I have written many times that I think the best perfumes arise from a creative dynamic between a creative director and a perfumer. A creative director with a clear vision paired with the ability to articulate it can give a perfumer the guidance they require to put together a memorable fragrance. It really is akin to a movie director getting the right emotional performance from the actors. A good perfume creative director does the same thing with the perfumer they work with. Most of the time I come to meet the creative director long after I have tried their perfumes. Except recently some of the people with whom I have shared the perfume blogosphere with have made the leap to creative direction of their own brand of perfumes. Now these are creative directors who have written many words about what perfume should be. As best as one can, I “know” them through their writing.
One who has done this is the writer of the blog “Yesterday’s Perfume” and the book “Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume”; Barbara Herman. A little over a year ago she debuted her new brand, Eris Parfums, with three extremely well-done releases. Her creative direction was integral to achieving her fragrant vision. In perfumer Antoine Lie she found a collaborator who understood it. This is an easy thing to write; this is not an easy thing to achieve. Ms. Herman and M. Lie created a diverse collection capturing many of the principles Ms. Herman had written about. One of those is the idea that “scent is subversive”.
In a recent local appearance, she read from “Scent and Subversion” focusing on one of the dynamic ways scent works beneath the surface; as a commentary on the fluidity of gender. She, like me, gets lots of questions of whether this is a “woman’s” or “man’s” perfume. The correct answer is if it smells good on you it is “your” perfume. The first artificial constraint of designing a perfume, by deciding which gender it should appeal to, is already confining. After her reading was over Ms. Herman introduced us to her fourth release Mx.
Mx. is the non-gender title created in England during the 1970’s. It is meant to impart nothing about gender. With the current social dynamic in flux the term has come back to the fore. Ms. Herman and M. Lie chose it as the inspiration, and name, because as a perfume it is meant to capture that kind of flow as things shift without ever rising to being of a specific gender.
If the first three Eris Parfums were meant to be perfume the way they used to make them; Mx. represents the idea that this is the way we should make them now. The idea that something gender neutral means neutral in composition is discarded by Ms. Herman and M. Lie. Their thesis, in the guise of Mx., is true gender neutral must stand for something. In this case it is a sandalwood-centric construct from which they can elaborate upon in ways which hew to neither side of the gender divide.
Mx. opens on an accord of spice over the sandalwood. In the very first seconds a sizzling ginger fizzes across my consciousness drawing my attention to the sandalwood. As the ginger dies down what is left behind is a plush pillow of saffron and incense. Saffron has a softening effect which is what happens here. Out of that some black pepper provides some texture in the early moments. The spices and sandalwood take their time evolving towards the base accord but eventually vetiver heralds the transition to a base of patchouli. At first it is turned slightly gourmand with cacao before growing some claws with castoreum.
Mx. has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate silage.
One of the things Ms. Herman mentioned in her reading was the concept of the inoffensive office scent. Mx. is an office scent for those who are not interested in bland inoffensive perfume. It is a scent which plays subversive commentator on the societal fluid dynamics of whether a fragrance is a “woman’s” or a “man’s”. In the case of Mx. it is “mine” and that is all that matters to me.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Eris Parfums.