How did 2013 disappear so quickly? This was the realization I had whilst retracing my New York steps from pages of scribbled notes in my travel diary. June’s trip seems like it happened yesterday and MiN’s latest Facebook photo, showing the boutique’s street front covered in snow is a reminder that the New York summer I experienced has well and truly past. Because of the high concentration of things to smell in Lower Manhattan, I’ve written this post in two parts (Part One – published in September). This long overdue second post covers the remaining addresses I visited in Soho, Nolita, Noho and the East Village.
Lower Manhattan is my favourite area of New York because it hosts some of the island’s most interesting sights, sounds, tastes and smells. Built over layers of history, Lower Manhattan is a mélange of cultures and the city streets tell some of America’s greatest immigration stories. Walking down the Bowery I was conscious that under my feet lay an old dirt track, which Dutch settlers used to import produce from farms on the circumference of the city. As the city expanded The Bowery became one of 18th century Manhattan’s most fashionable and affluent streets. Then the aristocracy moved uptown and Manhattan’s Lower East Side became a slum area for impoverished immigrants. Its disheveled reputation remained for more than a century and today, it is this gritty temperament that has shaped Lower Manhattan’s urban bohemia.
In between shopping and eating nice food, you can always fit an art gallery into a Lower Manhattan visit. Pop-up galleries promoting emerging artists are abundant and art spills into the street, which can make it hard to distinguish the line between street art and reality. One of lower Manhattan’s well-established gallery spaces is The New Museum on the Bowery. Before The New Museum, “the care and attention venerable institutions lavished on older, established artists and artworks was not yet being extended to art being made in the present.” The New Museum was opened to create a dialogue between the public and living artists, who did not have a wide public exposure or critical acceptance. In the museum store two works of olfactory art (as Chandler Burr, Curator of Olfactory Arts for New York’s Museum of Art and Design refers to perfumes) were being sold. The first was a perfume called SANAA Translucence Perfume. Givaudan perfumer, Pierre Nagri created it using ingredients chosen by Sejima and Nishizama of SANAA. A series of 198 bottles had been produced. Artist Kiki Smith and perfumer Christophe Laudamiel created the second perfume I smelled. Described as a “memory” fragrance, it featured notes of boxwood, patchouli, sandalwood, fresh foliage, fig leaf and musk.
The New Museum
235 Bowery, Lower East Side
This year I have been obsessed with Eau de Cologne and a visit to Atelier Cologne was inevitable. I explored the Collection Originale last year at Nose in Paris, so for this visit I wanted to explore some of the brand’s latest additions to the Collection Matieres Absolue. Taking the original concept of Eau de Cologne, Atelier Cologne infuses fresh citrus notes with a variety of raw materials such as patchouli, vetiver, rose and vanilla. Using modern perfume chemistry the normally short life of cologne is extended to a new longevity, the Cologne Absolue. I left with Atelier Cologne’s Coffret Decouverte, which was a great way to sample what the house does. The coffret contained an assortment of seven 7.5ml sprays. Vetiver Fatale and Mistral Patchouli were two of my favourites in this new breed of cologne inspired scent.
247 Elizabeth Street, Nolita
A few doors down, I visited Le Labo. In 2008, I stumbled across the Elizabeth Street store by accident without knowing anything about the brand and its perfumes. This visit I came better informed, allowing me to enjoy Le Labo’s anarchistic approach to scent. Le Labo fuses together the traditional perfumed world of Grasse and New York City, a sentiment that can be seen in the Rose Project collaboration between Le Labo and eco designer Heather Heron. The two created satchels with old conveyor belt material and vintage military strapping, taking inspiration from the canvas bags used by rose pickers in Grasse during the 1900s. The week I visited, Le Labo released two new fragrances, Lys 41 and Ylang 49 but it was the brand’s Tubereuse 40 that warranted a purchase. Presented in an industrial-looking metal travel tube, the store engraved my initials into the tube and labeled the packaging with details of when, where, by whom and for whom the perfume was compounded.
233 Elizabeth Street, Nolita
Near the edge of Little Italy, men can indulge in a traditional wet shave at the New York Shaving Company. Walking into the Elizabeth Street parlour was like stepping back in time. Inside, customers could have their razor blades sharpened, enjoy a facial treatment or restock their bathrooms with shaving products. The New York Shaving Company even offered shaving lessons for men wanting to improve their blade skills. The parlour also carried their own line of colognes and aftershaves.
New York Shaving Company
202b Elizabeth Street, Nolita
New York City is one of the best places to find books. Midtown’s Strand Bookstore boasts “eighteen miles of books” and you can easily loose a couple of hours looking for second-hand and new literature. Around Soho and Nolita there are a number of smaller bookstores where you can find interesting and unusual titles. A new favourite, which I discovered on this trip, was Clic Bookstore & Gallery. The store had a range or art, design, fashion and pop culture books. The store’s gallery displayed framed work by Maripol, stylist and social photographer of the 1980s who captured the Lower East Side’s social scene with her Polaroid camera in places like Studio 54. Enlarged prints of her Polaroid portraits were being sold in the gallery, which featured celebrities such as Grace Jones, Andy Warhol and a very young Madonna; Maripol was Madonna’s stylist during her lacy Like a Virgin years. Aside from books and art, Clic Bookstore had fragrances by Jacques Zolty, a perfumer living on the Caribbean island of Saint Barthelemy. My favourite in his collection of three was A Beintot, a retro styled men’s fragrance with Roudnitska-like citrus/floral notes and a woody, amber drydown.
Clic Bookstore & Gallery
255 Centre Street, Nolita
Although I was staying in Brooklyn, no matter which part of New York I spent my day, I always seemed to end up somewhere in Soho or around Nolita for lunch and dinner. No matter what your budget is, you can find good food here. If like me, you love Latin food, La Esquina is a popular Downtown Mexican taqueria, or my personal favourite is Café Habana on the corner of Prince and Elizabeth in Nolita. It’s the best place to enjoy simple yet tasty Mexican-Cuban fare. You can either sit at the bar and chat with cafe staff or find a seat in the crowded window and people watch.
A unique way to explore New York City is through the fragrances of Bond No 9. The iconic New York perfume house has been making fragrances for the past decade, inspired by the brand’s founding city. Each perfume tells a story of a different New York neighbourhood, icon or landmark. With names such as Noveau Bowery, Chelsea Flowers, Andy Warhol Union Square and Nuits de NoHo I wanted to know what would be my favourite NYC scent destination. To do this I visited the brand’s original boutique, located in the cosy neighbourhood of NoHo at 9 Bond Street. There I met Marie, Bond No 9’s Marketing Manager and James, the house’s Master Blender. Marie’s morning had been busy with press engagements after the launch of Bond No 9’s latest perfume called HTTP://. Unique to the collection, it refers not to a geographical location in the city but to the digital neighbourhood New Yorkers traverse daily. The collection is extensive and with the help of Marie and James, I made my way through Bond No 9’s various olfactory neighbourhoods, from the greenback-vetiver laced Wall Street to the marine and cotton candy notes of Coney Island. For me, Bond No 9 emphasized the fun and adventure of perfume; the bottles were colourful and eye-catching, and their sample sprays were individually wrapped as bon bons, which turned the simple act of taking a sample away from the store into something playful. At a time when consumers value customization, James’ role as Bond No 9’s Master Blender is to consult with customers on their preferences. We spoke about the blending service he offers, which allows customers to co-create their own scent from two to five Bond No 9 perfumes that James will blend and balance. For the customer that wants more, Bond No 9 also offer limited edition bottles decorated with Swarovski crystal, scented candles and body products; the Body Silk (cream) with hydrolyzed silk proteins was a personal favourite.
Bond No. 9
9 Bond Street, NoHo
After Bond No.9, I went to John Derian Company in the East Village. The stacks of decoupage homewares, jumbled pottery and general odds and ends felt as though I had stumbled upon an 19th century garage sale. It was here I discovered Cire Trudon candles in 2008 and this trip I noticed the store was also stocking Astier de Villatte colognes, which accompanied the Parisian potter’s plates, cups and stationary.
John Derian Company
6E 2nd Street, East Village
Walking back towards Soho I visited Santa Maria Novella on Lafayette Street. Downtown Manhattan seemed an unlikely place to find a 13th century Florentine apothecary, yet there it was. Behind the decorative framed doors the store had almost everything I had seen in Florence. I have to admit, it is not the same as visiting the original Santa Maria Novella apothecary but that experience is impossible to replicate. The great thing for New Yorkers is they do not have to go all the way to Florence to find their favourite SMN products.
Santa Maria Novella
285 Lafayette Street, Soho
One of New York’s fine perfumeries that I wanted to visit during this trip was MiN New York. In 2011 I interviewed the brand’s founder Chad Murawczyk over email so this was my first face-to-face meeting with Chad, Mindy and the MiN team. Like Aedes de Venustas and Osswald, MiN is one of Manhattan’s great resources when it comes to finding a retailer that truly understands perfumery. This may sound like an elitist thing to say but given the fact a perfume bottle is for sale on almost every block of Manhattan; very few retailers provide the experience of a well-edited selection backed by knowledge and a customized approach to service. Even Manhattan’s most luxurious department stores fall short in comparison. The competitive and fast-paced style of department store counter-based retail doesn’t allow for engaging personal interactions. Entering the perfumery I was greeted, “Hello I’m Olya, welcome and have a seat. Chad will be here shortly. Would you like a coffee or something to drink?” Inside, the perfumery feels like a second home. Patined leather couches provide a comfortable seat, slowing down the pace of shopping, allowing customers to make well-considered choices. It was here I sat with Olya, drinking espresso while Chad finished his last meeting. After he joined me on the couch, we spoke about his vision for MiN to be editors, to always be looking and to be open minded in order to find new perfume experiences that will challenge MiN’s clientele. He sees New Yorkers as fiercely independent people who detest the idea of following trends and they are also sensitive to being hustled. Brands in New York lose their following quickly if the public senses a lack of authenticity, therefore MiN’s role is to find perfumes that perform well and are well crafted. With this in mind, Chad considers the quality of the juice, the story of the brand; who is behind it and what is their direction. It is about “viewing the bottle from the inside out.” The future of a brand is important for Chad. Unlike other perfumeries, which may only carry established niche brands, if Chad sees potential in a young brand, he is willing to take the risk. The presentation may not be polished but “there is space for that and we embrace that.” Small brands rarely start out with large cash flow so if the money didn’t go into the packaging and a ‘stock’ bottle was used, Chad’s reaction is to ask where did the money go? It may have gone into the juice instead of marketing, in which case there is potential for improvement over time. Chad thinks it is important to nurture such brands that show potential and have the right ideas. Talking about the future of niche perfumery and packaging design, Chad comments, “I hope it doesn’t turn into a packaging war.” Following our conversation, I had the chance to re-smell some favourites as well as smell some perfumes for the first time. I was interested to smell The Enchanted Forest by The Vagabond Prince, a perfume created by the founders of Fragrantica.com. Perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour designed the scent around a theme of blackcurrant. Other interesting discoveries included Amouage’s fiery leather, Opus VII, which I compared to the more traditional leather scent, Cuir Fetiche by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier.
At MiN, visitors can also find Carner Barcelona, Xerjoff, Tauer Perfumes, A Lab on Fire, Kerosene, Heeley and many more.
MiN New York
117 Crosby Street, Soho
Other New York Scent Adventures: