I only heard the sound of breaking glass once on the polished concrete floor of the Elements Showcase fragrance trade show, and mercifully, it was the tinkle of a sample vial. It’s funny, but that possibility—glass bottles full of perfume hitting hard floor—was in the back of my mind the whole time.
I’m sure there were many others more nervous than I was. This was the first of what Ulrich Lang, of the fragrance company Ulrich Lang New York, one of the organizers, hopes will be a twice-a-year event. It was held on the sixth floor of a 10th Avenue warehouse space near the Javits Center, and it was timed to run concurrent with the New York International Gift Fair at the nearby Javits Center.
When I walked off the elevators into the show, my friend and fellow blogger Barney Bishop, of Fragrant Moments, grabbed me and pulled me to the Etat Libre d’Orange booth. What a way to start the show! My first smell was the infamous Sécrétions Magnifiques, a “blood, sweat, sperm, saliva” scent that I find revolting. Barney’s reaction wasn’t so extreme. Most people tend to agree with me, but many of us keep going back to it because it’s so damn different. I could never wear it, but I’d love a sample of it, if only for a conversation piece.
Etat Libre d’Orange debuted its newest scent here, Archive 69, a fruity-spicy fragrance that seems to lean feminine. I smell orange and vanilla spiked with something I can’t place. More on that in a later post.
My favorite Etat Libre scent was Jasmin et Cigarettes, which smells like jasmine perfume under a light veil of cigarette smoke. It’s odd, but it’s really alluring.
Our next stop was Nasomatto, in search of the elusive Black Afgano scent, which is sold out in most stores. It’s expensive, and it allegedly contains hashish oil from Afghanistan. It also contains notes of coffee, tobacco and oud; it was the latter that stood out when I smelled it.
After that, San Francisco-based Ineke Rühland took us through her line, which I’d seen in passing at Henri Bendel. It’s hands down the most beautifully and thoughtfully packaged line in the show. My girlfriend put on a sample of Ineke’s Field Notes from Paris (coriander, bergamot, woods, tobacco, leather) this morning, one of my favorites. Coincidentally, Barney mentioned wearing it this morning on Twitter.
I was excited to see so many Brooklyn-based perfumers there. D.S. & Durga, a small company run by a young couple (D.S., pictured, right, is a musician and Durga an architect) who started the business as a holiday gift project for friends a few years ago. Now it’s a robust and well-designed line for men and women that includes a remarkable fragrance called Cowboy Grass, an earthy, smokey vetiver with sagebrush. I’ve never smelled anything quite like.
Another Brooklynite was Anne McClain of MCMC Fragrances. I liked her Dude No. 1 scented beard oil, which she created for her husband. It’s a very light woody scent with coriander and pepper, and it comes in a roll-on.
Brooklyn-based Joya is run by Frederick Bouchardy, one of the organizers of Elements Showcase. Joya’s line is focused in scented candles, but it also includes fragrances. The special editions included a candle for Brooklyn Circus, the menswear boutique with outlets in Brooklyn and San Francisco.
Speaking of regional fragrances, a 200-year-old French perfume house was the last place I expected to find a Minnesota connection, but there it was in the Lubin booth. The name Itasca escaped me when it was pronounced in a French accent, but I loved the scent. It was only when I asked for a sample that I realized it was named for the headwaters of the Mississippi River, in Northern Minnesota.
Itasca is one of two American nature-inspired flankers based on Lubin’s Vétiver, adding Minnesota red pine notes (among others) to the traditional vetiver fragrance. It’s really good.
I spent some time talking to the Lafco people about both Eau d’Italie and Santa Maria Novella. The latter’s Nostalgia fragrance keeps me coming back: woods, motor oil, rubber, benzene—all the smells of old race cars. I also loved the Spanish leather fragrance, Peau d’Espagne, and Opoponax, which was based on the opoponax, or sweet myrrh plant from Somolia.
Finally, Barney and I had a nice conversation with Ulrich Lang about Nightscape (a new favorite of mine) and his other fragrances, Anvers and Anvers 2. The photo here is Barney with Ulrich Lang and Michelyn Camen, editor of Ça Fleure Bon.
I’m still digesting it all, and I hope to post some specific reviews as I go through all the samples I collected. The show continues through today.