THE CITY OF SCENTS
In an age of content overload and ingredient-heavy concepts, the thirst for simplicity within scents remains strong. Why don’t we appreciate our grandmother’s heavily powdery perfumes, and mother’s Chanel No 5 anymore? Instead, we’re running into the woods with hair messed by the fresh breeze.
When thinking of the word ‘perfume’, the word ‘Paris’ is intrinsically connected. Paris has been always associated with luxury. From this logic derives a simple formula:
Perfume = Paris = Luxury
Back in the days, when perfumery was a real luxury, it required time to recognize, concentrate and learn, and time to enjoy. Just the joy of be- ing. The scents were powdery, heavy, velvety, dark and complex. Much like the poems, literary texts and paintings of their artistic contempo- raries, scents needed time. Everything needed time.
Words by Julia Ahtijainen
Visuals by Lily McFly
Smell is all about recognition and thought. Which is all just a spray away... Simple pleasures are not indulgences, they are necessities
The history of perfumes starts with smoke. The word ‘perfume’ derives from the Latin word ‘perfumare’; meaning “to smoke through”, referring to communication – sending messages through the smoke of incents full of myrrh and amber. The art of making perfumes began in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt, and was later developed by the Romans and Persians. Where’s smoke, there’s fire… and metal, an establishment of industries and progress of the city.
The city smells. Rudyard Kipling said that the rst condition to understand a foreign country is to smell it. What is a city beyond the way it looks and the way it sounds? The smell identity of a city is as unique as your smell identity. It’s a signature composed of the plenty – climate, people’s habits, what they eat, traffic, pollution and more. The smell identifies the city.
And in that case, I think Chicago is safe and sexy, because it smells like chocolate. Every now and then when I walk to work I register this rich and pleasant smell of chocolate. It puts a smile on my face, it triggers my memories from childhood, when everything was safe, life was easy and a chocolate was a reward. What a rewarding feeling living in this city, right?
And people here… They prefer sweet scents as well. Sweet and light scents. Nothing that could be compared with previously mentioned sophisticated Parisian scents and perfumery classics like Guerlain’s Shalimar.
People’s taste patterns have slowly, but surely changed over time. To view current trends, one must get away from niche and look at the average. The average person prefers the sweet and the fresh. The average person prefers their laundry to smell like “rainforest” and their hair to smell like “sweet strawberries”. Chemist, artist and odor collector Sissel Tolaas stated that we are born with a deodorant in our hand: we have no chance to nd out how to smell. She also points out that America is famously deodorised, sanitised, and scent-camoufliaged, all ‘for your protection’ and by doing that, a lot of important information is removed. Tolls says that in the modern West we tend to think of smell in purely aesthetic terms, pleasant or unpleasant, while in many other cultures smells have provided and still provide a basic means of defining the interacting with the world. As a part of her research and works, she’s been bottling the smells of cities around the world and created complex “smellscapes”.
Smell is the most primitive, and yet the most underrated sense. Odors are closely associated with identity and in the study of the history, anthropology, and sociology of smells we recognize that it’s the investigation of the ‘essence’ of human culture itself.
And a perfume is just a sign to investigate within the culture system. The primary definition of a perfume is that it’s a mixture of fragrant essential oils, fixatives and solvents used to give the human body, objects and living spaces “a pleasant scent”. In the living space of the city, perfumes are used to seduce and to manipulate. Perfume is a devious sign that has entered the commercial world as a meaningful must-have product. Perfume is a part of consumer society, a sign that shapes and defines the identity of a city man. As lifestyle and culture shifts happen, trends change. We can speak about trends within perfumery world as well, within the scent market. It is undoubtedly di cult to capture the hearts and minds of luxury consumers, especially when the market is now so flooded.
Still the thirst for simplicity is growing. Along with artsy health-conscious foodie crowd, Scandinavian design followers, and cra cocktail enthusiasts, perfumistas and colognisseurs stay conscious and go along with the overall trend of slowing down and choosing more and more green-colored paths.
The return of the classics, the rise of craft cocktails and interest towards beverage makes it possible for alcohol-inspired and infused scents to step into the scene. For example, VSOP by Tom Daxton’s, sensual leathery fragrance Speakeasy by Frapin, inspired by the prohibition era and Cuban cigars, or Spirit of the Glen by HYLNDS are definitely the ones to try. Nature, crisp Nordic air and the trend of Scandinavia Light will make more room for fragrances like Byredo, that has already found loyal following among city hipsters appre- ciating urban chic, mainstream and off-city at the same time. Modern, edgy, a bit mainstream and very city – all in the right proportions – Comme des Garcons will stand strong with it’s steel and architectural scents – cool, clean and grey. And if to choose more artsy path, then the hippest city creatures will go for Andrea Maack’s creations, perfumes that smell like Iceland. The artist her- self is searching for “the idea of a non-fragrant fragrance,” as she muses in her latest interview given to i-D magazine. Or Blackbird’s Broken Glass, more city avant-garde scent that desires the attention of the wearer to nd beauty in broken things.
It’s hard to recognize, but I tend to think about scents more or less now, maybe even more… Because of being tired of the image-saturated communication channels and ways. The city is too noisy, visible and visual… it’s too obvious. And we’re forgetting other ways to communicate – the tone of voice, the body language and the scents. Which all are very personal. True enjoyment of a fragrance lies in the very subjective experience you can gain from it and latest scent researches has revealed that the sense of smell is even more intricate than previously thought, and that smelling is one of the best exercises for the brain.
Perfumery requires master level of execution and detail. People of talent and cultural knowledge. One of the perfumes that definitely rocked my world and life in the city is Bergamask by Orto Parisi. The whole range of the scents by this brand are mind-blowing! Alessandro Gualtieri’s rebellious intention, artisanal vision and emphasis on quality ingredients is worth investigating and… wearing.
Before Bergamask, I didn’t realize how much we could rely on perfume to set the stage, create a mood and emphasize all that remains unspo- ken. I like that Bergamask is weird, and it calls for weird reactions…
It takes days to learn it: on the skin, on the clothes, in a room… It’s a bright yet dark, complex and straightforward, citrus-heavy statement with a heavy dose of mind-blurring musk. This per- fume pulls you out from your aromatic comfort zone. A de nite show-stopper, creating moments and stories. It’s a scent that haunts and makes you think and see things di erently. Bergamask shows it’s creators unapologetic style and is de nitely a bold addition to the niche perfumery scene.
This article is published in the City Issue of Aesthetist Magazine.
Read more essays written by Julia Ahtijainen