I am quicksilver, the fox in the night, emotional about the poetry, love & desire in scent, read me.

Sunday 18 December 2011

Rose Essay VI – Sweet & Bloody Avant Garde: Eau de Protection (for Rossy de Palma) by Etat Libre D’Orange

This strange and otherworldly rose scent is talismanic, designed to safeguard; ward off evil, protect you from death as you battle in the arena of love. As you suffer the effects of the poison tipped arrows of desire this uniquely twisted take on black romance will slash at life and hold you close. If you bleed it will tend your wounds, if you swoon it will stand vigil and keep you safe from harm, cradling you in cocoa and patchouli tinted beauty.

Eau de Protection was created for the cubist beauty Rossy de Palma: Almoldovar muse, actress and model by perfume terrorists Etat Libre D’Orange. It is so far removed from the usual glittering neon celebrity style perfumes that saturate the market as to be moon dust to compost. But then De Palma is hardly your average star. Her extraordinary broken beauty is defiantly at odds with our conceptions of conventional Hollywood manipulated and platicised appearances. Yet she is utterly magnificent. ELd'O also recently created Like This for Tilda Swinton, another maverick beauty who does not give a damn for convention. Like This was made by Mathilde Bijaoui who created my beloved Lily & Spice for Penhaligon’s. Like This is beautifully weird and unsettling, with a charismatic pumpkin note running through it, giving it a spiced gourd-like tint. Both fragrances demonstrate a willingness to push at scented limits given the right inspiration and muse.

Etat do not always get it right; their recent stab at a Sex Pistols scent was just dreadful, a nasty cheap smelling throwaway thing with very little thought behind it. It could have been extraordinary: a palette of metals, leather, wax, safety pin effects, spray paint, the scent of aerosols and sweaty dripping gigs. An angry bitter scent with a sweet hit of kohl rimmed nostalgia to underpin the violence. But instead it was dull and barely there, musky and faded to dull nothingness on the skin.   

Rossy de Palma’s Eau de Protection is scented armour for the battlefield of love and desire. It is one of my favourite Etat scents. I love their perfumes and have collected and worn many of them including:

‘Rien’ (my first…so deep and shattering like a gunshot in a chapel)

‘Charogne’ - fleshy and flayed, the wolf tearing out of its human host in the milky glow of a full moon.

‘Jasmin et Cigarettes’ - me as a drunken Jane Birkin, forever reliving my drunken Paris student years.

‘Tom of Finland’ - just the most delicious sueude-tastic leather ever, sniffing Harley seats and wishing you could have fucked James Dean in Giant.

‘Delicious Closet Queen’ - creepy intersex stalker scent.

‘Vierges et Torreros’ - Ava Gardner whispering faster pussycat kill kill in your dreams…. Surrounded by bull’s balls and blood on the sand.

‘Noël au Balcon’ - If Santa was your boyfriend.

‘Sécrétions Magnifiques’ - Just plain filthy. Compulsive, disgusting and yet strangely moving.

All of them have a hypnotic depth of something untoward, wicked and glossily pornographic. I’m not entirely convinced by the cod-erotica of the overly suggestive website. But the house has carved a distinctive and divisive niche for itself, one that reeks of styrax, posturing, balsams, jasmine, artifice and hissy aromachemical cleverness.

Eau de Protection is artfully arranged, the main elements of the perfume twisted and turned like art nouveau metalwork around the central Bulgarian rose motif. Then everything is lacquered in red to heighten the sense of alarm and sex. Parts have been blasted with light and dust, muting the effects, allowing areas of the scent to settle with tremendous style and grace. The exposed tea rose aspect of the scent is at once steely, wistful, feminine and bizarrely androgynous. The addition of ginger, a startling lick of jasmine and enormous amounts of benzoin heightens the already overwrought sense of unease the fragrance builds on the skin.

In her desire to create an ultimate rose scent, Rossy de Palma has initiated something daring and sublimely deep. Soft and needy, feminine and palpable but at the same time barbed and savage. The uncomfortable truth of love is pain. Love does hurt. Love is war. We need to protect and arm ourselves. Weaponry, charms, talismans, voodoo. The disconcerting blood note in Eau de Protection is barely discernable until you realise the world has shifted and the battle is nearly over. The ground around you is soaked crimson.     

The sun is setting on a field of golden slaughter. The talismanic hoodoo, the perfumed essences, the rose-tinted bindings have held you fast, kept you safe. You have survived another day. Touching a bloodstained finger to your lips throws the lush rose into vivid focus, the pricked fairytale magic, the swoon, the sleep, the kingdoms lost in time.

The sensuality of Eau de Protection is magnificent. The resonance of the rose as it settles amid the moreish dust of the cocoa and patchouli is like the tolling of a bell in the warm heat of summer. There is a petrolic shimmer to it sometimes when I wear it, eddies of petrol in pools at gas stations, shimmering up at the sky in iridescent rainbows. Petrol chocolate rose. Only at Etat Libre d’Orange. Other times I get the weird metal notes, the rust effect of sucking blood from your finger when you cut yourself.

Rossy de Palma’s fractured beauty is confrontational and unique. On film she is weirdly compelling to watch, stylish, sensual and fearless. The same could be said for Etat Libre d’Orange. Their scents are brave and without compromise. Divisive? Perhaps. But then arguably all art should be. Controversial? Again, what is the point of creating if not to question and divide? I love their perfumes. They love me, my skin vibrates in them. Eau de Protection was my second scent. The stunning and suffocating Rien was my first and probably my favourite, although I have a terrible weakness for the suede, birch and tonka bean beauty of Tom of Finland. But Rossy de Palma’s twisted and sexy rose is soft centered and metal-edged with razor blades hidden away at the heart. Going into battle for love, what more do you want? Eau de Protection is a provocative and fearsome warrior rose.

For more information on Etat Libre D'Orange and their seductive world of fragrance anarchy, click on the link below:

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Snowblind – A Story of White Love Inspired by Cartier’s ‘Baiser Volé’

I saw him first through the glass panel of a door. Like a lily in water. Upright, slowly turning through the air, lit by morning sun, chalk dust from the floor glittering in the air like pollen. Somehow he seemed crystalline, as fragile as a dream. As he turned a series of petit fouettés, sweat beaded across his face, his legs tensing and flexing into positions, rotating his body in a series of fluid blurs. His dark hair rolled over his face as he turned, his pumps twisting and scraping on the wooden floors I clean each day.

I opened the door softly and moved along the wall, stepping quietly over bags and tumbled personal flotsam. One of the pale, severe creatures draped across the barre lifted her head and looked through me at Ilya. ‘Always so eager Ilya, but your pointe work is dull, and no-one is watching.’ She dropped her head again and started singing quietly to herself.

He stopped very suddenly and then slowly rotated on one foot, the other leg beautifully arched and tensed in the air. I could feel the muscles flexing beneath his skin. The air crackled with tension. He bent so slowly to the floor and then relaxed laughing. The room filled with bustle, foot stamping and hand clapping. Outside, the winter winds were tearing at the walls and throwing snow and ice through the air. The old school building creaked and complained like an elderly woman around us, bending her knees to the fire.

I moved quietly through the room, checking the ancient metal radiators, testing the valves and taps, gently tapping the twisted coils, listening as the water started to bubble through. I could feel the rumble of the furnace through the floor. The dancers warmed up, stretching tired limbs and aching feet and toes. There was chatting and touching, weary heads on shoulders, trailing fingers, hair tucked away and skin soothed. The crack of a bone, groaning as something stretched and eased.

Ilya stood near a window looking out across the snow. He shivered and one of the girls, Olyenka, placed a shawl over his shoulders. He whispered something to her and they laughed easily, the room suddenly echoing with the smooth white sound of it.

Outside the sun flashed gold off the snow, dazzling the eye. His ballon and placement are considered near perfect but for some reason as I travel through rooms I hear the teachers murmuring dislike and dissent. Arrogance and lethargy they say. Distance. I heard one of his teachers describe Ilya as ‘A dancer with secrets, he is opaque, no light gets in.’

This opacity to me is beautiful. It blurs like molten light when he dances. I know he dances for himself and perhaps for abandonment. You can see it the occasional deconstructed battement or reckless tour en l’air.

He will never notice me. I move very silently through spaces. I have perfected the art of being almost invisible. Even if you meet me, you will never remember me. I am no-one.

Crystalline Refraction – ‘Baiser Volé’ by Cartier: A Lily Through the Prism of Mathilde Laurent

Anyone that knows me is aware of my passion for the lily. Lilium, giglio, lirio, lilya, lilie, krinos. The singular bloom that burns white on white in the fevered mind, Madonna and whore, shimmering in the imagination. Like luminous Rita Hayworth forever trapped in Gilda, fleshily beautiful, luscious and sensual.

I have loved lilies all my life, the whiteness, their carnal murmurings, clarity and divisive intent. I love the boudoir leanings and funereal chill, the heady indolic descent into decay and unsettling sweet morgue atmospherics. When you read those questionnaires about what kind of animal would you be etc. If asked about flowers, I would be a Casablanca lily, wrapped up in the snowiest white, like the glorious Tilda in a column of glittering icy fur.

I have posted previously on my love of Penhaligon’s beautifully hissy Lily & Spice with its chilly laundry rendering of Madonna lily, smooth creamy vanilla and weird saffron slide into pepper and addictive rooty benzoin base. I am still in love with it, layering with L’Artisan’s boozy Vanille Absolument (post on that in the new year…..)  

But good lily soliflores are still rare, so I get excited by the appearance of new ones. The combination of Mathilde Laurent, the White Witch of perfumery and the snowy challenge of Casablanca lilies was tantalising news. I couldn’t wait to sample it, wear it, breathe it. And the name…..Baiser Volé….stolen kiss… conjuring up images of sleeping beauties on marble biers or thieves in the night, hovering in darkness, just brushing the lips of obsessional loves lost in dreams.

The bottle is a nod to Cartier’s luxurious pedigree and their iconic lighters, with an elegant flip top zippo style lid and perfect in-the-hand ergonomics. I imagined Lauren Hutton snapping it open to light a Vogue cigarette on safari with Peter Beard while he wonders if she will fit inside a crocodile.