Fragrance – a conversation through design

We often liken a fragrance to texture – ‘velvety’, ‘smooth’, ‘suede’ – or colours, temperatures and emotions. With so few words in our language dedicated to smell alone, we must reach out with our other senses and make a connection between them and what we are smelling.

Arun Sispal is an artist and designer who sought to explore these connections in a tangible way, translating them into fragrant form with the help of British indie perfume house 4160 Tuesdays. You can now experience the results at his exhibition within the Royal College of Art – which is FREE but ends 1st July 2018, so we urge you to make haste before you miss it!

Scroll down for full details of how to get there, but for now we caught up with Arun, and asked him to explain the concept in his own words…

Arun Sispal: ‘The sentence I use to summarise what the work is about is -“If you were unable to experience the qualities of fragrance through the olfactory system, how could you experience its qualities through senses of touch and sight?”

Essentially, this project is to be viewed as a ‘conversation’ and ‘enquiry’, as opposed to a design piece with a final end outcome. The work discusses notions of ‘Interpretation’ and ‘blended senses’, and how the senses can influence one another. The conversation is made up of 3 stages:

Stage 1– I created a bespoke scent
Stage 2– I responded to the scent created through design and material creation
Stage 3– The design work was taken to 4160 Tuesdays, where Sarah McCartney created a fragrance response to the design work.

Stage 1– I created a scent at 4160 Tuesdays with a perfumer named Harry. We had several attempts and I described the type of scent I wanted. I needed the scent to have body and definition, as opposed to being something that was very silent and undefined – this was to allow for a successful material interpretation of the scent; because if it was quiet and did not have many facets, I don’t feel the design response would have been engaging or understandable.

In the end, we created a super heavy, dark and dusty scent, with a veil of Dorinia rose that glistens on tops, eventually drying down to something quite powdery. It is a scent than keeps changing, and shows new sides, and that is what I wanted- for it to fleet between these quite dramatic moments.

Stage 2– I then spent time responding to the scent. Thinking about the colours it evokes, the journey of the scent and how it develops over time, its weight, texture etc. (all of these elements that are both tangible and intangible, but once sprayed and in liquid form, this sense of physicality is no longer present). I also got those around me to tell me what the scent evoked for them and any memories, and the responses were so varied and unexpected- depending on their age, location etc.

In terms of the colours… Initially these super dark charcoals and blacks, quite scratched on surface, as the scent isn’t forgiving or a wallflower, but it shouts, and these tones reflected the intensity of the smoke. Also, a refined selection of bitten pink and metallic blush, reflecting the Rose when it is both shrouded in smoke and at its most brightest, clean stage. An abundance of mid tones that do not necessarily sit under the ‘pink’ or ‘grey’ heading, but instead are quite unsure of their identity, and shift between the 2, reflecting the transiency and ephemerality of the scent, and how it develops so much.

And in terms of the materials, using heavy wool felts in super flat, monotone charcoal and gunmetal coloured metal aspects, to reinforce the weight of notes like the agarwood, karmawood and white birch, and then contrasting this with delicate degrades of embroidery in metallic pink that shimmer on the surface, like the softness of the rose.

Stage 3– The design work was then taken to Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays, who spent time understanding and looking and touching the materials, and trying to create a connection between their physicality, and the array of ‘ingredients’ at the facility. One of the most prominent and interesting elements that Sarah picked up on was the use of gunmetal coloured wire that lay on top of the wool felt in a regimented, slightly aggressive way, and how its edges ‘poked’ out of the surface.

She wanted to use a note that had the same ‘pokey’ feeling – eventually opting for pink and black peppercorn- due to their instant ‘hit’ that knocks your head back when you smell it. This was such an exciting part of the project, as it was great to see the way that a professional perfumer is able to interpret the visual and aesthetic, which is the job of a designer.

The work was an experiment that had materials at the heart, how to tell a story in a multisensory way. It is about sensitivity, and it is also quite romantic…’

Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, Kensington, London, SW7 2EU
12-6pm, 28th June- 1st July (closed 29th June)
Located in ‘Textiles’

Written by Suzy Nightingale

Our Modern Lives – 4160 Tuesdays new (natural and anti-allergenic) scents for body and space…

Amidst the chaos of modern-day life, there are times (now, more than ever) we need to take some time back for ourselves. However we choose to do this, Our Modern Lives is a completely new range of fragrances made by purveyors of quirky, indie scents we know and love already – 4160 Tuesdays.
Founder and perfumer, Sarah McCartney has been a long-time yoga teacher alongside her fragrant commitments, and initially created five yoga-room fragrances for own use. With weekly requests from perfume lovers who wanted all natural fragrances or from people allergic to certain ingredients commonly found in the majority of ranges, Sarah came to realise that something had to be done – and that she was the someone to make it happen…
Sarah McCartney: ‘Every week we’re asked for two things: 100% natural fragrances, and safe scents with no allergens. People often imagine they can have both in the same bottle, or that one implies that you get the other. It’s not that simple’ Sarah laughs wryly – a point she has often made but that’s seemingly quite difficult to get through to people.
And the reason perfumers can’t just use all “natural” ingredients and make them entirely safe for people to wear on their skin? ‘The issue is that nature is naughty – there are allergens in most essential oils, including jasmine, rose, lavender, all citrus fruits and the spices – which means that natural fragrance has to be handled really carefully to be safe, to be legal and still to smell great.’
For Our Modern Lives, Sarah created seven 100% natural fragrances, ‘We’re using all our experience to make these complex blends beautiful and safe,’ and two 100% synthetic fragrances with no allergens. ‘Here we’re choosing simple blends of molecular compounds to create soft, smooth, long-lasting sensual fragrances.’

The Naturals:

Red – Harvest – Gratitude: A sense of security, nature’s bounty, reaping what we sow. For us it feels like a rich red berry in colour. Materials include: hay absolute, Turkish rose absolute, raspberry leaf absolute, oakwood CO2 extract, hazelnut CO2 extract, labdanum, wine essential oil, davana essential oil, pink peppercorn C)2 absolute.
Orange – Sunset – Peace: A sense of serenity as the sun goes down, lighting up the sky in shades of blood orange, Materials include: neroli essential oil, Honeybush CO2 extract, vanilla absolute, cocoa absolute, peach natural liquid, bran absolute, rose geranium essential oil, Virginian cedarwood essential oil.
Yellow – Sunrise – Hope: A sense of vitality, but because it’s early we’ve added in a dash of coffee for a touch of real life. Materials include: lemon petitgrain, fennel, cardamon, clementine, yellow mandarin, blood orange and sweet orange essential oils, coffee absolute, narcissus absolute and cabreuva essential oil.

Green – Leaf – New: A sense of revival. The smell of spring when green shoots appear from the cold and dark. Materials include: jasmine tea CO2 extract, green mandarin essential oil, Calabrian bergamot essential oil, cucumber natural liquid, bergamot mint essential oil and spinach absolute.

Aquamarine – Waves/WiFi – Clarity: A sense of connection. The colour of the clear warm sea, and sharp hit of citrus and deep seaweed. Materials include: white grapefruit and rosemary essential oils, olive fruit CO2 extract, jasmine sambac absolute, blue hemlock essential oil, organic English lavender essential oil, seaweed absolute.
Blue Screen/Blue Horizon – Perspective : A sense of balance. We spend too much time looking at screens, not enough at the horizon. This is a scent to help you meditate. Materials include frankincense essential oil, lavender absolute, vetivert absolute, eucalyptus mint essential oil, patchouli essential oil, hyacinth absolute, organic English lavender essential oil.

Indigo – Into the Night: A sense of the infinite. A 3a.m. scent of total darkness, when night feels endless. Materials include: Cognac absolute, black tea CO2 extract, osmanthus absolute, Atlas cedarwood essential oil, jasmine sambac absolute, labdanum absolute, rum CO2 extract.

The Synthetics:

OML α – a soft, mildly ambery woodsy fragrance that really lasts well, made with seven synthetic materials, completely clear in colour. Some of the beautiful aroma molecules we use here are more expensive than most naturals.
OML β – even softer and smoother and very long lasting. We chose to make OML β with materials which are widely used in perfumery, including costly niche fragrances, but they are out of patent so their prices have fallen. We wanted to make a really good, affordable fragrance, so here you are.
We’re sure these fragrances are going to be very popular indeed – not only for people who prefer all-natural products, those allergic to many commonly used perfumery materials – but for anyone seeking serenity through scent. Because these are not simply “diet” versions of “proper” perfumes – Our Modern Lives perfumes smell glorious first and foremost, and just happen to be entirely wearable by absolutely anyone who loves perfume – no matter what their concerns are. We’d call that a win-win!
Currently, Sarah McCartney is following the same successful IndieGoGo launch route for Our Modern Lives that she has followed for previous perfumed projects. A “crowdfunding” website, it allows small and indie businesses to directly receive funding from individual consumers interested in supporting them. A sliding scale of investment opportunities with benefits attached to them range from £15 (for a scented, hand-stitched eye mask) to £850 for a completely bespoke, all-natural perfume. In between, investors can plump for try-me or full sizes of specific scents at less than the eventual RRP.
Those interested in learning more and wanting to purchase the scents themselves should assume the Perfumista Position (fingers on buttons, ever ready to spritz or order more to try!) and head to Our Modern Lives IndieGoGo page
Written by Suzy Nightingale

Pitti Fragranze 2016 – our fragrant journey to the Florentine perfume trade fair…

An annual affair dedicted to showcasing artistic and artisinal fragrance houses to buyers, distributors and press from around the world, it’s always an eye (and nostril!) opening experience to visit glorious Florence and the Stazione Leopolda – an old train station repurposed as a huge and atmospheric conference and event venue.

©PittiImagine

Pitti Fragranze 2016 took place last weekend and marked the 14th successive year of the trade fair, with visitor and exhibitor numbers greater than ever, and we plunged into the seehing crowd with noses twitching to discover what was on offer this year…
sarah-arthur-of-4160-tuesdys
We were thrilled to see many of our fragrance friends there, bumping into 4160 Tuesdays floral-bedecked founder and perfumer Sarah McCartney spritzing her Mystery of the Materials (scents with a story to tell) into teacups (how wonderfully British) for eager sniffers to discover, and causing much swooning by revealing the photograph of her much-admired helper Arthur McBain – an actor when not helping out at her Ealing studios, and currently starring as the model in her just-shot advertising photos. Sarah says customers have been known to write him fan-letters and apparently come over all peculiar when they receive a package with a note in from him. We couldn’t possibly comment…
beaufort-london-fathom-v
Just around the corner, ‘fiercely independent’ Beaufort London were causing something of a buzz – appropriate given the honeycomb-themed decoration of the area – with their five uniquely maritime-inspired fragrances, including the latest launch, Fathom V – a fantastically other-worldly salty, ultra-green scent that puts us in mind of a Pre-Raphaelite Ophelia surrounded by flowers and giving herself up to the embrace of the icy depths…
andy-tauer-atelier-des-ors
In the same golden-hued area was dear friend to The Perfume Society, Andy Tauer, on great form as ever and here showing two new fragrances: Tuberose Flash (an iridescent and totally sparkling tuberose with zero screechiness) and the much-anticipated Au Coeur du Désert (think bestselling Air du Désert Marocain in extrait beauty!)
It was also a joy to bump into the lovely Atelier Des Ors founder and Artistic Director, Jean-Phillipe Clermont – you may recall we were rather excited when they launched in the UK – and sniff the exqusite new Iris Fauve – softly suede-y with a distinctly addictive edge.
di-ser
We thought it was really interesting seeing a Japanese natural fragrance brand showing at the fair – Di Ser – not a culture historically known for their perfume brands, this one uses unsual oils and essences from around the world blended with fabulous quality native natural ingredients, thoughtfully composed and beautifully presented. Interesting, too, to learn that Japanese ladies have long scented their kimonos with delicate fragrances – as Middle Eastern cultures have wafted their robes with highly scented smoke…
pitti-intertrade
Intertrade‘s room is always a must-visit, with their fingers on the perfume pulse of cool, edgy and just beautifully curated brands that carry genuinely interesting but always totally wearable fragrances, available at Avery Perfume Gallery. With the theme of ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ they laid a huge table with coloured glasses and ‘place settings’ for each fragrance house. There we saw, and sniffed, new launches – some standouts being Blood Concept‘s gender-bending David Bowie-inspired XX and XY, AGONIST‘s incredibly evocative (and intriguingly named!) White Lies (so-new the bottles weren’t ready yet, but we snapped their previously released, soothingly smoky Hope), and the ravishingly sexy A Lab on Fire‘s cheekily named Messy Sexy Just Rolled Out of Bed
barbara-herman
You see absolutely everyone at Pitti, no matter where you are – and we met the marvellous Barbara Herman – vintage perfume expert and author of the book Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Subversive Perfumes, in the cafe of all places! The perfect excuse for a quick sniffing session of Eris Parfums – a trio of frgrances Barbara worked with a perfumer to create, all based on interpretations of animalic ‘beasts’ (with huge glugs of beauty to balance). Irreverently opulent, glamorously modern with echoes of vintage va-va-voom. And we got a sneaky sniff of the 4th, equally show-stopping scent.
Perfume, a Certain Tradition film
An real treat for cinephiles and fragrance fanatics alike was the private viewing of Perfume, a Certain Tradition – a film by Amsterdam-based Short Notes Portraits offering in-depth portraits of some of the greatest living perfumers – including infamously reclusive or seldom interviewed figures such as Pierre Bourdon, Michel Roudnitska, Frédéric Malle, Mark Buxton, uber perfume-collector George Stam (seriously jaw-dropping pieces!) and the iconically irreverent Serge Lutens… a roll-call of noses and creators that would intimidate many but which the Amsterdam-based company clearly relished the challenge of. A charming, witty and fascinating film, you can watch it on their website and we will be sure to keep you up to date with when the film is released on DVD – so watch this space.
vintage-market-florence
With so much to see and smell, it’s really quite an overwhelming experience – and nigh on impossible to see absolutely everything – but though we were exhausted at the end, we managed to fit in a quit flit to Florence’s wonderful Sunday-morning vintage market. And – ever nosing around for interesting things – we came across a stall laden with vintage parfums, including the most humungous bottle of Lanvin‘s Arpege – sadly our of our pocket, but We Wear Perfume‘s Amanda Carr [NB watch out for the imminent issue of our magazine, The Scented Letter, featuring Amanda’s scent memories] snapped up the Bvlgari scented pencils.
Until next year, dear Firenze
Written by Suzy Nightingale

4160 Tuesdays launch IndieGoGo project – The Mystery of the Materials: Four Scented Stories

‘We do things differently, here in London W3…’ Sarah McCartney, founder of independent perfume house 4160 Tuesdays, explains. ‘All our fragrances have a story. This year we want to bring out four new editions; eaux de parfum each with its own mystery story, inspired by the classic crime novels of the 1930s.’

Having successfully reached out to the fragrance community and many long-time fans of her distinctively quirky scents, last year saw the crowd-funded Crimes of Passion collection selling out and winning awards. Crowd-funding has become popular over several online platforms recently, with small companies and independent entrepreneurs reaching out for public support to give them a much-needed initial cash investment they then use to fulfill  project they could otheriwse only dream of, with those initial investors receiving a number of bonuses or gifts in reward for their belief and support. Fragrance expert and vintage perfume aficionado Barbara Herman also used this technique to launch her Perfume X range of vintage-inspired fragrances, which were composed by Antoine Lie.


Last year, 4160 Tuesdays launched seven fragrances to evoke ‘unexpected acts of devotion’ and included Dirty Honey, which won the EauMG Best Indie Scent 2015; Maxed Out having been one of Lucky Scent’s Top 12 Perfumes of 2015 and currently in the running as one of the finalists for The Fragrance Foundation‘s 2016 award for Best New Independent Fragrance; along with yet another of the series – Midnight in the Palace Garden – also having made the final list of nominees.

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This time the collection is entitled The Mystery of the Materials: Four Scented Stories, and each will be themed around specific 30s style mysterious tales that Sarah has written, with a specific perfume and specific ingredients in mind.

The scented stories are enticingly described as follows…

The Search for Flora Psychedelica
The story: ‘A tale of botany and skullduggery.’

The scent: ‘A blend of rare flowers with intoxicating spices and herbs.’

The Mystery of the Buddhawood Box
The story: ‘Horatio Kimble had sailed for Australia to seek his fortune. Twenty years later, his lawyers invite the relatives to a meeting.’

The scent: ‘Four distinctive woods, with a note of multicoloured opalescence.’

Up the Apples & Pears
The story: ‘Cissy and Dotty Shuttleworth defend their London pub from an unscrupulous property developer.’

The scent: ‘Autumn fruit in a tiny London orchard.’

Captured by Candlelight
The story: ‘When the lights go out at Dolderbury Hall a portrait goes missing, but which one was it?’

The scent: ‘Traditional plum pudding, covered in brandy and set alight, with a background of oak panels and oil paintings.’

Those who invest in the scheme can contribute from as little as £5, with a range of benefits and bonuses available varying from a signed, bound book of the stories, a specially reduced price of the perfume, and sample sets of the finished scents.

Talking about the sliding scale structure of investment in such schemes, Sarah said:

‘We’re starting with a very affordable dip of the financial toe, right down to a deep plunge of a bespoke service, story and scent. Perfume is an unusual thing to buy before trying, so we’re doing sample sets to reduce your risk, but there are great incentives to take a chance on buying before you try them.We’d love to invest in more amazing materials which you don’t find in big brand fragrances; we’re a tiny company so crowdfunding makes it possible. If some of these scents sound exciting to you, join in! We’d love your help to invest in interesting materials and to use them to create something marvellous…’

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Sarah’s ‘wish list’ of ingredients:

Australian Buddhawood
Boronia flower absolute
Granny Smith apple creation
Colombian enfleurage lily and gardenia
Natural pear creation
Brandy CO2 extract
Absinthe essential oil
Artemisia essential oil
Davana essential oil
Hemlock essential oil
Broom absolute
Hazelnut CO2 extract
Oakwood CO2 extract

If you’re crossing your fingers and hoping it all goes ahead so your favourite-sounding scent gets made, never fear. Says Sarah: ‘We shall definitely be making the perfumes, no matter how many people join in; but the more supporters we have, the more of these lovely materials we can acquire, and the more beautiful our story books will be. We’re also planning a rather interesting launch event…’

We’re duly intrigued and shall be keeping an eye on further crowdfunding schemes in fragrance world – a fascinating way that fans of smaller, independent perfume houses can directly invest in the purveyors of their perfumed delights.

If you’d like to get involved or find out more, visit 4160 Tuesdays IndieGoGo page.

Written by Suzy Nightingale