I admire purity of vision in all the arts. One of the ways that manifests itself is producing that art on the artist’s time scale. It exists in perfumery as it does elsewhere. It happens when a new brand releases too many perfumes in a debut collection. As a result muddling their aesthetic. It happens when a new brand rushes their next releases after a successful introduction. They forget those first perfumes came from an extended time of development. Changing that will lead to compromises. Then there are the outliers. The creative teams who have faith in their process. One of those teams is the one behind Strangelove NYC. Founder Elizabeth Gaynes, creative director Helena Christensen, and perfumer Christophe Laudamiel have produced one of the best collections in all of perfumery because they don’t stray from their core principles. The latest example is Strangelove NYC fallintostars.
Elizabeth Gaynes (l.) and Helena Christensen
The first of these principles is to use high quality natural materials as the keynotes. Ms. Gaynes has proven to have an outstanding instinct about which ones to feature. In many ways fallintostars comes full circle back to the first release, deadofnight. Their commonality comes from the use of real oud as the heart note. deadofnight was a modern version of the classic oud-rose duet. fallintostars returns to the oud while surrounding it with a new ensemble of supporting ingredients.
When M. Laudamiel is left to his own devices he will find every rough edge within oud and amplify it. Ms. Christensen provides the direction to allow for him to go just far enough with as fractious an ingredient as oud.
For fallintostars M. Laudamiel created a special cocktail of different sources of oud. It is like a kaleidoscope in the way it subtly shifts as it is on my skin. I don’t know how many ouds are here, but I suspect four or five because I believe I detect at least four. M. Laudamiel masterfully combines them into an uber-oud accord. It is present right from the first moments. Early on he gives it a sunny glow via saffron and ginger. The ginger flits through the early moments like a will of the wisp. It sets up the floral contrast which is jonquil nectar. This adds a honeyed jasmine-like floral to the oud. It oozes over the top of the oud, filling in spaces. It is complete when the green vein within jonquil seals this with an almost audible click. The base is a mixture of Peru balsam and benzoin. This gathers up the resinous character of the oud and gives it a warm foundation.
fallintostars has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Over five releases Ms. Gaynes, Ms. Christensen, and M. Laudamiel have created perfume of the highest quality. There is not one misstep within this collection. They have remained true to their core artistic beliefs. Which means fallintostars is another example of how quality wins over quantity, every time.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Strangelove NYC.
From its inception in 1988 with Davidoff Cool Water and for twenty years after the aquatic style of perfume has become a cliché. It was caused by the desire for consumers for more of this fresh and clean style along with the desire of brands to give it to them. For a couple decades that was good enough. I was bored with the genre long before that with only a few continuing to be found in my consistent rotation.
Then as we crossed in to the 2010’s there seemed to be a re-thinking of the aquatic aesthetic. It wasn’t all beach milieu there were other kinds of scenes which could inspire a fragrance. In the last few years there has been a conscious transfer to more rocky coasts for the metaphorical waves to crash upon. These kinds of aquatics have reinvigorated my enjoyment of the style. When I received Strangelove NYC silencethesea I had another one to add.
Elizabeth Gaynes (l.) and Helena Christensen
In previous reviews of Strangelove NYC releases I have lauded the creative team and the vision behind it. Co-Creative Directors Elizabeth Gaynes and Helena Christensen have collaborated with perfumer Christophe Laudamiel. One of the things which allows the brand to stand out is they are only produced by using the best natural raw materials as their keynotes. Every release has one at its heart. For silencethesea that ingredient is ambergris.
Any perfume lover is familiar with ambergris because it is part of the base accord of too many to count perfumes. Except as it is with oud, ambergris is often a clever manipulation of other ingredients to form a facsimile. When you smell real ambergris there are nuances which never appear in a constructed accord. It is a challenge because with an accord a perfumer can tune for a specific effect. When dealing with the actual version you have to find a way to allow the odd-smelling aspects to also have their part to play. M. Laudamiel does just this with the ambergris in silencethesea.
From the moment I sprayed silencethesea the ambergris was there. It is apparent throughout the time it exists on my skin. M. Laudamiel then spends the rest of the development adorning it with specific ingredients. First is angelica which as it interacts with the ambergris provides a flinty accord. The earthiness comes from a truffle accord. It reminds me of particularly rich loamy soil for a bit. Three florals, narcissus, jasmine, and tuberose provide deep indolic complement to the briny quality of ambergris. It works better than I thought it would on paper. The tuberose and its slightly mentholated green vein was the big surprise in how well it fit in. A rough leather accord of oud and frankincense is the last part of silencethesea.
Silencethesea has 12-14 hour longevity in the Eau de Parfum concentration and moderate sillage.
It is funny how the boy who grew up in South Florida has left that kind of beachy perfume behind in preference for a rocky strand where the waves crash instead. Silencethesea is that kind of advanced aquatic.
Disclosure: this review is based on a sample provided by Strangelove NYC.
There are a few perfume brands which I enjoy because of a certain combination of elements. Strangelove NYC is one which I admire for its creative team paired with its ability to release perfumes only when they find a signature element to build upon.
Elizabeth Gaynes (l.) and Helena Christensen
The creative team begins with owner Elizabeth Gaynes who has a philosophy of quality over quantity for Strangelove NYC. In my e-mail conversations with her there is a passion for doing perfume which comes through. She partners with supermodel Helena Christensen to create the brief for perfumer Christophe Laudamiel. M. Laudamiel when presented the opportunity to use a unique ingredient for this brand has yet to disappoint. The latest release lostinflowers is another excellent member of the collection.
Ms. Gaynes discovered a red champaca otto essential oil on her travels. Called “joy oil” in India it provides the unusual aspect which seems to have become the signature for the brand. In the hands of M. Laudamiel under their direction they build outward from that nucleus to live up to the name.
The star of the show is displayed prominently early on as the champaca comes forward. Champaca often seems like it is itself an accord, as it is a multi-faceted ingredient. To get one of such quality allows for M. Laudamiel to pick what to expand upon. The core champaca is a fruity honeyed floral. M. Laudamiel chooses two flowers to harmonize with it; tagetes and gardenia. The tagetes provide an acerbic pushback to the joy oil. The gardenia comes by way of enfleurage which makes it softer than the oil. M. Laudamiel allows both to swirl upward encircling the chmampaca until you are lost in the scent of these florals. This is not a heavy-handed effect it is much more restrained. I wouldn’t call it transparent, but it isn’t overwhelming, either. There is a lushness to the floral accord which allows for the fruity and musky aspects of champaca to peek out from among the petals. Saffron adds a shimmering glow over the surface of this. Oud provides a grace note deepening the overall accord without taking over.
Lostinflowers has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage as the perfume oil, as the eau de parfum it has average sillage.
Lostinflowers comes in two concentrations; perfume oil and eau de parfum (EdP). I was introduced to Strangelove NYC through their first release deadofnight as an oil. It is one of the rare cases where I prefer the oil formulation over the EdP. The EdP seems to make these constructs more expansive when I prefer just burying my nose in a closely held comfort. I can see the appeal of maybe making the floral heart a little more voluminous as an EdP but not for me.
I am once again impressed with the perfume produced by Ms. Gaynes, Ms. Christensen, and M. Laudamiel. I know it will probably be a while before the next release but the joy oil that is lostinflowers will be good company until then.
Disclosure: This review is based on samples I purchased.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder is a truism. In the Early 1990’s I beheld supermodel Helena Christensen when she was at the height of her fame. In a room full of other professional models it was apparent to me why super was attached to her. She carried a special quality which ran from the top of her head to her toes. When having any discussion on beauty she is one of my prime examples. I have always followed her career. Last year she stepped into the niche perfumery world as the creative director on Strangelove NYC (nee ERH1012) deadofnight. It has been eighteen months since that release and the second perfume has recently arrived Strangelove NYC meltmyheart.
Ms. Christensen worked with perfumer Christophe Laudamiel who also was responsible for deadofnight. Ms. Christensen says she wanted meltmyheart to be “tender and poetic”. M. Laudamiel has taken some of the more powerhouse notes in the perfumer’s palette and made them live up to that description. When I tell you that the heart of meltmyheart is dark chocolate, oud, and orris I suspect tender and poetic does not rise to the top of the adjectives you might expect to use for that mixture. If there is one thing I have learned while following M. Laudamiel over the years is he is one of the few who can make the most obstreperous notes behave like they never deserved that reputation. For meltmyheart he has achieved that as he does make those notes tender and poetic as the core of this perfume.
M. Laudamiel uses a zingy opening of ginger and bergamot. If meltmyheart is all about falling in love this is the frisson of meeting someone special for the first time. Nutmeg provides the transition into the heart. The chocolate comes out first as it picks up the sweetness of the nutmeg. The oud comes next and I am struck once again by what a perfect partner chocolate is for oud. It doesn’t get used as much as I would like even though in meltmyheart it is an excellent choice. For a short while I begin to wonder where the orris is. As the chocolate and oud have my attention. The orris is there but it takes a little time to find its position as it catches some of the bitter components of the chocolate and powders over some of the more intense facets of oud. What the orris does is provide the harmonic to allow the best qualities of the chocolate and oud to predominate. The skill of M. Laudamiel to pull this off and to keep it almost transparent in its effect is fabulous. When I wore meltmyheart I expected this phase to just expand and evolve into something overpowering. It never does. Instead it is a relationship of equals which has an unusual fragility I never expected. Many hours later a bit of smoky sage absolute winds its way through the orris/oud/chocolate making it seem like it is all melting away in a cloud of smoke.
Meltmyheart is a perfume oil and has 24-hour longevity with no appreciable sillage.
Ms. Christensen and M. Laudamiel have made a perfume around a perfectly executed central accord. I spent an entire weekend wearing this. Like Ms. Chritensen when I saw her back in the 1990’s meltmyheart is a perfume of beauty to behold.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Strangelove NYC
I love being surprised and on the second day of Sniffapalooza Spring Fling I got a surprise when I stopped at MiN New York. Mindy Yang the co-owner of the apothecary asked me what I thought of the new DeadofNight. I admitted I didn’t know what that was and she handed me a roll-on to test it out with. I rolled it on my wrist and for the next twenty-four hours I rekindled my love of oud. I also spent that time learning about the entity behind DeadofNight, ERH1012.
ERH1012 is a collaboration of Elizabeth Gaynes the founder of Gaia One. Gaia One is a company devoted to developing sustainable plantations to supply the flavors and fragrance industries. Borneo’s Balung River Plantation is the first of the Gaia One farms. From that farm the key ingredient of DeadofNight was harvested; a sustainable oud from planted agarwood trees. The harvesting of the oud will be like harvesting grapes at a vineyard as each year’s climatic conditions will lead to variations and will make for its use in each year’s small batch an evolving enterprise all around. The creative director for ERH1012 is supermodel Helena Christensen. Her friendship with Ms. Gaynes, her 20-year fashion career, and her work as photographer for Oxfam makes her ideal to guide the creation of DeadofNight. The perfumer she would be working with is Christophe Laudamiel. M. Laudamiel is one of the elite perfumers working today and can straddle the commercial and the artistic simultaneously. This is a team dedicated to making this inaugural fragrance something special and they do. (UPDATE: In an e-mail from Ms. Gaynes she let me know that perfumer Jacques Cavallier first worked with this oud oil and created the first mods for DeadofNight. M. Laudamiel used these as his starting point and attributes this as a co-creation of both perfumers.)
First choice was to make DeadofNight a perfume oil, very concentrated, and for this fragrance it is completely appropriate as a drop at a pulse point is all you want. DeadofNight is a personal olfactory journey and only those who are allowed close will share it with you. M. Laudamiel takes this new source of oud and combines the chill of violet leaf, a mere hint of floral notes and a woody musky amber at the base. Throughout the new oud preens like a precocious child.
DeadofNight opens with the oud displaying its wares. As this is a new source of oud this has a less prickly quality as more aged versions of oud have. The oud oil used here was distilled multiple times to end up with a very concentrated fraction and that gives it power without the rough edges. M. Laudamiel uses the green character of violet leaf to pull at the rawer woody facets of oud. Early on in its development this has a plushness to it that I have rarely experienced in an oud-centric fragrance. As many of you know rose is oud’s natural partner and usually it is used as an equal in composition containing both of these. In DeadofNight M. Laudamiel hints at that as very modest applications of rose and jasmine whisper across the face of the oud. Some of my favorite oud oils have a latent floral character and this oud also has it and by using jasmine and rose as genteel complementary notes that floralcy is allowed to bloom. This phase of DeadofNight has an almost heartbreaking fragility that lasts for hours on my skin. It feels so tenuous that at any moment it will disappear but it lingers enticing me to pull my wrist to my nose again and again. Many hours after first applying DeadofNight the creamy woodiness of sandalwood signals a languid pace of development into the base as amber and white musk mix to form a sedately beautiful coda to a full day’s olfactory pleasure.
DeadofNight has 24-hour longevity and is a skin scent with no appreciable sillage.
The combination of new source of oud and master perfumer with Ms. Chrtistensen’s innate sense of style have all combined to create a singular beauty. DeadofNight exhibits beauty from head-to-toe much like Ms. Christensen continues to do. DeadofNight is oud as only M. Laudamiel can do it which means it is among the very best oud scents you can find anywhere.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of DeadofNight I purchased.
DeadofNight can be purchased exclusively at MiN New York or via the ERH1012 website.