This year Amsterdam-based niche fragrance house Mona di Orio launched two new fragrances called Suéde de Suéde and Dōjima. Perfumer Fredrik Dalman created both fragrances with the brand’s founder Jeroen Oude Sogtoen who brought Fredrik on board as Mona di Orio’s in-house perfumer in 2016. Suéde de Suéde and Dōjima continue to evolve the brand’s signature created by perfumer Mona di Orio, which aims to present an “olfactory stamp” that “is a composition of expertise, exceptional character and daring approach.” Fredrik studied perfumery at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery and later spent a year assisting perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour. It was through this connection to Bertrand, Accords et Parfum and Michel Roudnitska, the son of Mona di Orio’s teacher, Edmond Roudnitska that he was introduced to Jeroen and their work together took form.
Suéde de Suéde has a reference to Fredrik’s Swedish heritage unveiling “a perfume that evocatively caresses the skin like soft Swedish gloves” and Dōjima is set in Osaka, Japan. The fragrance derives its name from the Dōjima Rice Exchange founded by Samurai in 1697 and the olfactory story is based on an intriguing rice accord. Although both fragrances tell distinctly different stories, they share similar characteristics in that they are both highly textural fragrances that wear close to the skin creating an intimate feel.
Suede is the new black in niche and luxury perfumery. It has been for the past few years. Because leather and suede are fantasy accords that are not defined by any natural extract, perfumers have broad creative parameters and there are plenty of interesting perspectives on the theme. More recent reviews of leather themed fragrances, which are favourites include La Parfumerie Moderne’s Cuir X, Hermes’ Cuir d’Ange and Tom Ford’s Ombré Leather 16. Each one is different when compared but the common thread is the perfumer’s ability to create subtle details within their accord. A perfumer once described the scent of leather to me as being “a living fragrance” because of the way the scented molecules continuously diffuse from the material. For me the best leather and suede fragrances capture this living scent by using subtle contrasts to create small dissonances, which create olfactory tension and theatre for the nose.
Suède de Suède is a beautifully balanced fragrance. It smells like a refined earth-tone suede skin that is supple to the touch. The vibrancy of the fragrance comes with piquant Sichuan pepper and there is fruitiness at the top of the fragrance. Mona di Orio’s description is strawberry leaves and cloudberry. For me it is like a cup of herbal fruity tea. As the fragrance begins to settle, the suede accord dominates. It has the bitter, cold mineral scent of leather but there is also the sweet, warm buttery aspect of textured suede. Musk gives the fragrance humanness, making it smell like warm skin. Woody notes fill the background and frame the suede note. It is a sophisticated fragrance and I like it a lot. We are spoiled for choice when it comes to leather and suede themed fragrances and Suède de Suède is a refined wallflower so it does run the risk of being overlooked amongst many other wonderful competitors but it is still well worth the exploration.
Of the new additions to Mona di Orio’s collection, I thought Dōjima offered a more unique perspective. Rice is a less explored accord compared to leather but it has recently peaked the interest of a small number of perfumers and niche fragrance houses. Dōjima is a beautiful example of rice’s creative possibilities. Although it is a very modern fragrance, it has a sense of nostalgia reminiscent of Europe’s Art Deco past.
When I visited the Musee International de la Parfumerie in Grasse, there was a small exhibition about the history of European cosmetics and the story of rice powders, which were used to powder women’s faces at the turn of the 20th century. Included was a diffuser that contained a perfume inspired by the scent of these classic cosmetics and poudre or powder. It was a hypnotising scent of rice powder, lipstick and soft skin. The first time I smelled Dōjima I was reminded of this experience in Grasse.
Dōjima has a lot of complexity but the evolution of the fragrance follows a short time line. This means it is a dynamic fragrance with plenty to offer but it doesn’t change or move on skin too much over the course of time. Dōjima opens with a soft milky, almost coconut-like note and the rice accord is immediately present. There is a fizz of spicy nutmeg and a glow of delicate white floral notes, which remain abstract in the background. Orris gives the fragrance an air of luxury and orris’ woodiness leads into milky sandalwood. There is a subtle hint of amber in the base but the star that grounds the fragrance to skin is the pale white musk accord, which never overstates itself but it underpins the entire construction. Like Suède de Suède, Dōjima is a wallflower but its uncommonness makes it memorable.