18 August 2011

It’s Fun When I Can Call a Post “Coverage”:
Highlights from the Elements Showcase

I confess to being self-conscious about how legitimately I can call myself a blogger, what with my whopping nine followers (and yes, I know it’s not helping things that I would rather die than join Facebook), so I was only half-serious when I RSVP’d as “press” for the Elements Showcase, a New York trade show focused on niche fragrance and beauty brands. But in the end it didn’t matter that I’ve never garnered more than a few dozen unique views in any 24-hour period; everyone I spoke to seemed intrigued that I was even there. Oh, you’re a perfume blogger? Cool! No questions asked.

One of my first stops was the display for the New York-based Joya perfume and home fragrance line, run by Elements Showcase co-founder Frederick Bouchardy. Joya places a lot of significance on containers – most notably the gorgeous matte ceramics by Sarah Cihat that enclose many of their candles and their perfume duo Composition No .1 and Composition No. 6. One of the coolest examples of this appreciation for containers was a double-candle housed in a WWII-era British military soap tin (a clamshell design, thus accomodating one candle poured into each side of the tin; the scents are “Amber Absolute” and “Bitter Orange Leaf”).

But the most fascinating thing on display at Joya was their new limited-run collaboration with indie perfume darlings D.S. & Durga called “Staghorn Sumac” [1], which complements the sharp and lemony namesake plant with accords of lily and bison grass (heavy on the coumarin). I love the way D.S. & Durga translate arcane Americana into scent (i.e. Mississippi Medicine, based on the rituals of a “proto-Mississippian death cult” from the 1200s), and this bright but earthy and bone-dry homage to the American plains fits right in with their oeuvre. I will definitely be pre-ordering one of the 100 bottles they plan to produce.

I got to shoot the shit a bit with Anne McClain, fellow Brooklynite and founder/perfumer of MCMC Fragrances. I’d never smelled the scents in her ‘stories’ collection (each inspired by a personal experience) and I took a real liking to Maine, with its beautifully oddball pairing of Bulgarian rose and seaweed absolutes, and the super-resinous Hunter [2], loaded with fir balsam and tobacco.

I had an equally fun chat with Annie and Therese Gibbons, the sisters behind Alora Ambiance, the first home fragrance company to bring reed diffusers to the U.S. We disagreed on the virtues of vetiver (one of them, like me, adores it; the other not so much) while passing around a scent strip of their interpretation of that note - a pure and wild vetiver, inspired by the woven vetiver mats found just about everywhere in Indonesia.

The display of Williamsburg salon/apothecary Woodley & Bunny featured Andy Tauer’s new Pentachords series (so named because each fragrance is composed of only five components), which I’ve been eager to sniff. After being sold exclusively in Italy for the past few months, the limited-run Pentachords are going global this fall. Verdant [3], as suggested, is green, wet, leafy and earthy. Auburn [4] is warm, dry and woody, with an emphasis on the lovely cinnamon note. While obviously quite different from each other, both were striking and successfully communicated the minimalist intention behind the collection, as opposed to White, a meek, anonymously sweet and utterly non-threatening iris.

I also got to sample two independent European brands that haven’t yet arrived on the U.S. market. The first was Spanish line Carner Barcelona, which launched two perfumes in Europe last year: D600, inspired by Barcelona nightlife; and Tardes [5], a woody floral by Daniela Andrier (I just can’t stay away!) that alludes to wheat fields, almond groves, wild roses and geraniums and the dwindling light of late afternoon. This is a particularly romantic work for Andrier, but – like many of her other works – includes an unexpected element, in this case a fresh, barely salty celery note that keeps the cedar, tonka and Heliotrope in the base from turning too sweet. Fall brings the launch of their third perfume: a great smoky leather simply called Cuirs, surely a nod to the long line of leather artisans from whom founder Sara Carner is descended.

After that I was introduced to Technique Indiscrète, a refined but quirky fragrance line by Belgian-born fashion designer Libertin Louison. Standouts from his collection of eight eaux de parfum include: Paname Paname [6], a chypre re-interpretation that kicks off with an audacious cumin-citrus pairing and sweetens with an “apple cake” note; Safran Nobile, inspired by a wedding in India, a heady swirl of sweet spice, saffron, vanillic benzoin, patchouli and dirty jasmine; and Délivre Moi, a modest but comforting better-than-skin scent focused on honey, accented with almond and heliotrope on a mild woody-musky base. Technique Indiscrète also produce three eaux de cologne and a line of hydrosols.

Last but not least, I marveled at sculptor Niho Kozuru’s gorgeous beeswax candles, which she casts in molds made from reclaimed turned-wood architectural details from traditional New England homes. The molds are so accurate that you can often see the woodgrain on the candles’ surfaces. We bonded over our love of the smell of beeswax (“it won’t overpower your dinner party” being one of the benefits I hadn’t previously considered). You can find her candles, appropriately, at the Noguchi Museum gift shop.


  1. I recently fell in love with a young man -- about 5'5", taut, lithe, trim, black hair, and with such wit and brilliance. It was 1995 all over again. Arturo, meu querido, I miss you SO much.

  2. One year later: still madly in love with my Brazilian hipster prodigy, and he still reminds me of you.
    Remember when you made me laugh so hard that Mountain Dew spewed forth from my nose and tear ducts? Fábio's the only other person who's been able to do that.
    It should please your ego that I had to go all the way to Brasil to replace you.
    Um beijo. Penso muito em você.