March 11, 2015
‘For My Lover Returning To His Wife’ by Anne Sexton’
I have obsessively and urgently loved Vero Kern’s Onda, Eau de Parfum from the moment I first encountered its visceral body politic skank in Bloom Perfumery in London with Oxana, Bloom’s inquisitive and assertive owner. When it came to wearing a scent for an evening of poetry and scent in the astonishing setting of the Victorian Palm House of Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens a couple of years ago I could imagine my skin in nothing else. I had been invited by the Scottish Poetry Library to curate nine poems and nine scents including Vero’s eau de parfum version of Onda. (I matched it to ‘For My Lover Returning To His Wife’ by Anne Sexton’). When Vero heard I was wearing it, she very generously sent me a bottle of the divine extrait. On the night as the sun poured ecstatically through glass and the dry papered scent of palm bark and mulchy earth surrounded us I radiated waves of passion fruit musk, peach, honeyed skin and a fulsome barrage of indoles. Recoil or inhale, I had people leaning in to breathe my throat like greedy vampires. Onda for me will be forever that sun-drenched evening talking scent and poetical connections, oozing musky suggestion.
Vero’s work is erotic olfactive art.This is undeniable. She reminds us why we have skin and why we need to smell a certain way. Some of us may not always be comfortable with scent confrontation but now more than ever as our bodies are becoming more and more controlled and scrutinised, sanitised and criticised; we need to define our identities however we can. Scent is a powerful force, diffusive and subversive. Work like Onda and Rozy demand our attention because we need to feel alive and unique. Vero matters. I put together some questions I hope she would find intriguing and she very kindly took the time to answer me.
The Silver Fox – When you are start out to imagine something as complex and as potentially challenging as Onda EDP, do you see the raw materials in your mind coming together like the pigments in a painting for example or does the inspiration come to you first such as Anna Magnani for Rozy or the famed gardens of the renaissance Villa D’Este in Tivoli for Mito?
Vero Kern – My creations arise through inspiration or ideas. With Onda it was the desire to create a fragrance reminiscent of the legendary leather scents of the twenties such as Tabac Blond by Caron, a scent I have always considered primarily as a leather scent. Then I choose the raw materials that I imagine for this fragrance. My range is relatively small in comparison to an industrial perfumer and the products mainly correspond to those I have been trained with at Cinquième Sense*. My choice of materials is also influenced by the many visits I made to the Osmothèque in Versailles after my Paris training. There I analysed complete House collections such as vintage Houbigant, Caron, Patou, Piguet and Balmain. Jean Kerléo and Jeannine Monguin** introduced me to the specific notes/raw materials/structures of these classic scents and I consider this additional training as important as those for Aromatherapy / Aromatology and Perfumery in helping to create my personal style.
Anna Magnani and Burt Lancaster The Rose Tattoo 1955
I see my creations as abstract interpretations with a central theme in the form of one specific raw material. For instance I always wanted to interpret a fragrance around a rose. I am especially fascinated by the classic Guerlain fragrances – they have a unique elegance and sophistication for me. While creating Rozy eau de parfum I was completely under the spell of Guerlain’s Nahema. I love its powdery green note which I later married to the animalic honey scent that gives Rozy EdP its own distinctive character. The honey note is actually a touch that occurs naturally in roses; in Rozy EdP I simply inflated it. In the case of Rozy Voile d’Extrait with Anna Magnani in the back of my mind, more “bone” in the form of the additional tuberose was needed. I never intended to create a traditional rose fragrance; I made a rosy scent instead. Rosy in English means pinkish or blushing and the Z I’ve put in makes it more individual and special. Mito is a personal olfactory response to a visit to the Villa d'Este and its mystical wonderful park. The park reminded me of my childhood when the world was full of wonders and mysteries. I tried to bring these feelings into an intoxicating green potion.
TSF– For me, Onda is signed through loud and clear with your signature musky odour of honey animalic, something you achieve it seems with a very distinctive use of passion fruit that appears fabulously in Onda EDP, but also in Kiki and Rozy. Are you aware of a Vero Kern signature as you weave your magic or do think it perhaps just a natural result of the way perfumers work that styles evolve?
Vero Kern – I've never thought of the idea of a personal signature. The passion flower decision has to do with a rather special situation. At he beginning there was only Kiki, Onda and Rubj in extrait version. So when I decided later to supplement these with eaux de parfums I did not want to simply offer diluted Extraits. Each ingredient has its own evaporation time, its own intensity and that makes creating scent so difficult. It needs a lot of training and experience to blend raw materials so that they become a unique fragrance. An EdP is usually sprayed and should be fresher and lighter, so new proportions between head and base notes were needed. I also wanted to replace the heavy animal notes in the extraits by lighter ones and looked for an adequate replacement. I finally found it in the passion fruit and I can’t deny it, but I love this note! I find it irresistibly frivolous and as passionate as “making love in a hot tropical night!” Luca Turin puts it in a nutshell for me: “…The proximity of beauty to ugliness is never clearer than in tropical fruit. Perhaps because they have to compete with powerful smells of decay for the attention of birds, tropical fruit have decided to play dirty. Adding tiny amounts of rot on an otherwise conventional fruity smell is as invigorating as finding out that a theoretical physicist colleague was once a stripper… ".
For my Rozy EdP I chose the passion fruit because it was the best fit to the mix; it was an aesthetic decision! I use fruity notes particularly as head notes. On the one hand they add freshness to my scents and on the other hand they are also an important erotic element. They are soft or slightly tangy with a little musky dirty undertone, that reminds me of skin; cassis (blackcurrant), raspberry, melon, peach, passion fruit – I love these sexy fruity notes! They can be found everywhere in my scents – they lend a sensual and erotic lightness to the whole composition – and yes maybe they can be seen (or smelled) as a kind of a Vero signature together with the dirty animal notes.
Onda as imaged through TSF
TSF – You have spoken eloquently elsewhere about the fragrances that have marked and influenced you. I feel wearing Onda in particular is the closest I might get to the civetty, musky murky days of unfettered sensuality in the 20s and 30s. How influenced are you by the shimmering masterpieces of bygone vintage perfumery?
Vintage Houbigant Ad
Vero Kern – For different reasons, perfumes of the last century, the heyday of scent for me, have hugely influenced me and the way I create perfume. I see these fragrances as artefacts or gorgeous works of art and it was clear that I would only create in this style. I grew up with this kind of scent and some of these I've also been wearing. I’m deeply impressed by the complexity and the artistic expression of these compositions, achieved by using high amounts of natural raw materials and very special synthetic products. In addition, animal products have been used for great fixation but also for subtly fragrant influence. The “animalics” gave the mixtures depth, warmth and this irresistible je ne sais pas quoi that recalls the true scent of human skin. Many of these so called “old days scents” are “buried” forever in my olfactory bulb. Oh, and by the way my first real perfume was Quelques Fleurs by Houbigant! The decision to create in this style was not only a big challenge but also a big risk. When I started to build up my collection this kind of perfumery didn’t really exist anymore. With the rising up of the Internet they disappeared into nowhere land…
TSF– In regard to your extensive training and background in aromatherapy and your intriguing progression from this personal field into that of perfumery, how do you feel your methodology has been informed by your background in the approach to works as different as Onda EDP and the beautifully complex handling of organic materials you did for the ylang and vanilla scent for Richard Lüscher Britos?
Vero Kern – My studies in aromatherapy and subsequent perfumery training have both helped me with a better understanding of scents; the way they react and how they interact, their structures and their own individual characteristics. The day job of a perfumer is the daily confrontation with fragrant material. A long-term training no matter whether it is of natural or synthetic kind. A lot of experience, passion, curiosity, endurance and creativity is needed for this job. I’d say that the creativity is the most important part in it, but unfortunately it can’t be learned…The unconventional progress of my training also resulted in a larger field of activity. It is possible to me to create either scent with a mixed technique as well as purely with naturals. As for the material used, there is not GOOD or BAD for me, something that is still being discussed now and again in the social medias. Solely the originality of the final product counts! All in all, it is now over 20 years that I have been working with scents – I still can’t believe it!
TSF– One of the things I love about your work is the differing scented incarnations or strengths: the eaux de parfums, extraits and the unique voiles d’extraits that are very much a Vero Kern thing. I have a passion for your Onda eau de parfum for example, but the Mito extrait and the Rozy voile are sublime. The subtle twists and alterations are so exquisitely executed. Why did you decide to work each scent into a triptych? Was it to produce a more 3D portrait of your particular themes or did you feel you had more to say with each new arrangement?
Vero Kern – The three different variations are independent scents and not to be confused with flankers – I’m so happy that you love them. One reason that they are there has to do with customer requirements. My Extraits are 100% “French Haute Parfumerie” tradition. All the great French fragrances were also composed as Extraits. They are the most concentrated, most original and most erotic form of scenting. Since they are so concentrated they have to be elegantly dabbed. Many love the Extraits but not the type of dabbing, they prefer the spray form. Together with my partners at Campomarzio we have found the solution in the Voile d'Extrait, in this case a diluted form of the Extrait! I'm very very happy about it; it gives me the possibility to create three different blends per fragrance, making three different olfactory statements. Each variation has its own lovers. Some people ones prefer the extrait, others the eaux de parfums, others the voiles and some all three together! All three of them have the same DNA; I’d say they are just lucky charm in threes!
*A Paris-based training centre based around the teaching of perfumer Jean Carles
**Jean Kerléo was the original founder of the Osmothèque in 1990 and Jeannine Moguin was on the advisory committee.
I would like to thank the wonderful Vero Kern of Vero.Profumo for taking the time to answer my questions. I wore Onda eau de parfum and a generous smearing of Onda extrait during the writing of this piece, just in case anyone was wondering. A little known fact is that our Editor in Chief was the first journalist to review Rubj, Kiki and Onda extraits, as the Basenotes New in Niche Columnist in 2007. To this day she has her original bottle of Rubj Extrait.
Thanks to Vero Kern’s distributor Campomarzio 70 we have a reader’s choice for 15 ml (full size) Kiki Extrait, Onda Extrait, Mito Extrait, Rubj Extrait, 50 ml Rosy Voile d'Extrait for a ÇaFleureBon reader in the USA, Canada or the EU (You will need to be patient as the winner will not receive until April 3, 2015). To be eligible: Please leave a meaningful comment on what you enjoyed learning about Vero Kern, perhaps a quote from this interview by The Silver Fox, her perfumes and creative process, where you live and your choice of fragrance. You also have the choice of receiving samples of Onda, Onda Edp, Onda Voile, Kiki Edp, Kiki Voile, Mito, Mito EDP, Mito Voile, Rozy Extrait, Rozy Voile and Rozy EDP. If you want to experience the full range of Vero Kern that is our recommendation. Draw closes March 14, 2015
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