Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Dedicated to VICTORIA HENSAW (1971 - 2014)

In a world of globalization and virtual living we have developed a lack of emotional connection to what is local. We are less aware of our surroundings and we are not fully experiencing the "materiality" of things. Being less contemplative and less emotionally connected to a local environment although it may sound very modern and hip it is also drifting us away from our origins. We are loosing our identities as urban citizens. Where we come from and who we are. We no longer recognize the smell of "home" because we became urban nomads, modern gypsies.

Photo credit: Elle Sweden - November issue 2014

This nomadism social pattern has influenced creations of fashion designers and brands such as Etro brought to fashion week recently in their winter 2014/15 collection a cultural ethnic - boho style. 
Also another example of the nomad style was highlighted in Elle Sweden in their November issue with a complete fashion journey to furs and ponchos.

Photo credit: Tom Ford

Tom Ford is showing this trend in perfumery.
This Holiday he is presenting Patchouli Absolu with an iconic note of the 70s, evoking louche sensuality and late-night glamour. Ford’s new fragrance is composed with three different types of patchouli: patchouli oil, patchouli coeur and a breakthrough iteration of patchouli called clearwood – used for the first time in perfumery. 
Other key ingredients are bay leaf, rosemary, moss, woods and amber.

But mostly in perfumery these days, except for the fragrances surrounding patchouli or roses in a new boho- hippie style, we have been spotting the SEARCH FOR THE LOCAL IDENTITY. BEING LOCAL MEANS BEING GLOBAL.
City themed collections, such as the niche brands Le Labo, Bond Nº9 are around quite a while, but the epitome of the theme is found more recently in the project Scent of Departure. 
Outside the niche perfumery world brands like Ermenegildo Zegna are also promising fragrances using local beautiful raw materials. As an example let's check the new fragrance PERUVIAN AMBRETTE, their latest creation for the ESSENZE collection:

"As its name suggests, Peruvian Ambrette features ambrette harvested from a very small yield of seeds derived from the San Martín region of Peru’s Amazonian rainforest. The seed produces an essential oil – described as a sweet, rich musk with nutty undertones – which is considered the only natural non-animal musk ingredient in the fragrance industry. The region’s farmers handpick the seeds, and then separate the ambrette seed shell from the seed itself, as the essential oil is mainly localized within the shell. After distillation, a small amount of oil – which has the thickness of concrete – is obtained.
A further extraction process to eliminate fatty acids yields ambrette absolute – the most pure and premium quality of the ambrette seeds. To achieve the highest quality composition, Zegna’s perfumers intensified the muskiness of the ambrette seed, by combining the absolute with complimentary ingredients to lend a cleaner and lighter characteristic exclusive to the Peruvian Ambrette fragrance according to the brand." (extracted from

Photo credit: BYREDO

Another recent example of the SENSE OF PLACE-LOCAL TREND is presented by the niche perfume house BYREDO. Their newest scent is called Mojave Ghost.  

"In the xeric wilderness of the mojave desert, trees and vegetation more ancient than many civilizations defy conditions that prey on human vulnerability. The ghost flower is a rare species that dares to blossom above this baked, hard ground. Despite its arid surroundings and inability to produce nectar, the ghost flower, or mohavea confertiflora, maintains its perfect, majestic beauty and thrives year after year. In an astonishing feat of ingenuity, the flower uses mimicry to attract the pollinators of a neighboring plant species by developing markings that resemble those of a female bee, therefore attracting it and duping the male bee into following suit. This moving human-like behavior and captivating tale of survival lies in the foundation that inspired ‘mojave ghost’, an homage to this most bewitching flower. 

Mojave Ghost opens with a familiar yet mysterious fruit note, like a pear grown on another planet. Languid and almost buttery ambrette and sandalwood facets smooth and stretch these slices of fruit into a golden desert sunset, with petals of violet and magnolia basking in its diminishing light. Warm woods and ambergris remain on the skin for hours, prolonging a magic desert twilight." 

So let's take a deeper look in this trend!

In a multidimensional world where contrast and diversity rules, we want to find our individualism and emotional conection. We are work in progress kind of beings and now to understand who we are in this co existing macro space, we turn to micro, to local, to origin to redefine who we are. We suddenly have a need to recognize familiar smells. To empower what is local. 
To explain it better I think I need to evoke the work of Mrs.Victoria Hensaw (sadly recently deceased this last October), city planner and an odor specialist at the University of Sheffield, who once said that cities are loosing its peculiar smells. She also referred to the fact that brands are expanding globally, bringing their smells with them

Photo credit: site DermaPost 

This introduction of foreign smells is blurring the local smell identity.
A good example in my city, São Paulo (Brazil) is the very unique smell of the International brand LUSH, of English origin, that can be sensed in one entire block of Jardins neighborhood in São Paulo City. Or the coffee aroma coming from Nespresso  store a few meters from Lush.

An example that we all can recognize is the very old American smell of Mc Donald's - sensed around cities of this planet.  Most recently we can add to this chain smell phenomena The Starbucks coffee smell, that seems to proliferate in many cities around the globe like mushrooms after rain.

Japan is an exception in a way. Although eager to have food chains like any other country, according to the specialist it is the country that has one of the most advanced attitudes towards the olfactory sense and its relationship to place, going as far as declaring “One Hundred Sites of Good Fragrance” across the country. 
From the sea mist of Kushiro to the Nanbu rice cracker of Morioka, not to mention the distinct smell of glue that hangs in the air around the doll craftsmen’s homes in Koriyama, all now have protected status.

Well, no wonder! We all know that Japan is one of the countries that cherish the most its traditions and culture.

The questions that are popping out my mind right now are: If cities are loosing their olfactive identity and our olfactive knowledge is changing within time, from generation to generation and globally from culture to culture, is it possible that we are also loosing this local olfactive reference becoming globally olfactive noses? Are we loosing our personal locally scent database?

Adding something to the subject of olfactive identity and odor lexicon Dutch researches of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in The Netherlands found out that the richness in vocabulary to describe smells is also influenced by culture and location. 
According to them a group of hunter-gatherers from Thailand can describe smells using at least 15 different abstract expressions. They organize them in categories according to their pleasantness and dangerousness. They go even further saying that neuroscientists can also draw valuable conclusions such as that the structure of this group lexicon of smells can indicate that pleasant and dangerous smells are processed differently in the brain.

Another question raised: if we became modern nomads and we are loosing our local identity and becoming more global, is it possible that we are expanding our olfactive lexicon? According to the researchers English speakers have more difficulty to name odors. even familiar everyday odors such as coffee, banana and chocolate can be named correctly by the smell only 50% of the time! The researchers also proved that this is not true for all languages. By studying that group they understood that it varies from place to place and from culture to culture. So if there is a biological limitation for our ability to name smells, being global can improve our ability? If so, although we are loosing a bit of our olfactive identity we can also be improving our olfactive vocabulary. Interesting!

These questions lead me to another one: What scents shape a country, a city or a neighborhood? Have you ever thought the smells surrounding you?

In my neighborhood at this season (Spring) the most present smell is the smell of HADROANTHUS ALBUS or Ipê tree.  
These trees exhale a beautiful delicate smell and it is everywhere.

I decided last weekend to do a Smell Walk a bit far from my home and register for a post that is coming soon. If you stick around you will go on a surprising fragrant journey in the heart of a city.

See you soon! :)

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