February 9, 2017
Belkis Hirsch of KaatskillMeetsNYC
Profile: I was born in Caracas Venezuela, an emerald valley where the forces of nature are as a strong as the chaos of the concrete jungle. I was the first of four daughters in a physician home, where cultural and academics pursuits were a top priority. It was there, in our large house garden, where I’ve experienced the first and most powerful perfume memories…I remember the mango season and how the sweet fruity floral smell saturated the air, or when sometimes at night the jasmine tree bled a carnal intoxicating scent that lingered throughout the night. Sometimes after a furious tropical rain, the fresh bouquet of the green wet grass was unleashed as well as the wholesome mineral smell of the wet dirt.
Belkis in Caracas as a young girl
Or lying on my mother’s lap while she was on the phone, feeling relaxed and soothed by her natural skin fragrance, or when my grandmother was attending the Opera and she wore a powerful French powdery perfume. One of my most treasured memories was when every day before to go to work my dad would kissed me goodbye and I was then wrapped up in the aura of his classic vetiver Guerlain.
Belkis performing in the Florence Opera
After graduating in Molecular Biology I've decided to audition as a ballerina at the Florence Opera, discipline that I was pursuing since very early age, and this is how my life took a wild turn. In Florence, Italy I was admitted to be part of the Corps of Ballet at Teatro Comunale di Firenze, but, soon after I’ve succeeded as a Choreographer and Artistic Director of my own Dance Company representing Florence in various International Festivals and touring many European cities. The City of Florence and the Tuscany Region became my sponsors. We’ve collaborated with composers, writers, actors, fashion designers, filmmakers, musicians of different backgrounds, performing artists, opera singers, etc. At the time, as part of my professional progress I used to come to New York on regular basis to attend master classes like American Ballet Theater and with legends such as Baryshnikov, Merce Cunningham, etc but mainly I was trying to bring my Dance Company to theaters in New York City. Once again I’ve decided to go for a life change, this time in NYC.
Belkis' Performance NYC Collaboration with EmilioPucci
I’ve performed in the best theaters, including Off Broadway. I was invited to participate at the Lincoln Center Performing Arts International Festival, I’ve started the collaboration with fashion designers such as Valentino, Emilio Pucci, Isaac Miizrahi, Betsey Johnson, as well as other artists, and they became our sponsors, among them FIT (Fashion Institute of Design). The press was always great and supportive, but slowly without realizing it, I’ve ventured towards a complete different direction and I became an entrepreneur.
I believe that people should let nothing stop their dreams. Believe in your own capacity, work hard, persevere, achieve; that’s my mantra. I met Angela Ciampagna in the Italian Town Atri. She's a regular participant in European perfume events like Pitti Fragranze and Esxence. After conversations over wine at the local Piazza I understood her sophisticated nose and our similar aesthetics regarding perfumery. We've started this collaboration; we've had long discussions about our vision in perfumery nowadays, individualism and art, the allure of nontraditional smells, certain animalistic "colors" and how a clear philosophy is key.
For Kaaterskill Perfume, from the beginning I wanted to work with pink grapefruit and dark woods and vetivers. Grapefruit (Citrus Paradis) is the only citrus fruit that doesn't originate from the Old World. It’s originally from the Americas, and specifically from the Caribbean (like myself). It is refer to as the “Forbidden Fruit”.
The Kaaterskill sunset Hudson River School
The Clean fresh invigorating part of the notes will convey the feeling of The New World that the pioneers first felt. Because we are using pink grapefruit, it will have a more delicate sweet fresh interpretation like the pink palette of the sunsets over the Catskill mountains.
Sleepy Hollow Extrait de Parfum
The Sleepy Hollow perfume is a sensual introverted scent that represents animal sensuality present in the rich biodiversity of the Catskills.Tuberose (Polyantes tuberosa) became one of the main theme notes. For over 400 years it’s been a secret seductress that has gave passion and fire to thousands of perfumes. A symbol of dangerous love and voluptuousness. The tuberose is a night blooming plant,, that is native from the Americas, Center America a Mexico,. The Aztecs were cultivating it for over 600 years they called it: Omyxochitl.
The connector between this two perfumes or "red thread” is the note of the pink grapefruit that integrates this project. This has been and intellectual, cultural bridge and professional collaboration between NYC, the Catskills and Atri. My perfumes are being made in NY, in a well-known perfume lab in the Bronx.
On American Perfumery: As an Independent Perfumer I believe that we have a very unique original product. A perfume is like an invisible 3D molecular sculpture.
11 years ago we stumbled into an unique property in the Catskills, as a result of quest that my husband and I, the painter Allen Hirsch, set for. We went after the footsteps of the artists that in the Nineteenth Century left New York City or other areas to settle in the Catskill Mountains, looking for inspiration and different aesthetics values, a movement to set them apart from the established European School of Painting.
The Kaaterskill's Pond House
Their spiritual vision relied on the beauty and the wilderness of the American landscape. This is how The Hudson River School was born; one of the most important art movements in American art. The Kaaterskill, a beautiful farm estate with the views of the Catskill Mountains, the Kaaterskill creek and the wild biodiversity that surrounds it, embodies the reason why these artists were attracted to Upstate NY and the area of the Hudson River Valley. The rich history of the Catskills is fascinating, this area was home for major Native American Tribes, like the Mohawks, or Mahicans, their name for themselves means “the people of the waters that are never still”, the pioneers such as the Dutch settlers, their cultural and architectural influence, the English etc.
Belkis writing formulas
For two years we’ve worked on this independent, small but powerful perfume line.
I wanted to create a perfume that will depict the landscape, biodiversity and history of the Catskill Mountains, using as inspiration painters from the Hudson River School. The perfumes should define the American Spirit. Meaning an exploration of freedom and the Pioneer spirit, where there was a willingness to endure hardship in order to explore new places and try out new things. I wanted symbolic elements that will remind us of the Native Americans, the Dutch, the English, and the artists that since the Nineteenth Century were inspired by this pristine wilderness.
Perfume Materials and a good Red Wine
For me was important that the two main notes in each of the perfumes would be originally from the Americas. It also needed to possess elements of sophistication and rusticity.
Willem de Kooning, Woman and Bicycle,1952
Favorite American Artist: Willem De Kooning inspires me his powerful colors and his free gestural way to work.
—Belkis Hirsch, Creative Director/ Perfume Designer for Kaatskillmeetsnyc
Belkis is our 118th perfumer in the American Perfumer series. You can find Kaatskillsmeetsnyc on Facebook here
KaatskillMeetsNYC Kaaterskill and Sleepy Hollow Perfumes
Thanks to Belkis Hirsch we have a draw for a registered reader in the USA, EU or Canada for a sample set (click on each link for notes and composition) of Kaaterskill and The Sleepy Hollow perfumes (They are both extraits)
To be eligible please leave a detailed comment with what you found fascinating about Belkis’ path to perfumery, where you live and which fragrance you think you might love and your choice should you win. Draw closes 2/12/2017
Please like CaFleureBon Profiles in American Perfumery and your entry will count twice.
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