Something has come over me this Fall… I’ve been busier than ever in my aroma studio. I’ve not only been figuring out the Holiday special gift (have I mentioned the perfume solids? they’re on the site right now but I’ll have to get into that in another post), but completing the Secrets of Egypt collection (hello, Sampsuchinon) plus Cuir et Champignon and Mata Hari. Now granted, Cuir et Champignon has been a work in progress since the end of 2008 (I started designing it back then but put it down for almost two years) so that didn’t happen all at once. Mata Hari, has been a somewhat simultaneous project to C&C but couldn’t be more different. Now that I think of it, it’s been a bit of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for me as C&C is dusty, earthy, and somewhat intellectual whereas Mata Hari is all happening lower down; in the heart and in the body. I can sum it up this way: Mata Hari is super sexy, luscious, and as full on top as it is on the bottom. No one is on a diet here; we’re full on going for Babette’s Feast. And seduction? Oh, yeah, we’re all over that.
Mata Hari is set to officially be released on November 15 as my submission to a new project (I won’t talk about the project until the unveiling of the concept on the 15th as well) but I will say that I am super excited about it. It’s a fruity, floral, chypre with definite influences of some of my favorite perfumers / historical masterpieces / period perfumes from the turn of the century to the 1920’s. I really wanted to give Mata Hari the feel of an early twentieth century perfume with all the richness and sexuality intact as well as tell a story of Mata Hari with all that she represents to the Femme Fatale icon. This is no small feat and I hope that I have done her name justice.
For this project, the design must be all natural (no synthetics!) so creating Mata Hari presented a real challenge to pull off since most ‘fruity fruit’ notes (plum, peach, apricot, mango, melon, apple, berry etc) are just that: synthetic. And while I have created some fruity perfumes in my time, “sweet and fruity” isn’t exactly a big theme with me, so I felt that I had to be more creative and resourceful than ever.
To start, I think that having some grasp of perfume history is important, just as knowing art history is important for all visual artists. I believe that Ambrose Bierce had it right when he said “There’s nothing new under the sun…”; especially in the arts. There’s always a reference to something or someone who has come before, or most often multiple reference points. There’s not only homage but this referencing also speaks to belonging to a lineage. Classical perfumery essentially must make these references and we are the better for it. Hopefully. What comes about from this kind of referencing is an aspiration to greatness: to the very best of the classical masterpieces while creating something unique as it is filtered through the artists themselves. We’ll try. And so I endeavor.
With Mata Hari, I realized early on that there were so many great masterpieces of the period (c.1900-1920) that I should start with a little outline to get a clear view of my ‘reference notes’; of what to keep and what to edit out. For me, what came immediately to mind are a couple of the great Jacques Guerlain designs (L’Heure Bleue and Mitsouko) as well as Francois Coty’s L’Origan and Chypre. And while Bal a Versailles, Fete de Molyneux and Femme de Rochas are not of the period, they found their way into my consciousness and I consider them influences as well. One commonality to note from all of these perfumes is the deliberate use of synthetics, and of course, synthetics are the only materials unavailable to me for this design. But beyond that, some notes did emerge again and again to form a theme: peach, orchid, lilac, jasmine, rose, benzoin, labdanum, oakmoss, leather and animal notes. Hmmm… peach, lilac, leather and most animal notes are, for the most part, synthetic and orchid is generally a fantasy. OK. Then it came to me…the idea to construct it in a different way than I normally do: I’ll create structured accords as the dominant notes to start with. Yes. I like it.
While on occasion I have created one or perhaps two ‘accord’ notes to work with in a design, I more often construct using individual notes to build my ‘sculpture’ with the concept of tying everything together to create a unified whole. For Mata Hari, I decided to create 4 prominent accords: Fruit accord no.1: peach-apricot-mango; Vintage Orchid; Lilac Cocktail; Botanical Leather 2 and build the fragrance from this foundation weaving these four ‘swaths’ into the complete work. Or, to think of it another way, like building an armature to then add the clay to form the figure. With Mata Hari, the accords are the armature and the other notes fill out the figure. What has resulted is a LUSH, rounded, full figure, FRUITY chypre that is all botanical.
Stay tuned for part 2: the accords. And for part 3: more influences…(with Mata Hari, there’s quite a lot to go with).
Wishing you a fabulous new week~~~