As a child I often dreamed of being able to practice and wield the power of magic. I really wished I could conjure to repair and save and create joy. I adored the Mary Poppins method of tidying away the toys and taking afternoon tea on the ceiling. I loved nothing better than reading novels about genies, wizards, fairies and their godmothers, leprechauns, elves, stories of enchanted lands in myths and legends. As an adult, I read somewhere that an act of Magic is merely the ability to summon things forth by calling upon their true name. That made me stop and think very long and hard about the power in a name. Just because the neighbours call their cat ‘Sneaker’ doesn’t mean he isn’t really known in his own circles as Crimson Copernicus IV
Learning the real name of any single being or thing reveals a deep understanding of the true nature of said person or thing. ‘Right-naming’ demonstrates a deep state of at-oneness with the being or object on, or at its own level of existence. It’s why scientists and scholars are so highly regarded. Referring to our anatomical parts as accurately as possible is the right sort of magic we entrust our surgeons with.
There is indeed a great deal of power and wisdom in being capable of naming and thereby summoning forth collaboration or cooperation from the very heart of what is being summoned. It brings to mind, for me, the story of Doctor Dolittle conversing with the animals in all their own languages. How wonderful that would be. I still believe we can and will one day learn so much more about inter-species communication.
Another folk saying I carry with me always is
‘When you commit to something, the universe conspires to help you’.
I definitely love the idea of a universe conspiring to help me. It gives me a feeling of joy.
And… the last in my personal kit of inspirational sayings (at least for today) is one I heard from an amazing teacher whose work I adore:-
‘You can have anything you want, the price you must pay is full attention. If you don’t pay attention, you pay with pain’.
So, I have been thinking such a lot about refining the ways in which I create, describe and market my natural fragrances. I’ve considered many of the similarities and differences between mass-produced, synthetic fragrances and my products. I’ve spoken about this before at length, but just to summarise the behavioural differences, synthetic fragrances are attenuated so that the initial scent is very alluring and grabs the attention immediately within the first 5 seconds. Often there’s an airy luminosity and gloss to the fragrance that provides a very pleasing aesthetic. The fragrance dries down and evolves, which is where synthetic fragrances either make a smooth transition to a second and third stage of development, or they fall apart. Many trends in the hectic life of fragrance-by-fashion can mean that so many commercial fragrances are similar, slight variations on this season’s crop which is largely dictated by what focus groups want. It’s a shame really, many customers are quickly bored with all the sameness, and I’m pretty sure a lot of noses are frustrated with so many creative and economic constraints.
My natural perfumes lack any of the chemical ingredients that are frequently found in commercial fragrances, there are no aldehydes, no super-boosted sparklers or bubbles or artificial palate-pleasing hors d’oeuvres up front. The effect can be that natural fragrance on first whiff seems quite heavy, syrupy or just very intense. It’s not always this way. It is more usual when the fragrance is a heavier Oriental amber, because the base notes are so pervasively strong that they reach all the way up the front and put in an appearance too soon (a bit like over-enthusiastic cast members of a high-school play who can’t stop themselves from peeking through the stage curtains to see if Janeen’s in the front row).
Blending skill has a lot to do with attenuating this first impression. It’s not an easy task to balance the first blush with enough oomph and longevity to stay the distance. Synthetic fragrances incorporate a number of chemical helpers to manage this challenge. Natural fragrances use more resin. The tartness of many resins (frankincense, myrrh, tolu etc) tip the balance from a sweet floral to a sour floral very easily. And then the chase begins again… more rose, more jasmine, more vanilla etc to reclaim the sunshine and laughter. It’s a fraught process, and can never be achieved without very generous amounts of raw materials to try and try and try again until the sweet spot is located. This can’t easily be done on a small scale.
There is a certain kind of magic that happens when blending perfume from natural, botanical ingredients. It is a most incredible phenomena for which I’ve yet to learn the right name. Mandy Aftel calls it locking, but for me, that’s not quite the right name. The magical moment happens when the selected ingredients are blended and reach a kind of perfect resonance with each other. The blend suddenly transforms from a pleasing mixture of the sum of its parts into a whole new state of synergy. A brand new ‘scentity’ emerges. Perhaps that’s the name. The perfume no longer smells like a series of choices put together, it is one. The radiance and the shimmer of this new scentity is incredible. It is such a delicate mixing process, that it can suddenly appear and, in the excitement to ‘push’ the boundaries, be lost in an instant. No amount of rectification can recreate what was – the synergy. It is truly a moment of glory. The challenge is to be confident enough to make a large batch, and to keep blending as often as possible to learn where, when and how this phenomena has really occurred. For me, it is the grail… the perfumer’s seat of power and the reason I wake up inspired and fall asleep questioning. It keeps me fascinated and obsessed with the marvel of perfume creation.
At times, this synergy has happened almost instantaneously with very few ingredients. I was convinced at that time that fewer ingredients was key. Not so. It has happened on the very last attempt to ignite a fragrance composition that has been languishing in the laboratory state for a very long time, still just not quite right, not singing yet. Some fragrances are just beautiful perfumes that never arrive at this magical state of radiance. Not every radiant fragrance will speak to all people. Weather and temperature play a part. Humidity kills off the fragrant splendour of many fragrances. Deep Winter closes down others altogether. It’s a momentary phenomena, but those that wear a lot of perfume become hyper-aware of it. They recognise the goosebumps and take stock of the kinds of conditions happening when they first experience this wonder and remember to align with those conditions next time they select that scent for the day. I also think it’s why so many fragrances that are bought in department stores (where the humidity is zero and the air-conditioning is so dense) just seem to have lost something, somehow lost their magic when applied later at home. Perhaps our brains have already identified all the characters in that perfume story. Natural ingredients are complex, subtle, surprising. The plot can take a sudden twist at any moment. A mystery thriller awaits ‘in the garden’.
As a nose, I strive to ensure that mine arrive at the most satisfying destinations, even as I realise that they are not for everybody, they are only for some. I see too, that many people are coming around to the idea that natural perfume is an old/new trend that is definitely very valuable, and for so many reasons.
To honour the differences between natural and synthetic perfume, I have renamed the product categories on my website just to veer slightly away from the usual classifications of fragrance formulas. My cologne styled fragrances last 3 times longer than most eau de parfums so I have renamed them Aromatics. They are glorious.
My pure oil parfums are now named Touch to Anoint. It is a reminder that applying oil parfum is a beautiful ritual. Ancient, meaningful, beautifying, sacred, it is a ritual anointing of the self, dearly beloved by those that truly indulge in the luxury and wonder of perfume. Many people are at first, uncomfortable with the notion of touching the perfume. This is such a disconnection from sensuality and eros, and one that needs to be remedied right now. A few drops of Touch to Anoint fragrances are so great in the bath, and heavenly when applied on the body after bathing or showering. They are long-lasting and emollient and pure. Great for the skin, the heart and soul.
My eau de toilettes are luminous and sheer and yet also very long-lasting. These are now named Gossamer Wings, the light-filled radiance of all the fairies and Tinkerbells I ever dreamed of meeting and becoming when I was a little girl.
Eau de parfums are now named Eaux On Velvet, because they are opulently rich, statement fragrances that are long-lasting and memorable and plush. Life feels better when you find yourself *On Velvet.
Lusso Collection are rare and precious, small-batch stunning beauties. Lusso are exclusive fragrances containing very expensive ingredients made in 1-2 litres. The only Lusso collection fragrances that have been made in more than one batch are Rose Potion and Zeeba.
*On Velvet is slang for “sitting pretty,” it means things are going very well.