Fashion designers sketch, shade, tuck, fold, cut and sew textiles and threads into pieces which drape and skim our lumps and bumps turning them into curves and silhouettes. Perfumers choose, mix, calibrate, measure and blend aromachemicals and natural essences to produce volatile liquids, different notes rising over time producing an olfactory chord which can make us smile or recoil, soothe or furrow our brow. It is the perfumer's touch which makes the difference between a smell and a perfume, a designer's touch which can turn a piece of fabric into a look.
Both perfumers and fashion designers are creators. They have that instinct to mould, shape and manipulate a group of disparate elements into something else: beautiful, interesting, chic, jarring but something that is not what it was.
Creators might work from a similar urge but their mediums are not the same. What happens when one creator works through the medium of another, the perfumer creating a fragrance through the words, thoughts and vision of the designer? It's experimental and a bit unnerving and that is the collection which arises from the Six Scents range of fragrances. Six Scents call themselves a fragrance initiative. We'll forgive them that as they give their perfumers a complete free hand, producing every year, a collection of strange, compelling and sometimes bonkers group of scents that have us wrinkling our noses in a good way.
Six Scents puts together six designers and six noses, give them an irresistibly woolly and weird brief and then let the crazy kids go mad in the lab until something takes shape. Series Three is "an exploration into the nature of childhood memories and the influence of adolescence on identity".
Translated into English (via my nostrils) …
No. 1 "Beau Bow" by Alexis Mabille & Rodrigo Flores-Roux is a fresh citrusy floral scent but not so lemony that you'd call it a traditional eau de cologne. The florals are a bit too strident for that and the green notes also tussle for attention but it's not spiky, more sprightly and zesty.
No. 2 "Trompe L'Oeil" by Mary Katrantzou & Shyamala Maisondieu is mostly a floral and I was worried at first sniff that it was overbearingly "Ye Olde English" handsoap. But after the initial blast calms down the floral gets rather jagged in an interesting way, tart and pointy and it brings to mind images of real flowers (lots of Mimosa) rather than floral watercolours. The dry down has the distinctive funk of ambrette warmed with tonka and vanilla.
With a name like "Can't Smell Fear" (No. 3, by Juun J & Natalie Gracia-Cetto) I would have expected a cuddly comforting scent but this is quite robust with lots of spice, leather and smooth woods. It feels solid, with the warm notes overlapping but a bit indistinct in the middle with a mostly sandalwood drydown.
No. 4 "Ascent" Rad Hourani & Christophe Raynaud feels slightly otherworldly, not natural but not synthetic either. It starts off with a puff of powder, then a bit of fruitiness then morphs into incense and musk. Raynaud swears that there's a fresh accord in there "like a drop of sperm" but frankly all I got was a teensy bit of ozonic.
No. 5 "#087" N.Hoolywood & Stephen Nilsen is the watercolour painting in the group feeling very sheer and faint all the way through. There's a salad-like green vegetal feeling in the top notes which give way to some woods and furniture polish-like notes, as if there was a carpenter's studio somewhere in the distance. It's interesting but feels more like an ambience scent rather than a fragrance to wear.
No. 6 "M" Ohne Titel & Yann Vasnier probably comes out as my favourite and the one that I wore the most during my testing period which happened to be during the freezing cold weeks around Christmas. I struggled to pick-out individual notes in this one so I stopped trying. In a word it's leather, but it's really soft, buttery smooth skin-like leather which has been worn on a body for a few hours. It's got a slightly sweaty oily drydown but in a delicious warm way, very gentle and wafting.