A Tribute to Vero Kern 1940-2018

2

When I tell people, I write about perfume the most frequent response I receive is, “Why?” My response usually takes a few seconds, maybe a minute, to say. I’ve realized there is a more succinct answer to the query, “Vero Kern”.

I would meet Vero for the first time through her perfume Rubj. Vero was at the forefront of independent perfumery. Those of you who have known Vero for longer will no doubt understand her wanting to be as independent about perfume as she was in the rest of her life. What it means when applied to fragrance making is an artist’s touch. The perfume you buy in the department store can be beautiful, but they are commerce. The kind of perfume Vero made was the expression of a creative mind who spoke in scented constructions. When I met Vero via Rubj Eau de Parfum I was greeted with the smell of passionfruit.

This is another aspect of Vero which I celebrate; the passion she gave to her work. In the form of the fruit but also in the meticulous way she designed her pieces. She didn’t release her first three perfumes until she had spent years achieving her vision. Those first three releases, Kiki. Onda, and Rubj were in the most concentrated form perfume takes, extrait. They were powerful statements of intent, of what perfume could aspire to. She dared you to see it differently.

Vero and Isi

The passionfruit arrived as she spent three years re-imagining her first three releases in a less concentrated form, eau de parfum. This is not just a process of dilution. It is a process of understanding what will happen upon making what was stronger more expansive. It opens spaces which need filling. Vero chose a little used perfume ingredient called passionfruit. The reason it was little used is it was an obstreperous material to use. No matter how much you tried to keep it down it would stubbornly get back up and persist. I think Vero might have recognized herself in that. How she would use that is she allowed the passionfruit to have those newly opened spaces in the lighter style of eau de parfum. She also made sure it wasn’t drowning out the inherent beauty.

In Rubj the passionfruit would find the outsized floral personalities of jasmine and orange blossom igniting a perfume which had all the sizzle of a huge firework exploding. This was the beauty one could only find from an independent artist like Vero.

I would come face-to-face with the outsized personality of Vero when I attended a large perfume expo in Milan. What came through in person was the mischievous glint in her eye. She had the artist’s disdain for the commercial style of perfume being displayed. I asked her what she thought. Of course, she answered that it was all dreadful. A few years later she had come to like me enough to use a more colorful term than dreadful.

Vero and I in Milan as she presented Rozy in 2014

My favorite memory of Vero happened at the same expo, three years later, in 2014. She was releasing her newest perfume Rozy. I had an appointment to meet her; allowing her to show me the new release. When I arrived, Vero was sitting in a chair sporting a black eye. My first thought was I bet the other person looks worse. When Vero told me, she had fallen I was somewhat relieved it was just an accident. There was a kind of rakish style to her one bruised eye behind her white-rimmed glasses. Despite all my concern about Vero when she handed me the strip of paper with the new perfume on it, magic happened. I was under the spell of what I consider to be the best post-modern rose perfume ever made. As I breathed in with eyes closed it was the same feeling I get when encountering artistic genius.

When I opened my eyes with a silly smile on my face the twinkle in her one bruised eye and one normal one showed she was pleased that she had one admirer of her work. Vero is the kind of artist who could only have thrived in the independent perfumery world. Her perfumes will continue to live and speak to her creativity. I have no doubt of that.

Vero’s perfumes will always carry the impact of her vision on the rest of my life. I will miss the joie de vivre of the person who enjoyed creating art via perfume.

Why do I write about perfume? Vero Kern.

Mark Behnke

2 thoughts on “A Tribute to Vero Kern 1940-2018

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *