Interview series: Evie

Evie and I met in the store I manage. We bonded on our passion for perfume, and how, by seeking it, we find solace in its ability to transport and expand our consciousness at times of hardship, or weariness. Perfume shoppers are thrill seekers, too. We sat down, drank tea, walked, and explored fragrances together one evening. Here is the interview with Evie, and a video discussing one of her favourite perfume, Serge Lutens/Christopher Sheldrake/Shiseido’s classic, ‘Féminité du bois’ (click here to watch).

1. What brought you to perfume, and/or smelling?

I have an old friend from high school who I sometimes ‘catch’ hobbies from. She spoke one day about a perfume she had found, maybe in a second hand shop or the discount section of a department store; John Galliano. She loved it so much, and spoke about the notes. I smelled the same thing as she did. I had never really thought about perfume before, and started to pick-a-part the notes and composition. I then revisited perfumes my mother used to wear, and tried to figure out what made them beautiful.

2. Was/is there something that you are searching for in fragrance? Something of a passionate need, perhaps.

I suppose balance in a fragrance is important, but more than that to be surprised and feel wonder. Scent has a close connection with memory – a power that can be disturbing, funny, or emotionally stirring. Often a combination of ingredients or notes will form something strange and dynamic that changes on the skin or in different weather, or smell different to each person. Beauty is slippery, and this invokes wonder and forces a person to be flexible.

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“Beauty is slippery, and this invokes wonder and forces a person to be flexible,” Evie S.

3. You like to create/recreate perfume…what have you discovered in your creations, your way of alchemy?

I am at the very beginning of learning to create perfume. Some ingredients are very powerful and will take over without careful use. Balance is a challenge. The first perfume I made I was very happy with. I had an idea in mind, and it wasn’t too complex. It unexpectedly had a note that my nose registers as hot metal. It hasn’t gone as well since. Intentionally creating something more abstract that might evoke wonder is going to be a journey. I should probably expect to learn a lot about ingredients, spill tenacious materials, and make a lot of interesting mistakes. 

4. What did you discover that made your mother’s perfumes beautiful? 

The first time I realised that those fragrances that my mother wore were really beautiful was when I discovered that they and the impressions they made were totally unique, and sometimes elusive. For example the scent of Clinique Aromatics Elixir is in the background of many memories of growing up. Occasionally I wore it myself. I have a memory of wearing it on a hot day. It had a sweet shimmering facet, and others noticed. I am not sure what produced this effect, and I haven’t experienced it again in the same way. I am not sure if my nose or the fragrance has changed, or if my memory exaggerates.

5. Your way of talking about notes, compositions, ingredients, and the “interesting mistakes” you mention has this openness and non-judgment about the creative/creating process to me, where do you see this taking you? 

I hope that all the mistakes I make have something to reveal, but I know this isn’t always possible. Looking for wonder in things, I often lose focus, get distracted, disappointed, or disappear into very specific knowledge rabbit-holes. I have never thought of these detours as necessary or even useful parts of the creative process, which doesn’t make much sense on reflection.

“I am not sure if my nose or the fragrance has changed, or if my memory exaggerates.”


Interview series: David

With the need to take the focus away – for now – from my personal accounts of smelling, here is the first of my interview series.

David, a teacher, and friend for nearly twenty years, is someone I talk to about perfume. We have developed our sense of smell since meeting at L’Occitane En Provence, but David renders perfume into words that are palpable and real, sensual and intelligent, and, to my poetic reserve, always beautiful. I encourage him to write reviews online, but he prefers his anonymity, so I am grateful to David for sharing his thoughts, as well as allowing me to film him briefly for the video accompaniment to this interview, where he shows us one of his favourite perfumes, Guerlain’s ‘Mitsouko’ (click here to watch).

1. So much is said about the connection between memory and scent … what are your thoughts on this? 

Memory is at the crux of scent – I think it’s memories and recalling past moments and experiences that endow fragrances their transportative nature. For me, when I smell something, I immediately link up the experience with something in my past, it just happens automatically.

2. As far as you can remember, what scents come to life for you?

Come to life … that’s interesting. I suppose you mean, once I wear them? So it’s me, in a sense, that brings them to life? It would depend on what mood I’m in. I would say Serge Lutens ‘Ambre Sultan’ warms and wakes me up.

“So it’s me, in a sense, that brings them to life? It would depend on what mood I’m in.”

3. Last year you discovered a vintage Dior perfume … what was it? What were your thoughts? 

It was a ‘Dior Dior’ edt, discontinued in the 1970s I think. Of the same ilk as Edmond Roudnitska’s green ‘Diorella’ but less sharp, softer. I don’t wear it, but when I saw it I thought to myself, “I must own this.” One for the collection.

4. What is, perhaps, one of the most memorable perfumes you own, and why?

Memorable – well, ‘Vetiver’ by Guerlain. Although I rarely wear it, it’ll always be a part of my wardrobe. All my Lutens, particularly ‘Tubereuse Criminelle,’ as it’s so loud. I get lots of comments on that one. And of course, ‘Homme’ by Costume National, perhaps the most ‘me’ of the lot.

 5. Take me through a few of your collection …

I’ve been going wild with the Lutens over the past year – I’ve eight now. I’d say my collection’s eclectic. I’ve recently purchased ‘L’Eau Trois‘ by Diptyque, and it’s a new kind of scent for me: a very dry frankinscense, with a mouldy kind of background to it. I’m enjoying it. I’d also say that I’ve really become more open to fragrances I would’ve, years ago, considered sweet: Lutens’ ‘Cedre,’ ‘Myrrhe Ardente’ by Annick Goutal. I’m really looking forward to winter so I can enjoy my heavier scents (not that I don’t wear them at other times of the year). Byredo’s ‘Accord Oud‘ and ‘Rien Intense Incense’ by Etat Libre d’Orange are so beautiful, heady, woody, smokey. A scarf and a coat and I’m happy.

“Memorable – well, ‘Vetiver’ by Guerlain. Although I rarely wear it, it’ll always be a part of my wardrobe,” David C.