Impressions from Elements Showcase
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By Brian Place
I first encountered Cire Trudon at Barneys New York – their candles are dramatic, almost religiously opulent, and even a bit baroque. Cire Trudon has a long and fascinating history. The current incarnation of the company was orchestrated in 2007, however they can trace their origins to 1643. Over the centuries they provided kings and aristocrats with wax and candles and they are now the oldest and most prestigious wax manufacturer in the world.
The candle I encountered at Elements which really sticks out in my mind is Empire, which smells quite like a forest fire to my nose. Indeed, you too can freak your dinner guests out by making them think the house is burning! These are high-quality candles with exquisite, elaborate fragrances. They aren’t for everyone, but these candles make a grand statement.
Joya is a New York City-based line created by Frederick Bouchardy, a co-organizer of the Elements Showcase. This was my first encounter with Joya’s product lineup “in the flesh.” They have a fantastic assortment of great candles in distinctive faceted black and white porcelain containers. Both the Quince and Heliotrope Petals and Jasmine Absolute and Sugar candles really jumped out at me. They smell great and the combinations are unusual enough that you’ll have difficulty sorting out the notes.
Joya was also showing their two fragrances FvsS Composition No. 1 and No. 6, packaged in a similar white/black faceted ceramic container. The visually striking part of this is a gold-tipped porcelain dagger with which you use to apply the scent. The quality of the ingredients was very evident and I remember a distinctly fresh green “soapy” smell from No. 6 (packaged in a black bottle) – the likes of which I haven’t encountered elsewhere. These are intriguing products, so I’ll be pursuing this line more in the future.
The Hype Noses
I had never encountered candles from The Hype Noses prior to seeing them at Elements. If the baroque drama of Cire Trudon's candles are a bit much for you, the cozy gourmand flavors presented by The Hype Noses might be more your style.
The candles are made of soy and palm oil and should burn long and clean. They also include flat, wooden wicks which make a crackling sound when lit. But it's their fragrances that are really notable--definitely not for wearing, but made specifically for candles.
Chococaine is really deep, sugary chocolate. Art Maniac is a boozy vanilla with a surprising amount of depth. Pain de Vienne smells like really sweet buttery bread and 24 Caramels smells exactly like you might think. I stood at the booth for about ten minutes constantly re-sniffing the candles; I really couldn't make up my mind which I liked best.
Histoires de Parfums
The creator and perfumer behind Histoires de Parfums is Gérald Ghislain, a tall man who was dressed in a long, furry vest and euro-couture glasses. Ghislain cuts an imposing, yet unique figure but was really eager to show off his art and answer questions. His line is bold and diverse.
Of particular note is the way Ghislain displays his scents by using upside-down glass funnels with paper inserts that better show off the heart of a scent (with some needed airspace) without the need to constantly respray tiny blotters. Turn over a funnel and smell the air inside; you'll get a much better idea of what the fragrance really smells like. This is technological progress, and I don't have any idea why everyone else isn't already doing this - it's simple and extremely effective. Of course it is difficult to laboriously smell every single fragrance at the show so I picked my battles:
Ambre 114 is possibly the best amber fragrance that I have ever tried. It lacks the earthiness of other ambers without being dull or flat. It’s truly a “Reference” Amber.
Histoires de Parfums’ most recent release is the Edition Rare trio, which holds some real treasures. Rosam is a beautifully dirty rose-oud with tons of heft and complexity. Petroleum is an unusual but entirely wearable interpretation of the actual scent of petroleum (*not* gasoline) and it's dark and leathery with just a hint of oud peeking out, full and rich.
The Scent of Departure
If that wasn’t enough to be excited about, Ghislain was also showing off his new project, The Scent of Departure. The fragrances in this range are based on airport cities, such as FRA (Frankfurt), IST (Istanbul), and VIE (Vienna). They're housed in rectangular plastic bottles designed to look like luggage tags. When I asked about his inspiration for the new line he replied, "I got bored."
The scents are GREAT - I lost track of the individual notes for some scents and just thought the collection as a whole was really well conceived. It was only later that I found out they are designed to retail for LESS THAN $50 (for 50ml), which is almost a shocking quality-to-price point ratio and seems designed to encourage people to collect them all. Which I will probably do. But only after they release a SEA (Seattle - with notes of coffee, jet fuel, smoked salmon and gray skies?)
I can see these being sold in gift shops all over their corresponding cities and airports-- at this price point and with this level of quality this line will do very well.
A house that seems to get little press in the US is M. Micallef. Prior to Elements, I was only familiar with their Gaiac fragrance – a lush woody vanilla with a masculine edge -- so I was very excited to see them at the show. I admit I knew very little about the rest of their line, since I have rarely encountered it in person anywhere else. But they had some showstopping fragrances on display, and their bottles are exquisite, as well.
Mon Parfum – Passion Fruit, Ylang Ylang and Toffee – sounds sweet, and it is sweet, but it was a knockout. The sweetness is tempered by vetiver and patchouli and the whole composition is far more than the sum of its parts. I was really blown away by this one.
Ylang in Gold – a spectacular presentation, with a jewel-encrusted square glass bottle containing swirling milky liquid infused with real gold powder. The gold is sufficient enough that it stays on the skin when the fragrance is sprayed. And the scent is also wonderful – slightly different from Mon Parfum, with an abundance of Ylang Ylang, Vanilla and Fruit.
Formerly The New York Times Scent Critic and now, the Curator of The Olfactory Department at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, Chandler Burr has written several popular books on the perfume industry and I am a big fan of his work. I had the opportunity to listen to him on a panel about collaboration and he had a lot to add to the discussion.
Diffusion: controlling the application and drydown of a fragrance, is a complex technical challenge and can change the perception of a scent. Burr recalled a flight where everyone sitting around him suddenly smelled a strange yet wonderful odor. They thought it was something the airline was intentionally dispersing and could not pinpoint the source or the type of scent. After much searching it turned out to be an exploded vial of lemongrass oil he had obtained while in India. The mechanism behind that unintentional dispersion was ideally suited to that particular oil.
But his best take-away quote came after relaying to the audience his respect for the entire perfume production chain—from the farmers in the field growing the natural materials, to the extractors and distillers, to the perfumers, to production: “Every perfume bottle contains the world,” Burr said.
Following the panel discussion, I had a chance to chat with Chandler for a few minutes and can say that the passion, enthusiasm and depth of knowledge that comes through in his writing is evident in person as well. He’s a really personable guy and more than eager to give a mini-dissertation on any subject at any time. I’m glad that Chandler Burr is the guy who is working hard to get perfume more widely recognized as an art form as valid as painting or music.
BRIAN PLACE | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR
Brian Place lives in Seattle, WA with his husband and two cats. In his spare time he can be found at amusement parks, travelling to big cities and smelling perfume. Brian runs an IT management firm in Seattle, WA.
Editors Note: The Perfume Magazine is pleased to introduce Guest Contributor Brian Place, who joined us in New York City this past January for the 3rd edition of Elements Showcase. Throughout the event, we asked Brian to take note of all of the items and brands that stood out to him. These are his Impressions...
The photography world has its "prosumers" -- consumers who approach photography on a more professional level without making it their career. In that sense, I'm a fragrance "prosumer." My passion has been more than a hobby, yet less than a career for the past several years. I’ve been following Elements Showcase for a while, now and jumped at the chance to attend as a representative of The Perfume Magazine. Elements Showcase was my first encounter with many people I've known online for a while, and it also gave me a chance to meet a number of industry people whose work I really respect including Chandler Burr, Yann Vasnier, and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz.
But the ability to quickly experience many new and established niche fragrance and candle lines is what really made this an interesting trip. While we have some fantastic perfume shops here in the Pacific Northwest it’s rare to see all of these lines under one roof. So here’s a brief recap of just a few of the vendors, people and things that I found interesting.
Photography from Elements Showcase provided by Brian Place.