June seems so far away. I have been slack, and it’s almost time to publish a July musings too. I am too tired to expound on meta-topics here today, despite having a lot of ideas. Such writing tasks are arduous; monumental challenges of translation from idea and concept to a string of words and attractive formatting.
Sometimes we have to bite the bullet. Sometimes we have to move
without with less consideration, and that produces some worries. I never want to appeal to hypocrisy, and I will firmly put my foot down and say that I am in no way a hypocrite, but theory and practice can risk becoming separate and disjointed. In theory, I am an Idealist. In practice, I am every bit a Realist as everyone else. That’s ok.
Perfume is a little different. Selling a perfume is not. The things I say on Olfactics, especially in consideration of my stylistic shift, are hardcore (self-imposed) tenets. Take my treatise on the Soft Oriental (here) – the gravitas of this thinking is maintained in every instance of personal fragrance wearing (we will see what non-personal fragrance wearing is in a moment). I do indeed care about how Opium is more Chinoiserie than Coco. I do indeed care about the reliability and validity of fragrant categorisation. And of course I want to shake established systems and imbue workable doubt onto things that are generally seen as unequivocally true.
Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow 1930, Piet Mondrian
Is this tiring? Painfully. Have I made it less tiring through the few years of running this blog? Indeed. The compositions I wear regularly are rather limited – readers should know this. Despite owning a majority of the Serge Lutens collection, I (unsurprisingly?) wear a select few in a recreational setting. Which are they? Daim Blonde, La Fille de Berlin, Sarrasins, Fumerie Turque, Muscs Khoublai Khan, La Myrrh. Return to my first premise contained within the second paragraph: you can’t yell at me, for that would fall under the Tu quoque fallacy – I somewhat care about longevity, social situation (I am avoiding the word context because I’ve intellectualised and uniquely operationalised that term before), and all the rest. That doesn’t mean I love Ambre Sultan, Tubereuse Criminelle, Miel de Bois, and Bois de Violette any less. I just find that the others sparkle more when I am choosing what to wear every morning.
I know No. 18 well. Cuir d’Ange. Une Fleur de Cassie … You’ve seen my lists before. How does a new perfume elevate from foreign to understood?
Take Miel de Bois. I wore that in a public setting yesterday and was so distracted by it that I felt that I had wasted that wearing time, when I could have worn something familiar to me. I need to sit on my chair at my bedroom desk, ideally with some soft tones of music in the background, place some Miel on me and then some more on an arrow-shaped blotter, fold the saturated end up and examine it throughout the day. This is how I get to know a fragrance.
At the moment, I am discovering the joys of Robert Piguet works. I am listening to Visa, and it is awfully pretty. It might be the first thing I buy in 2017. It is the Soft Oriental I am looking for!
I’ve been doing the same discovery process with Penhaligon’s latest fragrance Savoy Steam for a fortnight now. I need to consider it in two minds: for my work, and for myself. In the early stages of my fragrance curatorship, the bicameral mind was dishonestly unicameral. As a curator, I have to delineate well-founded principles of internal taste in reference to the external tastes of customers. Not easy. Fashion appears to be more mutable – if camo is in, people will buy it. If rose is in, well, that’s cool, but it still needs to be scanned through the faculties of taste. I appreciate the glaring issue with this comparison: the two are not totally incommensurable, and individual taste will still limit the consumption of fashionable trends, but my point has been made.
Photo by Penhaligon’s
What of Savoy Steam?
For myself: I find it banal. A steamy cardamom with a strong herbal curvature of rosemary and eucalyptus. This is anchored by a subtle tone of peppery rose and geranium, but in the end, it is flat and irritatingly stiff – almost starchy. This smells like the beginnings of a sketch of top notes moving insincerely into the heart.
For my work: A tricky position. For the thoughts for myself (which are driven by strong and tenable tenets) are of some influence here, because the internal logic of Savoy Steam must too be considered, and I have been entrusted that my logic is firm. But, so too must external logic be considered. Savoy Steam comes from a popular brand that encapsulates a finesse of masculine grooming, it is expensive, and I could imagine a certain person wearing Savoy Steam. That certain person, however, is of no interest in this curatorial exercise.
Why am I writing about this for June? Simple. Someone told me that my blog wasn’t overly marketable. “Good!” I proclaimed, in passionate retort. There’s enough out there. It’s white noise. I want to cut through it like a Postmodernist (without falling down that rabbit hole). I see the appeal of impressions and recounts, I read them and write them every so often, but I want to do something meaningful! Here we are…