On Friday, October 19, Andy Tauer and Evelyn Avenue will launch Loretta, the second fragrance in the Tableau de Parfums line, at Scent Bar in Los Angeles. To celebrate the occasion, we’re conducting a draw here at Evelyn Avenue, along with some reflections on the work we’ve done over the last year:
Most cynics are really crushed romantics: They’ve been hurt, they’re sensitive, and their cynicism is a shell that’s protecting this tiny, dear part in them that’s still alive -Jeff Bridges
It’s easy to understand how anyone who loves perfume might be truly cynical at this point. There are more perfumes released each year than ever, and whereas in the past one could safely mark a line of division between niche/indie and mainstream perfumery and the sales tactics they employed, increasingly even niche and indie lines have started to market their fragrances with big, bold and piercingly loud bells and whistles. This would be fine, if the majority of these fragrances were as inventive as their marketing and buzz. More often, they aren’t. Worse, maybe, is the overall lack of regard for the preservation of classics people have grown to love. The commitment to the consumer of fragrance is pretty tenuous at this point, though the advertising says otherwise. Consumers know this, and respond with distrust. This makes things very difficult for those who want to create perfumes that don’t shortchange their wearers.
A year or so ago, Andy Tauer and I started a perfume line called Tableau de Parfums. We were excited about creating links between our creative fields; perfumery in Andy’s case, filmmaking in mine. We wanted to see what happens when the brief for a perfume isn’t a lofty, overblown paragraph of purple prose but something more complex, the world of a film. We wanted to see how a perfume might influence a film, as well. How would that work? What might happen if a filmmaker and a perfumer engaged in an ongoing conversation about their work and interests? We weren’t interested very much in creating perfumes which represented the characters in these movies, but something more complex; we wanted to use the films and characters as springboards thematically and philosophically. We’ve seen the perfumes in the same way.
The name of the film series these Tableau fragrances relate to is WOMAN’S PICTURE, and the stories in the series explore many things we’re interested in: through the stories and perfumes we remember some of the women in our lives and families, explore how perfume influences and infects memory, and in some way try to determine what a perfume is saying when it speaks to us. What does sadness and regret mean in a fragrance and a film? How is it expressed? What brings happiness, bittersweet or joyful? When you watch a film, or you smell a perfume, how is it speaking to you, and how is it that what one person hears or sees or smells is so different than the next?
In developing the fragrance for MIRIAM, the first short in the series, Andy and I asked ourselves what the story was about. MIRIAM dealt with loss and the simultaneously ephemeral and durable nature of memory and our connections with other people. The corresponding fragrance, also called Miriam, was less about the title character played by Ann Magnuson than it was an exploration of how the past influences the present. The resulting fragrance, launched last year, looked at the past from the present, revisiting older perfumes from a distinctly modern point of view. I suppose we were interested in how those two perspectives, past and present, might intertwine or interfere with each other, and what’s changed in the time between them.
Tableau has no marketing team, no PR division, no bells and whistles department on staff. We’re an army of two. In packaging the films and perfumes together, Andy and I spend a lot of time experimenting and communicating what we might do, and what we maybe shouldn’t. For both of us, it was essential from the beginning, in an industry which often shortchanges its customer by presenting mediocrity as innovation, to make the presentation of these fragrances with as much integrity and ingenuity as possible. We wanted them to be gifts in every possible way for those who engaged with them. We take both sides of the collaboration seriously, and it’s been essential to us that they speak to each other. We package each perfume with its corresponding short film, both of which we regard, in this case, as forms of portraiture. We’re interested in what other people think these fragrances are saying, how they might be speaking to them.
It’s ironic but probably inevitable that one of the primary challenges in our collaboration has been the now nearly-chronic cynicism of the perfume lover. It’s particularly challenging because, as perfume lovers ourselves, we understand, and empathize with, that cynicism first hand. It’s inevitable, for instance, that some people will regard the films as promotional tools for the perfumes, sort of glorified advertisements. We never intended for the films to be advertisements, nor did we intend that the people who buy these fragrances should see these characters – and nothing else – in them. What we hoped, I think, was that in putting as much quality and imagination and care into the perfumes and films as we possibly could we would demonstrate the purity of our exercise. We never kidded ourselves about this: We knew it was a tall order in the present cultural climate. We also felt strongly that it was worth giving it a shot.
Having experienced this prevailing cynicism ourselves, we wanted to slow things down. So much is thrown out into the marketplace. All the bells and whistles shoot out first. Then it all dies down very quickly. Perfume hasn’t worked that way for either of us; nor for most of the people we know who love it as much as we do. Perfumes stay with you, and accrue meaning methodically over the course of time. We wanted to learn as we moved forward, to try as best we could to listen in between each fragrance – not just to what others were telling us but what we were trying to tell ourselves.
We’re excited about the release of Loretta, the next step in our creative learning process – excited to hear what people have to say about the scent and its related story. Where Miriam dealt with history and relationships to the past, Loretta is a meditation on very different themes: sexuality, a tension between experience and innocence, what darkness means when coupled with naivete, and much more – for us, at least. The story is a complicated one, and quite different from Miriam. Together, these stories, all so different from one another, speak to the complexity not just of perfume but of relationships and people themselves. We hope that in ten years, this body of work will constitute a testament to the complicated depths of film and fragrance.
We know that much has to be proven at this point to the discerning lover of fragrance. We don’t expect to do that overnight. We’ve watched others try to do that, and seen what happens the morning after. Trust takes time to build, and we’ve committed ourselves to that process. We know two people won’t turn anything around, won’t halt or reverse the prevailing trends of expediency and built-in obsolescence in the fragrance industry, but just as one good, honest fragrance can make a profound difference – reminding its wearer of all the wonderful things that brought him or her to fragrance in the first place, re-igniting some lost romance – we persist, slowly but surely, hoping to make exceptions of ourselves. With Loretta, we hope to put one more nail in the coffin of cynicism, which we believe, all things considered, has no place in the fragrance imagination.
The Drawing: Three winners will be randomly selected from those who comment on this post. To be eligible, we ask that you answer the following: Which of the three perfume spots for Loretta do you prefer, and why; as well as what makes you cynical about fragrance at this point, and what seems like cause for optimism?
Winners will be announced on Monday, October 22 and will receive a full bottle of fragrance from the extended Tauer line, including Tableau de Parfums, a DVD of the first three Woman’s Picture portraits (including INGRID, which will be released next Fall), and a vintage-inspired poster for Loretta.
During the course of this draw, we are offering a free viewing of MIRIAM, LORETTA, and INGRID, the Woman’s Picture films which inspired the Tableau fragrances (below). To view the trailer, visit our homepage and hit the Woman’s Picture tab on the menu bar.
– Brian Pera