Olfactive Studio is the brainchild of French perfume designer, Celine Verleure. I always enjoy tracking the success of an individual whether it is a famous actor, artist or business owner. You will always find a series of events that lead to the one you are viewing- I never believe in beginner’s luck. For Verleure, her career began at Kenzo Parfums, where the business-marketing graduate joined as a perfume designer. She worked on a range of the house’s new fragrances in collaboration with respected perfumers such as Domique Ropion and Oliver Cresp. The designer also assisted in the launch of perfume website, Osmoz.com under the patronage of Firmenich, one of the world’s largest perfume producers. Some years later she created a Facebook page, Le Blog du Parfum Qui N’Existe Pas- a blog for the perfume that does not yet exist. It was a social experiment that allowed thousands of perfume fans to assist in the creation of a fragrance. This gave birth to Olfactive Studio, a unique concept of both visual and olfactory ideas. As an art-school graduate, I immediately connected with the outer packaging of Autoportrait that looks like the photographic paper boxes I used to take on my trips to the darkroom. The art of perfumery is not dissimilar to the act of photography and both require patience. Photography requires time to develop a negative. A photographer will then run a number of experiments to find the correct exposure of the negative onto the light sensitive paper. It is not like drawing where you see the immediate effects of putting pencil on paper. In the same way blending aromatic substances in alcohol takes time and experimentation to achieve the right balance. A mixture of molecules may need hours or days to fuse together before a true sense of how each substance works in harmony with the other can be seen. I love this connection Olfactive Studio makes with the process of photography. Each fragrance in the collection is collaboration between Celine Verleure, a perfumer and a photographer. For Autoportrait, Verleure entrusted the olfactory idea to Firmenich perfumer, Nathalie Lorson and photographer, Luc Lapotre provided the image that is included inside Autoportrait’s box and displayed on the outer packaging. The perfume title and Lapotre’s image expresses a desire to look inward and has a sense of Zen about it. For me the concentric circles in Lapotre’s photograph evoke the endless workings of the mind.
Like the perfume title suggests, Autoportrait is a self-reflective perfume. It is what many refer to today as a skinscent– a fragrance that lends itself to your own body scent instead of masking it. Verleure calls it a companion. The first time I smelt it, I thought it was so familiar, yet so different from other fragrances that fall into this genre of incense and woods. Autoportrait starts off with notes of fresh bergamot and elemi- an increasingly popular gum that has a slightly balsamic citrus tone. The fragrance has a dry malt-like quality owning to a blend of incense, cedar, vetiver, oakmoss and benzoin siam- another resin used to create oriental accords in perfumery. Reading this list of notes you would expect quite a dark and moody perfume as the result. Autoportrait is anything but this and maintains a light nonchalant attitude towards its wearer.
Autoportrait’s wearer is not fazed by the surrounding world. He is confident and cheerful, unstressed by today’s hectic pace of living. Of my recent purchases, Autoportrait is one of my favourite scents to wear around the office and feels like a cup of hot malt in autumn. I am looking forward to wearing it in summer as I suspect it will also wear well in the warmer months.
Odin 06 Amanu, Diptyque L’Eau de Tarocco, Givenchy Play, Dolce & Gabbana The One Gentleman, Giorgio Armani Altitude
Perfumer: Nathalie Lorson (Firmenich)
Release date: 2011
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Woods