Poppin’ pills and perspiring parfum | Lucy McRae

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This post is slightly late going up. NOTE TO SELF: Don’t tweet about putting up a blog post if you can’t follow through. Ah well, it’s here now.

The second Basenotes podcast went up a few weeks back and the guests this time were Lila Das Gupta (Perfume Lovers London), Isabelle Schoelcher, Liam Moore (ODOU), Callum Langston-Bolt (Les Senteurs) and of course, Basenotes’ own Grant Osborne. The food offered for thought this time round was the idea of scent and technology. Can the two ever mix? Will we all be sending each other scented soundbites? Or, will it be a way for the likes of my 14 year-old brother and his friends to prank text farts to people?

I won’t spoil the podcast but it was extremely interesting and I would definitely recommend downloading it! The idea that by pressing some buttons we could transmit a smell, capture it in bytes and trap it in pixels. It was all quite clinical, quite stoic. Lila mentioned a lovely instance in which she would have liked to have used it; to capture the scent of her newborn son. That soft baby smell is something none of us retain and it would be a beautiful way to remember those precious moments. I think however, Liam hit the nail on the head for me. The mystique around scent and fragrance is its fleeting beauty. The fact that we aren’t able to pin down our perfumes, trap them and immortalise them makes us appreciate them more. In essence, it would be like catching a butterfly in a jam jar, you can admire its beauty whilst it is fluttering away but once it dies and decays, is it the same? I’m not sure if I could fully appreciate a perfume if I knew that I’d have it forever. When I pick up a scarf I haven’t worn for a week and can just about smell the last remnants of ‘Carnal Flower’ on it, I bury my face in the fabric and take an almighty deep breath. I want that experience as well as the experience of spraying it on my wrist and devouring the green, lushness of its opening.

Whilst listening to the podcast I was trying to think of other ways in which science and scent could be paired, without the use of technology, and then there was a video replaying at the back of my mind. It was a TED talk given by a young woman called Lucy McRae (above) and I vaguely remembered it to be so inspiring. At the time I didn’t think anything more than a quick ‘That was so cool!’ But now, having listened to the podcast, I went back and watched the same video. I was blown away! Here was a woman, calmly explaining that she had helped invent a pill that would release a genetically unique fragrance from its wearer’s perspiration. Wait, what?

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Lucy McRae is a Body Architect (pretty sure she’s the only one with that job title) and describes her work as;

DESIGNING THE CONNECTIVE TISSUE BETWEEN SCIENCE AND IMAGINATION CREATING PLAYFUL, IMAGINARY WORLDS UNDERPINNED BY THE TOOLS OF SCI FI AND TECHNOLOGY.

Back to poppin’ pills, Lucy and synthetic chemist Sharef Mansy worked together to enable our skin to become the consummate perfume receptacle. The capsule works by excreting lipid based molecules of scent through the skin, the potency of the odour being entirely detrmined by the wearers acclimitisation to the current temperature, stress, exercise or arousal. Lucy aims to redefine the way in which we present ourselves to others, more organic and less ‘perfect’. It is another way to communicate our identity, our mood, our innermost feelings.

I know what you’re thinking. That big grey elephant in the room, right? ‘Nafia, how the hell is it any different to wearing perfume?!?!?!’ It might not seem that different, but just think. You would never ever be wearing the same scent as anyone ever again. You won’t mutter curses under your breath if you smell someone else who decided that today would be ‘Ambre Sultan’ day (only me?) Lucy heralds the Swallowable Parfum as being a new cycle of evolution and I have to agree. Imagine being on a crammed bus on midsummers day and praying that the trickle of sweat making its way down your back isn’t leaving a scented trail of sweating onions behind, imagine it leaving behind the smell of a tropical bloom. The vertically challenged amongst us (me!!!) wouldn’t find themselves on the 7.30 Tube face-to-armpit with someone who didn’t have time to shower, that person will have swallowed a pill that morning on their way out and make the rest of your journey a doddle.

The only thing that is slightly niggling me is that this is another way of covering up our natural scent. We are humans, we emit odours (some pleasant, and some not so much). In the future, will we all be swallowing these pills to cover up our natural scent? Is it right that we will be presenting ourselves as radiating blooms when in reality, we don’t smell of roses. Would the smell of our bare skin warmed by midday sun be a distant memory? At what age would we be pressured by the media to start using the pills? Could this pill lead to a complete shuffling of the human genome where those pesky body odour genes are silenced? Would the newborn baby smell emitted by Lila Das Gupta’s son and millions of others be a thing of the past?

Clearly I don’t have the answers. I think this is a super cool concept and I applaud Lucy’s creativity. If it becomes commercially available in the future, I think I would occasionally try it but would hope I wouldn’t come to rely on it day in, day out.

So, what do you think? Do you think scent and science should mix? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter, I’d love to hear from you :-)

Further reading – Induced Phantosmia

Nafia x

Have you joined the Fragrance Republic?

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There. Can you smell that? There is a revolution brewing that shows no signs of surrendering. Mass marketed, celebrity endorsed scents are slowly being usurped in favour of something better. No longer am I enticed by the lure of a generic luxury brand name slapped on a heavy bottle, focus group worshipping frags be gone! Instead, I look to the stories behind a scent; I eagerly lift the mask off anonymous perfumers and discover that they aren’t disfigured Quasimodoesque characters whose efforts are unceremoniously trampled on and go unnoticed by the customer, in favour of a brand name. Of course the brand name commissioned said perfumer and said perfumer knew their names would not be mentioned alongside the fruits of their labour, but I still think it is a shame. People don’t give two hoots that it was in fact Ernest Beaux that created arguably the most well known and well loved perfume in the world (Chanel No5, what else?), they see the two crossed C’s and that is that – who cares about the perfumer, eh? I’ve started to care. Perfumers embody their scents, they represent the beauty, passion and artistry of their craft and cause me to sit back in awe as they pull a rabbit out of a top hat. Or a perfume out of a beautiful selection of notes and ingredients, even.

Fragrance Republic (FR!), similarly to the highly successful Frederic Malle line, celebrate the oft forgotten perfumer. A unique venture in which a different perfumer is asked to create a perfume each month, void of labels and fad bottles; the perfumes are personal to its perfumer. The roll call of perfumers is impressive, Nathalie Feisthauer (Amouage ‘Honour Man’), Antoine Lie (Tom Ford ‘Violet Blond’) and Amélie Bourgeois (Jovoy ‘Rouge Assassin’).

FR! 01/03 is Cécile Matton’s (co-author of Thierry Mugler ‘Womanity’) take on the mojito. As I’ve never touched a drop of alcohol in my life (an accidental spoonful of Rum and Raisin ice-cream doesn’t count, does it?), I’m probably not the best judge on whether this is a mojito bottled, right? Wrong! I adore virgin mojitos, and this is very much a true take on what I love about mojitos. FR! 01/03 opens with a whoosh of lemony-limey freshness sprinkled with bruised mint leaves, the oils just beginning to seep out. It smells really clean and masculine, undertones of traditional cologne spikes the opening which I usually don’t care for but here, it is just the right amount of cool. Chasing the citrus grove is a sweet, spicy kick which I think is down to the Rhum Pure Jungle essence (best. name. EVER.) and a little digging reveal it to be natural rum extract with a characteristically woody scent. Another reason I think this is a good take on a mojito is that the fragrant sweetness reminds me of the taste that is left in my mouth after chewing sugarcane, the main component of rum. The effervescence of the opening dries down to a velvet purr, the sweetness of sugarcane juice becomes the dark, caramelised molasses and leaves an indelible trail of spice on my skin.

Like I said, I don’t really know if this is a good interpretation of a mojito. I do know that it smells damn good and got me two compliments the first time I wore it (not that I’m counting or anything). The future of perfume is interesting with the arrival of FR!

FR! EXPLAINED

FR! is a New York based perfume members club (Can I get an ‘Ooooooh’) with a definite air of exclusivity. Unlike Olfactiv, another really interesting perfume venture, which curates a collection of niche perfumes and send them out to members, FR! is unique in the fact that it creates a brand new perfume each month. I don’t know about you but I. LOVE. SURPRISES. What better surprise than to receive a completely newly composed perfume each month? The membership system (and cool names) is summarised below.

- FREE PEOPLES don’t commit to paying a membership fee every month and are able to purchase the perfumes depending on what takes their fancy. Good for those of you who aren’t good with surprises.

- PATRICIANS for a fee of $29 ($349/year), Patricians receive a 15ml sample of the newly composed perfume each month and 20% discount on subsequent purchases. Plus they get invited to special FR! events. If I lived in New York, this is the one I’d go for. Under $30 a month for a new perfume and the chance to go to swanky events and lab visits? Yes please!

- SENATORS for an fee of $1500/year (expensive!) get all the Patrician perks but also are involved into the artistic direction of the company, such as sitting on the advisory board for 2 months to discuss future fragrances, liaise with perfumers and submit their own stories for inspiration. It is a bit out of my own price range but a really cool element and it would be fantastic for some hands on experience in a perfume company.

They also post interviews and event info/recaps on their blog so check it out.

So, what do you think? Are you excited about the arrival of Fragrance Republic? Would you become a member of FR! (or any perfume members clubs?)

Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you :-)

Nafia x

Disclaimer: FR! kindly sent me FR! 01/03 for my consideration. However, this has no bearing on my review and I was in no way obligated to positively review the scent. I just loved it :-)

#MIPSTERZ | some thoughts on a video that has everyone talking

So, I’ve just seen this and read up about all the hype surrounding it. What do I think? Well, I posted this as a status on Facebook but wanted to post it here too.

Firstly I think the term ‘Mipster’ (a portmanteau of Muslim and Hipster) is kind of tragic (seriously who came up with that?!) but after watching it maybe 10 times in a row, I was smiling. Smiling because somewhere in America, a group of my sisters were given the chance to show a side of themselves we very rarely see. Smiling because they remind me of me and my friends, getting together like any normal group of girls. The difference? There isn’t one, just that we choose to be a little more covered. There are the magic words. We. Choose. Choice. It’s a luxury many cannot afford and us Muslimahs in the West are blessed that we have the freedom to make that personal choice, to commit to modesty consciously and not half heartedly.

Were these ladies modest? I personally think that’s not something for me to comment upon but in my eyes, they were. See, I think many people were caught off guard with this video. Modesty isn’t a synonym for brainwashed and being covered and being fashionable are not mutually exclusive. I’m glad that this video was made. I’m glad because it shows that no matter what propaganda we are fed, there will always be a little piece of truth and proof out there.

Proof that a Muslim girl can leave her house, meet her friends and have a good time. She can also be a badass on a skateboard! She has the right and free will to go outside feeling good about herself and dressing in a way that makes her feel comfortable and confident without the fear of being accused of trying to be provocative. Inevitably, everyone has their own interpretation of hijab. Would I go out wearing skinny jeans? Probably not. Is this my hijab? No, but never in a million years would I even dream of calling another sister out over her choice of clothes and more importantly, her understanding of hijab.

Lastly, just keep in mind after watching this video that not every Muslimah is opressed, blindly following men or weak. Noor Tagouri is a journalist hoping to be the first Muslimah news anchorwoman and Ibtihaj Muhammed is the first Muslimah to represent America in competitive sport. It takes the utmost strength, courage and perserverance to wear hijab in an appropriate way. We are human. You don’t have to eat the apples the media offer you. Remember that.

What did you think of the video? Let me know here or over on Twitter!

Nafia x

P.S. I know this wasn’t perfume related, but it’s something that is important to me. Forgive me? Perfume post coming soon, I promise.

Autumn days when the grass is jewelled

Autumn Leaves by artifexa (photo from deviantArt)

Autumn Leaves by artifexa (photo from deviantArt)

Does anyone remember that song from primary school? Just recently realised that is has the most fantastic olfactory references in it, but of course I didn’t notice them whilst fidgeting on that parquet floor all those years ago. I’m not really one for seasonal scents; I always think you should wear what you want, when you want to.  That being said, this year I have been reaching for a perfume that screams autumn to me so maybe I’m slowly coming round to the idea (you still won’t catch me wearing cologne in the summer — or ever for that matter). I was toying with the idea of doing an autumn scents feature but you’ve seen them a million times before so here is my ode to autumn.

Funfair Ghosts Merrygoround by AbbyArcanine (photo from deviantArt)

Funfair Ghosts Merrygoround by AbbyArcanine (photo from deviantArt)

I wouldn’t say this is an autumn scent exactly but it definitely sums up an essential part of autumn and winter, for me. It is the thrill of the fairground bottled, Gorilla Perfume’s ‘Superworld Unknown.’ Ever since I was a little girl, funfairs would signal autumn to me and even now, autumn and winter wonderlands do not fail to bring out the kid in me.

Sweets 2 by Lument (photo from deviantArt)

Sweets 2 by Lument (photo from deviantArt)

Superworld Unknown opens with an effervescent Coca-Cola note, reminiscent of the teeth-rotting fizzy drinks that are guzzled thirstily at these attractions. There is an air of whimsy and youth about the opener, tiny bubbles whizz up your nose and make you splutter. The cola note is mixed with a super sweet pick’n’mix confectionary note, sour sherbet dib dabs, jelly babies covered in powdered sugar, rhubarb and custard and varnish scented pear drops. Named after Karin Park’s single, Superworld Unknown is described as being ‘an olfactory joyride’ and that’s exactly what it is — a helter-skelter of notes including lime, cocoa, tonka, vanilla, cassia and sandalwood make this a multisensory feast. Another similar, more literal interpretation of a funfair is Maison Martin Margiela’s ‘Funfair Evening’ part of their ‘Replica Collection’ which evokes a more realistic gourmand impression of the fair, whereas Superworld Unknown seems more hyperrealistic , and then some. Apple, caramel, orange blossom, musk and amber are blended in Funfair Evening to create the sugary sweetness of candy floss, buttery savoury popcorn and the crunch of a sticky toffee apple. It is very warm and pretty simple, what you smell is what you get, unlike Superworld Unknown which succeeds in creating the whole exhilarating experience of being at the fair rather than just the food. Superworld Unknown takes you on a whirlwind ride of running through the darkened fair hand in hand with your friends, sneaking to the front of the queue of a ride which turns out to be rubbish, trying to win cheesy blow up comic-book figures and an oversized rubber duck (seriously, what are you supposed to do with those?!) You get all the fun of the fair, without the sick feeling of too many goes on the Waltzer coupled with a jumbo bag of sour strawberry shoelaces. Scrumptious.

So, what do you think? Are you a fan of seasonal scents? What have you been reaching for this autumn? Let me know on Twitter or via email, I’d love to hear from you :-)

Nafia x