Dutch fashion designer Lilian Driessen launched her triptych of MariaLux fragrances in 2012. The perfumer is her husband the avant-gardist scent-creator Alessandro Gualtieri, aka The Nose a genuine Italian eccentric who launched and created the cult Nasamotto range of sleek and enigmatic scents including the crystalline Narcotic Venus and the indelible, pungent reek of Black Afgano. I know so many people that love this dark druggy formulation and shops that sell it struggle to keep it in stock, but I’m very uncomfortable with its suffocating herbal reek on my skin. Now I think Gualtieri’s technique and imagination is magical, I love the glassy, slow neo-gardenia intoxication of Narcotic Venus and the explosive machismo of Duro, but Black Afgano and me… no, never gonna work, it chews at my senses like a rabid dog and makes the blood vessels in my brain expand to breaking point. But as ever with such complex scent-making.. each to their own druggy, smoky darkness.
The creativity surging back and forth between Driessen and Gualtieri must be quite awe-inspiring. The couple are based in Amsterdam and Lilian has also masterminded a trio of unique fragrance-selling spaces, Avery Fine Perfumery in London, Modena and New Orleans.
I have a special connection to the London boutique, as it was the subject of my very first Silver Fox blog piece back in June 2011. I went in and immersed myself in the Avery/aviary experience, sampling beautiful fragrances from The Dressing Table, an ornate set of deep drawers set on anthropomorphic bird feet, hding bottles of beautifully curated scents
‘Perfume is volatile, like a bird,’ Driessen once said.
I was introduced scent by carefully chosen scent by a wonderful sales consultant until we found Atelier d’Artiste by Nez à Nez, the sadly now discontinued brand by Stephane Humbert Luca. The scenting of a black feather, the distinctive tissue, and the airy sound of birdsong as I shopped made for a strange and beguiling experience, one I have never forgotten. And one I always remembered very time I wore that extraordinary blend of woods, paint, turpentine, brandy, tobacco and fruit. At the time I had no idea who was behind Avery, I just loved the concept. They stocked a unique selection of perfumes and candles and enjoyed a prestige word of mouth reputation among the perfume cognoscenti.