Smelling perfume in New York City….

So… it’s been a few days since my return from the beautiful city of New York and I’ve had a bit of time to digest the experience.  First, I must say, it was a fantastic trip.  The places I saw-  ranging from Times Square to Grand Central Station, from the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) to Ground Zero; to Bergdorf’s, Tiffany’s and of course, many gorgeous perfume boutiques- I was completely smitten.

Uptown is massive old gorgeous Art Deco buildings squeezed in between modern glass skyscrapers.  Downtown is old ochre coloured tenement buildings with fire escapes and red brick….it’s beautiful everywhere I saw.  And there is so much more to see!!  Next time! Many more museums of course, plus Harlem and Brooklyn and Chelsea and I want to rent a rowboat on the lake in Central Park (with someone romantic!) and paddle across to where the Locust trees hang over the water and exude their sweet perfume when they are in bloom.  (this was a recommendation from the lovely man from Jo Malone whom I spent a good hour chatting with in Bergdorf’s).

For the 5 nights in the city, I rented a little apartment in the Lower East Side of Manhattan through an online site that I highly recommend as an alternative to expensive hotels.  From the moment I arrived, I was taken by the feeling of the city- the warmth, the movement, the life that never seems to stop. And by the friendliness of every person I met.

On Saturday, my 3rd day in the city- we began the Sniffapalooza event with an early morning breakfast in Bergdorf’s in a little room just off the perfume department.  Everyone was in fine spirits as we sipped orange juice and coffee and listened to various presenters promote some of the newest luscious products that are carried in the store.  (Bergdorf Goodman, by the way is an old high-end department store/institution… you can read more of the history here.)

Following breakfast, we had several hours to explore the perfume department and sniff to our hearts content.  Lunch followed at another location with more speakers…. Chandler Burr from the NY Times being one.  He confused everyone by saying that we should stop using the term ‘notes’ to describe perfume (with the associated made up ingredients), and experience perfumes as their whole entity.  I rather get what he was trying to say, since he comes from the school of breaking down the mystery of perfume and looking at what’s really inside them (the actual chemical components), rather than making up ‘notes’ that are imaginary, primarily for marketing, and that may limit a person’s individual experience.  But for the crowd to whom he was speaking- the message was lost and he left everyone feeling like they’d been yelled at for doing something wrong, but not quite sure what it was.  One person later referred to him as ‘that guy who got up and yelled like an angry street person’.  Which I thought was quite funny.

Next was a beautiful store called Takashimaya, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to look at perfumes much since the store was so absolutely crowded with people.  I did have the pleasure however of meeting Yosh of Yosh perfumes and spent the whole time exploring her delicate creations that she packages beautifully. Afterward, we spent a long time in Henri Bendels (where I completely fell in love with a perfume from Etat Libre d’Orange (a risqué Parisien company), called Rossy de Palma.

Highlights of Day 2- Bond NY at #9 Bond Street- in Soho.  Gorgeous boutique- favourite fragrance so far (I still have a stack of samples to go through)- Little Italy- for the top notes- (although the drydown on my skin is lemon dishsoap) and not surprisingly- Eau de New York with it’s touch of salty metallic skin.

Next was Le Labo- a shop I have wanted to visit for years.  They are completely inspired by the traditional perfume industry of Grasse  (completely after my own heart of course!)- and I found their perfumes delicate, well-balanced and pleasing.  My favourite- Ambrette 9- a perfume for babies based on the natural musk seed ambrette. Although it seemed almost like a soft fluffy ylang ylang creation.  Not what I expected, but a perfect perfume to wear to bed.

Next on the list was Min New York, a beautifully designed perfume boutique all in dark wood and with an apothecary feel.  Here tucked against one of the shelves, I spotted Miller Harris.  Lyn Harris, the perfumer behind this brand is a huge inspiration of mine.  I began speaking with the man in charge of the display and quite quickly learned that he was Christophe, Lyn’s husband!  What an honour to meet him.  I also had a little chat with Christopher of CB I Hate Perfume, who is an artist who treats fragrance as an interpretive experience where anything is possible,  rather than as an accessory.  Some of his perfumes are not like any other- such as Under the Arbor, which smells exactly like damp vegetation and freshly dug soil in spring, or I Am a Dandelion– which he created for the love of his favorite flower.  And, yes, it smells exactly like the real thing, with some crushed dandelion leaves thrown in.

Of course, for me, the über highlight of the day- was the presentation at lunch.  I arrived late and a bit flustered after getting lost, and found the restaurant large and airy with open walls to a courtyard full of flowering cherry trees.  I was last on the list of presenters, and due to the lack of a microphone for our speeches (???!!!!), I was obliged to shorten my well-rehearsed speech dramatically and deliver just the important bits, at the top of my lungs.  And it was a success. I was reeling a little after from my blood pressure skyrocketing from stress and yelling to be heard- but everyone was coming up and congratulating me and saying how much they loved the perfume!  So after all that build up and hope that I was doing the right thing by leaping in and going to New York, I realized in that moment, that all was perfect.

The last stop was the best and my favourite- Aedes du Venustas.  A shop that I have dreamed about for years and years… since I first began to create perfumes 8 years ago.  It is a small shop, on a quiet tree-lined street in the Greenich Village area.  It has dark carpets, and huge crystal chandeliers and the most amazing collection of niche (true niche) brands I have seen.  Collections like Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Parfums de Rosine,  Nez a Nez,  Comme des Garcons, Parfums d’Empire, The Different Company,  The Beautiful Mind Series, etc etc.

I was kindly introduced to the man who created  the store 15 years ago- Karl, and of course, showed him Réglisse Noire… and he tried it then and there.  We had a great little chat and he too loved the perfume and thought it was a unique and original idea, fun and delicious.

After that?  I was completely exhausted.  Eventually we found our way to a little French restaurant in the area, and filled our bellies.  We then walked not too far to Magnolia’s- the cupcake bakery favoured by Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City.  Later I unfortunately left my little box of cakes in the grocery store on my way home… so I never got to try them.

And that was New York.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Or I should say, late afternoon Knish at Tiffany’s.  This was me, today on my birthday, wondering around downtown New York, and finding quite by accident, Tiffany’s,  just after buying a Yiddish specialty from a street vendor (the knish-a fried potato-stuffed dumpling)- and subsequently following in Audrey’s footsteps, eating as I wondered around the outside of the building looking at the beautiful window displays.   I then spied Bergdorf Goodmans kitty corner and decided to go get a sneak preview before the weekend Sniffapalooza perfume event that I will be attending. (which begins with breakfast here)

As soon as I emerged from the escalator into the cosmetics department, a handsome man with an Italian accent invited me to sit at his booth and let him anoint my face with his cream line.  (the brand is Canadian as it turns out- called EUOKO).  We spent about 1/2 an hour together discussing New York mostly- and he told me, that in his opinion this city is a place where people can come as independents, as unique beings who don’t really fit in to wherever they come from- and find their place here.  He said it is a city that supports the individual that it’s common for people to do their own thing here- alone… and who are the type of people who enjoy that and are not afraid of aloneness.  I was happy to hear this, seems how I am here in this city alone- and loving it!  I feel very comfortable here, going exploring alone, on the subway, in the museums, walking the streets of the Lower East side, where I have rented a little apartment.  Everyone I speak to (to ask directions from), is friendly and funny and open.  There is also an air of intelligence that seems to course through the place. Like people are awake, tuned in to what’s going on.  I like it alot.

Also, I might add, that I am here to introduce 1000 Flowers, my company, as well as my fragrance Réglisse Noire to the group who will be attending the Sniffa event.  So I am here as an independent artist, in a city which supports those who dare to dream.

The other incredible highlight of the day, was at the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art)- and seeing the 40 year retrospective of Martina Abramovic.  This was one of the most moving experiences of my life- and now makes paintings seems so flat and one-dimensional as mediums of artistic expression.  She is a performance artist from Yugoslavia, and pushes the absolute limits of human consciousness and control.  Read about her on wikipedia.  (Martina Abramovic) She now lives in New York and was there today, as part of her ‘The Artist is Present’  installation. (MOMA- Martina Abramovic).

Preparing for New York

I’ve been invited to take part in a perfume weekend in NY city… and present 1000 Flowers and fragrances to a group of perfumistas, bloggers and general fans of perfume. So this week has been all about chosing packaging, colours, ribbons, photos etc as I put together a press kit and sample packs that will represent 1000 Flowers, and Réglisse Noire perfectly. So far so good! I always find that working under pressure yields some amazing results! Onwards and upwards!

Tuberoses in Grasse

At this moment I am sitting in a room filled with the most intoxicating buttery sweetness of fresh tuberoses.   I found them today in the annual Bio (organic) Fair that takes place every September in Grasse.

As of 2 days ago, after handing over my apartment to a sublet, I am staying with a good friend for my last few days before I take my flight to Canada where I will spend a few monthes working on my projects and continuing to lay the groundwork for a permanent life in Grasse.  Attempting to achieve what I am, to create a successful niche perfume collection, with me as a foreigner based in Grasse, has proved to be a major project, and one that has required a great deal of soul searching, patience and persistence.

I have spent now a full 2 years living in the old city of Grasse since I first arrived for perfumery school and everyday, still, when I go out, I am amazed all over again by this place- from the beauty and character, to the dilapidation and stench.  The sunshine, the olives trees, the jasmine, the language, the culture of perfume that permeates every facet of life in this cradle of modern perfumery.  It’s endlessly fascinating to me, and has absolutely captured my heart.

There’s no going back now…

Inheriting- a sense for creation

Hello all!

I am back in Grasse- the cradle of the perfume industry- and last night I sat down at my table with all my raw materials around me and began to explore in earnest some of the perfumes that have been formulating in my mind over the last few monthes.  I have a digital scale now and so can begin the delicate process writing stories with micro increments of the precious liquids that sit innocently in the carefully labelled bottles that are lined up in front of me.  The creative process is so difficult to dive into.  I get stage fright every time. Once I begin, dipping the blotters in solution in pairing them, rotating them, discarding and choosing; I get absorbed into the current and begin to feel the ideas take form. I love the feeling of creation. Of problem solving-experimenting.

My father died last month and I didn’t know until I got back here.  I have been going through many layers of emotion and memory since. Now I want to dedicate the exploration of my aptitudes and know-how to him; for I inherited the way my mind creates from him.  He was a genius and had a sense of logic and way of fitting things together that I feel when I write a perfume formula.  There is a sequencing that takes place, an unravelling in order to fit the pieces together, and this ability that I have came from him.  Thank you Dad! May we all find peace within and without…. and may everything smell really really good!