Oct 312014


I first met Bruno Fazzolari at the end of an until then interminable cross country trip. My boyfriend at the time was a friend of his boyfriend at the time, which is a long story and another form of interminable I’d rather not get into. This at-the-time boyfriend and I stayed in Bruno’s guest bedroom, a nice cozy space within which to parse some of the resentments we’d built up during the course of the thirty days on the road. Or so we thought. Let me tell you: thirty days on the road with almost anyone is about twenty-five too many. When things refused to parse, I figured that was the end of Bruno – but I never forgot the bright white room in the middle of his house, a sort of (conceptually) hermetically sealed area he used as a studio. Years later we resumed contact and discovered we’d both activated our interest in perfume in decisive ways. I’d started working it into films, both thematically and through collaborative work with perfumer Andy Tauer. Bruno had started purchasing ingredients online, experimenting. He’d introduced scent into his art, and eventually started creating a group of scents he now sells outside the gallery. Recently, Bruno released a different interpretation of my favorite, Au Delà, which smelled so good when I sprayed it on that I carried the vial around in my pocket until just a little was left.

Brian: Where do you work on scents? Can you describe the place? Ideal? Not so ideal?

Bruno: My studio occupies several rooms in a residential Victorian building that’s over 100 years old. One room is for painting, one for drawing and one is for fragrance. Most Victorians have a “fainting room,” a tiny, street-side room on the second floor where (so the story goes) women would pause to rest after climbing the stairs in tight corsets. That’s where I work. My perfumer’s organ is very DIY, I made it with the pink foam I’ve used for my sculpture. It may not be mahogany, but it’s pretty close to ideal.

This version of the scent is pretty different to my nose, though I still haven’t done a side-by comparison. I like the idea of a flanker, although to most who love perfume it’s a bad word. I like how it creates an opportunity for the wearer to exist in some in-between space, where wearing the one scent recalls or conjures the related one. What was your objective here?

Until you asked, I didn’t realize this might be called a flanker! That term seems to belong to the big perfume houses where everything is a strategic, market-based decision. I think of this as a limited edition: a way of offering access to a beautiful and rare material and a different view onto the space of Au Delà. Painters and musicians often create different variations of the same piece. Something interesting happens when, say, the live version of a song changes your understanding of the studio version. As a creator, you’re always aware of how very small changes to a formula or a color can wield dramatic changes  in mood or atmosphere.

The original formulation of Au Delà has a green-floral motif that I brought forward for this edition. Narcisse absolute smells a bit like violet leaf, but with a subterranean note of earth and roots that is beautifully supported by the oakmoss and labdanum in the base of Au Delà.



Why release a poster/print with the scent? Can you tell me a little about how those ideas evolved alongside each other?

I have visual responses to scent, so color is a huge part of how I understand fragrance. I’m usually developing a visual element and a perfume at the same time—it’s an integral part of how I work. One of the things I love about perfume is that many people can buy and own the original artwork, which isn’t the case with my paintings. This is a beautiful print. The handmade nature of printmaking means that each impression is unique, but the run is big enough to make it affordable so that more people can participate.

As for the image itself, I’m very inspired by the perfume community. Blogs by writers like Barbara Herman or Gaia Fisher are part of a wide appreciation for the entire world of perfume—not just the scents, but the whole culture and history of fragrance: visual, material and social. I hope this print contributes something to that dialogue. I created it to look a little like the ads of another time, but with a bit more enigma—a sort of visual-text poem.

I knew you before either of us talked much about scent. That was what – over fourteen years ago. I remember you worked in this white space in the middle of your apartment and that when I got a peek in there it felt like those white scenes from THX 1138. When did the interest in scent become a larger part of your conversation? Was it a shift or just a really gradual thing? And where does your fixation on scent come from do you think?

My studio is still in the same place, though I’ve annexed a few more rooms and the THX effect is bigger now! I’ve always had very deep responses to scent, visually and emotionally. Scents provoke color responses in my mind and sometimes I have very strong synesthesias that are actually unpleasant. So it was very natural to bring that into the studio. But access to materials and information was a problem. Around the time we first met, I remember talking with a friend about a scent project I had in mind, but the raw materials were so hard to obtain and the process was so mysterious that it seemed impossible. All that has changed now—which is why this is such an exciting time for perfumery. For the first time, perfumers can publish their work in the same way that  independent film-makers, poets and musicians do.


Can you talk about some of the scents you really love? Maybe three or four? And what you love about them?

The original formulation of Diorissimo that I smelled at the Osmothèque is among the greatest masterpieces of the 20th century—bright flowers in May, but also earth and animals with a bit of Dior mid-century glamour. Knize 10 for its gender bending masculinity that merges flowers and leather.  The Germaine Cellier scents—so daring. The original Kouros is a wonderful fusion of classical and modern masculine accords. I like how challenging it is: in the right weather, it’s amazing stuff, and in the wrong weather…look out!


I like this excerpt from a piece Bruno did for CaFleureBon in 2013:

“I began experimenting with making my own scents about ten years ago. At first, it was a curiosity, but by degrees, it became a sort of madness with hundreds of small bottles creating a whole new type of chaos in my studio. Three years ago, I finally had to admit that I had become a perfumer. I decided to combine my love of painting and scent. In my exhibition, Mirror 5, I showed paintings with a perfume. The paintings deploy very bright, slightly-off primary colors, painted wet-into-wet on a cold-white ground tinted with a hint of cobalt blue. They were shown in a gallery lit by bright fluorescent lights. I created a citrus scent, but one with an ozonic and mineral aura to reflect the whole installation. The gallery sold a lot more perfume than I expected…”

Visit his site for more about his work.

Sep 152014

What would you say you’re trying to communicate when you write about perfume?

The first thing I’d say I try to communicate is what the scent smells like. And that starts off in a really kind of empirical way: it smells like these notes. Then I move to what it makes me feel; what it’s conveying, what all these things together are evoking. And I try to situate it in a history: What must this scent have meant for people during its time. Emotionally, too: how does this scent make me feel? I try to hit all of those things.


Why? Because I don’t think people take scent as seriously as they should. I think in people’s lives scent actually has a lot of meaning. And because there’s not a lot of discourse around it they just experience it without really being able to analyze it the way you can other things. It’s culturally available to talk about movies or poems or fashion even, but with perfume, this very intimate, personal historical thing, they don’t really have the language to talk about it, so I try to initiate that conversation.

Why is that important to you?

It’s important to me because I think scent is important to people. It’s part of their memory; part of their cultural history. People can say, When I smell this, I return to my fourteen year-old self or my twenty year-old self or when I fell in love with this person or the way my grandmother smelled. These are important things. And I think they’re worthy of analysis.

If you could go back to the person who was going into the mall and spraying ten different things on herself, you as a teenager, and tell her anything, what would it be?

I don’t think she needed to know anything. If anything, she could tell me things. Because she was just open. She liked what she liked, she sprayed what she liked on her, and there wasn’t a lot of censorship. She just liked what she liked, and I think that’s something we can all learn from.

Where does the censorship come in for you now? Do you struggle with that?

Well, I think when I wear something people tell me they don’t like, it hurts my feelings, and it makes me second guess whether I should like it. We’re living in a culture where people don’t like perfume, they don’t like scent, they don’t want to smell you. So I’m very self conscious about scent. That girl didn’t give a shit what anyone thought. You know? I was wearing fifteen different perfumes. I wore whatever I liked. If people were like, I have a headache, I would just be like, roll a window down. I didn’t care.


Barbara Herman is the author of Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume and the website Yesterday’s Perfume. The short film above, These Things That Stink, was shot during a reading at Scent Bar in Los Angeles during the fall of 2013. The interview was conducted in May of 2014.

Sep 112014


Paper Moon, 1973

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich

Featuring Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal

When Addie’s mother dies, Moses Pray, a former suitor slash john shows up at the funeral. The funeral is decidedly middle of nowhere, prairie in all directions, and other than Pray, and discounting the droning preacher, only maybe two people have attended: two elderly women, probably cast locally, who’ve made Addie their charge. Moses (Ryan O’Neal) happens to be passing through and stops to pay his respects (“I know your backside is still warm,” he whispers to the coffin), but the women seize his resemblance to Addie (Tatum O’Neal, “same jawline”) and while they can’t manage to burden him with parenting the nine year old they’re able in this film populated with con artists to persuade him to drive her to her aunt’s house a few states away.

So the movie is playing on the whole It Happened One Night schema of opposites stuck in a small situation together, seeking refuge from the great wide open, rubbing each other the wrong way; referencing dust bowl iconography (the photographs of Dorothea Lange, notably), The grumpy adult child faces and curve ball verbal outlandishness of The Little Rascals, the history of road to nowhere movies and small time gangster films.

Moses cheats widows out of their deceased husbands’ money, selling them never-ordered Bibles he’s embossed with their names, after tracking their misfortunes in the obituaries. Your husband ordered this for you but I can see you’re in a bad place so I’ll just give you a refund, unless you want something to hold onto that memorializes him in death by contradicting the thoughtlessness that characterized him in life, etc. Addie turns out to be an even better con than Moses, jacking one sale up from his modest 7 bucks to 24 – so he delays the aunt situation indefinitely, and the two stay in various flops that dot the map between their designated marks. He also owes her money, and she intends to be paid back, so there’s that.

At one point, overnight in one of these bare bulb motel rooms, after Moses has gone to bed, Addie gets up and quietly locks herself in the bathroom with a cigar box full of mementos from her mother. In the box are pearls, postcards, and what looks like a half ounce bottle of Evening in Paris, with its classic hourglass meets urn silhouette. The very best thing about this scene – aside from the wisdom of Polly Platt’s art direction (a star of this film as much as either O’Neal); aside from the idea of such a tomboy taking an interest in such a feminine perfume; aside from all the standard implications of a scent reviving memory, conjuring the dead – is the fact that Addie, posing in front of the mirror as a distorted facsimile of her mom, douses herself in the stuff the way a man would the cheapest splash cologne, slapping it on her neck, her cheeks, and finally, for good measure, wielding the bottle like a salt shaker on each shoulder.

From this the movie cuts to the next morning, a tight shot of the front seat of the car Addie and Moses spend most of their time in, this little black box theater in which they endlessly articulate their Punch and Judy routine. Moses keeps sniffing the air, wrinkling his nose like they’ve passed an animal carcass on the side of the road. He finally figures out the stench is Addie, who seems pleased to be noticed for her perfume, her mother’s drag, satisfied to have magnetized attention this way. But she can’t command it for long: Moses opens the window over the dash, airing out the cab, and Addie’s face flatlines back into the limits of its frustrated childishness.

 Posted by on September 11, 2014
Aug 272014


Yes You,

In your American Eagle T and your madras shorts. You in your meticulously frayed baseball cap, which bears the insignia of a camp you’ve never lost your virginity at, let alone been to, or heard of. You with the boxers peeking out at your waistline, a look you stole from people you wish you were. I’ve seen you at the mall, bushy-haired and slouchy, that smirk on your face. I guess you know you barely lift your feet as you saunter along the pavement. Is that the style now, that shuffling, almost somnambulistic gait? Is walking already passé?

Just this morning on my way into Sephora I saw you and your peeps, waddling ahead of me like a little row of baby ducks whose mama had already scurried off around the corner, frightening them with the sudden prospect of independence. The wind was moving in the wrong direction, but I’m going to guess what you had on under the madras and the T and the boxers and the cap. Something or other Ralph Lauren. Something Gucci, Versace, a paler shade of Light Blue. Eau de Duh. I know you were wearing cologne because I know what cologne means to you. I know how it conveys an image you want to project, or you imagine it does. I know: the guy on the boat or in the field in that ad is your imaginary mirror image—your twin, the secret you—and yet, in your mind, you’d like to cut your own path. That’s why I’m writing.

I won’t tell anyone I sent this to you, but I do want to discuss your purchasing patterns. As I walked behind you, I smelled my wrist, imagining I was you imagining you were that other guy. Would my friends really scramble at the scent of Creation, by Ted Lapidus? Now that every girl in high school isn’t spritzing it in her pink calico canopy bed, dreaming about a boy like you in a mist of fruity chypre, who would recognize it and mark it as sissy? It once smelled the way guys imagined Christie Brinkley must—as if its wearer had been slathered in some dangerously soapy elixir which added to rather than subtracted from her natural musk.

It made a girl smell like she’d spilled something on her parents’ leather sofa, downstairs, in the rec room, only she didn’t want her mother to find out, so she’d scrubbed the seat to within an inch of its life, and still she seemed so…fidgety, her face still flushed from the exertion. She might have wanted sex but you couldn’t be sure, because you didn’t know what she’d spilled either, and though you had a few wild guesses, it could have simply been your active imagination. It could have just been, like, Jean Nate. Wind Song or whatever. If her smell did that kind of magic for her, imagine what it could do for you.

Creation smelled like a very specific complex of associations back in the day (1984), but that day has passed. Now it smells weirdly virile. It always did, but with all the cosmetic subterfuge, no one ever noticed before. Now that all the girls you know want to smell like laundry detergent, Creation smells practically hairy-chested. I tell you this because I know a very easy way to distinguish yourself, and all it would require is imagination on your part. Step out of your flip flops; feel the ground under your feet. Lift your feet, and feel the pull of gravity. I’m not asking you to walk. I’m just asking you to think.

I’m willing to let you borrow my Creation. But there are many fragrances you might try. Now that no one sees Christie Brinkley in them, they’re dirt cheap. I know you’re on a budget; mommy and daddy’s pockets only run so deep. I’d be happy to make some suggestions. I might even loan you something else, if you promise to turn down that music when you stop by to pick it up. Scents once intended for the opposite sex make the most electric statement on a guy’s skin, totally transforming him and the way people experience his presence. They introduce an active element of contradiction. If you think it will put panties on you, consider this: your slouch and this whole passive vibe you’ve got going on at the moment doesn’t exactly register as butch. Meet the term Pillow Queen.

I’m saying that if you have the balls to smell like people used to think a woman should, there’s no telling how deeply you might penetrate into other people’s perceptions and desires. Krazy by Krizia, for instance, which smells of vanilla rubbed on wood, is a good start. That’s putting your toe in without straying too far off the path. Black Cashmere, Balmain de Balmain, Caleche. The limits are mental; the possibilities, endless. It’s true, such a bold stroke might make your friends scramble – but I bet you’d find, if you turned around, that they were just rearranging themselves, and would eventually all end up in a line behind you, following your lead. They could also just get confused, which isn’t uninteresting.

 Posted by on August 27, 2014
Jun 112014


April: I’m not wearing any lipstick.

Me: That’s okay.

April showed up yesterday at work with an old bottle of Avon Cotillion, which looks like something a Genie would pop out of. She had on a polka dot dress and little or no make-up, with her hair in a long braid she wore to one side. When I asked her if I could take her picture she acted as if it were just another thing happening to her that day, like the wind blowing, demonstrating zero self-consciousness about it. She didn’t ask me how she looked or even ask to see the pictures. When I did show her she just kind of went, like, “Huh.” And off she went.


 Posted by on June 11, 2014
Dec 062013



Thanks for participating everyone. The drawing is now closed. Winner announced tomorrow.

MYEvery year, perfumer Andy Tauer does an Advent calendar, with daily giveaways on different blogs. For perfume lovers, it’s a highly anticipated event – a chance to win soap, perfume, and other things Tauer – and each year is more exciting because Andy is pretty prolific, and there’s always something new to try.

ingrid still for ingrid dvd

Most of my friends have heard me talking about Andy, or know about our Evelyn Avenue collaboration, now three years running (my film series Woman’s Picture, his accompanying perfumes through Tableau de Parfums), but most of them aren’t acquainted firsthand with his work.

A few weeks ago, we released Ingrid, the third Tableau fragrance, which is now available through the Evelyn Avenue store and at various retailers, among them Luckyscent.com. Ingrid, like Miriam and Loretta before it, is pretty stunning, a meditation on the past from a decidedly contemporary perspective. Like Miriam and Loretta, Ingrid is a perfect fit for the character and story of the same name which inspired it. Ingrid the character has a lot going on under an impossibly poised surface, and for me the perfume captures the mood of the film (also available in our store) and of Calpernia Addams’ performance. It’s been a high point of my experience as a filmmaker collaborating with Andy, investigating together the ways scent and persona combine and influence each other, speaking across mediums through our work.


Now that the next film in the Woman’s Picture series is finished and going out to festivals, Andy and I are talking about where to go next perfume wise in relation to that story and its characters (played by Grace Zabriskie, Amy LaVere, Lindsey Roberts, Angela Dee, and Savannah Bearden). If Dark Passage, the limited quantity scent we did for the film’s kickstarter campaign, is any indication, the collaboration will only get better as we move forward. You can see the trailer for Only Child on the Evelyn Avenue home page.

You have to smell Andy’s work to believe it, so I’m excited to participate in the Advent calendar this year; even more excited that he now has an Explorer Set, which includes three 15 ml atomizers, a great way to get to know the scents. To be eligible in the draw for a Tauer Explorer Set, please leave a comment on this post telling us what films you saw this year that really spoke to you. We’ll draw the winner through random.org the morning of Saturday, December 7.

(Pictured above: Calpernia Addams as Ingrid and Sally Stover as her mother in a still from the film “Ingrid”)



 Posted by on December 6, 2013
Jul 202013


Perfumer Andy Tauer makes incredible perfumes. Over the past year, traveling back and forth from Zurich to Italy (and Paris, and Russia, and LA) he’s sketched the various things he sees along the way into his virtual sketchbook, an i-Pad he bought a few years ago. Each month, starting now, Evelyn Avenue asks him to pick one of these sketches and to describe the circumstances behind drawing it:

It was a Friday in Rome, a hot and humid day. I was told that the weather in Rome this summer was odd: Lots of thunderstorms in the afternoon due to the humidity, very unusual for this time of the year. I had a hotel near the Stazione Termini, the main rail station, affordable but not super close to the historic center of town where I wanted to visit a perfumery. I walked from my hotel towards the historic center of Rome, had a cappuccino on my way, in a little side street, enjoying the good coffee and watching tourists trying to find their way through the labyrinth of medieval Rome. As often, I woke up early and I ended up being too early on my way, with the shops still being closed.

I ended up at the perfumery, but it was still closed. I know the area a bit, and being 10 minutes from the park of the Villa Borghese, I decided to walk up there. It was eleven in the morning, but already pretty hot, and thus I was looking for a place in the shadow. And I wanted to take a moment to sketch, and to think about Thursday. Thursday, I visited my future distribution partner for Italy. A family owned business. Nice and decent people. A very Italian enterprise, with nephews and mothers and nieces working in this family venture. We discussed my brand, my vision, my wishes and smelled my creations. For a lot of reasons I had to search a new partner who can help me bring my products to this great perfume market. It is one of the most advanced, most mature markets for “niche” perfumery, and Italians love artisanal products. Thus, it is important for me.

The discussions with the distribution partner were nice – on one hand, personal; on the other hand we had to find a deal: How to operate together. Who gets what share. Tough business stuff. I need a partner in Italy as I cannot simply ship perfumes there. Back then, on Friday noon in Rome, I had not decided with whom I want to collaborate and I did not have a full picture of whether the conditions discussed were viable for me and my products.

In a sense, I had a very important decision to make. For me, for my Italian perfume loving fans, for the potential partner, and – although not worried – I was in a state of insecurity. And I felt very sorry for my former distributor from whom I had to part. In a sense, it was a feeling of being cast adrift, the thrownness of a creative mind who has to deal with business, a prerequisite for continuing work as creator. It is this business framework that enables it all, my perfume creation fun time, my talking to perfume lovers worldwide, my salary at the end of the month, my freedom as creator. Yet, this perfume business comes with its obligations and rules that are not always easy to meet.

I had a lot to digest, and was imaging a future that was and still is very uncertain.

I was also very tired.

When entering the park I was looking for a moment of peace, and tranquility before talking to the perfumery owner hoping to learn more about the perfume market in these difficult days in southern Europe. I know this park with its uncounted pine trees pretty well as I go jogging there whenever possible when in Rome, and I wanted to hide somewhere in the middle. But then I got a bottle of water from one of the Gelati carts that offer all sorts of things, for a reasonable price. I sat next to it on a bench, on the left side of the cart, overlooking a good part of the park. To the left was the entry area with the busy street and the cars passing by, in bright sunlight, in front of me another bench on the other side of the alley, with an exhausted couple, tourists, like me enjoying the shadow and the ice cold water, with bits of ice dancing on the surface. Behind them was a little hill, still very green for the season, topped by a statue of a guy on a horse, like you see everywhere in Rome. On the right the Gelati outlet, and further down an area of pine trees, like dark arthritic old fingers pointing to the blue sky, hiding the villa Borghese.

Looking to my right, I observed the markings on the tree’s bark, cut there years ago by lovers or friends. The tree was hiding most of the Gelati cart, and I wondered whether those who left these marks still remember them. Probably the A’s and D’s will still be visible in the bark, attesting eternal love, when the lovers have left this world. Quite likely that the love will end before that. I was witnessing an argument between a French couple, jumping into a big fight, with loud French arguments, a back and forth, physically as well as vocally; both were tired by the heat, and the cause of their argument seemed much smaller than the dark universe that they were jumping into.

There were a lot of tourists strolling by, many watching me closely when I started sketching on my ipad what I saw to my right. Especially children, with their curiosity of minds that haven’t seen it all yet, were approaching me, shy but determined to get a glimpse of what I did there. I started with some contours, main lines of the cart, the line of cobblestones leading to it, bringing in the perspective, together with the shape of the tree. I loved the contrast between the straight, dark metal lantern bar, and the inclined, twisted trash bin behind it. When doing an illustration, I always look for elements that bring in an element of queerness. An asymmetry.  I wanted to bring the attention in the illustration there, by rendering it dark (as it was in reality). Then I started with some details on the cart: Potatoes chip packed tightly, flower decorations on the cart’s front, bottles neatly arranged on a board, the reflection in the cart’s side mirror. I added more details and a bit more perspective by another trash can in the background and two of the many pine trees. Leaving things off is important when drawing, and often, there is a moment when you have to end it, because adding more will not help but takes out the tension of an illustration. I guess this is true for many other crafts. For sure it is true for perfumery: Adding more lines might just lead to confusion. It is important to know when to stop.

I cannot really pinpoint why I chose to illustrate this particular view to my right, but I know what it did to me: I left  the worries and my thinking about the business and started to flow on a different wave. Seeing, observing, trying to find the contrasts in dark areas, looking for parallel lines, searching for patterns that repeat themselves. Sketching is also cutting reality into little pieces. Often, when looking at a scene somewhere, like in this park, there is so much that you think: I can never come up with an illustration. There is too much going on. I learned (or I am learning) to look behind the things I see. Sketching is surgical work: Cutting off, cutting into what you see. And it is a lesson in seeing: Things are not how we seem them, often. Our mind interprets and brings in things, shapes, contrasts, colors that aren’t there. Thus, in a sense, sketching is looking behind the surreality that is produced by our brain when interpreting the light collected in our eyes, transformed into electronic signal sent towards the brain. It is a meditation. A state of the mind that – although intensely focused – has a relaxing effect.

When I got up it was past 2, and I strolled down into the flow of people and cars again. And I realized that I had made up my mind.

Mar 252013

Perfume pops up in movies a lot more than you realize. Usually, you blink and it’s gone. Like in the Busby Berkeley film I watched a few weeks ago, maybe FOOTLIGHT PARADE, where hopefuls are trying out for a revue and one tells – is it James Cagney? – that perfume helps her perform. She’s brought some with her and sniffs from it before her audition, standing there at the microphone. James Cagney or whoever it is rolls his eyes. I’d love to know which perfume she’s holding.

The other night I watched Andy Warhol’s BAD (1977), directed by Jed Johnson, Warhol’s boyfriend at the time and twin brother of Jay, also a Studio 54 era Warhol regular. Perry King plays a grifter who shacks up in Caroll Baker’s boarding house-slash-hair removal salon. Baker moonlights as a contract killer broker, employing various women to perform hits. She doesn’t like Perry much, and doesn’t much try to hide it. She doesn’t like him mostly because he blows her cover. She doesn’t exactly poor mouth but no one realizes just how much she likes the finer things. Perry does – first by sensing it, then by sneaking into her locked room.

The rest of the house verges on squalid. Baker’s room is like something out of one of the sixties films she once starred in, THE CARPETBAGGERS – plush shag, oversized rococo lamps, big fancy headboard. Her closet is a Brinks truck’s worth of luxury items, and among the furs and shoe boxes is quite a collection of expensive perfume. I froze the frame, trying to identify the bottles. She has them all sitting out on the shelves. I think I saw Dior. Perry sees Guerlain, what looks like an ounce of Shalimar parfum extrait. He steals it.

Later, he trysts with one of the contract killers in his bedroom, enlisting the Shalimar as a seduction tool. It doesn’t really seem to do much for his partner, but you get the idea it turns him on more than he hopes it will her. He keeps dabbing the perfume on her. Then his hand leaves the screen, descending below the frame, and she gasps, angry, telling him “it burns.” It’s probably the most explicit use of perfumery in film I’ve seen, and kind of funny too, the way it makes literal the fantasies people slip into with fragrance. Shalimar as sex toy.

Later, Baker discovers the empty bottle (empty! a whole ounce!) and confronts Perry as he’s taking a bath. She throws his pills (which he pilfered from her) down the toilet, and tells him he’ll be buying her another bottle.

 Posted by on March 25, 2013
Dec 072012

Andy Tauer and Evelyn Avenue present a drawing for Tauer’s Advent Calendar, your chance to win a handmade soap…

It’s that time of year again. Every day this month, as part of his annual Advent Calendar event, perfumer Andy Tauer offers surprise giveaways through a series of participating blogs. For the draw here on Evelyn Avenue, Tauer has prepared a special tuberose soap. Evelyn Avenue will draw the winner tomorrow night and close the comments by announcing the lucky reader.

It’s also “that time” of year for resolutions: renewals, revisions, reflections – whatever you call them when making your own list of things you didn’t do last year but told yourself you would, or things you see you need to start.

Andy and Evelyn Avenue have been working hard the last year on our two collaborative projects, the Tableau de Parfums fragrance line and its cinematic counterpart, the Woman’s Picture film series. We started in October of 2011 with the release of our first scent, Miriam, and its counterpart film of the same name. Ann Magnuson helped us picture what it means to look at the past with her portrayal of a longtime shopping channel hostess whose life is in crisis, not least because the failing health of her mother brings back memories of her childhood and the fragrance that emblematized their relationship. Last October, we released Loretta, the second Tableau fragrance, and its counterpart film Loretta. During our last draw, conducted to mark that occasion, we screened the first three segments of the Woman’s Picture series on our home page. These include Miriam, Loretta, and Ingrid (which will be released next October). For the Advent draw, we’re again screening the films for a limited time.

It’s been a challenge and a pleasure to explore this material and to share it in various ways. For 2013, Tauer and Evelyn have some new things in mind – combined screenings and perfume events in several US cities, where we’ll be in attendance and offer special take-aways to attendees. One of the most rewarding aspects of our collaboration has been meeting people at launch events, so we want to extend that opportunity to engage and connect. We’ll also continue working on the next film in the series, Only Child, which we filmed last April and expect to premiere later this year. Only Child resumes the story started in Loretta, with Grace Zabriskie playing that character’s compellingly odd mother.

The photo for this post was taken by Melissa Bridgman, a longtime friend to Evelyn Avenue. Melissa lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee making pretty wonderful ceramics out of her home studio. Her work is delicate and rustic, and the origami crane in the photo perfectly captures the spirit of what she does. In Japanese culture, the crane symbolizes good fortune and prosperity. It’s said that whoever makes a thousand origami cranes in a year can make the wish of her choice. That’s a tall order – and a lot of weight for folded pieces of paper to carry – but if anyone can do it, it’s Melissa. She’s decided to hang the cranes along a wooded bike path here in town, where cyclists will find them dangling from tree branches. Like us, she’s looking to connect.

In October, Memphis lost one of its prized treasures, a woman by the name of Papatya Curtis (see our November 6 eulogy on the blog). Bridgman, a close friend of Papatya’s, has seized the New Year, and her kiln, to commemorate our friend in a special, fragile but lasting way. When she first started making these cranes, Melissa wrote:

Three weeks ago today one of my closest friends died. It was sudden, tragic, unforseen, preventable. There has been so much blame and sorrow and support and anguish and for the first time I’m really understanding that you can’t just get up and move on. I’ve always known that death and loss is something you get used to, over time, but not over. After [Papatya] died, I began making these origami-esque cranes out of porcelain. I gave two to her mother and sister, one to her mother in law. I kept one. I folded dozens out of paper the first week after her death, and will fold more. We’ve all heard the story of the thousand cranes and how they represent hopes for peace. My cranes give me a bit of hope- hope to make more, hope to make them better, hope to make them a memorial somehow…

It seems like an apt way to look at moving forward, and it inspires us to think big in similarly small but meaningful ways.

What are your New Year resolutions? Leave us a comment to enter the Tauer advent drawing, telling us the one thing you keep thinking you’d most like to do or accomplish in 2013. For our part, we’ll throw in a DVD of the first three segments of Woman’s Picture.

This draw is now closed. The winner of the draw was Alica. Congratulations!

 Posted by on December 7, 2012
Oct 142012

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

 Posted by on October 14, 2012