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The district of Peckham in south-east London isn’t the first place that springs to mind when one thinks of the house CHANEL, but that’s exactly where the world’s most famous couturier decided to host a five-day pop-up scent installation inspired by their fragrances. The location was chosen because it is home to the studio of Es Devlin, the Stage Designer picked by CHANEL for their first collaboration with i-D under their ‘The Fifth Sense’ partnership.
Es Devlin creates “kinetic sculptures meshed with light” and is famous for piecing together elements of the London 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony, Béyonce’s Formation World Tour (having created a gigantic “monolith” of a video screen for the tour), Adele’s BRIT Awards performance of “When We Were Young”and pretty much all of Kanye West’s performances in recent years. With such an illustrious and frankly fascinating body of work, it’s no surprise that Es was the perfect artist to work with for CHANEL’s very first pop-up scent installation.
Entitled ‘Mirror Maze’ this installation takes themes of navigation, gravity and memory, and links them to fragrance. The physical aspect sees a mirrored maze reminiscent of Coco Chanel’s famous mirrored staircase intertwined with video installations and soundscapes. Fragrance comes into play in the form of a specially-created scent crafted by CHANEL in-house Perfumer, Olivier Polge – a fragrance that scents a special space within the installation. The fragrance and installation (which closed yesterday) will last for five days, after which they will only exist as memory.
“I began to think about scent as a means of finding my way and measuring myself – not in space but through time. I thought about the smells that take me back – burning street tar, Vicks inhaler, Christmas tree resin, freshly cleaned school corridors, printer ink, chlorine, sunscreen, baby milk, mosquito coils, Indian jasmine mixed with street cooking, diesel – and I began to see them as landmarks for who I was when I first and last smelled it.”
– Es Devlin
We live in an incredibly fragrant world. The sights and sounds we encounter every day are accompanied by a layer of smell that adds texture, colour and depth. Without this fragrant fourth dimension, our experiences of the planet would be less vivid, and certainly less enjoyable. I therefore, think it’s vital that we stop to smell the roses, as it were, and appreciate the joys that the smells around us, both pleasant and unpleasant (and occasionally revolting, gross and repugnant), bring. Even in our busiest moments, we should take stock of the wonderfully fragrant world we live in.
A few weeks back, I paid a nostalgic visit to the British seaside town of Aldeburgh with my family and to honour the sentimental, and smelly, significance of this particular place, I documented the sights and smells of the trip on my Instagram account, and then later collated them on this blog. A new series, ‘Scented Stories’, was born and over the coming months I intend to further explore this fragrant little place we call Earth with additional instalments that look at the specific scents of interesting places. I encourage you, dear readers, to share your experiences too.
For this latest instalment, I took a spontaneous mini-break to the land of clogs, legalised cannabis, Gouda cheese and trams, so many trams. If you haven’t guessed it yet, I am of course referring to the fascinating city of Amsterdam. So with my iPhone and passport packed, and my husband by my side, I took a short hop across the North Sea for a three day exploration of a picturesque, and laid-back city unlike any another. Below you will find my #ScentedStories snaps, including fragrant captions, as well as some standard holiday selfies, and glamour shots for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
My favourite medium of Social Media is Instagram, so it will be no surprise that my Instagram account (you can follow me here, BTW) is filled with many, many pictures of my favourite things, specifically a variety of images related to perfume, food and my family. You can say a lot with a simple picture and I personally find it to be a fantastic way to represent the spirit, or essence of a fragrance by pairing it with a piece of art, or a carefully-selected background. I’m a bit in love with Instagram, if I’m being honest with you, whether I be using it to flirt with perfume photography or simply stroking my ego with a cheeky, but essential selfie…
One thing I’d like to start doing via my favourite medium is record some of my everyday scented experiences using photography and a smelly commentary. I’m calling the series ‘Scented Stories’, or ‘#ScentedStories’ for the social media savvy amongst us, and I’d like to invite you along with me to explore the smellier things in life. Photos and captions will initially be posted on my Instagram and then collated in a blog post here. But this isn’t just about me (not everything can be, I know…) and I’d like to hear/see your #ScentedStories too! So, tell me about the interesting smells you come across and share your photographs, comment away, and let’s traverse this wonderfully, and beautifully fragrant world together.
For my first Scented Story I have documented a recent trip to that most wonderful of places – the British seaside. When we were kids, my father would take my siblings and me to a small town in Suffolk called Aldeburgh. Unlike many seaside towns, Aldeburgh is quaint, laid back and fairly untourist-y, but it does have all of the things one expects from such a place, namely; a beach with painful pebbles (murder for the feet, let’s face it), plentiful ice cream, tacky gift shops and, most importantly, killer fish and chips. To rekindle fun times spent by the coast, we (as in my siblings, father, step-mother, husband and I) have started taking semi-regular trips back to Aldeburgh with my nephew and below the jump is just a small photo essay, complete with scented commentary, of this year’s trip. Enjoy!
“What is a perfume’s story? What smells do explorers experience? And what do dreamers imagine when smelling perfume? Aren’t we each making our own story?”
– ODOU, Issue Three
ODOU, the Jasmine Award winning magazine dedicated exclusively to the world of smell, has just released its third issue, and it’s a good one! Obviously, this is no real surprise as the first two issues curated by Editor Liam Moore, were absolutely fantastic (with the first gaining a number of Jasmine Award nominations and a win, I hasten to add) and approached the art of perfume, and olfaction from an entirely new angle.
Issue three sees articles from esteemed writers such as Persolaise, Neil Chapman of The Black Narcissus (whose article in Issue one took the Jasmine Literary Award last year) and Joshua Ang of The Smelly Vagabond. This is the story issue, and it takes a look at a diverse range of tales from a perfumer, a dreamer, an addict, and many more. Through this issue of ODOU, we can take a look at many lives and how the world of smell interacts with them, painting a picture of the human condition through breathtaking imagery, fascinating stories, and of course, beautiful smells.
I’ve contributed a small piece to Issue three, detailing my very own perfume story, specifically the tale of how I fell in love with the world of fragrance. The piece is called ‘My Kingdom for McQueen’ and I’m very proud of it, but if you want to know more you’re going to have to read all about it in ODOU. To pick up digital or hard copies of ODOU Issue three, or the other two issues, you simply need to click here to visit the magazine’s website.
My Boys – Rupert and Paddington.
Smell is the least understood of the five senses, but it is probably one of the most important. We respond to smell not only a physical level but also on an emotional one. It is an integral part of our beings and whilst it may not be as immediately vital as our sight or our hearing, it has a huge affect on how we view the world.
I believe that throughout our lives we become attached to certain smells, perhaps because they are familiar to us or because we have a strong and positive emotional reaction to them. Our brains keep these smells and their corresponding in a hidden part of our brain to only be released when we come across them in the real world. This bank of scented memories forms a massive part of who we are.
Have you ever come across a smell and been instantly taken back to a specific time, person or place?
It always surprises me just how vivid smells are in our memory, sometimes I struggle to remember the exact details of a particular time, I can’t remember the entirety of events or the small details but I can always remember the smells. In this post I would like to share those smells that have a particular resonance with me and hold a particular sentiment within my heart.