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For awhile now, since cannabis became legal in Colorado, it’s been on the news, on talk shows and buzzing just about everywhere.  There of lots of folks having a lot of fun with this whole thing and I’ve been thinking that it’s about time that I had some fun with it, too.  In all honesty, I have played with various marijuana accords for years (I think that I started in earnest in about 2005 when a friend said that a various strain was their favorite smell EVER).  I’ve created and even used a few of my accords in perfumes, from Bodhi Sativa for the PLAP-athon in 2010, to Le Smoking for the YSL Retrospective collection in 2012.

 

CannabisLabHR

 

It’s funny to think that I have smelled and “appraised”?, “reviewed”?, no, dissected? quite a few strains of cannabis over the years, mostly as a kind of parlor trick for many of my musician* / stoner friends even though I’m not a smoker myself (being asthmatic and all, smoking anything is OUT).    My friends think it’s hilarious and / or fascinating as they hear me describe the top, middle and base nuances of their favorite kind bud.  There is an intrinsic sort of perfume to this generous plant from animalic (skunk) to fruity, incens-ey, conifer, floral, sticky sweet, dry woody and green leafy, etc.  To check out some real flavor / fragrance profiling, this chart from a Netherlands seed company has some amazing variation:

 

FlavourPie_strain_english_2012

 

So, here comes the fun.  I’ve busted out some of my older notebooks and taken a look at some of my early accord notes and yes, I like what I started.  It’s time to finish and I’ve chosen four variations to focus on.  I’ve actually been contacted many times to create some cannabis perfumes using exclusive strains for some of the dispensaries, but none of these potential clients has taken the final plunge into investing in the concept.  Mores the pity for me as it would be wonderful to play with some of these unusual flavor/ fragrance profiles that these unique strains possess.

Back to playing with the accords: I’m going to start at the beginning with my very first which was based on a conifer-resin / dried  bud / green smoke kind of scent.  It’s quite woody with a definite conifer (junipers, spruce and pines) feel but it’s the ‘green smoke’ that interests me.  I want this scent to be a kind of “you’re walking in the woods and you smell the smoke(rs) over the trail” kind of thing.   All of the cannabis scent designs feature an atmospheric quality; I think that is just part of the mystique around the plant and the imbibing culture.  Cannabis has such a distinctive aroma that it tends to evoke some kind of ‘otherness’ which is transporting.  The real design challenge is to create with this distinctive / atmospheric note and still end up with something you would call ‘perfume’.  To my mind, a perfume has a sense of presence that is beautiful, well constructed, tells some kind of story (or sings a song or paints a picture… you get the idea) and very often displays it’s sense of continuity to the history of perfume.  There are artistic references and precedents that came before that show up in a contemporary work that make it seem to ‘fit’ within the structure of our expectation.  This is just part of my loose definition, however.  I suspect that there are many other perfume designers out there working today that want to break with any sense of continuity and create purely abstracted / atmospheric / story telling aromas and that’s great but if it’s not wearable and recognizable as perfume, maybe it isn’t.  It’s aroma but not perfume.  Anyway, that’s a debate that could take far too long to ever get to a conclusion with.  These are just my thoughts on it.  Back to the perfumes (and yes, I want these to be perfumes within my own criteria, so they have to be wearable).

 

Rocky-Mountain-High-Billboard-214x300

The conifer design has come together with the help of some unusual materials that I had to bust out just for this project.  One of them is chrysanthemum.  I haven’t used this note in too many designs; one reason is that studies show that many people associate the scent of chrysanthemum with death.  (I don’t really want to create funereal perfumes – unless I am expressly trying to do that).   But paired with the sulfuric, tangy-sweet scent of hemp, it works beautifully.  Another aromatic that I haven’t had the opportunity to use much before this design is the common juniper oil that I got from my friend, distiller Eric Bresselsmith.  It’s a great fresh, green juniper note that doesn’t do the too terpenoid signature that juniper berry oil does.  It gives a fresher, sweeter feel to the topnote and does part of that sticky sensation that speaks to ‘bud’ as it heads to the heart.  Lastly, the Ayurvedic co-distill Choyas, which I just can’t seem to get enough of these days, were indispensable.  I used a combination of  the rich, smoked wood Choya Loban as well as the densely calcined Choya Nahk.  It took a bit of doing to turn this smoke note from brown / black to ‘green’ but I did it, I think, with the help of galbanum and sweet basil.  The entire foray into the woods and back rests on a smooth bed of sandalwood, both natural and some of the sandalwood-like molecules, as well as some animalics (yes, I had to use the synthetic skunk note I found).  All in all, this design dries down into a very elegant, masculine-leaning perfume that displays the hemp thing but doesn’t totally flaunt it (even with the skunk).  I really like that.

 

i love you mary jane

My second indulgence is way more playful and another completion of an older accord / idea from more than a few years ago.  It’s a fruity – indolic floral cannabis that is *very* hemp, and very clearly a pot perfume.  It’s got a surprising amount of fruit, at least *I* am surprised at how many / much fruit the cannabis could handle and require, really, to fulfill the design.  One of the elements I love about this perfume is the topnote…all tangy grapefruit, rhubarb and cassis bud juxtapose  a richly sweet blackberry, apricot and mango accord.  ( I said there was a lot of fruit).  I never would have thought that I would go for anything quite like this but it’s surprising.  The dominant cannabis note with the ‘super fruit’ in the top and a big sampaguita flower heart makes for a sensuously wild ride.  I did want at least one of these designs to read as a big sweet bud and this is the one.  I don’t think that this kind of design is for everyone (well the whole cannabis thing is divisive) but for those that love that smell, this will be the one that hits the spot, I predict.  There’s also a very nice oriental lily, osmanthus and some ylang ylang in the heart and  more than a few fun resinous-wood with incense nuances in the drydown.  Of course one of the notes that many folks associate with pot is patchouli and this is where patchouli is the most featured of all of the designs.  I couldn’t call this a typical “fruit-chouli” but on some skins it may actually read that way.  On my own skin, which has gotten way sweeter since I had a child, it’s bright, sweet, and very hemp-ish in the first notes but dries down into a soft, green edged, fruity-floral-woody.

The third of the collection is probably my personal favorite, but on that, I’m going to say goodnight, and save the third and fourth designs for next time.  I will say that this third scent is one that I have a hard time getting enough of…especially in the drydown.  It’s kind of, (gulp), addictive.

(Disclaimer: * This isn’t to say that musicians are synonymous with pot smokers, either).

image credits: lab of cannabis vials image found here; flavor wheel image found here; rocky mountain high image found here;  i love you mary jane image found here;

talkingtrees

 

As promised, I have shown up again to announce the winners of the (long-awaited) drawing for the 3, preview, 3 ml samples of Seve de Pin.  And the winners are:

• Michelle H

• Anita

* Linda

Please email me at:  dsh at dshperfumes dot com with your address and it will be on its way!  I hope that you will love them and that you’ll let me know what you think.
Be back soon  ~ox

*image found here with a poem (that evokes perfume no less … though I’m not so keen on the musical choice).

SoH_15ml

Well, we’ve done it!  The Scent of Hope is finally out and available on the website.  And even better, there are samples and presentation bottles heading out to loads of iris fans everywhere.  I can’t remember a more exciting launch nor one that has filled me with so much joy.  I give huge, grateful and heartfelt thanks to everyone who has participated in making this dream a reality.

This image (above) of the 15 ml presentation flacon makes the bottle look as thought it is floating amidst clouds and sea.  It captures a bit of how I am feeling about this scent: elated and dreamy, yet immersed in something like the density of water.  It is a very REAL feeling, this one, and I am proud to be a part of it.

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SoH_5ml_2

I’m also very excited that the project has had some early reviews and I hope, there will be more to come.  I just have to share:  The wonderful Ida Meister’s fragrantica.com (p)review and lovely Tama Blough’s thoughts for CaFleurebon.com.  I hope that everyone who has followed the creation of this scent will give Scent of Hope a try and even more, will share their experience of it with me (us).      ~ox

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ps: Here is another great post about Iris Gris that is not specifically about Scent of Hope  (thank you for the mention, however!) but is all the same beautiful and I wanted to share it here as well.  From the Sound of Scent blog.  Enjoy!

pps: I bet that you have wondered what the heck happened to me since the beginning of June and oh yes!  the seve de pin draw winners.  (!?!?)   I’m going to finally announce those in a post tomorrow evening, so stay tuned and thanks for your patience with my crazy life.  :)

 

 

seve_de_pin1

Something is happening to me.  I can’t seem to get my head (and nose) out of the woods these days.  It’s a trend that seems to be popping up in all parts of my creative world: in my own (paltry at the moment) design time at the studio, in my classes with private students, and even in terms of what I am wanting to photograph right now. Of course,  I have been working with conifers and fougeres in my studio for awhile now, but I think that this shift in my psyche really set in in 2011, right around the time I got pregnant (hmm…) with some more classical constructions as well as some more modern ‘abstractions’ in the making.  The thing is that while I have been dancing around this concept I have had few actual launches to show for this line of exploration.

Last year’s Matsu, which was a rather abstract, Japanese influenced ‘pine’ scent expressed a humid, green woody concept with a brilliant bergamot flash at the opening (and containing no actual pine of conifers) is really the only launch that I have managed.  Until (sometime close to) now.  Well, I’m not ready to launch this particular design just yet but I think that it is finished.  It’s a much more literal experience of a pine / spruce fragrance but it doesn’t read at all like pinesol or worse, in a way, a bad interpretation of Polo or Pino Sylvestre.

 

pixelated_pine

Something that may have spurred on this creative indulgence in the conifer arena has been a lovely friendship that has sprung up between myself and the micro-distiller, Eric Bresselsmith and his wonderful company that features *rocky mountain region* materials.  I have been getting new materials from him for years without having the space or time to really jump in and work on crafting the perfumes I have in mind when he shows me samples. Finally, I have little by little managed to get something going with some very wonderful and rare aromatics.  I want to take a quick moment to touch upon a few of my favorites that Eric has brought me: Concolor White Pine (distilled from recycled Christmas trees in Aspen, CO),  Common Juniper (a shrub that I have torn out of my own yard to make way for a rose garden but yields a lovely, GREEN take on juniper oil), Engelmann Spruce (a delicious, slightly fruity, airy, clear as a bell, spruce) and Great Western Sage (a dry, spiky but gorgeous sage scent.  If you like smudge sticks, this is for you!).  Eric also makes some very wonderful and creative co-distills using the woods, leaves/needle and cones of the conifers sometimes mixed with shrubs and sometimes different but similar species of evergreens.  I really like some of the juniper and cedar co-distills that I have tried.

One of the most incredible and very rare oils that I have gotten (and used in this new design) is an infusion of 50 year old resin crystals in pure pinion essential oil.  It is magical in the extreme.  It was also a labor of love as Eric told me that he was out with the ancient felled pinion armed with tweezers picking the crystals off, little by little, by hand.  As soon as I smelled it I just said, I want this.  I didn’t ask how much; I just knew that I needed to get as much as I could afford.  Seve de Pin (Pine Sap) is based upon this beauty.  There is wider story than just wanting to showcase a new material, but I had started this design years ago and it seemed to be waiting for this last ingredient to make everything fall into place.

 

ansel_pine

Seve de Pin was partially inspired by the smell in the night air on my first overnight trip away from my parents when I was 4 years old and in pre-school summer camp.  *The trees were speaking to me all night long* and in this construction, there is the distinctive smell that was in the air (in the drydown) that night.  I would know this smell anywhere.  It is mysterious and ancient and all-knowing.  Like the earth itself.  And that there are secrets that may be revealed to those who listen (and smell it).  Along with this sense of peering into other realms, there is comfort and protection, too, inherent in this aroma.  Like lying cozily on a soft bed of needles, nestled in the trees with only the night sky above;  you are sure to see the shooting stars.

 

pine_abstraction1

There is another inspiration, which was simply the incredible sensation of the first clear, oozing pine sap from the pine trees in my own back yard each Spring.  Maybe the reason this scent has been so long in the making is that I can only really work on it during a few weeks in Spring; I need experience that wonder first hand.  The new sap is unlike the aged sap that you find incrusted upon a more worldly tree and I wanted to really capture the airy freshness of that first exudation.

It has been interesting to construct this from almost all natural ingredients (99% botanical) with just a touch of green note accord in the top and an augmented resinous base to give the architecture something firm and stable.  Naturals have their intrinsic beauty but many times it is just impossible to get the structure to hold it’s form.  At least the form that I am working to sculpt or to use the former metaphor, build.  The tendrils of the naturals want to collapse on themselves and rush to be together in the middle.  It sometimes takes a lot of skill to get the pieces to confirm to the shape that you have in mind; something that is quite vertical as opposed to horizontal (landscape) or rounded / voluminous (a bouquet of sorts).  These few synthetic structure “poles” support the flickering nuances of the different shades of green leaves and needles, the cones and most of all the sap that dries into the crusty, delicious resin.  The fluidity of the design needs to be upheld.  It is sap and air after all.

I’m deliriously happy about the final result, I have to say.  Ask anyone who has been around me as I test it.  They will tell you of a crazy woman who can’t stop huffing the blotter (I almost NEVER do this) and swooning about, rolling her eyes in ecstasy.  I am that child again under the stars hearing the whispering murmurs of the trees and dreaming of the possibilities of life.

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I’m not sure when I am releasing this new perfume BUT I would love to share~

So, I am offering a drawing for 3ml EdP deluxe spray samples to 3 lucky winners.  Please leave a comment about your favorite conifer, or evergreen scent or better yet a favorite scent memory.  The drawing is open until June 8 at midnight MST.  Good Luck!

* images are all my own.  you can view some and others by me at my instagram page.

irisgris_image2

So, where I left off in my last post about making Iris Gris de Fath was in the skeletal structure that I began to test on my client’s skin.  Let’s start there.

As you may have surmised by the description given by Mr. Coifan, the fragrance starts on a cloud of fluffy, soft, creamy lactonic peach (the ingredient is commonly known as aldehyde c-14 but is undecalactone gamma) so I began with that as well.  Of course, the orris absolute and butter came right in next along with the ionones (alpha, and methyl gamma) to color in the correct amount of “grey and purple-y violet” in the heart.  I ended with the addition of musk, ambrette and civet. There is a sheer clean-ness that the musk imparts and the sensual humanity that the ambrette and civet breathe into the base.  As a skeleton goes, this one was lovely with high cheek bones.

When I am creating a bespoke fragrance I always want to get the ‘sketch’ on the skin as soon as I can which will give me some indication as to how the wearers skin will react, and in turn will inform me as to how I need to proceed toward our ultimate destination.  The upside to working on a reformulation is that you have something concrete to ‘match’.   I put a test patch of the original perfume on her skin and a patch of the sketch on the other arm so that I could determine what was happening on both arms.  I was delighted (and rather amazed, really) that at the ‘first fitting’, the sketch was already at least 80% proportional to the original.  I did notice that her skin exaggerated the ambrette and civet in the drydown and would need some extra peach to balance it but it was immediately elating; like hitting the ball right onto the green in the first stroke.

 

purpleiris

 

My next step was to expand the design to include the notes that give the perfume it’s nuances: the muguet, carnation (!), jasmine, lilac, and heliotrope in the heart and the oakmoss absolute, cedar, and vetiver in the drydown.  The peach, along with the slightest touch of lemon, bergamot and violet leaf absolute is all that commands the topnote.  This overdosing of peach gives the impression of incredible softness and approachability at first sniff that would just not be the case without it.  Orris can be rather cold, aloof, and as others have also written, quite melancholy.  But Iris Gris is not melancholy or aloof.  It is elegant, to be sure, and so, so beautiful but not in a way that you must admire her from an ivory tower.  Iris Gris comes down to be with you, and hold you close; lovingly.

 

fath_1949_iris gris _perfume ad

 

A light touch was needed to balance all of these other notes.  It would be all too easy to overpower that violet / orris heart and put a dent in that poof of peach meringue.  So I went slowly and tread softly all the while keeping the original in mind.  My client came for just two more fittings and we were done.  She beamed so brilliantly as she sniffed both arms, again with the original extrait on one arm and her new perfume on the other.  We both agreed that the only detectable difference seemed to be that the original smelled ‘aged’ and the other, well, new.  This was the moment that she told me that she calls this her “Scent of Hope”.  I was so, so moved by her passion for this fragrance and what it meant to her that I almost cried.  She and I can both relate to medical difficulties and what it means to have something to inspire hope; the hope of a life free from (a lot of) pain, filled with optimism and most of all, beauty.  It was right then that I thought that it would be something great to be able to release what we had made to a greater audience.  When she came back to finally pick up her presentation bottle I asked how she felt about an actual release, with her name for the fragrance, Scent of Hope.  She was not only very gracious, she was delighted to know that she would be instrumental in giving others a deep and meaningful pleasure in the smelling (and wearing!) of this design.

 

purple_ribbonimages

 

Now our final step is to find a partner organization to give 30% of the proceeds to.  Ideally, we would like to find a women’s cancer organization, perhaps locally, who will help women with the resources they need to handle their treatment and when they are finished, to help them rebuild their lives anew.  We know that after something like cancer, it is a re-building that must happen; there’s no going back to how it was.  So, this is our wish and goal.  The perfume will be released, in extrait only, when we find our ‘mate’.  In the meantime, I will leave you swooning about the chance to wear a legend; the stuff that dreams are made of.  ox

 

image credits: iris drawing by jan church found here; iris gris vintage ad found here.

 

ps: So for all of you who have always wanted to smell (and wear!) Iris Gris but won’t be making it to the Osmotheque in Versailles any time soon, now is your chance. :)  If you would like to pre-order, you can.  Please just email us at dsh@dshperfumes.com as we can put you on our list.  Nothing will be charged until we are ready to release and ship.

 

spring inspires me

It’s not always that it’s been a long, hard Winter or that blooming things get me going (which is true).  No matter what, Spring inspires me.  I get this rush of creative juice and there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to keep up with all that I would love to do.  This feeling is probably universal, right?  Doesn’t everyone feel like this?  I mean, doesn’t everyone write themselves like 10 emails with ideas every day or so at this time of year??  (Hmmm, I hope you didn’t all answer no.  I just might feel funny about that).  Well, anyway, I’ve been on this jag of walking with Xander, sniffing around, sending those emails to myself, and snapping pictures for weeks now.  I just wish that I could be in the studio 24 hours a day to work out all of these concepts.   For now, I will just have to be satisfied with the *writing down* in my notebooks, and sharing some of my images.

 

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crab apple blossoms on my walk

 

grapehyacinth_bee2

grape hyacinths with honey bee in my yard

 

first crocus

first crocus

 

 

pink bouquet

pink wreath

 

 

fougere

a perfect fougere

 

apple blossom

apple blossom

 

muguet green

muguet green

 

 

 

I hope a walk in my garden and around my neighborhood brings you joy and inspiration, too.  Have a very happy (and fragrant) week~~~  ox

 

images: all the images are my own; more in this series can be found here at my instagram page.

 

irisgris_photo1

There are some very exciting things going on in my studio lately.  Of course, as per usual I have about two dozen designs (or more ??) written down in my working notebook for  2014, but after the last four new design launches, I have been busy working with a client on a custom / reproduction.  I should mention that I rarely do this kind of work anymore (reproductions) as they are VERY labor intensive and therefore time-consuming (researching ingredients, many times locating these ingredients is a task in itself; sniffing out and reverse engineering the design, creating samples and getting feedback….).  The cost in time alone can become exorbitant.  In the past, I used to take quite a lot of commissions to do this sort of thing just for the opportunity to see and feel what other perfumers had done, what choices they were making in the constructions, what materials produce what results, etc.  It goes back to the ‘copy a masterwork to learn’ method that I came out with from art school.  But those were the days when I had a fair amount more time to devote to that kind of learning and taking on those clients who just could not let go of their (discontinued) beloved.

I recently made an exception.  Not merely because my client is so lovely and I wanted to work with her, nor because she is battling cancer and this scent is her dream, but because the perfume she wanted to have made is a true gem.  I wanted to work on it purely from an artistic standpoint.  You know by the title which masterpiece of perfume history I am referring to, the incredible and so ridiculously hard to find, Iris Gris de Fath.  This perfume is one of legend among connoisseurs; the proverbial ‘white whale’ among iris / orris perfume lovers in the know.  Any vintage perfume collector can tell you how hard this fragrance is to come by and if you do, how expensive just a sample or decant can be.  I have seen mini *eau de tolette* bottles go on ebay for upwards of $300.  For less than 10 ml, that’s a serious investment.  I happened to get very lucky when I found a partial bottle of the pure perfume for less than an arm and a leg.  It’s one of my “preciouses” that I found for my little perfume museum and it is perfect.

 

Iris Gris_originalperfume

 

This commission, too, was really perfect for me in so many ways.  First of all, I love the behind the scenes work of developing my sense of history and working at becoming a perfume historian.  It gets right to heart of my geeky / hermit streak.  You know, I adore the thought of being hold up on a desert island with my museum pieces, notebooks and my computer to just spend countless hours exploring the ins and outs of what’s happening in these precious bottles of living history; what they meant and mean to us now, as well as their construction, materials (many now long gone from the market and use) and the artists intent behind them.  It’s like having conversations with Picasso, Shakespeare, Michelangelo… finding the avenues to their greatness on a trail of crumbs left behind.  It’s pure bliss and I can’t express how much joy these objects contain for me.  But I digress (as I often do).

 

Jacques Fath Perfumes 1949 Iris Gris French Ad vintage

 

Can I just say, Iris Gris is magnificent.  Truly.  It’s subtle and bold at the same time; elegant and cool but beneath that haute couture outfit lurks a real, sensuously warm-blooded being.  I love that it feels so timeless as well.  Yes, there is a vintage feel in that ‘they just don’t make ‘em like they used to’ vibe but it’s so flawlessly constructed that I believe we would love to smell like this today (and every day).

You may be wondering how I go about deconstructing a perfume in order to create an original formula based on my research and smelling it on my ‘subject’.  Well, it’s just that: smelling.  I don’t use a GC or any kind of computer to detect the chemistry.  I have always felt that the key to getting reproductions right is in the smelling and the human experience that’s in the feel of the perfume, not just its smell.  Another key is to attempt to get into the head of the ‘lover’ (the person who is commissioning the perfume) to understand what they are smelling, experiencing and taking note of.  Everyone smells in a unique way, so what is important in a fragrance or aroma signature to you may not be the points of importance for someone else.  The trick is to get into another person’s heart and mind to find those sweet spots and be sure to hit them in the new design.  Not an easy task, but very worthwhile.  You will learn A LOT about people and fragrances…and so I have.

 

irisgris_image6

 

The first thing I learned was about the construction.   Barbara Herman wrote beautifully about Iris Gris on her blog, Yesterday’s Perfume, and also listed some of the ingredients based on the expert Octavian Coifan’s notes from his now (sadly) defunct website, 1000 fragrances.  Octavian is an amazing resource for the perfume lover / historian and it’s so lucky that Barbara listed the notes that Octavian had published about Iris Gris.  This is what Ms. Herman quoted from Mr. Coifan:

“[C]lean but not soapy, rich but not old-dusty…The perfume (a floral woody fruity but in fact an orris soliflore) is constructed around 2 ideas: orris notes + peach. Because orris and violet molecules are in general metallic/cold and usually express melancholy, the perfumer avoided this tendency with a soft peach note (undecalactone) that evokes a girlish skin complexion. The orris note is composed with all known orris notes (ionones, irones, methyl ionones, natural orris more than 35%). The woody note is mainly cedar-vetiver (their acetates for a light woody note). All other notes (jasmine, lily of the valley, heliotrope-lilac) are delicately drawn to support the floral-orris note and not to show their presence. There is an almost hard to detect chypre note (oakmoss – but I’m still not sure for that) and a light celery note (tuberose aspect and another trendy note in the 40-50’s used in traces) still to check. There is of course musk and a very light carnation like that in l’Air du Temps.  Iris Gris is the breath of angels!”
(From Octavian at 1000Fragrances.)

As I began working on my formula, I did find that some of the true notes in the original formula were not available: the musks would have to be replaced by some slightly more modern musk notes and the civet would need to be synthetic as well.  So, I set to work making a skeletal structure to test on my clients skin…

And that’s where I’m going to leave you for now.  Stay tuned for part 2.  :)

I hope that imagining what’s happening on the skin sparks your creative juices for today.  I’ll be back with more before you know it. oxox

 

image credits: photo image by jennie marie schell found here; iris gris drawing found here; iris gris perfume bottle image found here; iris gris perfume ad no.1 image found here.

 

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