Posts Tagged ‘Mata Hari’

Mata Hari, 1905

Can you believe how perfect she is for me: even her stage name, Mata Hari, means “Eye of the Dawn”.  I feel as though everything about this perfume has come from some other place and has ‘clicked’, in every detail, including the name.  I was contemplating other themes for the project but none could compare; none could be so romantic and daring.

I have to say that I am beyond thrilled by some of the reviews of Mata Hari Perfume… Thank you Gaia at the Non-Blonde and Monica, Michelyn and Mark at Ca Fleure Bon who really got the essence of what I was going for and especially the historical references, which I think are not only integral to feeling the perfume’s design but also to the Outlaw project in general, since what we lose with the IFRA restrictions is our access to the great masterpieces of history.  I’d also like to especially thank Donna at the Portland Examiner for all of her kind, poetic words for Mata Hari.  It’s really more than most artists can hope for to have their work praised but even more to feel as though ‘the message was received as intended and understood’.  This is a HUGE and rare thing in Art.

Mata Hari, 1910

One criticism (well maybe, maybe not) that seemed to show up here and there from commenters was that the ingredient list was too much…too expanded.  “Why not simplify”?,  you ask.   My response is this : How could I economize?  With the ingredient list or the bottle or any part of it?  To my mind, it is not possible with the outrageous Mata Hari!  It is not about ‘more being more’ but about what the design calls for.  Vintage perfumes were complexity and sophistication themselves…not the more modern, streamlined ‘simple elegance’ ( which I love, too ).  This style of perfume is not Zen…and it’s definitely not about austerity.  It’s about ostentation and seduction.  There is no way to skimp or withhold when you are Mata Hari.  And so, I didn’t.

This whole project has been a delight for me.  Thank you to everyone who participated from the other perfumers in the Guild to the bloggers who spent SO much time reviewing the designs and everyone who followed the scent trails around cyber space.  Wishing you a wonderful December and Holiday Season~~~

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greta garbo as mata hari (1931)

Well, the our project has launched and I’m already racing to finish the next phase of Holiday projects.  I haven’t forgotten my new love, however.  She is still firmly in my heart and on my mind.  You know, I had this one drive home from the studio when I thought of over five REALLY good ideas (well I thought they were at the time) to illustrate the project but by the time I got home, I had forgotten to write them down, thinking that they were so memorable that I would, of course, just remember them.  Of course, I did not.  Except for Mata Hari.  And as the weeks went by and I wracked my brain to remember what I forgot, Mata Hari stayed with me.  The seduction had already begun.  In fact, the story of Mata Hari had enthralled me years ago when I first saw the fabulous Greta Grabo movie Mata Hari.  (I am a HUGE Greta Grabo fan!!!  And what an OUTLAW she was… a woman in pants in public!?!  But, I digress.)   I wanted every single outfit Adrian had created for her; especially the velvet and jewels dress with the fabulous skull-cap and the all black velvet number she goes off to the firing squad in.  She was captivating.

fabulous Adrian outfit no.1

I was also really struck by the fictional Mata / Greta ‘s infatuation with the seductive, erotic orchid in whose ‘pouch’?  (labia?) she hid her coded messages as double agent.    It reminded me of the true to life fascination with orchids and their exoticism / eroticism of the late Victorian and early 20th Century eras.   Hmmm… I think I’m on to something: there are many classic perfumes from the 1900’s to 1910’s that mention orchid as a main heart note ingredient.  Now this is a good place to start.   We know that orchid notes are conventionally ‘fantasy’ notes, somewhat based on olfactive research on the flowers but at that time, many of the orchid accords were rich blends of heady florals, oriental balsams and resins and pure imagination.  So, this was the first accord that made it’s way into my consciousness for my perfume Mata Hari, the Vintage Orchid.

The next step was to decide: Oriental?  or Chypre?  The project by it’s nature makes me lean toward any liberal use of oakmoss but there are tons of spices on the IFRA list as well.  Mata Hari was pretending to be Indonesian, of Hindu royal birth, so that sends me in the Oriental direction.  But then I had it: a fruity Chypre not only typifies the fragrance chic of the time and place (Paris c.1910-1918), but the fruits speak to Mata Hari’s sensuality while the moss and leather her prowess and sexual abandon (at the time not usually attributed to women).  Plus, it wouldn’t be difficult to fit in some oriental references to Indonesia and the Far East as well.  Perfect.

The next accord to construct was the leather.  Animalic notes can be tricky when using all botanicals to compose, but again, I went for the classical interpretation.  Based on birch tar, it’s a smoky, ‘brown’, tanned leather note more so than modern concepts of suede or black leather.

fabulous Adrian outfit no.2 (Greta Garbo with Ramon Navarro)

Another of the focus accords is lilac; notoriously elusive and usually created from synthetics.  I felt that lilac would not only pose a challenge but also speak to the ultimate feminine, the “Goddess’ energy at the heart of Mata Hari’s outrageous personality.  I worked on a relatively simple accord that I am happy with that approximates some of the aromatic signature of lilac and very much hits all of the ‘pitches’ that lilac hits but there was something about it that resembled tinctured lilacs.  It’s got an aged quality that works within the overall design but I do think that I’ll expand the concept in the future.  This is the ‘Lilac Cocktail’ accord.

I’m saving the best for last: the fruit note no.1 accord.  Peach?  Mango?  All botanical??  This accord, I must tell you, was the most fun.  Composed of citrus, florals and herbs, the fruit note is luscious and juicy with nuances of dried apricots and figs.  For me it symbolizes, well, a bustiness…all curves and feminine sexuality.

All told, Mata Hari is replete with the IFRA restricted aromatics… Here’s the list of every botanical included:  bergamot, lemon, neroli, orange blossom absolute, mandarin, tarragon, sweet &  blood orange, davana, tagettes, galbanum, carrot seed, black pepper, cassie flower absolute, mimosa absolute, jonquil absolute, orris butter, rose de mai absolute, damascena rose otto, sambac jasmine absolute, tuberose absolute, ylang ylang, champaca absolute, osmanthus absolute, nutmeg, cinnamon leaf, cinnamon bark, clove bud, honey absolute, angelica root absolute, ambrette seed co2, benzoin, cistus, costus root, oakmoss absolute, peru balsam, australian sandalwood, styrax absolute, tonka bean absolute, vanilla absolute, cumin, patchouli, java vetiver, buddahwood, texas cedarwood, cassis absolute, myrrh gum, tabac absolute, and cade.

(*FYI: This list is the “full disclosure” list of ingredients.  It includes all of the notes used to create the accords as well as single notes to ‘sew’ it all together.  This means that some of the ingredients are in minute proportions, included to round out the design, not to show themselves like a parade of stars.  Others are focal points and meant to be observed.)

WOW!  Just about every bit of this design is from the restricted / banned list!  But what can I say?  I love these oils; truly and deeply.   And I know Mata Hari herself would love them, too.

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Mata Hari in Paris c.1910

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).

Mata Hari

Wishing you a fabulous new week~~~

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