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 locations.

In an article on the recreated sunken perfume from the Titanic we learn that the scent is a rose-violet concoction. Violet waters and perfumes had a long run of popularity, today getting comments like that smells like my grandmother though not necessarily from scent lovers or scent chasers.

Responding to these comments, creative perfumers work to frame the note in new ways for current tastes. Creed's 2008 Love in Black is a violet homage to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Changes in popular smells can be integrated into the timelines of changes in fashion and food trends.

The 1969 Woodstock era definitely had a lot of patchouli in the air, perhaps making it a cliché. Recently working in Portland, Oregon I was surprised with how often I smelled sweat mixed with patchouli.

Nasally detected or not, patchouli is often found at the base of fragrances. See above, in the 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 with its hefty price tag for the pure parfum showed breakthrough sales. Introduced in 1977, spray it today in the right crowd and watch the swoons of nostalgia. Fashion corresponded with satiny modern brocades and soft leathers, Moroccan reds and golden yellows. The perfumer was Jean-Louis Sieuzac and the bottle designer Pierre Dinand.

It was the beginning of an era with a lot of hair product usage, each of those had fragrance added, for even unscented is a fragrance. Women’s lips deepened with the Moroccan reds. The natural look era was phasing out. Dior’s Poison, perfumer Jean Guichard, spiked through in 1985 making its loud statement at the peak of a time when noses were seared in 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.

Within the last eight years as the war on terror in America insisted on a basis of fear, our scents got very clean, and “safe”, even antiseptic, though some could be called transparent. We also saw the increase in gourmand, the food-like category in scent for the 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, leaving some scratching their heads. A more sophisticated licorice work was the award winning Lolita Lempicka, and 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?

… 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 Marocain
Spring 2009  here for Tauer's blogpost

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