I am suspicious—make that incredulous—of storytelling in perfumery. The minute the exposition or the plot commences, I tune out. Perfume evokes ideas and states, and reflects trains of thought that no other art-form can. Trying to make perfumes tell stories reminds me of those tiny dogs in circus acts, dressed in clown-like costumes, jumping up and down on their hind legs.
So why do I enjoy the perfume fictions of Imaginary Authors so much? Maybe it’s because they get at stories through imaginations of memory. Perhaps the stories are simply imagistic and evocative. The stories are a stepping-off point into the perfumes rather than a scented repetition of the plot and have a nostalgic quality– part pulp melodrama, part noir detective movie. They riff on very specific references and provide instant entry into the stories. A City on Fire is a deadpan, urban graphic novel. Bull’s Blood is a Hemingway-gestalt of ex-pat thrill-seeking and machismo. The Cobra and the Canary is equal parts On the Road and Thelma and Louise.
In the Imaginary Authors line, stories and perfumes are closely aligned, but Meyer smartly puts some breathing room between them. The plots have the pattern of conflict and consequence found in fables and use symbolism like campfire stories. They are synopses of archetypal stories and we recognize their meaning instantly even if the plots themselves are new to us.
The Soft Lawn is particularly ripe with suggestion. It imagines a prequel to JD Salinger’s own story of a young author’s successful first novel whose protagonist is a disaffected private school brat. The 1920s dashing, tennis-playing author of the fictional novel, Claude leCoq, is a play on 1920s dashing tennis player René Lacoste (Le Crocodile.)
The perfume itself recreates the image of a 1920s tennis club through scent. Green grass and leaves, old-fashioned rubber-soled tennis shoes, tennis balls and starched tennis whites. The note that ties it together is linden blossom. Its green-lemon side could garnish a post-match gin and tonic while its laundry powder musky side maintains the image of dazzling white tennis trousers and skirts. The Soft Lawn is the scent of a location, a scenario, a setting. It gives equal weight to the living (grass, flowers) and the inanimate (tennis balls and cotton fabric) and wears like an olfactory snapshot of post WW I New England WASP culture. Like an antiquated photo that captured a moment but has faded, The Soft Lawn starts strong and eventually ebbs to a faint but coherent reflection of its topnotes. It stays in your nose the way the echoing sounds of tennis balls being struck in the distance stays in your ear. The rhythm can be a pleasant background when your thoughts are elsewhere, but at others times the the clarity of the sound/scent captures your attention with its satisfying simplicity.
Despite the story surrounding the perfume, The Soft Lawn is evocative, not narrative. It doesn’t repeat the story you’ve already read. It creates an olfactory setting and puts you in a frame of mind to write yourself into the story, making you the author.
Like the other Imaginary Authors warm-weather brethren I've tried (Falling Into the Sea and Mosaic), The Soft Lawn has a refreshing opening involving citrus, but it takes on a geener, grassier character, as its name suggests, likely provided by the moss and floral notes. The vetiver comes out a little bit more in the dry down. I could see this as easily being worn by a woman as a man, and while that versatility is often a plus and the mark of a great fragrance, it isn't flattering enough on me for me to consider buying a bottle, even at IA's generally-agreed-to-be-reasonable pricing.
Longevity is decent, not great for an EDP---almost a skin scent after 7.5 hours, a workout, and shower. Interesting in its own right like Falling Into the Sea and Mosaic, this warm-weather offering by IA is worth trying, but that'd be it for me.
5 out of 10
03rd February, 2015 (last edited: 05th February, 2015)
Can't quite put my finger on this one. Very unique fragrance. Can't see anyone in the crowd smelling like you. Green and floral is the first thing that comes to mind. I get the clay note in this. Earthy fragrance . Smells similar to something I smelled before. Will have to update this review in the future when I recall what Soft Lawn smells like. 7/10