, but there is a strange sadness to the beauty, a lingering weariness that the city knows it has sold its soul and just waiting for payback. I wore tweed everywhere. I had two jackets. Two variations on green: a russety forest colour and a flecked olive. Both Harris Tweed, cut beautifully with rust red felt stitched under the collars. Photos of the trip show me wrapped in Englishness, at odds with the streets around me. I’m not sure I recognise myself now. But it is me; I know because I can smell Dior Eau Noire rolling off the photographs.
Monday, 20 June 2011
On paper, the concept seems a little precious: birdsong, cages, feathers, the punning... But in actual fact the repeated use of feathers, tweeting, soundscapes (tropical, woodland, garden...) and ornithological motifs is oddly soothing and disturbing at the same time, something I am very partial to in any art form. Touches of the Bates Motel nestle alongside a more fairytale Rackhamesque take on our feathered friends. Weird cooing birdsong rolls around you as your eyes absorb paper thin skulls, cages, wings, feathers, bottles, fragrance spills and strange little objets placed with a knowing charm. The images slowly sink in as you start to absorb the atmosphere of what is a genuinely odd (and tiny) space.
The exquisite agony of caging birds and harnessing the beauty of their songs has mesmerised man for centuries. This ephemeral pursuit applies to fragrance too, the elusive nature of scent, the search for favourite notes, compositions and delicate harmonies spilling out through the air. Everything is about the stimulation of the senses, aural, visual and olfactory. At times it threatens to overwhelm but just pulls back in time, like a tidal bore lapping ever so insistently at the ankles.
I am a fan of what the Italians often refer to slow shopping, time taken to fully savour the full experience of the time, space, odours, textures and sounds of the retail environment. So many of us hurtle headlong through our retail. Buying fragrance is something that should never be rushed. Avery understand this. The strange bird laboratory space may be small but is rich in detail. The main wall of the shop is dominated by a quirky bulbous cabinet of drawers on spooky bird feet. On top are a selection of glass bottles, fragrances, spills, black feathers and other chosen ephemera. To all intents and purposes a carefully crafted boudoir fit for a sorceress of dark and sensual arts. But like the dazzled dreamers of Inception, the layers go deep within layers.