LOCATION OF OPERATION: New York City
PRIMARY MISSION: To attend Sniffapalooza Spring Fling 2010 and address key representatives of the fumiverse.
SECONDARY MISSION: To liaise with Nathan Branch and to participate in joint and solo shopping maneuvers.
Fri Apr 9 -- Secondary Mission
Morning: After meeting each other for the first time the previous evening (and falling a little bit in love), Nathan Branch and I assault Madison Avenue. Our recon mission includes Valentino, Solange Azagury Partridge, Devi Kroell, with base camp to be established at Frédéric Malle’s first US stand-alone boutique.
On the march to Malle, Nathan keeps me sharp by firing pop quiz questions on every single handbag we encounter:
“Do you like this one? Yes or no, and why?”
“What is the common link between the houses of Chloé and Celine?”
“What about the leather on this one -- python or stingray?”
My humble Le Sportsac hobo starts to feel a tad outclassed. But once Nathan gets me going, I acquire champagne tastes in no time, confidently fondling $2,000 snakeskin clutches, zipping, clipping and flipping flaps on purses with more secret compartments than Victorian underwear.
We reach base camp Malle, and scamper all over the shop’s way-out smell gadgets. The store looks like a 1930’s version of the future: deco/moderne furnishings and sweetly naïve sci-fi equipment, including the signature Smelling Columns.
Their Mechanical Flower, which looks like a cross between a red plastic Kleenex box and a camera, guffs out your choice of a gorgeous selection of floral or woody scents. And just when I’m cooing over the cleverness of perfumed computer mouse pads, the tolerant SA gently informs me that the mats are Rubber Incense, a high-tech take on granny’s knicker drawer sachets. (The same knicker drawer with all that Victorian underwear.)
Both Nathan and I take turns sticking our heads into the Smelling Columns, resisting the urge to climb into the glass chambers like a couple of scented Clark Kents. Cuz you just know Fred and the Malle-ettes play “How many SAs can we cram in a column?” at the Christmas office party.
Hey! I have a suggestion for the next retro-futuristic Malle smell accessory:
Nathan and I share the frustration that the nine home fragrances (the range includes candles as well as Rubber Incense and the Fleur Mécanique) are not available as perfumes. I would love to anoint myself with Saint des Saints by Carlos Benaïm, a creation based on headspace readings of several Indian temples.
Saint des Saints is incense and warm bodies mingling with sandalwood and spices -- can I get an “Mmmmmm!”, people? Maybe I can just shove the SdS Rubber Incense down my pants and “wear” the fragrance that way. A little lower-tech than intended, but still effective, right?
And Un Gardénia La Nuit, Dominique Ropion’s work based on Braja Mookherjee’s headspace analysis of gardenia, is simply and beautifully...gardenia. Pure, soft, full, tender, troubling. What a dream it would be to have a spritzable version!
Nathan is moved by Coffee Society, Carlos Benaïm’s interpretation of Malle’s memories of the smell in his parents’ living room after fancy parties. A phantom veil of ladies’ fine perfume swirls though an atmosphere of coffee, smoke, desserts, fur coats and hot pulses. Burn the Coffee Society candle at home and tell your friends they just missed running into Truman Capote, Babe Paley, and Bianca Jagger at your salon.
Afternoon: I venture solo to Greenwich Village to meet perfumer Ulrich Lang, author of Anvers, Anvers 2 and Nightscape. He is a delightfully playful German (I know, not the usual adverb/adjective/noun configuration), who smells tantalizingly of Nightscape’s smoky, spicy woods. Uli (yes, it’s “Uli”, now) demands to know my horoscope sign (Cancer) while revealing his (Libra).
Astrologically aligned, we stroll to Aedes de Venustas, New York’s primo indie fragrance hot spot. Uli introduces me to owners and fellow Germans Robert and Karl, and the three of them catch up on the latest Deutsche dirt.
I explore the exotically appointed boudoir of a shop (velvet curtains, stuffed peacocks, curio cabinets filled with perfumes), and try their custom-made L’Artisan Parfumeur fragrance, Aedes de Venustas. Incense luvva that I am, I’ve been panting to try this one, and I’m pleased to discover that it’s more full-bodied that Bertrand Duchaufour’s other L’Artisan incenses, Timbuktu and Dzongkha.
In fact, Aedes de Venustas (the perfume) creeps towards the Amouage Jubilation XXV level of more-ishness, with heapin’ helpin’s of incense, sweet myrrh, patchouli, cedarwood, and rose. My favorite thing about this eau de parfum, and the thing that sets it apart from all the high and dry incense frags, is its dank mossiness.
Its almost-clammy wetness gives it a human-ness not normally associated with arid, intellectual incense. AdV is now officially on my “I’m Coming To Get You” wish list.
I'm distracted from my mossy musings by Uli crying out, “Heyyyyyy, good to see you!” to none other than Keiko Mecheri, creator of my one of my all-time favorite perfumes, Oliban. I actually do a goofy open-mouthed stare/bug-eyed smile combo as she stands before me.
Keiko listens graciously as I burble my love for Oliban and Cuir Cordoba. Then she turns to Uli, Karl, and Robert and states quietly, “She called my Loukhoum Parfum du Soir a ‘drag queen’.”
Ooops, I forgot about that. Guilty as charged.
After a moment of breath-holding tension all around, Keiko cracks a small smile. Whew.
Though if she had called me outside, I think I could’ve taken her in a perfume-honor wrestling match.
Coming up: Sniffa Saturday
Read Nathan Branch’s account of our Manhattan hi-jinks here and here. The verve, wit and intelligence evidenced in Nathan’s writing is amplified beyond all reason in the man himself. We had the funnest time together!
Images: Barefoot in the Park poster; "Girl Astronaut" from Seventeen, Nov 1953