Monday, April 9

Flowers of night and day - Shanghai Lily the perfume

In the book "The perfume lover" I guide Denyse Beaulieu in the world of night flowers, the most powerful and mysterious scented creatures (book review article). In the picture you have Shanghai Lily, my Easter perfume gift for the author. I made it to reflect the ideas of chapter 18.
Small, tiny and delicate, these flowers do not fade. Night flowers do not die, they become stars on the sky as their fragile being is taken away from this world. They are small and white, they have shapes that are less pretentious than the exuberance of flowers blooming at noon. They have no wrinkles, only the perfection of their scent and the complex chemistry which relates beauty and decay.
In daylight, flowers attract with their amazing colors and enchant our eyes with the beauty of their shapes. Their presence is visual, sometime it is even an illusion because some of the most beautiful roses are almost scentless. But flowers of the dark knows only the power of attraction by scent when bees, hungry for precious honey are dreaming.
Perfumes based on roses are the first to fade, they are the first to go out of fashion because we relate them with images. When a rose in daylight is at the end of its natural cycle we first see its visual corruption, the slightly sour odor of fermentation of the flowers who gave their precious honey and were fertilized thanks to hungry bees. It is not uncommon to notice in the odor of some roses or even in the scent of the expensive rose absolute a note of a decomposing universe similar to the vegetal compost in the garden. But when jasmine and tuberose fade and their death is imminent, the increasing amount of indole and similar molecules of decaying flesh will accentuate the nature of the odor. The flower, though naturally fading, becomes more powerful like the last sparkle before she reaches the stars of the night sky. Its substance emerges with even more power.
In terms of perfume cycles, roses bloom when new ingredients are discovered, often found in traces in the flowers, when new aspects of the flower become dominant or when a rose is rediscovered after it bloomed so many years ago and it was forgotten by everybody. Rose perfumes fade quickly from one generation to another and are those who play a major role in the "old lady smell" - it is not the rose itself, but the interpretation, subject to evolution and decay like the natural flower. When people name "rose", they rarely refer to its specific scent, they speak more often about the visual symbol, the image, the cultural idea of a rose, completely immaterial. Show today the classic Bulgarian rose oils, once sold in small vials in Eastern Europe and half will reject with disgust this scent. In the past there were so many roses in terms of perfume specialties because in order to survive as a perfume concept, this flower needed variation and revolution.
La Rose Jaqueminot, the amazing perfume from Coty, could not be launched today, it can only bloom as a scent idea from time to time. The same paradox of the flower is at the heart of Caron classic perfumes who used a lot of fabulous rose extractions - sometime they were in fashion, but many years they simply smelled "old".
Lily of the valley, a flower blooming in shadow in the morning, is the perfect balance between day and night, with a strong dose of rose alcohols and green notes. Until Roudnitska, perfumers made this flower with a lot of rose molecules and even some ionone-violet, like in the perfumes of Coty and Houbigant. But only the addition of the night facet in Diorissimo gave naturalness and eternity to this scent prototype. Often a lily of the valley scent idea ends as a functional perfume and, decades after, a prototype, once original, seems "faded", though it has survived as a different scented product. More a perfume is "natural", fresh and delicate capturing the elusiveness of nature, less chances it has to survive the next decade in a process which mimics the cycle of odors in nature.
When Coco Chanel said she did not want a rose perfume, certainly a reference to her competitor Paul Poiret who started with La Rose de Rosine in 1911, she made also a fashion statement. In 1921, La Rose Jacqueminot had 17 years. La Rose de Rosine had 10 years, their time was over like the note of Angel (Thierry Mugler) which smells teribly old in 2012 for the young generation. When Jean Patou launched JOY, the masterpiece of Henri Alméras used an overdose of rose, but it had also an impressive amount of jasmine - the women who knew the rose in their childhood, a popular theme before WWI, had their madeleine in a new context.
The perfume of white flowers, when it is interpreted with talent by a great perfumer, survive many years in the complex biology of the market as women age and their skin chemistry changes. New and youthful roses do not match their skin chemistry, while old roses, scent prototypes from previous decades, show their wrinkles with accuracy. On the contrary, white flowers do not age, they have an unknown immortal beauty secret. Rose themes can survive only with a very specific perfume combination. It is the same since the first part of the XIXth century and only the notes set around knew a variation.
Rose chemistry is one of the most important fields of research because it supplies the creator with new elements for a scent which is subject to evolution like the natural floral prototype.
Rose perfumes sell everywhere, every time and very easy. But it is rarely the same "universal" and eternal flower because this plant alone as a solinote does not survive. White flowers might not please at first, but they always survive and decades after, when an old bottle is opened, the perfume emerges as if no oxidation has occurred. I have tuberose-gardenia-jasmine soliflores from end XIXth century or mid 20's and they smell as if they were compounded yesterday.
Horticulturists, for obvious reasons, spent their efforts on the development of rose hybrids in an endless quest for beauty like perfumers made endless variations on roses since end XIXth century. Very few things were done in the universe of night flowers, but thanks to Firmenich we have the most beautiful jasmine and tuberose elements.
The rose paradox - constantly asking for new molecules and new scent combinations because the highly popular flower fades like any queen of the day;
The tuberose paradox - the flower lasts many years, often makes a tremendous unforgettable entrance like a night queen;

A woman wearing a rose perfume is always admired but often forgotten unless her rose is a masterpiece. A woman wearing a night flower is always remembered.
Rose perfumes are highly based on new synthetics. It is not only a question of price, I hardly think a classic rose with huge amounts of absolute and oil would sell today, but new rose extractions or different roses used for extraction can change this. Caron did amazing perfumes, but few consumers are still speaking that language of perfumery. Women buy the idea of a rose, not its scent stricto sensu. Roses found in chemistry their most precious ally and thanks to Firmenich we have today all the wonderful products of their research since the late 1950's. Night flowers like jasmine and tuberose are even more expensive than roses, but their extractions are already a perfume which needs little adjustments. A true revolution will begin when perfumers will have other night flowers at their disposal as extractions or even different hybrids of classic flowers they can smell. People smell roses during the day at home, perfumers explore them in public parks at lunch time, sometime they get tired. The flowers of the night are the uncharted territory of perfume creation. Marketers often speak about the perfume which makes us dream …. but rarely they explore those flowers which bloom when we dream. Their dream perfume is many times the rose which blooms at noon and is known by everybody.
The personal perfume is an alter ego, a shadow, it is not a functional smelling good product. It is emotion like those flowers people experience in summer during the evening at night parties - "C'est la fête".
In Shanghai Lily, the personal perfume I made for Denyse Beaulieu to celebrate her book "The perfume lover" (book review article), I used tuberose absolute LMR with a selection of floral notes from Egypt  which make the feminine skin highly addictive and sensual using the technique of "scent quote" I explained in an old article.
Marlene Dietrich as Shanghai Lily / Magdalen in Josef von Sternberg’s
80 years ago and now,
... after 5 years ....
a new present from Madeleine

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Fragrance is the 8th Art - Octavian Coifan - Le Parfum est le 8ème Art
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