Tracking the points where the sense of sight and the sense of smell interface, Olfactive Studio is a new fragrance brand that has taken five contemporary photographs and interpreted them in perfume. The concept is down to Celine Verleure, a 46-year-old marketing and e-tail expert with a passion for fragrance, already behind olfactory hits such as Kenzo Jungle, L’Eau par Kenzo as well as the Osmoz perfume portal. Her own photography collection gave her the idea for the brand and she picked five photographs that very strongly evoke a mood or an idea. “The photographs are always pre-existing works that I find in exhibitions, museums, online photographers site,” she explains. Each photograph was the start of a creative journey for the perfumer, who used it as a visual brief. And some of the photographers – who are mostly fine art photographers – also helped elucidate their works and participated in the creative process. “Some photographers loved to be part of the creation – for example Clemence Rene-Bazin. Perfumer Dorothée Piot and René-Bazin, became friends while creating Chambre Noire and Dorothée actually bought the photograph from Clémence.” Initially, Chambre Noire looks like the image of a glittering, lit up cityscape at dusk, glimpsed through a hotel window and balcony. But look harder and you can see the reflection of the interior of the hotel room in the windowpane – the low lighting and seductive roomspace that could be the setting for a romantic rendez-vous. Appropriately, the corresponding fragrance is highly sensual, taboo even, but perhaps not in an obvious way. It is an oriental with basenotes of Sandalwood, Patchouli, Musk, Vanilla and Leather and speaks of illicit encounters, the rich odour of expensive lingerie, bodies intertwined and forbidden pleasures.
However some of the photographs produced more unexpected perfumes – Flash back, for example is a very serene, black and white pixelated picture (by Laurent Segretier) of a resting woman’s face. But it provoked an unexpected fragrance by Olivier Cresp, quite colourful and fruity with notes of rhubarb, grapefruit, orange and granny smith apple. In each instance smelling the perfume helps us re-see and reinterpret the photograph. Chambre Noire’s olfactive mise en scene is vivid enough for us to imagine lovers languishing in the soft glow of that bedside lamp glimpsed in the photograph and Flash back prompts us to smell what the clean, serene young visage in the photograph might smell like – the clarity of the fruit notes augments the serene yet obfuscated monochrome portrait – lending it a three dimensional facet. “My favourite image is the one from Massimo Vitali “Lumière Blanche” because you don’t catch it immediately (is it an iceberg? is it a rock?) actually, it is a rock in Sicily, but the image “smells” hot and cold at the same time and the perfume is a “hot milk with cold spices”. Says Verleure. Indeed in this bleached out photograph, the rock is only very faintly defined from the crystalline white of the sky by incremental grey shadows, similarly the perfume, which is smooth and creamy is offers a gentle chiascuro with it’s spores of dark spice.
Thus the conflation of smell and image allows us to experience a kind of synesthesia. Verleure reveals that the sixth fragrance and photograph will be revealed to the press in April This innovative project should run and run.
For stockist details please contact 01273 408832. Olfactive Studio fragrances are priced at £75 for 50ml and £110 for 100ml. For more information please visit http://www.olfactivestudio.com
This piece first appeared in http://www.neverunderdressed.com
I like how you dismantle and get to the core of these. I wasn’t sure I liked them and neither was Duncan: there was quality, obviously, but not much originality I didn’t think. However, the fruity innocence you mention in the rhubarb does begin, now, to make some kind of sense.