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GOTHIC ROMANCE: THE LIQUID JEWELS OF LOREE RODKIN
By Lynn Morgan
Loree Rodkin is a true Renaissance woman. A former interior designer who still enjoys creating elegant environments, she spent several years as a successful Hollywood talent manager, guiding the careers of then-up and coming actors like Virginia Madsen, Brad Pitt and Robert Downey, Jr., and eventually turned her passion for designing jewelry for herself into a multi-million dollar empire that now includes fine jewelry, fashion jewelry, eye wear, handbags and fragrances for body and home.
Loree Rodkin’s jewelry has an edgy elegance, a rock ‘n’roll attitude that has made her one of Hollywood’s favorite jewelers both in private and on the red carpet. Her designs are contemporary yet resonant with rich symbolism and historic references. Images from heraldry, Maltese crosses, Gothic arches, even skulls, rendered in richly patinaed metal, encrusted with diamonds and precious stones are typical of her designs.
Recent pieces have included a ring set with a cabochon ruby of papal proportions in a setting of blackened white gold, surrounded by a halo of pave diamonds; a heavy pendant of diamonds and sapphires that could have been worn by a 17th century Venetian doge and her iconic “bondage” rings: hinged, open-work cages of precious metal, studded with diamonds that encase the finger all the way to the second knuckle.
A unique blend of the modern and the medieval, Loree Rodkin’s jewelry is worn by both men and women, and her clients include Sir Elton John, Sandra Oh, Madonna, Rhianna and Michelle Obama, whose inaugural ball jewels will ultimately take their place in history at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
The Loree Rodkin fragrance collection reflects the same darkly romantic sensibility as her jewelry. Beginning in 2004, with the introduction of Gothic I, and Gothic II, the designer has explored her favorite themes of history, spirituality, art and passion through perfume.
Gothic I is her flagship scent, and the most popular fragrance in the line. It opens as a lush, almost custardy Madagascar vanilla, maturing into three different variations of patchouli, one fresh, the others, a sweet Tunisian variety and a spicy Indian variety. It was an instant success.
“It became an obsession! People would follow me to ask what perfume I was wearing Gothic 1’ she recalls. Gothic II is a darker variation on the theme. To the original vanilla and patchouli mix, Loree added nag champa, wmarm notes of cinnamon, clove and Tunisian frankincense. It is a favorite among many of her male clients.
Both scents adroitly avoid the funky, college town head shop odor that is frequently the pitfall of working with patchouli. Instead, they are different interpretations of a deep, resinous wood theme, and they evoke a classic Oriental of the 1920’s, the kind of sultry, exotic and womanly fragrances that would have been worn by a glamorous silent screen vamp like Gloria Swanson or Theda Bara.
When she created Gothic III in the fall of 2007, she introduced her fragrance collection to the press and to a wider audience, and the scents were snapped up by Neiman Marcus, HIRSHLEIFERS, Stanley Korshak, and Gump’s in San Francisco, as well as stores in France, Austria and the Ukraine.
Gothic III is a departure from its predecessors. It is a heady, intoxicating floral, redolent of gardenia, with touches of other tropical florals and traces of lily and jasmine with a soft, green subtext.
“I wear Gothic III as my daytime scent, “Loree explains. “I wear Gothic I at night because it’s very deep and sensual.”
Like her jewelry, the perfumes are an expression of Loree’s personal style and vision, nit an attempt to capture a trend or a particular moment in fashion. “I didn’t research the market on perfumes, “she says. “I was simply making perfumes for myself.”
She insists upon all natural ingredients. “I don’t like the compositions or the fragrance when synthetics are added, “she says. “I use patchouli in almost all of my scents; there is something so dark and mysterious about those notes. I HATE anything that smells like food on the body, but the vanilla I use is very dark and not sickly sweet.”
In 2009, she launched Gothic IV, V, and VI, completing the line to date. There has been a progression across the six Gothic scents, a path that clearly moves from dark to light, like a swath of ombre dyed silk. The actual color of the juice has even lightened, from a deep, amber-toned brown to a light green. Gothic IV is also a floral, a spicy geranium, blended with a woodsy patchouli. Gothic V smells like incense wafting through a Buddhist temple: simple, serene and thought-provoking. Gothic VI is also evocative of Zen and mediation with its herbaceous notes and calming spa-like quality.
All of Loree Rodkin’s fragrances debuted as perfume oils, with eau de parfum sprays, scented candles, and ambience room sprays following later. “I like the heaviness of oils, “says Loree. “It’s so sensual. Gothic I is the most popular fragrance in my line; it’s the only one that has a complete line of body products: soap, bath oil, body crème, and bath salts, as well as candles and ambiance spray.”
The richness of perfumed oil and their purity and depth and the associations with ritual anointment, the miracle of Hanukah and other holy oils, is appropriate for the designer who is always seeking to evoke a sense of history and mystery in both her jewelry and her perfume. all that is conjured by the word “Gothic.”
Contrary to popular perception, there is nothing sad or morbid about the Gothic aesthetic. It speaks to history lovers, to wounded romantics and old souls.
“To me, ‘Gothic’ is very Romeo and Juliet”, Loree explains. “Dark incense, cathedrals and romance. I collected medieval furniture as soon as I had my own home. I love the romanticism of ornate furniture and historic references. I try to evoke ancient times, temples and churches with my perfumes.”
Loree Rodkin makes body products and home fragrances because she believes that the scent in the air around you is as important to creating a mood and a sense of place as the art or furniture in your environment. “Fragrances, jewels, how you adorn yourself, how you live… they are all inter-connected, “she says. “Environmental sprays are like decorating a room; it’s not finished until all the candles are lit. Ambience room sprays are part of the mood of the room, like the lighting.”
For all their exclusivity, Loree Rodkin fragrances have found a global audience, and it is growing.”I think I have it covered unless I start making scented cell phones!” Loree Rodkin laughs. “I’m aiming for global fragrance domination!”
Lynn Morgan is a freelance writer, based in Los Angeles. She spent two years working for People and In Style Magazine and her work has appeared in Antiques & Fine Art, LUXE, The Robb Report, California Homes, Art and Living and the Los Angeles Times, and she is currently at work on a book about art and jewelry.
Lynn Morgan, freelance writer, aesthete and amateur sociologist, is always in search of a perfume as dark and scary as she is. Her passions include good books, badly behaved dogs and deliciously obscure perfumes.
A special thanks to Lynn Morgan.