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

Saturday 25 March 2017

The Accumulation of Longing: ‘Stash’ by Sarah Jessica Parker Perfumes (Interlude 2)

The bright air hangs freely near your newly cut hair
It is so easy now to see gravity at work in your face
Easy to understand time, that dark process
To accept it as a beautiful process, your face’

(From ‘Lines Depicting Simple Happiness’ by Peter Gizzi)

What do you think about when you hear the word stash I wonder? Secretive hiding places, drugs, hidden money, valuables, recreational drugs? A shockingly good scent launched by one of the most iconic television actresses of all time? I thought not.

A really interesting addition to my perfume collection is Stash SJP the latest perfume endeavour by well-noted scent lover Sarah Jessica Parker. Her involved adventures in perfume were more than adequately documented by Chandler Burr in his breathlessly detailed book ‘The Perfect Scent’ that followed the creation of Parker’s hugely successful Lovely in collaboration with Coty and Jean-Claude Ellena’s work on Jardin Sur Le Nil for Hermès.

Foxy's copy of A Perfect Scent
by Chandler Burr

I loathe the term celebuniche, it’s an ugly word for a category of olfaction that bloggers & vloggers (another ugly word) seem to find fascinating. Celebrity perfumes are either good or bad just like any other, perhaps a tad more cynical but no less brazen than the majority of most high street fare. Occasionally there are exceptions. Some actors and models are more involved in the process, more muse than just a PR face and body. They take an active interest in the creation of the juice, desiring a final product that will have (hopefully) a reasonable life reflecting a more personal and intimate facet of them.  Etat Libre d’Orange are launching an offbeat variation of this with Mr Burr, launching a scent called You Or Someone Like You inspired by Burr’s somewhat lacklustre LA based novel published in 2009.  They have form, creating the sensational Like This, a pumpkin, immortelle and ginger-tinted perfume inspired by Tilda Swinton and her alien, golden glow. Eau de Protection was a blood-stained rose and chocolate hymn to the angular sensual power of Spanish actress Rossy de Palma. Alan Cumming worked closely with Christopher Brosius to achieve the peaty, whisky come hither nostalgia of Cumming and although I didn’t really like it very much it was obvious how much Richard E. Grant relished being part of the creation of his smartly arranged Jack and Covent Garden perfumes. 

Catherine Deneuve’s bold blonde chypré Denueve originally launched in 1986 was a fragrance I wore and loved lavishly during my Paris years in ‘89/’90; it echoed the aloof demeanour of Deneuve mixed with her love of Chanel with a beautiful use of civetty musks, rose, hyacinth and the dry grace of oakmoss. Deneuve’s involvement in the composition, packaging and ad campaign of the perfume with Avon was well advertised at the time.   

One of the big surprises recently was how beautiful Original by Anja Rubik was; a gorgeous amber-spiced white lily composition made with creamy skill and subtlety. I will admit to a HUGE crush on Adam Levine for Women made by the wonderful Yann Vasnier, I’m four bottles down, the microphone-shaped bottle is fabulously fun but the perfume is seriously good. Indian jasmine, marigold, benzoin, vanilla and rose. It’s so addictive; I could drown in it. The men’s is good too, but the vanillic veil of cashmere soft woods and balms in the women’s version just gets me.

SJP montage by TSF
Original images HBO
& Mario Testino

Now, arguably many of the above and the astonishing amount of neon, tooth achingly sweet and frankly egotistical and forgettable celebrity juice that has been spilled, sprayed, over-promoted and vanished would not really exist if not for the enormous success and credibility afforded to Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lovely. In The Perfect Scent she revealed how she used her skin as an olfactory palette, mixing Bertrand Duchaufour’s mournful Avignon for Commes de Garçons with Bonne Bell Skin Musk a cheap as chips drugstore skin oil and Egyptian Musk oil to create her own unique aroma. What was interesting in The Perfect Scent was the revelation that Lovely was the polar opposite of this mix and in many ways Parker was guided to launch a scent that was infinitely more commercial and in keeping with her public persona as Carrie Bradshaw and the glossy, often thankless roles she played in Hollywood movies.  She was always much more than this; an erudite intensely private woman with a lovely successful marriage to fellow actor Mathew Broderick and super cute twins.

Lovely was made with Laurent Le Guernec and Clément Gavarry, both gifted perfumers; Clément made the amazingly leftfield Panorama for Olfactive Studio. That wasabi note made for one of the most beautiful openings in any scents I’ve smelled recently. Next came Covet with Frank Voelkl, who masterminded many of the culty La Labo perfume including Limette 19 San Francisco, Benjoin 37 Moscow, Ylang 49, Santal 33 and Iris 39. Covet didn’t perform quite so well, it’s a pity really, it is a weird and thrilling lichen chocolate fougère thing with a compelling teak wood & amber base. Ann Gottlieb co-designed it, which I think may again have led to its slightly odd commercial vs. idiosyncratic collision. I loved it though, flaws and all. Lots of people didn’t. I don’t think the bottle helped, an absinthe-green, squashed floral-faucet hybrid. I feel too that perhaps Covet was ahead of it’s time as SJP started flexing at the walls of what might be possible in her olfactory world. The woods were meaty and that spiky-herbal mint cocoa hybrid note in the top smelled perhaps a little too personal.   

Stash SJP (Image ©TSF)
by Sarah Jessica Parker
When Stash finally launched last year she freed herself to talk about the long gestation of this deeply personal scent that predated Lovely in her mind it seemed. Stash was that fusion of memory, pungency, skin and sensuality she had been looking for but had been deemed too risky and ‘unisex’ for the time.  

“Lovely is, precisely, what I hoped for, “ she said calmly. “If I get the opportunity, my next scent will be will be genderless. Fuller. Riskier..”

(From ‘The Perfect Scent’ by Chandler Burr)

It is intriguing to imagine all this time since Lovely, via Covet and the rather lightweight NYC line that SJP has been pondering the creation of this quite fascinating fragrance that with or without her name attached is just beautiful piece of mucky moreish olfaction. I have given it blind to ten people and asked opinions. One hated the overt woodiness and what he called the ‘forest weight’ of it. Everyone else was overwhelmingly positive about the strangeness, sexiness, sweatiness, repeatedly returning to tester strip or skin to inhale some more. On being told it was Stash by SJP nearly everyone was delighted, two or three not really surprised how good it was as her reputation as someone who understands scent is quite well documented.  My close friend Mr E of Jorum Laboratories loved it and he’s a tough scented nut to crack these days; but even he was really impressed by the assembly of notes and unusual erosion on skin and fabric.

I love Stash; it really wowed me when I first tried it. I bought it blind; it’s reasonably priced and I had birthday money to use. There’s lovely attention to detail in the bottle and packaging. SJP is no longer with Coty and it kinda shows; Stash feels more feral. The bottle is quite heavyweight, like an old-style apothecary flacon, the juice cognac-tinted and according to Jon Dinapolis, Creative Director of SJP, the cap is based on old-fashioned cork stoppers. My favourite part of the overall design is the rather odd gaffer tape style label that slashes diagonally across the bottle like a Goth prom sash. Dinapolis said that due to the nature of the project and the look SJP wanted each piece of tape was hand ripped and hand applied.

In an interview for Coveteur by Emily Ramshaw, SJP said:

I knew that I wanted a teeny bit of cognac, a teeny bit of leather, a teeny bit of body odour.’

Well, these are not technically listed notes in Stash but they haunt its edges like the memories of past indiscretions.  The main effect in the scent is massoia, such an addictive weird facet, used magnificently in Santal Massoia by Jean-Claude Ellena in the Hermessence series for Hermès.  Massoia wood is actually completely prohibited in perfumery as it so allergenic on skin in even the smallest amounts, but the smell is a cocooning lacteous wonder.  Jean-Claude Ellena achieved his glorious creamy effects with a variety of sandalwood materials, fascinated by the linear quality of the massoia.  So, even though it listed as a note in Stash it is likely to be an accord unless IFF has a stable and workable captive.  Whatever it is, it’s gorgeously milky and pheronomic with a metallic, lived in quality.  The body odour thing SJP has discussed in interviews is not the cumin bangs oud in the dark thing you get with a lot of modern so-called skank stuff, but a really moving, impression of a wearing the essence of someone else’s skin and truffly odour they have left behind on sweaters, nightwear and rumpled t-shirts. There is longing in the tactile grubby drawl of the fade. Massoia accords always smell like coconut to me, but slightly oily and queasy, not the fresh tropical buzz one might expect. This exalts the borrowed skin facet as well.

SJP (lensed by Testino)
Montage by TSF

Black pepper, sage and a quiet patchouli note also bolster SJP’s vision of her unisex riskiness and enveloping fever. There is a very elegant frankincense note in the base, a reference to her beloved Avignon that plumes over a deeply sexy Atlas cedar note. Mr E. told me that he thinks of cedar as a feminine wood and men are drawn to the scent on skin and likewise sandalwood is a masculine wood and women find the scent of it very sensual on men’s skin. The massoia in Stash may have been created out of sandalwood materials so mixing it with Atlas cedar; a wood with a sweet balsamic personality makes for a giddy, sexy brew.  

The constant shift of gender in Stash as opposed to the mundaneness of dullard unisex concoctions is what makes the perfume so arresting to wear. It is very hard not to overdose, I find myself looping the bottle around my neck and over my hair several times as I spray. The top notes are wonderfully brisk, huge grinds of black pepper over acerbic grapefruit and that humming swell of sage leading into the languid bed stretch between truffled patchouli and SJP’s fetish frankincense smoke. Slippery musks and just enough oily nuttiness from a suggested pistachio effect only serve to enhance that lived in, morning after skin thing that SJP seemed to desire in this strange autobiographical juice. It is this slow decent into a lived in sensual and plaintive funk that demonstrates how expertly composed Stash is; mixing a woman’s desire to be louche and aroused whilst losing herself in her own closely guarded stash of memories.

As long as they make Stash I will wear it; it is wonderful to find something unique and personal made by a collective of noses and actor/writer/model etc who has genuinely immersed themselves in the olfactive process with such intimate commitment and joy. In the case of Stash, like fine wine or deep amber malt whisky, the idea has been macerating for years. It was worth the wait, it would have very sad for SJP to have pushed through the launch of this instead of Lovely all those years ago, for it would have surely been met with puzzlement and commercial failure. Now however her status as an icon of elemental statement style and the ever widening distance from SATC have allowed Sarah Jessica Parker to launch a fascinating and beguiling perfume that succeeds in surprising, seducing and shocking just a little each time you wear it.

For more information on Sarah Jessica Parker fragrances, please click on the link below:

©The Silver Fox March 2017

1 comment:

  1. I'm currently sitting in a cloud of Stash reading your thoughtful review of one of my favorite fragrance, celebrity or otherwise. It really is a great scent and proof that cost isn't always indicative of quality. My bottle is proudly displayed next to my Malles, my Le Labos and Goutals! I just pulled the trigger on 2 back-up bottles.