Aware that three days wouldn't be enough to properly test all the fragrances in my list, I headed to the gates of the venue (the old, fascinating Stazione Leopolda) with a secret wish to find something that would surprise me.
First, I had planned a visit to the sensory pathway designed by ANEW magazine (in collaboration with IFF) to simultaneously stimulate smell and sight. The installation provided eight steps, each of which featured a color and a scent. It started with the scent of neroli (orange blossom) associated with the color yellow; it continued with the smell of freshly cut grass associated with the color green. Blue was associated with the smell of gin and tonic, pink with the smell of freshly baked madeleines (the almond-shaped cookie), the smell of black leather to the color black. As far as I was concerned, the visual stimuli didn't always match the olfactory ones: for me neroli is indeed associated to yellow and cut grass to green, but I wouldn't have combined madeleines and pink color, nor light blue and gin and tonic...
Among the compositions that most struck me at the Exhibition I found Amouage's new Fate. The perfume "pour homme" was composed by Carine Vinchon and the one pour femme by Dorothe Piot. I could wear the "pour femme" version for many hours, and it's a spell of warm, resinous, creamy and woody notes melting on the skin in a very sensual and elegant way. Amouage's offering to the masculine universe are often a step higher than their "pour femme" counterparts. Well, Fate breaks this trend, at last!
Maria Candida Gentile has unveiled her line of home fragrances. I love the fact that MCG never forgets of living in Liguria, and in fact her new scents are packed with Mediterranean herbs and citruses of great quality. "Viaggio in Italia" features sunny citrus paired with two types of mint, with a crisp and energizing effect; "Passeggiata al Faro" is a seascape with aromatic touches, while my favorite "Pineta sotto la pioggia" is an aromatic, green, shady scent, created to evoke "A rainy, day many years ago, when I was in a pine forest in Corsica with my son, and we were picking tiny pine nuts fallen from the trees" as she told me .
I also immediately loved Andy Tauer's new "Noontide Petals". The images rising to mind while wearing it are all happy and carefree. Unlike other Tauer's headier, or more meditative scents, top notes of geranium, bergamot and aldehydes lead me immediately in the heat of summer, under the sun, perhaps on holiday. Noontide Petals doesn't show a complexity similar to Andy's first scents, and although it keeps a certain degree of experimentation, doesn't even reach the oddity of his "Pentachords" compositions. Nor the formal elegance of his two portraits "Loretta" and "Miriam". This new creation stretches in all these directions, and yet it's something different. A new chapter, perhaps, including all the past and redirecting it in a new, interesting direction I look forward to discover with the next launches.
Neela Vermeire also surprised me with her "Ashoka", created in collaboration with Bertrand Duchaufour. I had already tested it a few months ago, but this time it was fine-tuned and properly matured, and was even better than I remembered: the rare Mysore sandalwood, coming from trees grown specifically, is as milky and creamy as it gets, and makes you purr in delight....
I took also the chance to smell Vero Kern's extrait version of "Mito" a sophisticated green chypre as I hadn't smelled for too long. I love the elegance and complexity of this small, ultra-chic family, so I enjoyed the edp when it was launched a year ago. The newly launched extrait features even more green, wet and moving notes; the elegance and complexity of this scent, and its sensory richness is a lesson in good taste, measure and courage that deserves a round of applause.
Ineke's new "Floral Curiosities" struck me because of their immediacy and brightness: the four fragrances are enclosed in cardboard boxes resembling books and instead are... perfume boxes. In these fragrances Ineke explores some floral notes with her usual balanced, easy and romantic touch. Their immediacy will be able to appeal those who don't appreciate too much "push" on concepts, or intellectual bla bla about a perfume.
Among the brands presented on this occasion I found interesting the French Liquides Imaginaires. This brainchild of artist Philippe di Meo consists in six scents divided into two lines, a "spiritual" (Sancti , Tumultu and Fortis) and a "passionate" (Dom Rose, Bloody Wood and Bello Rabelo). All the concepts behind the perfume are interesting and I gladly listened to them but what really struck me were... the scents. The Spiritual line offers extremely sophisticated concoctions of rare balance, introverted, withholding, totally devoid of flowery notes, and this is a rather original feature. The other line tells us -convincingly- of the composer's other passion: precious wines.
Another novelty on show was the brand Schwarzlose-Berlin, dating back to mid-nineteenth century. The new owners have restarted business reissuing three scents of the past (1A- 33 and Treffpunkt, about 1920 -I heard the latter was a Josephine Baker's favorite- and Trance), which were then joined by two modern fragrances (all by Veronique Nyberg of IFF). The limitations in the use of certain raw materials, together with the difficulty in finding the ready bases with which many fragrances were made in the past, prevent the three reissues from entirely evoke the spirit of their times, but this isn't bad: they end up being interesting hybrids, appealing in their own, rather original, way.
The cultural highlight of this year's Pitti Fragrances Exhibition has been the talk "Emotional memories through the sense of smell" by the composer Alienor Massenet (IFF) . Alienor is the head of a team with over ten years experience in the study of recovery techniques of cognitive and communication skills through the sense of smell. Her team works with 11 hospitals in France, and over the years has met over 1530 patients, who were exposed 120-140 different smells, purposely composed by IFF.
"Smelling makes the deepest part of the brain work". Said Celine Manetta (writer and researcher at IFF). "We all have the ability to go back in time every time we smell an odor linked to a period of our lives -mostly childhood". Because researches are only at an early stage, IFF has partnered with CEW (Cosmetic Executive Women) to continue studies with speech therapists, neurologists and psychologists.
Patients addressed by the team fall into four categories:
- Geriatric patients to whom Alzheimer's disease clears memory of entire pieces of their lives: presenting them familiar smells means enabling them to regain possession, even temporarily, of significant memories helpful for avoiding the typical problem of the personality shattering into pieces.
- Traumatology patients, that is accident victims with brain injuries inhibiting their communication skills.
- Oncological patients; cancer therapies inhibit the senses of taste and smell, the smells provided by the equipe encourage and train them to smell and taste again.
- Young people with eating disorders. Smelling food-related odors -apple pie for example- brings back to mind the feelings of pleasure and happiness linked to the food, helping them to consider food as a possibility of joy and satisfaction. I hope the researches will never be stopped; there's still so much to know around the sense of smell!
And at the end, back at home, reading all the notes I had taken during the three days in Florence, I had another surprise: the number of rose fragrance presented on this occasion! I smelled the new "Briar Rose" by Ineke (a tender rose/violet accord), Rose de Taif by Perris Monte Carlo, (containing a fair amount of lavish Taif Rose), Dom Rose by Liquides Immaginaires, Noontide Petals by Andy Tauer (where a beautiful rose leads the composition), L'important c'est la Rose (by Italian brand Histoire d'Eaux). If we add Rosa Gallica (By Brecourt), Etoile de Hollande (by Mona di Orio) and other rose outputs launched in recent months, I would say that the Queen of flowers is quite a trend now... Perhaps, in times of social and economic uncertainty, we all feel an intense desire for reassuring, well-known scents?
If this is your case, now you have plenty of choices: a couple of dabs and you'll be ready to venture out in the cruel world!