Exploring the concept of memory, experience and the layering of the scented, working in Paris: the evocation of the perfumes of women and the metaphor of place and fragrance design.

The scent of Paris | notes on fragrance, Serge Lutens, women and sex
(Photo: Girvin)

A friend of mine asked that I offer something — a quick essay — on my scent impressions of Paris. I’ll offer the storytelling of the historical link — personally — of scent, memory and the re-collection of moments.

Paris is alive with scent — but the recollections of these experiences are very distinct and diverse: from the street, to the Métro de Paris, the cafes, the parks, the Seine, Le Louvre. Each holds something for me. But there’s a symbolic amalgam, as well. When I was working in Paris, my marketing and consulting partner there introduced me to an older woman. This person had a deep — and very well connected — public relations firm. Her role in working with, and for, me was to create “stories” and events that we could use to build out the character of my brand design business in Paris. It worked: some magazines, interviews, articles — parties, talks, forums and dinner presentations.

There was something about her, that spoke to the density of the par fum — the smoke of Paris — and, in some instances, its women. French women, perhaps more than any other in the world, understand the power of scent — natural, essential or manufactured — in the manifestation of presence. In the spirit of a greeting embrace, most French women will hug — lightly — and kiss, cheek on cheek. Once, twice, three times — or four…

And — for me, amongst millions of others — it’s a chance to smell them. These encounters are a moment of the gatherings of all that surrounds them, or that is applied, in the scenting of a persona.

But what I noticed about her, was a combination of the deepest notes of wood, smoke, tobacco — cedar and sandalwood, the flame smell of juniper cade — and vanilla and orange, ginger and cinnamon — but there’s a underlayment of something sexual there: darkly, deeply alluring. For her, it was a layering of the notes of red wine, cigarettes, food — but too, these scent characteristics: rich, complex, emotional and environmentally captured. The essential foundation of this scent was the work of one man. This was a masterwork of Serge Lutens, a quintessentially potent mixer of scents. Féminité du Bois — and her. The rich layering of environment, the smoky salons of Paris, the cafés — warming croissants issuing their baked scents, deep reddish wine scents, cigarette smoke, women — she was that combination. Seeing her later in Provence, in a coastal city and her new home — all of that was gone, except for the one note that was her. Paris scented her — from Lutens, to the streets and the sensuality of what lies within.

A note or two on Lutens, the quietly mysterious and reclusive fragrance designer of Paris lives, and leads the life of the most profoundly sentient, in the experience of perfume. But his legacy is broad and deep — to the notions of beauty, women and presence. His studios are in Paris — the Shiseido Les Salons du Palais Royal. More here. Another blog, later.

But the point to the work, interestingly — is deeply rooted in the commitment to create, broadly, for women — from Vogue to Shiseido — his creativity has, in a way, captured the incense-noted, smokier heart of the women of Paris. And there, I believe, is the soul of the scent — Paris is a woman.

Brands | love | scent:


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