Thursday, August 19, 2010

Composing with Eliza (Gentille Alouette Round 2)

Today I brought in the essences we hand-picked last time to re-sniff, review, sift through and select the ones that will actually be used to formulate the Gentille Alouette perfume.
Part of the process is selecting which essences to use is also to imagine how they will smell together. Another part is prioritizing – because if you got too many essences the perfume will easily loose character and become just a cacophony of pleasant odours that don’t have anything special to say to one another and just scream “me, me, me!” in an attempt to get attention.

And me being the perfumer and facilitator of such a process is like walking a tightrope: on one hand, I want to listen to the client’s innermost fragrant desires; on the other hand I must guide them so that it won’t be a waste of time, not to mentio precious material. The process must be meaningful and enjoyable, allowing the client to have a say in the decision making throughout the various stages of development. As to not interfere too much with the process, I begin without negating options just because I think that they “won’t work” or because it’s “straying from the original concept”. I will get there at some point, and offer my expertise in what would work and what wouldn’t, give suggestions, alternatives and invent narratives that will make every compromise (if such a thing is really necessary) feel like a choice and not like lessening of the dream.

The elimination process with Eliza was smooth sailing. Although she loves many different types of scents (we picked 30 raw materials to start with!) she also had a very clear vision for what she wanted. And when it came to the 2nd round, she was just as harsh as I was with letting go and cutting things out, understanding that it’s not about the attachment to a particular note – but about how it will work together as a whole with the vision she had for Gentille Alouette perfume.
To assist us in the process, we used touches (scent strips) that we dipped in the various essences and clipped together. Waving them in front of the nose in a spiraling motion gets the molecules mingled together in the air and gives off a scent that alludes to what would be if… this will be mixed with that. And unlike actual blending – it’s possible to not only add things in – but also take them out if you don’t like the result. While it does not give a good grasp on the proportion, a skilled nose can know if he’s heading in the right direction. Because the scents strips are just one part – the other part is the imagination, the vision, and once in the lab – knowing how to put them all together so the essences can dance, sing and bloom on the skin.

Our process was nearing its end, when we had a surprise visitor at the shop: a long time customer of mine and a fellow Portobello West vendor: Gerry-Gail (GG) Endean of Creampuffs by GG. Her signature scent is GiGi, with which she fell in love instantly upon her first visit to the market (by the second or third visit she has already become a vendor…). GG sells her “creampuffs” or girlie boxer shorts at Gentille Alouette and dropped by to restock the shop with more creampuffs AND show off the new fabaric swatches for the upcoming collection. We let her sniff the perfume and as you can tell by the sheer bliss expression on her face – she liked it just as much as we did… And than a bunch of other customers showed up too and we had a blast just looking at their faces as they smell this very particular, freshly made-up combination of notes.

Next post: what I’ve done with all those essences (and what essences?!) when I came back to my studio…

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