Keiko Mecheri is the Japanese American artist behind Les Parfums Keiko Mecheri. I met her briefly in September at Pitti Fragranze in Florence. I had seen her perfumes during my travels around the world but I often brushed over them, mistakenly thinking the range would be too feminine for my tastes. This preconception was perhaps influenced by the fact that her most talked about perfume was the feminine Loukhoum, a gourmand rose inspired by Turkish delight. I had always admired the aesthetic quality of the range, which is presented in a faceted black or clear glass flacon and bakelite cap. Meeting the artist drew me away from the assumption I would not find something for myself and I began to explore her range of eau de parfums. I was one of many vying for her attention that day at Pitti so my question to Keiko was brief. I loved the look of the recently launched Bespoke Collection and I asked her to recommend something for a male client. She talked with me about Cuir Fauve and Vetiver Velours from her Bespoke Collection. Keiko explained the collection contained rare oud wood but she wanted to stay clear of using the word in her perfume titles. I agreed. As beautiful as oud is, the last thing niche perfumery needed was another oud perfume title. Following our chat I looked for her range on a number of occasions as I traveled through Europe and on my return to Australia I decided I would seek out the Bespoke Collection, which can be found in one location here in Australia. Given I have a number of vetivers by other houses; Dior, Guerlain, Frederic Malle, Etro, Lalique, Chanel etc. I selected Vetiver Velours as my first Keiko Mecheri.
Vetiver is a magical raw material in perfumery. When it is used in large amounts it takes over a composition and becomes a signature for the perfume. Used in smaller quantities it blends well with almost everything and acts as a base note. The plant’s popularity is such that by the mid 1990s 36% of perfumes on the western market listed vetiver as an ingredient. In terms of gender, vetiver works well in both a masculine and feminine setting. For Vetiver Velours, Keiko Mecheri has offered a gender-free vetiver. Here the grass rhizome acts as a bolster for the other materials in her composition. Vetiver purists may cry, “Where is my vetiver?” The vetiver in Vetiver Velours is better appreciated in symphony with other materials. Here it is not playing as a solo artist. Benzoin and woods give Mecheri’s vetiver an oriental, almost amber tonal quality. Rich floral notes are placed at the head of the perfume and spicy notes add contrast. As this eau de parfum settles down, the wearer is left with a sillage of musk, resins and vetiver. Vetiver Velours wants to be a full-fledged oriental but the greener notes hold the perfume in balance, making an interesting tension. More moss and this could easily become a chypre, more spice and less green it would be oriental. Vetiver Velours is a sensual feast that conjures the tactile sense of velvet under fingers. If I had to imagine a colour it would be forest green.
On men, Vetiver Velours is an interesting choice. The perfume deconstructs classic feminine motifs: powdery musk, flowers and Shalimar-like orientalism. Reworked in a modern way, the perfume is reasonable for a man to wear. Contemporary men may not feel ready to move in the direction this style of fragrance wants to take them, but I can see a gradual pull towards oriental masculines as new releases like Tom Ford Noir, drip-feed the male population one sweet resinous teardrop at a time. Vetiver Velours may not be the first fragrance I would recommend a man to wear, but it is a nice alternative once you have explored the classics or you are a guy that likes to think outside of the box. The range is in limited distribution, which suggests even Keiko Mecheri did not create the Bespoke Collection with the expectation of mass appeal. You have to give her credit for having the confidence to create niche within niche. Although her Les Parfums Keiko Mecheri line is available from a select number of stockists here in Australia, at the time of writing this blog post, her Bespoke Collection is only available in Australia from Libertine Perfumerie (Brisbane, QLD).
Tom Ford Noir, The Different Company Bois d’Iris, Guerlain Vetiver Pour Elle
Release date: 2012
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Crisp woods