What to expect in ODOU issue three

Perfumery Tools

It’s been a while since I last posted here. You know by now I’ve been on another project, ODOU. So I thought I’d share with you some things you can expect to read and see in the next issue of ODOU. It’ll be out next month and there’s very much a story and interview feel to the issue.

Many of us get into perfume through various experiences, encounters and happenings. There’s a familiar tale of a mother all dressed up, smelling of perfume, kissing her children’s foreheads goodnight. There’s a father’s aftershave; clean and bracing as he faces the day. Perhaps it was a grandmother’s touch of lavender or an older sister’s body spray, either way, perfume lovers will have a story to tell. And isn’t that wonderful? Stories to be told. I loved growing up listening to my parents tell me “In my day…” because it was a window onto the past, of time no more, of smells no longer here. My mother would tell me of the smells flooding the house when my grandmother cooked Sunday dinner and how she herself couldn’t master it as well. My father would tell me of the smell of his father’s ice-cream wafting upstairs from the shop below where it was made; the vanilla, the cream, it’s mouthwatering just thinking of it.

Stories are told to fascinate us. They may go hand-in-hand with smell and memory as they congel to form an imprint, stirring our curiosity and imagination. Perhaps we can find something similiar in our own lives – aren’t we each making our own story? With hindsight that story is easier to see. With foresight, we can continue making it how we see fit. And in the present, we experience it; we get our hands dirty making that story. A perfumer’s story, feeling the spark of creativity that spurs her on. A traveller’s story, catching whiffs of something distant, something golden, something off the beaten track. An addict’s story, living with the pleasure of substances like perfume, and substances less frivolous. A photographer’s story, capturing the smell of home. A dreamer’s story, letting his imagination envelope him in clouds, flying in wonder and awe.

Stories like this in ODOU issue three captivated my imagination. I was curious to know of the creative process of a perfumer. Reading about the struggles of addiction, and the overlap in fragrance, was moving. I learned to be more observant and aware of my surroundings when I read the traveller’s story. And I let my imagination pull me to places and times by the dreamer.

Stories truly are wonderful. They encompass the entire human condition. Living day-to-day is a story in and of itself. I hope you enjoy these stories as much as the creators enjoyed sharing them with you.

In the meantime, you can still get issue two to tide you over.

It’s funny how things work out

It's funny how things work outIt’s funny how things work out. I started this blog roughly three years ago with many intentions:

  1. To record, reflect and refine my studies and general interest in the world of smell
  2. To improve my writing skills
  3. To join a community of like-minded people
  4. To make a name for myself.

I think three years later I’ve accomplished all these and more. I’ve met up with people all over the world who share a love of perfume, from Dublin, Montreal, London and Paris; it was fun to get to know all these people. I’ve dabbled here and there experimenting with making and blending perfume. And I’ve started ODOU, an award-winning magazine dedicated to smell and perfume and the surrounding discourse.

I have to say, stopping for a minute today as I’m sitting amongst the smell of cardboard boxes ready to move house again for the umpteenth time, I realised, I haven’t done too bad.

To say I started out with intentions is true, but also, it wasn’t definitively decided; This. Is. What. I. Must. Do. Like all things, it just happened this way.

I would say though that in hindsight I did start this blog for other reasons. In September 2010 my mum passed away from cancer and my life changed in that moment. To this day the grief is still the same as it was and it still pains me to know I can’t just lift the phone and tell her about my day.

I got into perfume as a sort of coping mechanism I think. I threw myself into something so that I wouldn’t have to sit with my thoughts. If I busied myself enough, distracted myself enough, then that would do. This wasn’t conscious, but I know now this was what I was doing. Writing focuses the mind, and I’ve always enjoyed it so it couldn’t hurt.

It’s not a lie in that sense. There was a genuine want and need for me to start it all. In any case it’s incidental now. I could have done worse things.

It’s funny how things work out (to get back to my point) that the most popular post on this small blog, is one about my depression, anxiety/intrusive thoughts/OCD – it’s not even perfume/smell related in the slightest.

I’ll not go over the story again, suffice to say, realising that this is happening to me, and something I will very much have to live with for the rest of my life, is somewhat further depressing. There’s a joke in there somewhere. But in all honesty, it’s a weight around my neck every day. Some days are an absolute struggle to just get the day in. People exhaust me at times and the effort needed to do something so simple as maintaining a blog seem draining. So I stop. I just don’t do what I feel I should, and I do what will make me feel calm, content. Not to be too selfish about it, but I have to.

My passion for perfume and smell is much less these days than it was at the start. I don’t feel the need to share every thought I have on the subject, or comment left, right and centre, or buy every bottle in sight. In fact, I think the last bottle I bought was at some point last summer. Recently, I even gave away half a generous sample collection that was booming under my bed. It felt great.

It felt great to get rid of things that I was simply keeping for no apparent reason. I would never get through the half of them. So I got rid of half my wardrobe that I no longer wear. I got rid of half the books I no longer read. This “cleansing” has done wonders.

ODOU is something of a Personal Odour 2.0. I started it as a way to develop my design skills, to challenge myself doing something new and to work with other interesting people. And I think I’ve done that. I also started it to cope with my OCD/intrusive thoughts. It’s something light enough for me to do in my spare time, without being a source of stress or weight on my shoulders.

I feel hopeful that in another three years, I might look back on ODOU and be on some other project that has developed me further (or even still be on ODOU) and continuing to want to better myself.

When the chips are down, I am still standing.

Scenting Swan Lake

Scenting Swan LakeI’m not the biggest ballet fan I must admit. The closest I’ve previously been is seeing Bart Simpson perform it as the “spiky-haired masked dancer” and watching the unforgettable, enthralling and utterly dark romp that is Black Swan by Darren Aronofsky. In the context of a movie, ballet is paramount but it’s not a full feature ballet movie. So I was a little apprehensive when I was asked to go see real ballet with real people in a real theatre.

What I saw was Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake in Sadler’s Wells here in London. I was blown away. I was so moved, drawn in to the performance, I was on the edge of my seat at one point!

My vague knowledge on the subject of Swan Lake tells me that it’s not remembered for alcohol, fishnet stockings, firearms or having an all-male swan cast (male corps de ballet). This was a modern interpretation with loose borrowings from the original, yet I was shocked to learn Bourne’s Swan Lake is nearly 20 years old. It felt fresh, relevant and I could have believed it was launch night as the theatre was filled to capacity.

Throughout the acts I was treated to scenes of playful choreography, demure and bold characters, familiar scores and topless sweaty men.

The struggles and desires of the Prince is what keeps the performance moving and as I got into it I noticed that many of the characters could be interpreted as fragrances. I don’t think there was a strict storyline per se, many points in the dancers’ interactions were vague and loose without a definitive story arch. Nevertheless, I liked that I could interpret my own story.

Here’s what I imagined the perfumes and story of Bourne’s Swan Lake would be.

The Prince

Tom Ford Grey VetiverDashing, trimmed, youthfully regal he’s also troubled, bored by his birthright, perhaps even in love with another man, the leading White Swan. The Prince encapsulates all that it is gentlemanly without being so royal as to be alienating. His story after all is the central theme and something has to connect with the audience. I believe his lust for the Black Swan makes him troubled, but also a real person. Full of confliction and desire for true freedom. The Prince’s character is sharp and well dressed and well to do, so I’ve chosen Grey Vetiver by Tom Ford for him. It embodies a sense of keeping up appearances and has a hint of earthiness, a down-to-earth quality in that big vetiver note that is the spirit of the Prince.

The Girlfriend

Thierry Mugler AngelAloof, inappropriate, silly and likable. The Girlfriend makes all the faux pas with the Queen (mother of the Prince). The Queen will not have it and finds her irritating and unfit as a partner for the Prince. The Girlfriend’s character is extremely likable, she has many “gag” moments and she’s simply in the wrong place, with the wrong crowd. She’s a bit like Angel by Thierry Mugler. Sweet, loud and innocent with an unmistakable personality. Angel is all that; caramel, patchouli, ever so slightly salty, with just the right amount of florals as to not be too old in nature.

The White Swan

Serge Lutens Gris clair...The other leading male, the White Swan. I believe has two aspects to his character, one, is that he is the inner projection of the goodness of the Prince, his good nature. The other aspect, is that this character is a real man in the image of a swan that the Prince can’t help but fall for. The White Swan is elegantly masculine without toppling into the bravado of a peacock. He is graceful, timid at first, but full of compassion and would protect the Prince at all cost. He is Gris clair… by Serge Lutens. A soft amber heart with twinges of elegant lavender with the basenotes of strong, sturdy woods. Gris clair… is indeed potent but I think applying it conservatively shows its full nature even if the White Swan is white, and this fragrance is grey.

The Queen

Guerlain ShalimarA Queen needs no introduction. Her charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent should set her apart. And this Queen can perform, can command the masses and remind everyone just who she is. As a mother she is loving, perhaps even tough. She knows what’s best but can’t help but fall for the Black Swan too when he makes his entrance known. She wears only the finest gowns, the most dazzling jewellery and has her face and hair down to perfection. I think Shalimar by Guerlain best embodies her. Not for any far eastern connotations, but for the opulence of the fragrance being fit for a queen and the warmth and sweetness of it being fit for a mother. Shalimar is femininity. That vanilla base, that bergamot opening, that hint of civet so as to be just the right amount of darkness to the Queen in Bourne’s Swan Lake, is everything her character is.

The Black Swan

Yves Saint Laurent KourosThe other, other leading male. Chest. Leather. Riding crop. Crotch thrusting. The Black Swan is masculinity on overdrive, erotic, flirtatious, intimidatingly intense and a feast for the eyes and no doubt body. Despite his attractions, the Black Swan in Bourne’s Swan Lake is something of a tease and lewd. Not content with one woman, two women, three or four, the entire cast “swan” over him, and he in return, including of course the Prince. His lust and disgust for the Black Swan is anything but palpable and will turn to the darkside to get what he wants too. The Black Swan is Kouros by Yves Saint Laurent. Kouros is the epitome of a man at his peak something like Patrick Bateman, seems alright at first, but is dark and nasty underneath. The Black Swan is somewhat similar, giving the impression of honey notes, and a spicy thrill, but you know will end up smelling like skank and urine by the end of the night.

What do you think?

Have you seen Bourne’s Swan Lake or Aronofsky’s Black Swan? Do the perfumes match the characters? Or am I losing my mind like Natalie Portman? On that last note I urge you to head over to The Black Narcissus’ blog and read his fantastic write up of Black Swan and the hidden perfume within.

How have you not smelled Mitsouko?

“How have you not seen The Godfather?”

“How have you not played Final Fantasy 7?”

“How do you not know Seth Godin?”

“How have you not smelled Mitsouko?”

I could go on.

In any recreational hobby, pastime or career, the sorts of questions asked above are commonplace. There’s an assumption that if you do not absolutely know your chosen field, be it bird watching or stamp collecting, cinema or perfume, you’re inferior, really do not know what you’re talking about or are somehow passing through.

I’ve been asked these types of questions in many aspects of my own hobbies, interests and career and it’s downright insulting.

The web design world, as open and encouraging as it is, has become something of a Heat magazine. Celeb-designers are praised and lauded, asked to attend talks and events and you know for the most part it’s all meant with bettering the industry and good intentions. I’m all for this. But it sort of becomes a one-up match of who had the best idea first. There is a real sense of elitism lurking, of male dominance and Victorian-esque snobbery. Something that exists in the perfume world too.

The games industry, fashion, wine world, gothic scene, motorheads, advertising, there’s always someone, sometimes a few, who question one’s knowledge, flair or ability if they believe them not to be on par with themselves.

Being interested in perfume as I am, is not my defining character, nor is it my interest in digital design, computer games or even the colour of my skin or sexual orientation. I am the sum of many parts so when I’m asked in that way, “How have you not smelled Mitsouko?” My toes curl and I bite my tongue a bit because you know what, I just haven’t got round to it.

It’s as simple as that. Sure it might be a classic, it might be groundbreaking but maybe I’ve just been too enthusiastic over here, in this corner, interested in these things. I’ll get round to it, but must you be so condescending about it?

Since being asked this (years ago) and feeling a sense of guilt at the time I since went on to smell Mitsouko and, for me, I wasn’t that bowled over. Not out of retaliation, because I was asked similarly the same about Shalimar and I have been addicted ever since.

What I’m getting at is that the assumption is on the part of the questioner. We’re not all alike, and we do not all have the same drive as each other.

I have a life outside my job and I have a life outside my passions and I sometimes think people that are transfixed by their passions and careers need to realise that we’re not all buzzing off the latest thing, or adoring the established norm.

Perhaps I just got into chosen field x and am a little new. Maybe my free time isn’t as abundant as yours so I’m not up to the bleeding edge. What’s the rush? What’s the hurry? Do we have to consume and gorge ourselves on the entire spectrum? I don’t think so and I think sometimes by doing so, we will never quench that insatiable desire for more. More information, more perfume, more blog posts, more news, more clothes, more, more, more.

It’s ok to be casually interested, it’s ok to be passionate. The spectrum is there but find a balance. I’ve often thought that in life striving for a balance is the key. If you’re moving too fast through life, slow down a bit, stop and smell the roses. If you’re going too slow, well pick it up a bit and live a little. The same can be said for passions especially those in perfume, web design, hell even knitting!

ODOU issue one launched

ODOU issue one

ODOU issue one has launched!

It’s been a journey and a half getting to this stage and it’s one I’m pretty darn chuffed with if I can say so. I didn’t think half a year ago I’d be typing up this post, sharing what I think is a great publication about one of my biggest passions – no doubt yours too.

So, who are perfume haters? And what does a friend smell like? Discover warm oriental fragrances, a scientific look at our noses and touching photography encapsulating a summer day and all its smells.

Pop on over to odoumag.com to find links and get a physical copy delivered to your door anywhere in the world, or purchase a digital copy for reduced price to read on most smartphones and readers.