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The Scent of Prayer

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The lama sighed and shrank into himself, a dingy, shapeless mass. In the pauses of their talk they could hear the low droning – ‘Om mane pudme hum! Om mane pudme hum!’ – and the thick click of the wooden rosary beads.

-Kim, Rudyard Kipling

These prayer beads are called Japa Mala. They are commonly made of sandalwood, the most precious fragrant wood of the east, sacred to Buddhists and Hindus in Tibet, Nepal, India, China and Bhutan.

The scent of sandalwood is arresting.  Sweet, smooth, buttery and velveteen, the aroma itself is an aura.  Holy by nature, blonde in color, sandalwood glows on the skin like a halo of peace, calm and sanctity.

The most spiritually evocative scent in Indian culture, sandalwood is burned in devotion, inhaled as a grounding force in meditation, used in the construction of temples and crafting of icons.  If you go to a holy site in India, the air is always saturated with the scent of sandalwood and ash…

Sandalwood finds richness in its purity – a contradiction of sorts that makes the wood proudly unique.  Simple, though possessing depth.  Bare, yet complex.  Quiet, but strong.

…not unlike the monks who repeat their mantras while passing each bead through their fingers, consuming the touch and scent of the sacred wood.

There is a magic to this scent, and it seems to whisper that there might be something more.

Kim was conscious that beyond the circle of light the room was full of things that smelt like all the temples of all the East.  A whiff of musk, a puff of sandalwood, and a breath of sickly Jessamine-oil caught his opened nostrils.

“I am here,” said Kim at last, speaking in the vernacular: the smells made him forget that he was to be a Sahib.

-Kim, Rudyard Kipling

 
 

Andy Warhol – Space

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Andy Warhol, ‘Perfume Bottles’ (Halston Campaign), 1979
 

“Another way to take up more space is with perfume. I really love wearing perfume.”

-Andy Warhol

It’s funny to think about perfume as ‘taking up space,’ but it really does.  Scent, of course, can infiltrate space faster than anything solid – the benefit of being gaseous – it can permeate and conquer.

Warhol always had a strong presence wherever he was, but did so without ever talking a whole lot.  Being more of an observer, scent seems like the perfect way to make a silent – but resonant –  impression.

I think if Warhol were alive now, he might incorporate scent into his art.  He was always playing with the concept of space, like in the 1965 Edie Sedgwick film “Outer and Inner Space,” and with the silver Mylar balloon installations at The Factory.  They can now be seen at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, though I actually experienced the idea at a Warhol exhibit in Stockholm a few years ago.  A science-y friend of mine related the aimlessly ambient, floating balloons to molecules, which I think is a pretty spot-on analogy for the perfume-minded.  As an installation, the cloud room is pretty unique as the room is totally devoid of boundaries.  The balloons move with air currents and by people walking around – they don’t have any qualms about hitting you in the face or sticking to your sweater.  Scent is like this in many ways.

“When I look at things, I always see the space they occupy. I always want the space to reappear, to make a comeback, because it’s lost space when there’s something in it.”

-Andy Warhol

 
 

Boudicca Wode

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Graffiti is art without permission. What began as street art, public expression and territorial marking, has turned into a covetable, respected, and closely followed genre of modern art.  With artists like Lee Quiñones, Keith Haring, Jean Michel Basquiat, Os Gêmeos, A1one, and Banksy on the scene (among others), graffiti has developed deeply into a medium of self-branding, irony, comedy, and socio-political statements.  Not surprisingly, graffiti has truly become one of the most powerful, prolific, and communicative modes of contemporary art.

Boudicca, run by the fiercely independent, London-based design duo, Zowie Broach and Brian Kirkby, has taken this idea and run with it.  Refusing to subscribe to any conventional ideas of fashion, Broach and Kirkby proudly embrace their craft as a conduit for fearless expression.

Anyone who is familiar with Boudicca’s couture collections knows their portfolio is saturated with sharp tailoring, strong, masculine lines, dominatrix-esque images and fetishistic references.  Their designs, defined and unapologetic, maintain a sinister elegance reminiscent of a Tim Burton landscape.

Boudicca’s muse comes toward you like some tribal war queen from a parallel universe where the future and past collide.  Wode was created along these lines — as a piece of art, rather than a traditional perfume.  Inspired by the company’s namesake, Queen Boadicea of the Iceni tribe, who wore a similar indigo dye in battle, Wode is just this.  War paint for the modern renegade, Wode arrives in a cold, silver can and sprays out onto your skin and clothes like an electric blue cacophony.  It’s hard to believe the color will fade…  (It does!)

This disappearing act is an extension of an experiment in transparency executed in Boudicca’s collection at the time.  Many of the pieces that season had prints, invisible until the application of the fragrance to the textiles.  It is this type of integration of fashion and fragrance that marks Broach and Kirkby as truly forward-thinking creative minds.

Wode, developed with perfumer Geza Schoen of Escentric Molecules fame, is purportedly based on the smell of raw opium.  While at first sniff the fragrance is rich with spices and fresh, green accents, it rounds out into a succinctly dry, sweet, woody blend that is both masculine and feminine at once.   Soft like powder, yet rough as splinters, the fragrance presents a bit of tension that helps retain its integrity throughout the dry down, where black hemlock extract (the suicidal poison of Queen Boadicea) melds with tonka, amber and labdanum.  Infected with an animalic blend of musks, tuberose and leather, Wode lives up to the battle cries of warrior queens and aerosol manifestoes of guerilla street artists everywhere.

Scent defies boundaries, arrives uninvited, and often overstays its welcome.  Fragrance does not ask permission.

Why should you?

 

 
 

Monocle Scent One: Hinoki

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Comme des Garçons, the avant garde Japanese fashion house founded by Rei Kawakubo has curated a fragrance, Monocle Scent One: Hinoki, (available in EdT and as a candle) with Monocle, a premium media brand with a focus on global affairs, business, style, culture and design.

The Comme des Garçons label was founded on an aggression against the dominant global culture, with a punk aesthetic, spanning class lines and challenging the notions of beauty in a traditional sense.

The Hinoki tree, a type of Japanese cypress, is a surprisingly ubiquitous wood (and scent) throughout Japan.  Due to its rot-resistant properties, Hinoki is commonly used in the construction of Japanese shrines, temples, baths, outdoor bus stops, and even ping-pong paddles.  For many Japanese, the sweet, woody-herbal scent is instantly recognizable and often nostalgic.


Charles Ray, Hinoki, 2007
 
Designed by perfumer Antoine Maisondieu, Monocle Scent One: Hinoki is truly striking.  Its first impression has a tight, woody, herbal effect – cooling with a piney-camphoraceous quality.  Cedar and cypress mix with oakmoss, and a contrast exists between hard, icy green lines and the rather warm, sweet effect of polished blonde woods.

As if wiping steam off a plate glass window, the fragrance opens into a beautiful expanse, with a purity that recalls still, glassy fresh water – I emphasize fresh water as it is not at all aquatic.  The design of this fragrance was inspired by the woody smell of Japanese ofuro (bathhouses) and Scandinavian forests.

In my opinion, they’ve hit the nail on the head perfectly here.

There is something soothing – almost meditative – about this fragrance, recalling clear skies and calm arctic evenings.   Maybe a result of the slightly medicinal effect of camphor, perhaps from the soft laundry-like scent of Iso E Super (used to impart woody notes, and often used in detergents).  Either way, Monocle Scent One: Hinoki feels like fresh snow in an infinite forest, hushed by the warmth of powder-soft cashmere.  The dry down presents an earthy-smokiness – an extinguished campfire with a touch of incense.

To top it off, the strong lines and minimal woods are a nice olfactive nod to Monocle’s visual and philosophical aesthetic:  Clean and to the point, yet complex, interesting, and truly international.

Set foot in the Monocle shop on Hudson Street in Manhattan’s West Village, and the scent of Hinoki will envelop you.  For many it’s just a pleasant aroma, but for some, the smell conjures up powerful memories – some easier to place than others.  One customer had trouble placing the fragrance until he realized the bus stop at which he waited for seventeen years of his life was constructed of Hinoki wood.  Others recognize the scent from ofuro, wooden Japanese baths, like the ones at Kyoto’s uber-luxurious, centuries-old Tawaraya hotel, where the fragrance was inspired.

Scent as a common thread between people, cutting through socioeconomic boundaries and binding citizens of the same homeland.  Sweet, isn’t it?

 
 

Olibanum

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unto thee i

burn incense

the bowl crackles

upon the gloom arise purple pencils

 

fluent spires of fragrance

the bowl

seethes

a flutter of stars

 

a turbulence of forms

delightful with indefinable flowering,

the air is

deep with desirable flowers

 

i think

thou lovest incense

for in the ambiguous faint aspirings

the indolent frail ascensions,

 

of thy smile rises the immaculate

sorrow

of thy low

hair flutter the level litanies

 

unto thee i burn

incense, over the dim smoke

straining my lips are vague with

ecstasy my palpitating breasts inhale the

 

slow

supple

flower

of thy beauty, my heart discovers thee

 

unto

whom i

burn

olibanum

 

– e. e. cummings

 

 
 

Salone del Mobile: New Classics

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via nowness.com | Photo © Estelle Hanania
 

Design critic, editor and author of The Independent Design Guide, Laura Houseley handpicked the highlights of this year’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile for today’s slideshow. Houseley has been covering the fair, which extends to over 400 locations across Milan and annually lures a who’s who of furniture and product design, for 13 years. “The younger, independent designers had a good year,” she says.
Read the rest of this article @ NOWNESS »

 

Julius Shulman: Los Angeles

via nowness.com | Photo by Julius Shulman
 

The mid-century modern landmarks that have come to epitomize California are collected in a new book, Julius Shulman Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis, which we excerpt above. A collaboration between Sam Lubell, the West Coast editor of the Architect’s Newspaper, and Douglas Woods, author of last year’s Classic Homes of Los Angeles, the tome brings together seven decades of work by the late New York–born photographer.
Read the rest of this article @ NOWNESS »