Scents

WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: AM

Sometimes life can be a series of coincidences, happy or otherwise. I came across a particular scent one balmy September evening and it captivated me, captured me, I felt compelled to ask the wearer what it was, she smiled knowingly at me, having been asked the same question many many times before. I was not alone in my desire. I wanted so much to try this perfume on my own skin, nevertheless, it took me a while before I embarked on any foreign travel, we live in a small town and so access to anything other than mainstream is difficult and so I waited patiently until we travelled again as I so desperately wanted to try it on myself, wondering if would we fit together, this new scent and I.

Finally a trip to England gave me the necessary opportunity and the minute I sprayed it on my skin I knew instantly that we fitted perfectly, I bought a bottle and boarded my plane. The next day when we had finally reached our destination, I found myself with the luxury of time to spare, a comfy bed, linen sheets, English Breakfast tea and a stack of independent magazines, low and behold as I flicked through I was intrigued and bemused as there, staring back at me was the man who had created the scent I had been dreaming of, Jean-Claude Ellena. Kismet. I lay back and relaxed. Warmed by the sense of coincidence and my new perfume wafting over me.

The article mentioned his book Diary of a Nose, which I bought immediately and devoured yet savoured. Jean-Claude Ellena as the head perfumer or 'le nez' at Hermès in this book, tells the story behind the creation of perfume. For one year he kept a diary of his life, pleasures of the everyday, very much like our photography, with a joy in the little things which resonated with me. He describes himself as a writer of smells and that within each bottle there contains a story to a life about to be written by the bearer. Much like us at Absintheminded Magazine, he finds his inspiration in markets, in time spent with loved ones and delicious afternoons off. He describes the olfactory experience at the market that will inspire him later in the laboratory not as a reproduction but the image of the scent in his memory, much like our photographs whereby we capture an essence, we capture the emotion, our interpretation, our distractions and inspiration. Fragments to interpretation.

As an artist seasons are vital, after all the floral notes of essence of bergamot made in October are different to fresh notes in February. He explains that the majority of his ideas are the fruits of day to day work, sometimes the result of meeting people, country walks, idle strolls, things he reads, or moments when his mind is free to roam. A slowness, a quest for inspiration and guidance, sometimes looking at the sea is enough to reconnect.

My own foray into the world of perfume appreciation began coincidently enough with a tiny sample bottle I received of First which interestingly Ellena created for Van Cleef & Arpels in 1976, next I was captivated by the feminine and floral notes of Joseph Parfum de Jour which was co-created with clothing designer Joseph Ettedgui and British fragrance company Penhaligon's, to which I was loyal for many years.

However something about the combination of the citrus and cardamom notes with essences of the forest found in Voyage d'Hermès captivated me and convinced me to make a change, the perfume was developed by Ellena as an expression of the house of Hermès and its long relationship to travel - an imaginative scent mystic and unexpected, yet surprisingly familiar, a simple invitation to discover, meet and share, being equally pleasing to men as well as women.

Ellen's himself believes that the best way to develop creativity is to work alone and without evaluation, this does not mean without any dialogue, which is an important part of the creative process, however he never listens to the markets as quite rightly he believes that creativity needs a deaf ear, otherwise too many unbelievers will try to talk you out of whatever it is you are trying to create.

I will leave you with a final thought from Jean-Claude Ellena's charming book, the one that resonates with us here at Absintheminded Magazine the most, as it embodies what we are trying so very often to capture in our words and photography and that is that “nothing is ordinary”.

AUGUST 2017