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The Elements of Fragrance

By Nancy Jeffries, Contributing Editor | August 23, 2012

The annual Elements Showcase celebrates all things fine fragrance.

Houbigant, Lalique, Agonist, Hayari, Yosh, Joya and Jouany, the names are a litany of classic and new, established and emerging, the essential dichotomy of the fragrance world; and a springboard for the artistic forum and exhibition that is Elements, the brainchild of Founders, Frederick Bouchardy, Ulrich Lang, and Jeffrey Lawson.

The fourth iteration of the Elements Showcase, held last month at New York’s Skylight West, was a marketplace of the imagination, as well as a forum for beauty, fragrance design and dialogue. Having created a trade show that is also an art fair, as well as a community that fosters projects and partnerships, Elements has opened the door to ideas, exchange and commercial opportunity.

In addition to a creatively designed space, brought to life by Sarah Cihat and Michael Miller, diverse displays and a wide range of fragrances, from the rarest and classically elegant, to the edgy and esoteric, there were also numerous panel discussions and workshops held throughout the two-day event. The discussions placed fragrance in the context of the personal and the timeless, explored natural resources and ingredients, and asked the independents to explore the question of the compatibility of art and commerce.
Niho Kozuru designs naturally aromatic beeswax candles with architectural detail.
The Art and Commerce Equation

Moderated by Virginia Bonofiglio, Fashion Institute of Technology, and presented in cooperation with The Fragrance Foundation’s “Indie” Committee, the discussion titled Art and Commerce: Can They Live Together?, featured Mandy Aftel, Aftelier Perfumes; Christopher Brosius, founder, CB I Hate Perfume; Carlos Huber, founder, Arquiste and Jessica Richards, Shen Beauty. Mary Ellen Lapsansky, vice president, The Fragrance Foundation, introduced the presentation, thanked the founders and introduced Bonofiglio, who began by seeking to define what is meant by artisanal perfume.

Aftel responded with an elemental definition, “This is a brand created by an artisan.” Huber commented, “If you’re not working with a big flavors and fragrance house and are more specialized and niche, you are more artisanal.”

Art & Commerce panel with left to right, Carlos Huber, Founder, Arquiste, Mandy Aftel, Founder, Aftelier Perfumes, Christopher Brosius, Founder, CB I Hate Perfume, Jessica Richards, Shen Beauty, and Virginia Bonofiglio, FIT, moderator.

Brosius zeroes in on points of distinction. “Differentiation is found with the materials we use. We frequently work with materials that major houses can’t work with. They may be difficult to work with or difficult to obtain in large quantities,” said Brosius; and Jessica Richards, representing an independent retailer of beauty and fragrance, said, “The brands we work with are niche. As far an ‘Indie,’ people call us ‘Indie’ because we’re in Brooklyn.”

Huber discussed increased access to information about fragrance and the ability of consumers to recognize if a fragrance is artisanal, natural, has distinctive packaging or other characteristics.

“There’s something different for different people,” he said.

Aftel concurred, “The internet has enabled information to be accessed by large numbers of people and there’s now an intimate connection between the access people have to connect with their pleasure.”

“We independents focus on a smaller part of the market and the distinctive fragrances people want are not necessarily available at the large fragrance houses,” said Brosius.

Richards added, “Niche is where it’s at. It’s not the same as the fragrances being turned out en masse.” Bonofiglio directed the panel to the role of bloggers in the fragrance world, asking, “Are the bloggers a good thing?”

Robertet’s 160 Years of Roses Workshop, with panelists left to right, Arnaud Adrian, VP, Sales, Robertet, Anne McClain, Perfumer and Founder, MCMC Fragrances, Charna Ethier, Perfumer and Founder, Providence Perfume Co., Jerome Epinette, Perfumer, Robertet, and moderator, Jennifer Powderly, Robertet.
Huber noted the positive potential of the blogging community, saying, “Anything they write is ultimately positive. As much diversity of opinion we can get is to the good. I read the bloggers. I believe they have helped uncover classics of the past and helped us discover them in a new way.”

Aftel agreed, “I’ve been in the fragrance business a long time and with the bloggers most of them are passionate about what they write about. I think it’s also something that has changed commerce.”

Art and Independence

In addressing the challenges facing independent perfumers today, the focus was placed on excellent quality and marketing, with panelists minimizing newness and extolling the creative process. Aftel said, “The whole model of preparing for holiday is not the model I follow. I’ll always be small. It’s not a steppingstone to where I want to be. It’s where I want to be with my creative process.”

Whether art and commerce can live together was up for debate, with Huber contending, “A work of art as much as it is an extension of the artist, is also meant to be consumed. Its function doesn’t make it less aesthetic.” Aftel said, “I think art and commerce are terrific together. I enjoy the commerce part a lot, but in a way that works with my values.”

Ulrich Lang, Elements Founder, and creator of Lightscape, Eau de Toilette.

Brosius noted that intention is clearly a significant part of the process. “You need to understand what and why you are making perfume. I’ve seen clever ideas without the product to back it up; and I’ve always been blind to whatever others think I should do. I think you need that intense determination to do the fragrance you want and just keep it going no matter what,” said Brosius.

Aftel emphasized artistry, saying, “There has to be artistry that goes into the fragrance. Like a great dinner, there have to be great ingredients that go into it, but it also has to taste good.”

Brosius agreed, “It’s not about the individual components, it’s the final result.”

Huber said that intention and a story are important in the process and the final outcome. “For me, editing is very important. It’s something to enjoy in the process.”

Aftel chose a less literal route, saying, “I have a suspicion of words, which is one of the things I love about perfume and how it creates a fleeting feeling translated into scent. For me, the story can come much later…”

Seed to Scent

Process, sourcing, and creativity were linked by a panel discussion presented by Robertet, titled “160 Years of Roses,” a look at innovative ways to utilize rose in a variety of creations. Moderator Jennifer Powderly, Robertet, introduced panelists, Arnaud Adrian, VP-sales, Robertet, and perfumers, Anne McClain, founder of MCMC Fragrances, Charna Ethier, founder, Providence Perfume Co., and Jerome Epinette, perfumer, Robertet, each of whom created a different scent utilizing rose, among other ingredients in individual creations shared among attendees.

A film at the beginning of the presentation highlighted the natural raw materials and broad palette of rose fragrances cultivated and created over five generations in the Robertet family, in Grasse, France; and featured the Damask Rose (Rosa Damascena), grown in Senir, Turkey, by Robertet, via the company’s Seed To Scent program, a recent FiFi winner, for its growing, harvesting, processing and production system. The program, utilized in the cultivation of the Damask Rose, in Turkey, employs 50 local families and has created a sustainable system of materials production and community support.

Alice & Peter’s Eaux de Parfum Cupcake Collection.

Adrian explained the differences between rose absolute, rose essential oil, and rose petals, citing the natural spectrum from which Robertet sources and processes their roses, including natural solvent extraction, molecular distillation, flower selection, hydrodistillation and fractionation, which takes the product apart in a number of fractions, and puts it back together to bring out the best qualities. He said Robertet has numerous botanical varieties of roses, noting there are more than 7,000 varieties, however they generally utilize only three distinct varieties.

“Roses are hot right now,” said Powderly, who cited several fragrances that currently feature rose in their formulation.

These include Burberry Body, L’Eau de Chloe, and Michael Kors’ Gold, in addition to a variety of skin care products, which include rose oil as a featured ingredient. Ultimately, the versatility of Robertet’s Turkish Rose petals revealed itself in the three fragrances created by the perfumers on the panel. Jerome Epinette created Rose Anonyme, with top notes of Calabrian Bergamot, Chinese Ginger and Turkish Rose Essence, mid notes of Robertet Turkish Rose Petals and Somalian Incense, and a base of Indonesian Patchouli. Charna Ethier created Rose Boheme, with top notes of Rose Wood and Geranium, middle notes of Rooibos and Robertet Turkish Rose petals, and base notes of Oud and Saffron; and Anne McClain created a fragrance with top notes of Sichuan Pepper and Grapefruit, middle notes of Jasmine, Mimosa, and Robertet Turkish Rose Petals, and base notes of White Musk and Vanilla. Each influenced by the Turkish rose petals, however characterized by the individual sensibility of its creator, yielded something totally different and uniquely beautiful.

Diverse Exhibitors

Whether embarking on scent travels, with the likes of The Scent of Departure, featuring fragrant reminiscences of Tokyo, Dubai, and Paris, or being part of Woodstock history, with Gerald Ghislain’s homage, 1969, part of the Histoires de Parfums collection, there was something for everyone in the aisles at Elements. Perfumer, Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone presented Lili Bermuda, capturing the wind and salt spray of the island, with Coral, Oleander, and Paradise; while Hayari Parfums Paris introduced a floral trilogy, Only For Her, Broderie, and Goldy, developed by the French fashion house of Hayari Couture Paris

Hayari Parfums

House of Houbigant presented Oranges en Fleurs, the result of an encounter between House of Houbigant and Jacques Flori, master perfumer of Robertet, in Grasse, a blend of all natural oils from exotic varieties of orange blossom, Egyptian jasmine, Turkish rose absolute, nutmeg and musk, said to be the first new Houbigant fragrance in fifty years. A new launch, called Lightscape, from Ulrich Lang, the creator of Anvers, featured a blend of violet leaves, galbanum and lemon, for the top notes, middle notes of iris, rose and cyclamen, and base notes of tonka bean and ambergris.

David Pirrotta, of California, who represents a number of independent brands, presented the fragrances of jewelry designer, Loree Rodkin, who launched a new collection of three fragrances for 2012, I Parfum Spray, redolent with the scent of Balinese beaches, II Parfum Spray, with an earthy blend of patchouli incense, and III Parfum Spray, with gardenia and floral essences. Pirrotta also showcased Eau de Yosh creations, including Eau de Parfum, Sottile, and introduced a new line of fragrant skin care called Skin and Bones Therapy. Fun and whimsy were captured in the form of Alice & Peter’s Cupcake collection of Eaux de Parfums, with scents of Fancy Choco, Showy Toffee, Cheery Cherry, Wicked Berry and Bloody Orange, housed in cupcake decanters, targeting the fun-lovers and price-conscious among us, of all ages.

Crafting Beauty founder, François Damide, brought joie de vivre to the distinctive Jouany fragrances, including Marrakech, an Eau de Parfum created with pure essential oils and St. Bathelemy, each created by the photographer and adventure seeker, Christophe Jouany whose olfactive memories are the guiding principles of his fragrance creations. Each scent contains a compound of 68% pure essential oils and is made in France. Marrakech has top notes of fresh citrus and orange blossoms, heart notes of jasmine and neroli, and base notes of patchouli and white musk. St. Barthelemy contains top notes of white grapefruit, heart notes of vanilla, coco jasmine and cedarwood, and base notes of sandalwood and patchouli.

Houbigant Paris Orangers en Fleurs.

Other exhibitors included La Bella Figura, whose Travel Diaries Collection featured an homage to Barcelona, with a perfume oil highlighting notes of cognac, pink peppercorn, Sicilian lemon, wild orange and beeswax, and fragrance excursions for Buenos Aires, with balsam of peru, tobacco, and argentine mate, as well as their Paris tribute, redolent with orris, vanilla, tuberose, and tarragon. La Bella Figura is positioned as an Eco-Luxe Beauty brand utilizing essential oils for both fragrances and active skin care products. Essence of Vali (E.O.V.), with founder Valerie Bennis, displayed a range of healing blends created with fragrance plant essences for health and beauty. Among the products featured was E.O.V.’s Massage and Bath Oil Balance Blend, with clary sage and geranium, a mood balancer, and E.O.V.’s Botanical Eau de Parfum, the signature blend of eight plant essences that offer the benefits of aromatherapy and a beautiful botanical fragrance.

Other standouts at the show included a line of bespoke fragrances, called Memoire Liquide, featuring such scents as Air, with white flowers; Liquid Vacances, with tiare flower and fresh coconut milk; and Encens Liquide, with soft amber resin and hinoki incense. Agonist placed fragrance in the context of art with Kosta Boda Swedish crystal underlying its scent message in individually sculpted glass to showcase its line of six unisex fragrances. Agonist, a Swedish brand, launched in 2008 with one product, has grown to include six fragrances, Arctic Jade, with brazilian orange, ylang ylang, ambrette and patchouli; Black Amber, with red algae, cuban Tobacco Flower, and Indian Sandalwood; Liquid Christal, with sicilian orange, french lavender, and lebanese cedarwood; Onyx Pearl, with bulgarian lavender, guatemalan cardamom and somali myrrh; The Infidels, with pink pepper, tunisian iris and bourbon vanilla; and Vanilla Marble with vanilla infusion, white fig and siam benzoin. In addition to the specialty presentations by Kosta Boda, the fragrances are available in boldly inscribed rectangular bottles, proclaiming their ingredients.

In homage to design and natural scent, designer Niho Kozuru exhibited her striking range of naturally aromatic beeswax candles, which she creates in her design studio. A sculptor with work in major museums, Kozuru finds fragments of antique turned wood objects, strips the wood of its layers of paint, makes a rubber mold for her candles, which each retain the imprint of the original wood’s grain, and pours the natural beeswax into a variety of wood shapes that she has named Pendant, Bell, Finial or Tower. The candles, with their beautiful natural scent, striking architectural detail and natural color, stand like monolithic chess pieces, varied in size and shape, and are truly emblematic of a showcase for fragrance and design.

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