That’s a pretty odd question, right? How queer is your scent? I mean, we’re all just out there trying to decipher the odour profile of a scent and what the heck it smells like, not to mention whether we like it or not, or whether it has enough longevity and sillage to get us through the day, right? Let alone trying to work out how queer it is for Pete’s sake! What does that even mean, anyway? How can a scent be queer? Is that even a thing? This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot recently. Ever since i shot some queer-inspired photos for my review of Frederic Malle’s Superstitious, in fact.
Being a member of the LGBTQIA community (yes, we like our letters because it’s important to be inclusive) I have always felt that one of the key drivers for true acceptance is representation. Whether people are accepting of the community or not, it exists and queer people have the right to be represented in all mediums, whether that be in movies, music, art, or even perfume. This is something I want to explore in this little think piece, but it’s important to note though, that I am one person and not representative of the entire LGBT+ community. I am a white, cis-gendered gay male and I can only speak for me, and the community is so much more broader than any one person. So I hope we can share our varied opinions of the subject of queerness in scent, because it’s an important topic.
So what is a queer fragrance? After all, one could argue that if a perfume can’t have a gender, can it really have a sexuality? Well, to me, a queer fragrance isn’t about making a fragrance that is gay or trans, it’s about any scent that has a concept inspired by LGBT+ culture. It could be as simple as a fragrance inspired by a queer icon, or maybe one that celebrates queer art. It’s about telling the rich tapestry of stories within the history and culture of the LGBT+ community, which leads me nicely onto the subject of perfume and story telling.
It’s my third wedding anniversary today and to celebrate I’m reposting an article I wrote not long after my wedding in 2014. ‘How to Scent a Wedding’ details all of the ways we incorporated smell into our big day. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did our wedding day.
It is often said that one’s wedding day is the best day of their life. Up until 10 May 2014 I would have said that this was a simple cliché and that there are many more enjoyable moments to experience in life – the birth of a child, perhaps or the many successes and milestones that one achieves as time passes. But the truth is that my wedding day – the day that I married my best friend and partner in life and in love, was truly the very best day of my life.
Tears were shed, smiles were abundant and laughter was a common sound. Joy was the theme of the day and as we shared our love and made our commitment to each other in front of the people dearest to us, we felt a happiness that is difficult to put down into words. Let’s just say that my new husband and I had an absolute blast and we danced the night away, hoping that it would never end. In our hearts, it never will.
It was as I was setting a bottle of perfume in lime jelly last week in preparation for blog photography that I realised that I may just be a little bit mad. Creative, yes, but also a bit bonkers. Over the last year or so I’ve made a real effort to ensure that any photos that appear on The Candy Perfume Boy are ones I’ve taken rather than marketing shots. You might be wondering why this is, especially as it’s a real effort and it does lead to strange occurrences, such as when I stained my stark white dining table green in my lime jelly endeavours (whoops!). The answer for me is two fold: firstly, I’ve always loved photography but have only recently found a knack for actually taking photos myself (it’s now a thoroughly enjoyable activity for me); and secondly, there is something really fascinating about trying to translate an odour into something visual.
Perfume is the most vivid of the arts, yet it’s the hardest to describe and visualise. With The Candy Perfume Boy it has always been my aim to make the art of olfaction more accessible, explaining and now presenting fragrance in an easy to understand way. This is why I’ve dived so deeply into the world of photography because it can instantly show the spirt or odour of a fragrance just in one image. Translating these scents into a photo is a really fascinating undertaking. It’s fun to be literal, creating tableau’s of a fragrance’s key materials or to put together something entirely more abstract, using art, craft materials, lighting and the natural elements to make something beautiful.
Bespoke perfume is big business and it’s easy to see why. What could be more attractive of a prospect than a fragrance just for you – one that nobody else could wear? Exclusivity is something the perfume industry obsesses with and whilst it’s certainly a lovely idea to have one’s very own exclusive fragrance there has always been one key sticking point: the price. That’s right, bespoke perfumery has been reserved solely for the rich and unless you’ve got at least £10k burning a hole in your pocket then, bespoke scent is not for you. That is until now…
I’m always open to new and exciting ways to wear fragrance – methods that add to or change the standard way to wear scent, which is to spray (because dabbing is waste of everybody’s time, let’s face it). Of course there are many gimmicks out there and it is really difficult to beat a good old spray (or ten) but every now and then a decent alternative comes along that either changes the way one wears fragrance, or at the very least enhances it.
I was recently contacted by Vanacci, a British Company who make a range of scented jewellery, in addition to many other luxury accessories for men. Now, the idea of fragrant accessories isn’t entirely new and many niche fragrance brands offer some form of scented wearable, whether that be the high end jewels with scentable ceramic inserts of By Kilian or the scent-soaked leather bracelets offered by Maison Francis Kurkdjian. But what makes Vanacci different is their affordability, in addition to the fact that they use a special porous material called ‘Lockstone’ which absorbs fragrance and slowly releases it throughout the day. The idea is to have a fashionable accessory that carries with it, the scent of your favourite fragrance. Colour me intrigued!
What struck me about Vanacci’s Lockstone collection is just how attractive it is – the products, which include bracelets, cufflinks and pendants across a number of capsule collections are handsome and streamlined. They’ve managed to create scented jewellery that is simple and unobtrusive, and that can be paired with any outfit. In particular though, my eyes were drawn to the Solaris bracelets, which I must say, were particularly eye-catching. So, to put Vanacci to the test I trialled two of their Solaris bracelets over a few days so see whether; a) they really were as stylish as they looked; and b) they hit the mark as a suitably scented accessory. Let’s see how they faired…
Iris, or orris, is many things. It is famously known as the most expensive natural ingredient in the perfumer’s pallet, making it one of the most elusive and luxurious materials out there. It’s also one of the most beautiful and complex ingredients in the perfumer’s magic bag of tricks, allowing itself to be utilised in vast array of ways, which gives it this strange shape-shifting ability, whilst allowing it to remain instantly and undeniably recognisable as iris at all times. Iris is also a divisive material – some will dive readily into its often cold and aloof arms, whilst others will simply say it smells like carrots and they wish it to be moved very far away from them. Both view points are valid of course, but the striking character of iris cannot be denied.
In perfumery it is not the iris flowers that are used but the root. The roots are dried over a number of years (hence the hefty cost, orris is an exercise in patience) and then ground before being distilled to create orris butter (beurre d’iris). Reportedly, one ton of iris root produces two kilos of iris butter, making for a painstaking process that drives the cost of the material skyrocketing up to the roof and beyond. But is the beauty of the material matched by the price? Well, the answer to that question will certainly depend on your opinion however, the complexity of the odour profile or orris certainly lives up to its value, more so in fact.
The scent of orris is a tricky one to pin down. It is most known for its earthy character, which in extreme can smell vegetal, like carrots and turnips. The scent is mineral but it can also have sweetness, sharing a similar character to violets. If we’re talking texture, orris can be suede-like or powdery, but in some instances it can also appear as doughy and thick. There’s also a woody character to the material and in terms of colour, orris can present hues that range from blue to purple to grey to beige. If you hadn’t guessed already, orris is one of the most fascinating and flexible fragrant materials out there and it has been put to use in thousands of intriguing ways throughout the history of perfumery.
As you may have noticed, National Fragrance Day is everywhere today! It’s a day dedicated to the importance of smell and fragrance. To celebrate, I’ve put together a list of my five favourite fragrance articles from the web over the least year. They’ve all been neatly put together for this week’s Escentual column. Click here to head to Escentual to give them a read. Also, don’t forget to share your scent memories with the hashtag #ScentMemories AND you must take a Smellfie with a favourite scent, tagging it with the hashtag #Smellfie and tagging @theperfumesociety and @fragrancefoundation!