Monday, June 28, 2010

Perfume and Technology

Every where I go, people are all excited about about using technology to make things better. Social networking technology to better promote one's work. Tools created to improve shopping experiences or guide the choices of purchasers. But a lot of these tools tends to institutionalize biases of all sorts -- from providing continued memetic primacy of certain brands to biases of perspective when it comes to product evaluation.

Seems like everyone is talking about the new Givaudan iPhone application, iPerfumer. Well I have an iPhone, and I like technology. I also usually approach these sorts of applications with a mixture of hesitant delight and wary expectation. I know that technology is frequently not capable of (or often times even trying to) deliver anything close to what it promises. At the same time, where others have technofear, I try to embrace technojoy and look for the opportunities technology open to experience the world and its infinite stores of information in useful and interesting ways. So I decided to give iPerfumer a whirl.

Here's my problem, generally, with technologies that are meant to help you select a perfume. They tend to fall into two problems. The first, which I've written about before, is that they tend to focus on dividing the world of scent into binary gendered realms. When what perfume you should where is determined first and foremost by your biology, I just suspect everything you do. The iPerfumer manages to avoid this problem entirely, which I applaud. Never once does it ask, at least, what sex you are or the sex of the individual you might be shopping for. (Though it does divide its recommendations into masculine or feminine scents, it still recommends items from both categories based on your preferences.)

Unfortunately, iPerfumer does fall into the second problem. These tools tend to be developed by specific sellers who are attempting to 'aid' the buyer in purchasing selections she will like, but the selections are limited to whatever products that seller is pushing. While the aforementioned Macy's Scent Finder (and the terrifyingly similar Sephora Scent Finder) also suffer from this inherent flaw, it seems universal that the only scents recommended consist of a very narrow selection within the world of perfumes. In the case of iPerfumer, the system used to select recommendations is further compounded by the narrowness.

If you haven't used iPerfumer, let me tell you how it works. iPerfumer makes its recommendation selections based on what scents the user chooses to list along with a 1-5 star rating. You can search by house or scent name. Then, based on the kinds of scents you indicate that you like or loathe, respectively, it makes recommendations. iPerfumer has limited scents to recommend like any other scent finder technology I've found, but its limited listings also effect the actual selection process. Also iPerfumer features "Top Rated" and "New Launches" lists, so if you want to smell just like everyone else, they're going to make that super easy for you.

Many of the scents I truly love aren't even available for rating through iPerfumer. No Tauers, no CB I Hates, no Afetliers, no Ava Luxes, not even many of the Bond No. 9 scents were included for rating or recommendation.  By contrast, I think every celebrity scent ever made is available for rating.  By not being able to list that which I love, it becomes impossible for iPerfumer to make appropriate recommendations for me even among the limited scents it has to recommend.

You know what I'd love? I'd love for someone to apply the iPerfumer technology to a wider database, like the one that has accumulated on Make-Up Alley. I'd love to be able to tell a widget what scents I love and what scents I loathe and get some recommendations. It's just too bad that no one has managed to merge the two. Perhaps that will be the next step.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A little less conversation, a little more action.

Hello once again dear readers!

So many perfumey thinks I have thought in the last week. So many. Sometimes I find it difficult, not to be here, but how to figure out what to talk to you about specifically. Tiff's wedding was lovely, but left me completely exhausted, which has made it hard to do anything but sleep, honestly. Also, I have been freaking out about the oil sill in the Gulf, how it is effecting things now, how it will continue to affect generations of people who live and work the Gulf. I have no desire to live in Houston again, EVER, but I could easily see myself living along the Gulf somewhere, because I was born with that salty gulf water in my blood and the draw of those warm currents is ever present. So my heart is hurting, like the people and the creatures and the land I love. And it distracts me from other things. But I must press on! These perfumey thoughts cannot be contained.

Also, I have received awesomeness that cannot be ignored. First, I won a drawing for sprayer of Koto by Shiseido from Elena at Perfume Shrine. Not only does this blog have fabulous writing and great drawings, but Elena is also part of the PERFUMism project, which seeks to discuss perfumery as more than a consumer product, but as art itself. Included in my package were two bonus samples, one of which was from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. Several of my ThinkGeek-oriented friends have mentioned this line of perfume oils before, but I had not encountered it anywhere else until now. 

The timing of this was particularly interesting not only because I had not yet encountered BPAL's scents before, but also because my husband also gave me a 5ml bottle of their scent Cthulhu in Love last week.  David has a habit of collecting small gifts for me and storing them up and then surprising me with them when I am having a bad day.  Last week I had one of those days and, for the first time, my darling husband gave me perfume!  I'll be giving you a full review of this sometime soon, but at the moment let me just say that the love of extreme evil smells surprisingly...chocolatey. 

Finally, I finally settled on ordering a bunch of samples, and my order arrived from Luckyscent! I'm also trying to acquire a bottle of or two, and if that is successful, you'll be among the first to know.  After reading for months about all the wonderful new scents out there I could try, this is what I settled on for my first round of samples: Annick Goutal Mandragore, Annick Goutal Ninfeo Mio, Atelier Orange Sanguine, Atelier Bois Blonds, Diptyque Vetyverio, Etat Libre d’Orange Antiheros, Etat Libre d’Orange Delicious Closet Queen, Etat Libre d’Orange Don't Get Me Wrong Baby..., Etat Libre d’Orange Tilda Swinton - Like This, Juliette Has a Gun Midnight Oud, L’Artisan Nuit de Tubereuse, L’Artisan Al Oudh, Nez a Nez L'Hetre Reve, amd Tauer Perfumes Orange Star. I'm sure I will love some of them, and I look forward to telling you all about it.

That's all for now. More this weekend.

"Baby, close your eyes and listen to the music
drifting through a summer breeze.
It's a groovy night and I can show you how to use it.
Come along with me and put your mind at ease.
A little less conversation, a little more action please.
All this aggravation ain't satisfactioning me.
A little more bite and a little less bark.
A little less fight and a little more spark.
Close your mouth and open up your heart and baby satisfy me."

~ "A Little Less Conversation," Elvis
(You can listen to the song here)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hey, little sister, what have you done?

On helping a friend find a scent for her wedding

In eleven days, my friend Tiffani gets married. On Monday, Tiffani, I, and another member of the bridal party (Hi Kate!) got together to work on some wedding favors. As we talked over logistics of the upcoming nuptial related events, I asked a question every perfumista must know: what perfume will you be wearing on your joyous day?

Tiff is not a perfumista. She has what I would describe as a mild interest in perfume. She's not adverse to hearing about it, or even trying some things, but she's not really interested enough to seek it out on her own at the sacrifice of other hobbies/collectibles/opportunities. She told me she was just kind of hoping that, as busy as she, overwhelmed by last-minute work for the wedding, some perfume might fall into her lap.

That, I told her, is where I come in.

After rustling up a collection of about ten or so bottles of my collection, I dragged them out into the lounge along with some scent strips for her to use to narrow down her search. Her wedding is a late afternoon/early evening outdoor 'do in mid-June. It's being held at Bridal Veil Lakes, which -- if you google image search the locale -- you'll see is a site providing everything that the PNW has to offer in the way of natural beauty. It's like getting married in a field next to a lake smack in the middle of the first Twilight movie.

I tried, as every good perfumista does, to bring her a wide variety of options while, at the same time, sticking to things that would fit the event (time, place, occasion). I brought her everything from gourmands to florals to ultra-realists to oriental/incense scents. This isn't a leather scent kind of wedding, so I skipped those, and I skipped ozones, woods, and chypres for similar reasons. While I may love scents in these families, I know better than to try to foist them upon some poor unsuspecting woman on the day of her wedding. I also left out anything I didn't think could hang in there with a busy afternoon of vows, photos, food, and dance, so, for example, as much as I might love S-Perfumes 100% Love, it would take so many applications to make it stick, I nixed it. Similarly, I dropped anything so prohibitive expensive that the bride could not later reasonably acquire a bottle of her own to enjoy and remember. Consequently, while I might be more than willing to pony up $300 for a bottle of L'Artisan Iris Pallida, I also recognized that the woman in front of me would never be the kind of perfumista who thinks that is a totally reasonable amount to pay for a bottle of perfume if you really liked it.

After trying everything from Bond No. 9 New Haarlem to Chanel No. 5 to CB I Hate Perfume Black March to Prada Infusion d'Iris, she narrowed it down a bit. But among the myriad of roses and vanillas and irises that tend to be my favorites, given the summer outdoor setting and the DIY tendencies of the bride, I had no idea what the bride would go for. I stuck toward florals, figuring if Tiff showed an interest in something more foodie or spicy I could swap always go get other scents. My floral instincts were spot on though for an outdoor summer ceremony.

Ultimately, it came down to two scents: Kai EdP and Chanel Coco Mademoiselle.(Kai haters, talk to the engagement ringed hand: I like it, and so did she.)  While I was surprised, I don't think anyone was more surprised than the bride herself when she ultimately settled for the Chanel. If you'd asked her before we began if she would ever consider herself a Chanel type of woman -- any kind of Chanel -- she would have felt about 90% sure the answer was no. But after spraying her thoroughly with both Kai and Coco Mademoiselle to wear home for the evening and have her fiancé smell, I received a obviously perplexed but nonetheless happy voicemail the next day telling me that she had settled on Coco Mademoiselle. Both she and her fiancé liked it and, she said delightedly, "I could still smell it on me this morning, and that's cool!"

And that is one of the crazy wonderful things about perfume. It never stops surprising me, and whenever I see someone else surprise themselves with their own delighted responses, I am totally gratified. It has the ability to give the wearer new insight into how they see themselves, or how they want to be seen. It opens up memories and experiences that you might not have ever even knew you were missing. It is a little miraculous thrill, right there happening in the middle of an otherwise rainy and insignificant day.  I would never have predicted this outcome for Tiffani, but it makes me happy to see her so pleased with her own choice. I promised to decant her an 8ml sprayer of it (and bring my bottle for back up), an expected and delightful opportunity for me to contribute in some small way to the memory of her special day.

In case you're interested, here's the full list of scents I pulled out to test:
Bond No. 9 New Haarlem, Annick Goutal Vanille Exquise, Annick Goutal Songes, Stella McCartney Stella Nude, Juliette Has a Gun Lady Vengeance, Juliette Has a Gun Miss Charming, Téo Cabanel Oha, Kai EdP, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, Chanel No. 5, Prada Infusion d'Iris, Lorenzo Villoresi Alamut, L'Artisan Dzing!, Tauer L'air du désert marocain.
"There is nothin' fair in this world.
There is nothin' safe in this world.
And there's nothin' sure in this world.
And there's nothin' pure in this world.
Look for something left in this world --
Start again. Come on!

It's a nice day to start again."

~ "White Wedding," Billy Idol

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

And you didn't even notice when the sky turned blue....

Christiane Celle Calypso Mimosa EdP

Oh, the job interviews, they keep happening. I guess this is the sign that the economy here is finally looking up. I keep wondering how I'll deal with going back to work full-time after being out for over six months now. At first all this free time made me anxious. While I've certainly experienced my fair share of boredom by now, I've also kind of relaxed into the void, as it were. It will be weird to have structured time again at some point. Hopefully "some point" is going to be in the next few weeks, because I really deserve to buy a whole lot of perfume to celebrate.

According to Calypso Christiane Celle, Mimosa is an "enticing blend of orange rose and jasmine. A Mediterranean springtime breeze." Because this isn't all that helpful, I turned to Luckyscent for additional insight. Here's what they had to say:
Calypso’s signature scent is a sunny, transparent floral that shimmers n’ shines with dashes of mimosa, green leaves, rose and jasmine. It’s a sweet and gentle fragrance that never tries to overpower your nose or leave a flower-scented vapor trail behind you. Instead, it dances on your skin, joyful and playfully feminine, giving off delicate hints of sunny summer flowers enhanced by a powder-soft musk base. Easy to love and a perfect fragrance for any occasion.
Notes: mimosa, green leaves, jasmine, rose

Transparent? Dancing vapor trail? This was, dear reader, not at all my experience. Initially, here's what I get: rubber and hand soap. About ten minutes in I do get something a little bitter, which I'm guess is green leaves coming through like chewing on dandelion stems coated in salt and pepper.

It took a couple of tries at this one, though, before I could see the prettiness of it. Why? Because of the damned hand soap! My first thought was that I smelled vaguely of hands freshly washed from the public bathroom. I kept seeing that light blue color in my head that the soap always is. Setting that aside, though, I can see some of the niceness. This is one of the first mimosa scents I've tried, and inevitably it will grow on me until I finally cannot imagine what I was thinking when I wrote this, but there's the truth of the thing. Newer noses, beware, and be patient. It's a nice scent, this mimosa thing, but it is going to feel kind of familiar at first, and not necessarily in a good way.

Once I got over it (3rd try? 4th?), I could see a creamy texture to this, like the feel of crisp, unwrinkled satin. It get a tiny bit sweet after about an hour.  Some folks complained about staying power, but it was fine on me.  It's a nice clean scent, and as long as you don't over do it, would be suitable for daytime-to-the-office kind of wear. I don't find it particularly feminine, and think it might bloom in a surprisingly nice way on a man. I'm going to try more mimosas to see how it compares, but I find the overall experience so far as middling. Not unpleasant, but as yet, nothing to take to the hills in song about. Does anyone have any mimosa scents they recommend I try next?

You can buy Mimosa in 100ml for $55 from LuckyScent. (The perfumer sells the scent direct for $60.) There is also a shower gel and body lotion.

"You'll find it hiding in shadows.
You'll find it hiding in cupboards.
It will walk you home safe every night.
It will help you remember.
If that's the way it is,
then that's the way it is.
You are the bluest light."

- "Blue Light," Bloc Party (You can listen to the song here)

Want more reviews? Try...
~ a review from Perfume-Smellin' Things
~ a review from Sweet Diva

Friday, June 4, 2010

Your lips move, but I can't hear what you're saying.

L'Artisan Jour de Fête

Dear reader, I am in trouble. I have not bought any perfume, even samples, in almost eight months. And now, for the first time, I have money again from a creative project I'm working on. My perfume trigger finger is practically twitching. Bottle? Two bottles? Or a whole heap of samples of all the stuff I've been wanting to try? It is SO HARD TO MAKE A DECISION!

My self control is on the verge. I'm fighting that, of course, by attempting to confuse myself about purchasing choices by trying more scents.

According to L'Artisan, L'Artisan Jour de Fête is
Let every day be a celebration with this delicious fragrance evocative of candied almonds. Jour de Fete is a new, soft interpretation of vanilla, sheer and balanced by the light bitterness of nuts. The sugared coating of almonds melts into a subtle vanilla accord softened by wheat and white orris. A “crunchy” eau de toilette, for an everyday festive mood.
Notes: almond, wheat, orris, vanilla

What a lovely almond opening! The vanilla is definitely in there, but it smells more like slightly toasted almonds. The wheat note adds a kind of dry and salty aspect, and the orris is a nice floral aspect. It's beautiful scent that walks a line between gourmand and floral by meeting in the middle, based around the sweetness in each. It's a lovely experience that isn't overpowering, but instead is a very comforting scent. It is the sort of scent experience that I find very comforting, and in a city that experiences early June with rain and the occasional hail and temperatures in the low-50s, comforting scents are nice.

You can buy Jour de Fête in 50ml for $95 direct from the perfumer as well as Beauty Encounter, Luckyscent, and Rare Cosmetics.

"Now I've got that feeling once again.
I can't explain; you would not understand.
This is not how I am.
I have become comfortably numb."

- "Comfortably Numb," Pink Floyd (You can listen to the song here)

Want more reviews? Try...
~ a review from Perfume-Smellin' Things
~ a review from Nathan Branch

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Like a natural woman...

YOSH Winter Rose

Ah, gentle reader -- where have I gone? It's a question I ask myself.

David has finished the school year and been around to spend time with me, so I've been taking advantage of that. That and the cats have been sick -- ALL FOUR OF THEM.

PB&J --so cute!
I've also become obsessed with The Office, which David and I find super hilarious. We started watching because my friend Shelley, who is a 22 y.o. Chinese International student and soon to be graduate student in actuarial sciences, needed someone to teach her to drive. I volunteered. It's funny. I'm not a mom. I don't know if I ever will be. But I am having the pleasure of teaching someone to drive. There's something sweet about passing on a life skill to someone, something that feels strangely permanent. Some day she'll teach someone to drive, and so on and so forth. It's a little piece of me that will continue.

Shelley is obsessed with The Office, and specifically why the actor/ess who play Jim and Pam are not together in real life.  She kept asking me over and over while we were driving for hours around cemeteries, parking lots, neighborhoods, etc. how they could not be together in real life.  I began watching the show so we could talk about it.  Now I agree with her.  Also, I think I'm in love with Jim.  Not the actor, the character.  I can say that here because David does not read my blog.  No one should tell him.

So I admit I've been distracted in a vacation-y way. But I promise, dear reader, to talk to you more. After all, what would I be without you?

Weather here is crazy town. I know, I know. I say that a lot and it seems like I am forever talking about the weather. I've found the weather is one of the largest influences on what perfumes I wear from day to day. Not what I try, but what I actually wear. Depending on the weather, I either bundle up or opt for looser warmer weather clothes. The combination of the weather and the fashion ultimately creates a scenario that ends up pushing me into one set of scents or another. The weather has been unseasonably cold and wet lately, more like November than June. This keeps leading me back to trying winter scents, even when I'd like to move on to summery scents.

Thus, YOSH's Winter Rose has hit the line-up for review a couple of times, but I kept pushing it off because it wasn't seasonal. Well I'm just going to go with the crazy weather and give you this review, and maybe soon Oregon will get around to a proper summer.  Winter Rose is a limited edition creation of Yosh Han, inspired by her travels through Turkey. Only 250 eight millimeter bottles are available. It is described by Han as follows:
A completely organic botanical fragrance, Winter Rose evokes dreamy landscapes filled with lush textures and colors, spices from the markets, mysteries of the desert caves and ancient ruins, and glorious roses from Isparta. Winter Rose resplendently captures the beauty of roses with a tinge of cardamom-- it is soft and delicately sweet; it is a gem of a fragrance that exemplifies the spirit of the people.
I love rose scents, so I was excited to try this one. On me, though, Winter Rose is a lightweight in a world filled with beautiful roses. Mostly I feel like it's comes off as a very nicely made rose scented massage oil. The scent of oil in this, a sort of bland, cleaness, is just so powerful in this. It's almost like the smell of a well-baby oiled baby. After a while the faint rose is jointed by a mixture of very gentle almond nuttiness and orangey citrus, but it's still not the dominant paradigm.

I try to imagine what sort of situation or event I'd want to wear this for, and all I can think of is a scenario wherein I knew I was going to be wearing next to nothing and in very warm weather. It seems like the sort of scent a person would wear when they wanted just the barest hint of scent, the sort of thing a woman might want, in a passionate moment, to be mistaken for simply the scent of her. Sounds sexy, no? It's certainly got that potential. But for me it just doesn't have enough umph to be worth the price point, particularly when I can have equally organic Red Flower's Guaiac, which does something similar but does it better.

I'm wondering if the issue is that it is an organic, which I have a mixed feelings about, because from my perspective, while I'm all for the natural/reusable/organic/local grown/etc. movement, I don't know that it has any place in perfume. The fact is that synthetic sources can often make excellent perfume -- scents that might not otherwise be able to be created or capturing scents that, in order to create them naturally, would be environmentally more harmful than using the synthetics. I don't think naturals should be getting banned because, let's face it, if you've got allergies then you know before you start putting on scent it might not work for you, but at the same time, I think limiting your artistic palette to organics seems unnecessarily limiting to me, like an English author trying to use only words with a Germanic root to write a novel, or trying to speak without using "E"s. While it might seem like a fun and challenging intellectual exercise at first, after a while it seems kind of pointless or pretentious at best or suffocating at worst.

What are your thoughts on the organics issue readers? Are you drawn to scents because they are "organic" or "all natural" more/less than other scents? Does it matter? Do you care at all?

You can buy 8ml of Winter Rose from Luckyscent for $200.

"Looking out on the morning rain, I used to feel uninspired.
And when I knew I had to face another day,
Lord, it made me feel so tired.
Before the day I met you, life was so unkind.
Your love was the key to peace my mind,
'cause you make me feel,
you make me feel,
you make me feel like a natural woman."
- "Natural Woman," Aretha Franklin
(You can listen to the song here)

Want more? Try...
~ a review from Scent Hive
~ a review from Perfumistadotorg