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?