Sunday, April 1, 2012

Foolin' around with perfume

Happy Fool's Day! The April issue of Open Letters is up and includes a new perfume column. I wrote about the dodgy practice of perfume layering. Who dares layer two distinct works of art?! I DARE. Check it out:

Diptyque Philosykos + Bulgari Black 
Are Olivia Giacobetti and Annick Menardo friends? I’m not sure, but there’s a secret kinship between these two minimalist fragrances, a chilly, almost metallic edge to their sweetness, which combining them amplifies. Philosykos is the ultimate green, woody fig, with the creaminess of coconut but no perceptible vanilla component. Fig accords often have a cold feel, with something that reminds me of air conditioning fluids or even, when things go wrong, freezer burn, and that’s subtly present in Philosykos too. Black doesn’t have that same palpable frostiness, but it is surprisingly cool for a vanilla fragrance; it smells like vanilla without vanilla’s usual balsamic warmth. And the leather sheds all references to animal hides, smelling instead rubbery, pliable, like a tire shop or new tennis shoes. 
When layered, the rubber recedes into the background, and what you smell is a sweeter, more saturated version of Philosykos – or is it a greener, creamier version of Black? Intriguingly, it becomes hard to pick the elements apart, as if it really were one perfume. The vanilla is not enough to candy the figs; neither perfume on its own is a gourmand in the “yummy” sense, and the combined forces are not a gourmand either, but a strange, even unsettling hybrid that reminds me of the end of Chase Twichell’s poem “Erotic Energy”: 
So that, years later, at the moment 
the girl’s body finally says yes
to the end of childhood,
a green pail with an orange shovel 
will appear in her mind like a tropical
blossom she has never seen before.
There's also a very interesting interview with my friend Joshua Ware, whom you may know as a poet; he also takes striking photographs: "I’m not interested in accurately portraying an object in the way I see it occurring naturally. Instead, I’d like to see it how I want to see it. It’s kind of like that scene near the beginning of David Lynch’s Lost Highway when Bill Pullman tells the detective that he doesn’t own a video camera because, as he says: 'I like to remember things my own way … Not necessarily the way they happened.'"

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