Sunday, July 19, 2009

Smells of Eras

Do any of these bring memories to your mind’s nose?

freshly mown grass
hair spray
gasoline/petrol at the pump
suntan lotion
moth balls
cedar chests
freshly baking bread

Research continues to identify and categorize favored scents of eras, cultures, generations, pop culture, and geography.

The sunken perfume from the Titanic has been recreated and we learn that the scent is a rose-violet concoction. Violet waters and perfumes had a long run of popularity, today getting comments such as that smells like my grandmother though not from scent lovers or scent chasers who identify the variation of violet.

Creative perfumers work to frame the violet note for contemporary tastes. Creed's 2008 Love in Black is a violet homage to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Changes in popular smells are integrated into the timeline of fashion and food trends.

The 1969 Woodstock era had patchouli in the air, as did Kashmiri shawls imported to Europe in the 1800's. Patchouli leaves kept moths out and the scent in and became much in demand. Portland, Oregon 2007 has sweat mixed with patchouli in much nasal evidence.

Nasally detected or not, patchouli is often found at the base of fragrances. 
Image above: in a fragrant pyramid, Pat Chouly? And remember, top notes are more volatile.

The design of packaging, scent, and fashion for Yves Saint Laurent’s Oriental perfume Opium experienced breakthrough sales.
With its hefty price tag for the pure parfum, introduced in 1977, spray it today in the right crowd and watch swoons of nostalgia. The YSL Fashion corresponded to the fragrance with satiny modernized brocades and soft leathers in Moroccan reds with golden yellows. 
Perfumer: Jean-Louis Sieuzac
Bottle Designer: Pierre Dinand

The late 1970s began an era of ever more hair product usage, each with added fragrance. Even unscented is a fragrance combination. Women’s lips deepened reds, the Natural Look phased out.

Dior’s Poison, perfumer Jean Guichard, spiked through in 1985 making a loud statement at a time when noses were seared during the American 1980’s you can have it all consumption, the white powder epidemic of cocaine or baking soda (1980's Time Magazine article reference).

Other 1980s names include Calvin Klein’s Obsession launched in 1985, Chris Evert, Eternity, Cool Water, Arrogance pour Homme, Animale, Passion, Gambler Musk.

Early 2000s and the war on terror in America emphasized fear and safety. Scents became clean, even antiseptic, a category called safe or transparent. Gourmand fragrances grew in popularity, a food-like category of scent for caramel, vanilla, candy, and sweet fruit notes.

A surprise runaway hit out of Italy in 2003 was Aquolina’s Pink Sugar with its spun sugar cotton candy, touch of black licorice. Pre-adolescents, as well as adult men and women, keep the sales coming in. A more sophisticated licorice work was the award winning Lolita Lempicka. Lolita Lempicka au Masculin uses a deep coffee note.


If lucky enough to smell historical fragrances, one can smell ingredients that are now outlawed, can smell a particular history in a bottle. Was fur in fashion? Mauve? Whale bone corsets, powdered wigs, civet?

… take another whiff

Peek into a busy mid-1700’s fragrant boudoir with Elisabeth de Feydeau’s book A Scented Palace: The Secret History of Marie Antoinette’s Perfumer.


Fragrance and Fabric Staging, for display in museum, gallery, retail or photo shoot, brings in color relationships between fragrance and fabric, and textural relationships between scents’ texture and textiles.


Profumeria Campo Marzio, a niche perfume destination in Rome, Italy displays Andy Tauer's L'air du Desert MarocainSpring 200

A fashion designer, like any designer, must force the public to move forward: 
he must astonish, take the public beyond accepted traditions
 to reveal other possibilities, other frontiers. 
- Paco Rabanne

Images: crayolas
painting: Henry Meynell Rheam Violets 1904
Profumeria Campo Marzio photos: Andy Tauer