Last year I started to develop a 3rd fragrance of my own, also with Brazilian Natural Perfumer Ane Walsh. For this project the idea was to explore a theme that I find extraordinary which is the game of light and darkness (some perfumers call it chiaroscuro). By definition chiaroscuro in Italian means chiaro = clear, light + oscuro = dark, obscure. In art it means the arrangement or treatment of light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art. In perfumery it is a combination of olfactive notes that bring the notion of light and freshness with contrasting notes that bring the opposite idea.
Chiaroscuro also means the interplay or contrast of dissimilar qualities, as a mood or character, that Jungians call it The Shadow. That was the concept that I wanted to explore.
The shadow is the dark side of our personality. It is an unconscious aspect of the personality which the Ego (conscious) does not identify in itself. It was seen by Freud as mostly negative (primordial part inheritance of humanity, such as repressed violence and sexuality) ; while for Jungians a shadow can include everything that is outside the light of consciousness. Instinctive and irrational, shadow is also a source of creativity that appears in our dreams and visions bringing sometimes conflicted desires or intentions.
"...Jung also made the suggestion of there being more than one layer making up the shadow. The top layers contain the meaningful flow and manifestations of direct personal experiences. These are made unconscious in the individual by such things as the change of attention from one thing to another, simple forgetfulness, or a repression. Underneath these idiosyncratic layers, however, are the archetypes which form the psychic contents of all human experiences. Jung described this deeper layer as "a psychic activity which goes on independently of the conscious mind and is not dependent even on the upper layers of the unconscious—untouched, and perhaps untouchable—by personal experience" (Campbell, 1971). This bottom layer of the shadow is also what Jung referred to as the collective unconscious..." extracted from WIKIPEDIA.
Jung defined SHADOW as everything we do not know about ourselves, both dark and light. However, we get glimpses of these unknown shadow parts of ourselves when we project our shadow into the world or onto another. We can come to know and embrace our shadow through dreams, projections and by paying attention to the opposites that we attract or reject.
The idea was to embrace the shadow by transforming it into a fragrance.
Although The Black Dahlia is not my favorite Brian de Palma movie, it is a modern crime noir genre of movie (neo noir) that brought a display of characters and intersecting relationships that caught my attention. Just like every film noir, in The Black Dahlia you will see gangsters, policemen, couples developing sordid romances, a bit of drama, a bit of terror and nothing ever seems what it is.
Women in this movie are head-spinning beauties. Scarlett Johansson plays Kay Lane, a Marylyn Monroe kind of blonde who seems to be the sweet, nice and decent. She dates a handsome cop called Lee (played by Aaron Eckhart), but wants his partner Bucky (played by even hotter Josh Harnett). She is a soft femme fatale marked by duplicity and sensuality, disguised into the house wife type. In the movie her good side is translated by her blond hair and the fact that she is always wearing soft creamy clothes, but the hidden predatory Kay shows herself to Bucky when he comes to protect her all evenings, when she stays alone while Lee is out investigating crimes. She undresses in front of Bucky and offers her half naked body making him confused and tormented by the fact that Lee is his partner.
This game of seduction brings temptation and desire and leads Bucky to another femme fatale called Madeleine Linscott (played by stunning Hillary Swank). The character is also defined by a contrast of dissimilarities. Although coming from wealth and a notorious Hollywood family, she leads a questionable life as a bisexual who crawls into smokey bars and lesbian clubs looking for one night stands of both sexes. She is the real femme fatale in the movie. Glamorous and dangerous; seductive and repulsing she uses the vulnerable afflicted Bucky so her name won't be linked with the murder of The black Dahlia - whom she had slept with because she thought they looked very alike (Madeleine was in a sort of egotrip).
While Kay wears soft creamy fabrics, madeleine wears black with glam...
Than we have The Black Dahlia character (played by Mia Kirshner)... Once coming from a rather wealthy and respectful family, was arrested for underage drinking and became an actress of pornographic lesbian movies and the lover of many men. The beautiful young woman from Boston ended up brutally murderered in the case that became one of the most famous criminal cases : The Black Daliah Murder.
My idea was to take both Kay and Madeleine personas to represent the light and dark facets of the fragrance. Go deeper into shadow with The Black Dahlia. 03 femme fatales in one fragrance. 05 dubious personalities (both Lee and Buck are also questionable) in one perfume!
I also wanted to explore meditation. Through meditation and the awakening of the third eye one can reach wholeness and accept that we all have a dark side. SHADOW and LIGHT become ONE.
Ane Walsh went nuts with the fact that I wanted to explore a neo-noir film and meditation and Jung's shadow; all in one fragrance. It was a challenging puzzle of many pieces to be brought all together in a composition that would be feminine, seductive and wearable. To help her set the mood, she watched the movie and I gave here a strange instruction: when mixing raw materials you have to listen to Miles Davis. Not any Miles Davis CD. The soundtrack of a 1958 French Film Noir - Ascenceur pour L'Échadfaud (Elevator to the Gallows in English).
Ane also watched the documentary about the murder of Elizabeth Short (The Black Dahlia) and she extracted her joy and sadness; her mysterious life and her fragility.
The explanation is simple: Ascenteur pour L'Échadfaud is a French film noir bringing the story of criminal lovers that bought to movies a new way to look at a woman and also a unique and new solution of matching music and sound. Black Himalay also had to have a unique match of a smokey jazzy beat with champaca notes.
Now the mood of the fragrance was defined: Sensual, mysterious, feminine, slightly vintage, smokey, smooth, soft, head-spinning, ambiguous, chiaroscuro, neo-noir and jazzy.
I created the name of the fragrance that would reflect in 2 words the concept we were to explore - BLACK HIMALAY EDP.
If La Signora and Ofir were all about irises, Black Himalay had to be about the second raw material I love the most: Champaca.
I have always dreamed of having my very own blend of champaca fragrance. A creamy warm floral note with tea like facets and apricot undertones. Rich, luxurious, ultra sensual aroma with a floral-fruit note of magnolia.
(LA SIGNORA EDP and OFIR EDP are my first very own blends)
Although I wanted the smokey atmosphere of Film Noires, I am not fond of incense notes, which are usually related to that effect...what to do?
I always loved Champaca by Ormonde Jayne and the way she combined green notes of bamboo and green tea. Tea echoed in my mind. I also recalled that Annick Ménardo had used black tea to give Black Bulgari its smokey-ruberry personality with a very contemporary urban touch. That is what I wanted for my Black Himalay - a smokey touch of a city! I wanted a note that could also bring the notion of dark, black smokey nights, so I told Ane Walsh that I wanted the toasted smokey property of teas, that would enhance the already presented undertone tea notes of the champaca. Black tea from Syria and Earl Gray were added to play with the Choya Loban.
The base had also to have darkness, but with a forest touch of oakmoss (the chypre touch that love so much!).
Once darkness in the fragrance was settle for shadow, I needed the light to be constructed at the same time. Nagchampa, kenian Myrrh and Siam wood would bring an Himalayan temple - meditation effect that I wanted in the fragrance without the hippie, indie touch. Although the fragrance also brought patchouli, I specifically told Ane to take a long distance from "woodstock-y notes".
Many perfumer's, including Linda P have used steamed-rice and tea as complementary notes of champaca. My Creamy layers came from a combination of Siam wood, champaca, and musks.
Also for light and freshness Ane build me a joyful citrusy opening with bergamot and neroli.
I also wanted that over all these layers of darkness and seduction a golden vibration. A luxurious golden touch that had to be with the ambiguity of femme fatales. Femininity and allure masking less noble intentions.
Because this is a live perfume, somedays I feel it dark green and shadow-y; sometimes I feel it fresh, uplifting and slightly soapy. There are days that tea notes are enhanced; there are days that neroli notes are.
I think it depends on my conscience and sub-conscience: If I projecting shadow or not.
The bouquet was composed with a bed of champaca leafs, champaca flowers, gardenias and a bubblegum magnolias.
Black tea from Syria, Earl Gray tincture, Italian bergamot & neroli, lime, *nardostachys jatamansi, champaca, magnolia and gardenia bouquet, white champa leaves, nagchampa, patchouli, ambrette, muskambrette, black and white musks, oakmoss, Siam wood, *Choya Loban, Kenian myrrh.
A PUBLIC LETTER TO THE PERFUMER
Dear Ane Walsh,
you are one of the most incredible perfumers I had the pleasure to enjoy the work. You are the person who can transform my wildest dreams into such beautiful artistic creations that fills my heart with joy, admiration and most of all HOPE for niche perfumery as an expression of liquid art.
I could not find more words to express such gratitude. I am not such a good writer as you are a perfumer my dearest friend ;-)
Much love and thank you so much,
The fragrance is dedicated to HF who is definitely my shadow.