I have become very accustomed to having people ask me, “What perfume are you wearing?” Sometimes, they know I write about fragrance but more often, they are simply responding to the scent itself.
In the past, I was reluctant to answer. Perfume can be deeply personal; many fragrance fanatics actually fear imitation and are loath to reveal their juice.
Others, conversely, are flattered by the compliment or love the story behind a scent so much that revealing its identity becomes a point of pride.
I do both. There is one fragrance I never name; I am very protective of it and prefer that it remain a mystery. But I also rotate my scents enough that when I find a new one that I like, I’m happy to share the liquid love.
This fall, I plan on wearing three new scents: Untitled from Maison Martin Margiela, Hussein Chalayan’s Airborne and 7 Virtues Vetiver of Haiti. Each one is a winner for different reasons.
Although it doesn’t hit counters at the Bay until early next month, I first sniffed Untitled in Miami last winter. It contains resin from the galbanum and lentiscus plants, which are both harvested before the rain (how’s that for cocktail-party conversation). The lentiscus shrub, combined with incense, is what gives Untitled its smoky aroma while notes of orange blossom add a faint floral character and anchor the more unusual suspects. It is the work of Daniela Andrier for L’Oréal’s luxury-products division (believe it: the house known for its unwearable clothes partnered with the beauty behemoth).
I smell a woman who started her night freshly showered and wakes up with debauchery in her hair. There’s a sharp contrast of clean and naughty, with a sprinkling of cocoa powder. An otherwise clinically shaped bottle (conceived by design guru Fabien Baron) looks as if it’s been dipped in white paint and features a white cord wrapped around its neck. As with anything that comes from Maison Martin Margiela, owned by Diesel, it subverts notions of overt branding while playing into them. Untitled is positioned as radical but is surprisingly (and, some may feel, disappointingly) wearable.
Airborne comes from a similarly provocative lineage. British designer Hussein Chalayan’s collections represent some of the most controversial, substantive and just plain bizarre fashion today.
This is an atmospheric scent; imagine inhaling a warm Mediterranean wind that has trapped the essences of weeds, flowers and the salty sea. There is also something seductively synthetic to Airborne (it, too, contains lentiscus). Look closely at the frosted glass bottle, an attenuated cylinder, and notice the etchings show a resort scene that plays off ancient wall drawings.
The only downside: You have to get airborne to get Airborne since it’s not currently available in Canada.
I will briefly extol 7 Virtues Vetiver of Haiti since I wrote about its crowd-sourced creation process in a previous column. Basically, the final product (on sale for $70 at the Bay as of Sept. 21 to mark the United Nations’ International Day of Peace) is an enveloping interpretation of vetiver, an oil from the root of a grass native to India and Haiti. Founded by Canadian Barb Stegemann, the line directly supports regional suppliers who provide work to farmers. Where her previous efforts were perfect for sundresses and espadrilles, Vetiver of Haiti is a perfect fit for a grey flannel coat and riding boots.
So now you know what fragrances I will have on through the fall. That is, when I am not wearing my secret scent.