Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Losing a Friend

A week ago Sunday, I returned from Los Angeles, where Andy Tauer and I launched Loretta, the second fragrance in the Tableau de Parfums line. The turnout was nice, what seemed like twice the size of last year's release event for Miriam. I smelled a lot of new things I'd heard about but hadn't had a chance to get my hands on. Some were interesting. Many were disappointing.

The first several days of last week were full of catching up. The trip to LA was brief but even a brief interruption these days leaves me with a lot of loose ends. It was in this scattered frame of mind that I received news of a friend's death, early Thursday morning. When I was told by text at 6:30 a.m., it hardly seemed real. It was real, but even a week later, I keep reminding myself it's actually happened.

My friend was a pretty wonderful person. I met her about eight or nine years ago, when I wandered into a yarn shop she owned at the time to pretend I knew how to knit. I don't think I'd tried anything at that point - not even a scarf. I was attracted by the possibilities and wanted to believe knitting was something I could do if I practiced enough. The yarn was like perfume - there was so much of it, in so many different varieties. The place was like a candy store.

On any day of the week, I'd drop in and people were there knitting. If the place was open there was someone there. Often a group. Papatya had opened the store a year or so before. She held down a day job at an architect firm as a draftsman. On her lunch hours and after she clocked out at the firm, she was often at the shop, chatting with everyone, knitting herself. Weekends the place was full, and every Tuesday night people met at a large table in a side room to knit and catch up.

I met a lot of people there but no one more interesting than Papatya. Her life seemed to be very much in order. She was assertive, funny, friendly, ambitious. It seemed like she could knit or solve anything, and I doubt I would have progressed as quickly as I did without her constant tutoring. Any time I got myself stuck without knowing why, I could run over to the store, knowing she'd help. I'd get all my yarn tangled up and she'd patiently untangle it for me. She liked to do it, she said. I still find that hard to believe.

I'm an adventurous, maybe lazy, knitter. I want to use whatever yarn I like for the pattern at hand, regardless of the gauge called for. I want to use odd color combinations. I progressed to blankets and sweaters sooner than a lot of knitters do, and I wasn't afraid to take chances - but largely because I knew Papatya would support me when I hit a dead end, and she typically encouraged my choices, despite the often mixed results.

When the store closed a year later, the Tuesday night knitting group moved to a local cafe. I got busier and busier with film work, often too stressed to attend. The faces changed, but as usual Papatya was the central force holding the social network together. I saw Papatya less during that time, but she was always supportive of whatever I happened to be doing. I know from hearing others talk over the last week that she was like this with most of her friends. She made you feel you were one of her favorite people. She had that quality. It breaks my heart we weren't able to help her the way she'd helped us. She was obviously in a fix somehow, in a difficult place emotionally and mentally.  She was so good at solving other people's problems that it was hard for us to see she might need help with her own. We'll never know why she took her life last Tuesday, or why she chose to do it that day, which held a lot of significance for her, and for a lot of us.

I'm going to miss her. I miss her already. Everything I've knit reminds me of her. Knitting itself does. I've spent most of the last week editing, which helps me hyper-focus and keep my mind from spinning through the details, the why and how. I've surrounded myself with perfume - old favorites, which hold a particular appeal right now. That transports me to a better place. I hope she's in one too.

(The photo above shows Papatya as I remember her - in the middle of things, admiring someone's progress)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Zoinks! Loretta Draw Update

Dontcha just love the internet? I'm not sure I do at the moment. Some of you will have noticed there's been a problem on the Evelyn Avenue site, where Andy Tauer and I announced a draw to celebrate the launch of Loretta, the second Tableau de Parfums fragrance.

Our indomitable webmaster is looking into the issue and our fingers are crossed (and nerves frayed). MEANWHILE...the draw deadline has been extended. Winners will now be drawn and announced on Monday, October 29.

The draw itself has been moved to Andy's blog.

Please note: If you've managed to get on the Evelyn Avenue page and comment on the post there, you do NOT need to comment on Andy's post. Everyone who commented on the Evelyn Avenue post is already automatically entered into the draw and those names will be compiled with the comments on Andy's blog when the winners are selected. Check his post at the link above for details.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Tauer Drawing to Celebrate the Launch of Loretta

On Friday, October 19, perfumer Andy Tauer and I will be at Scent Bar in LA to launch Loretta, the second fragrance in the Tableau de Parfums line. Loretta is inspired by the short of the same name in the Woman's Picture film series. Miriam, released last year, was a nod to the classic floral aldehydes of the past. Loretta goes in a different direction, contrasting earthy elements with white flowers and dark fruits. Miriam explored themes of nostalgia and memory. Loretta, to me, explores the gatekeeper to fantasy fragrance can become, and how fantasies can combine light and dark elements in unique ways.

To celebrate the launch, we're conducting a drawing on Evelyn Avenue, the home site for Tableau de Parfums and Woman's Picture. Three winners will be announced on Monday, October 21. To qualify for the drawing, we ask that you leave a comment on our most recent Evelyn Avenue blog post about three perfume spots we created for Loretta.

The post talks a little about cynicism in perfumery. With so many things being thrown at perfume lovers, how do we maintain a certain level of optimism? I look at the phenomenon of cynicism from a different point of view now than I might have several years ago, before starting this collaboration between perfume and film with Andy. Over the past year we've asked ourselves what it means to address that fatigue among people who love perfume, and whether we can make some kind of difference in that trend. Is it enough that we're excited about what we do? What makes our excitement any different than anyone else's? How do we make sure that we present our collaboration with some kind of integrity where the norm is too often over-priced and over-hyped? It's an interesting vantage point for me - somewhere between consumer and producer - and the questions have percolated over the last year in our minds as we toured with and talked about Miriam and our intentions.

Winners of the drawing will receive a full bottle of choice from the extended Tauer range (including Tableau de Parfums), a DVD of the first three shorts in the Woman's Picture series, and a vintage-inspired poster designed for Loretta's packaging (pictured above).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

More Alien Still: Alien Essence Absolue

Apparently, the folks at Mugler decided that two Alien flankers a year just wasn't enough, and this year, in addition to the flanker associated with Les Parfums de Cuir and the summer version, Aqua Chic, the brand released Alien Essence Absolue, a purportedly richer, more intense version of the original.

I'm not complaining, because Essence Absolue is the best of the Alien enterprise to date, right down to the bottle, which resembles a cybernetic pear considered by citizens of the planet Jupiter to be the last word in exotic delicacies. True to the literature, Absolue is richer, but exactly why and how, even with a side by side comparison, is hard to explain.

There's said to be myrrh, white amber, incense, and animalistic black vanilla pod. The balance is such that I'd be hard pressed to identify any of that specifically, though at times I feel I can detect what I think might be myrrh or what could be animalistic black vanilla pod. I'm a big fan of Alien Liqueur, and Liqueur was, itself, richer than the original Alien. I was skeptical, when I heard about Absolue; it seemed unlikely that the composition could be made any richer than that. I should have known better, because it's rare a Mugler fragrance seriously disappoints.

What Absolue seems to subtract from the original equation is the very thing I thought made that composition so complex and satisfying. Gone is the roasted jasmine quality, that super saturated, burred nutty thrust. When you smell the two side by side, they seem very similar, for just a short time, as though the same hologram has been projected before you. As that initial impression shifts, their differences, subtle but profound, become gradually more apparent.

The incense aspects of Absolue are minimal; still, they replicate then variate the fuzzy quality of the original's jasmine, generating a strange edged effect to the floral components of the fragrance. Overall, the heart of the thing feels the way the juice looks, golden, shot through with light. While Absolue definitely smells vanillic, it's only when you compare its dry down to the original that you see just how much more vanilla it has, and how the amber elements dominate. I can't detect anything remotely animalic in the mix, and yet this is a different kind of vanilla fragrance, slightly more savory than sweet. The spectral silhouette of original Alien remains, hovering there, but the body of the fragrance has arranged itself differently around that outline. Absolue has more than a little in common with the L'Or version of Dior J'Adore, but where that flanker sat obediently on the skin - even meekly - Absolue has kick.

I find both versions, original and Absolue, to be comparable in projection and longevity, though I've read many customer reviews saying that Absolue is equally tenacious but less of a headache, basically. I never got or get a headache from original Alien, nor am I exactly ever clear on what people who dislike it so strongly are chiefly complaining about, so I can't tell you why Absolue is considered by many of them to be a marked improvement. For me, it's simply a variation, if something so profoundly good can be called simple.

Note: This fragrance could have been far less interesting and still worth the price for the bottle alone.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Thierry Mugler's Angel: Les Parfums de Cuir

There are those who despise Thierry Mugler's wildly successful Angel so much that they appraise its many flankers solely by their ability to mitigate that contempt. Others - I'm one of them - look forward to each successive October, when the best of these special flankers are typically released, not as another opportunity to hate the fragrance more or less, but as another form of Christmas, where Angel will be slightly reinvented, seen through yet another conceptual prism.

This year, the flankers to Angel, Alien, A*Men, and Womanity, collectively called Les Parfums de Cuir, are truly gifts that keep giving. There are many things to admire about the Mugler line, not least of which is its packaging, a big part of its gifts to give. With the exception of Womanity, arguably a misstep in the direction of excessive ornamentation, the bottles have been endlessly entertaining, if not exactly practical - interesting not just as vessels but as objets d'art. Unlike most flankers, and despite the expectations imposed on these new fragrances by detractors of the original fragrances, those produced by Mugler don't seem too preoccupied with "improvement". Again, with the exception of Womanity, which has not quite been the hot cake that Angel and Alien have been, there's nothing, from a sales point of view, to improve. These aren't apologias.

With Mugler, a flanker often brings the best of both worlds - a wonderful new fragrance not too terribly removed from the one you love, reenacting the crush all over again. The Liqueur versions from 2009 were my favorites so far. For me, Angel Liqueur is even better than the original, while Alien is a deeper, richer more of same, forcing me to look at the Alien I fell in love with in a different way. A*Men Pure Coffee was fantastic, and Pure Malt was beyond that, and the only real bummer for me has been Pure Havane, which smelled on me a little too much like death by vinyl, side of maraschino cherry.

There are Mugler fragrances I practically ignore, like most of the summertime flankers, all of them single-mindedly bent on balancing toothpaste with caramel, and while I admired last year's Taste of Fragrance editions, I never felt, no matter how hard I tried, that I neeeeeded them. The whole Innocent range seems superfluous to me, unless you simply must have a Mugler and can't stomach anything more interesting the line has to offer. But those Liqueur versions. Those were really something - so good that each September I start thinking obsessively about what the brand will come up with next.

I'm not as crazy about the leather Angel as I am about her liqueur kin, but I don't like it too much less. Certainly enough to buy it. If it's good enough to bring the guys at Peredepierre out of semi-retirement, you know it must be pretty decent. Peredepierre described an apricot quality to leather Angel that puts it somewhere near Daim Blond. I do get peach, but not with anything like the brightness of that Lutens suede. This is definitely leather for me, not suede, dark brown in color, and the sweetness of most Angel versions, including the original, is tempered here. Liqueur Angel smells recognizably of Angel throughout. Leather Angel doesn't always or often remind me of any Angel I've smelled. If I had to find a correlate I would look to Cuir de Lancome or Heeley Cuir Pleine Fleur. Leather Angel, unlike Cuir Pleine Fleur, isn't quite barnyard-adjacent, but not so far away the wind doesn't catch up with it. As for Cuir de Lancome, what I think it shares with leather Angel is a rich, creamy leather feel, with none of the arch sharpness involved in, say, Knize Ten or Chanel Cuir de Russie.

It's most recognizable as "Angel" up top. Once it dries down to the leather, which is not skanky but plush (more leather bag or seat than saddle), it becomes something almost entirely new for me. The marketing says these flankers were marinated in leather. I can't answer to that, though I find it hard to believe. Still, smelling leather Angel, this is an apt image, and as far as PR talk goes, I'll take this kind of snake oil over the stuff Dior's writing, bottling, and peddling any day. Leather Angel, like the other two "feminines", is housed in a great bottle, which is housed in a great little leather bag, which is all kind of the icing on the cake for what turns out to be a refreshingly gratifying fragrance. By dry down, you have, for once, or a change, a contemporary mainstream fragrance which not only promises but delivers the leather, with a punch. This is truly a successful conceptual exercise, wrapping Angel in layers of rich leather, and the measure of that success is how good it smells.