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Still Life – Anything but still – New Fragrance Listing, August 17, 2012

Photo - Olfactive Studio Visuals, media room - Still Life bottle, F. Lebain

I love game-changers.  Olfactive Studio is a small niche line that has thrown its avant-garde hat into the traditional perfume ring, and stirred things up a bit over the past year.

The innovative energy behind this new brand is female and French – her name is Céline Verleure. Celine started her career in the perfume industry at Kenzo, part of the creative team which launched Kenzo Jungle and L’Eau Kenzo, then she moved out of the lab and became a leader in the on-line perfume community by developing the site, an early and still respected voice in perfume blogland. She travelled the world for a few years, came back to the fragrance industry through L’Oreal, and decided finally to start her own brand.

Céline had a vision - to “launch the "Blog for the Fragrance that doesn’t (yet) exist!”, which she did. She asked her passionate perfume readers for their ideas and input about perfume, came up with three perfume names, then asked visual artists to create a photographic image for each of the names.  Each image was then given to perfumers as their creative brief, turning the normal perfume design process on its head – the juice came last, it’s character inspired by the photo.  Readers were involved in the development process throughout, but Céline had the final say on the final version for each frag. Using collective input to create the idea for a fragrance, and reversing the creative design process, are very cool ideas. Game-changing, I’d say.

The three frags which launched the brand in 2011 are Autoportrait, Still Life, and Chambre Noire. I bought Still Life, which was a finalist in the 2012 French FIFI Awards Experts' Award category. I open the matte black box and the first thing I see is a BW postcard print of the image, by Paris photographer, Frédéric Lebain. 

 Photo - Olfactive Studio Visuals, media room - Still Life by F. Lebain 

Three objects on a table – small spheres in different sizes - seemingly filled with liquid, mounted in paper frames, strewn with streamers. They’re odd and interesting, but what are they?  Party favours, sculptures, shooters? Is the party over, or waiting to start?

Setting  the image aside, I lift the sleek square bottle of tinted juice out of the box, and spritz. Whooee! There’s my answer - this party is just getting started and cocktails are being served! A tantalizing twist of yuzu, the bitter Japanese citrus, is in the first few sniffs. Its unique  blend of sweet mandarin zest and ultra-tart grapefruit hangs at the top for the first couple of minutes, then is followed by nose-tingling pops of pepper notes, pink and black. The whole effect of this citrus/pepper accord in the first half hour is amazing - bright, sparkly, full of movement, anything but still.
I can hear the party-buzz deepen as Still Life moves into the heart – someone plants bottles of anise and rum on the table. Shots, anyone? The atmosphere mellows further as these flavourful notes blend with the citrus and pepper – this Still Life is a taste as much as a scent, and it is awfully good.The dry-down deepens the rum, mixing it with cedar and ambrox so that it becomes not caramel-sweet, but dry and slightly resinous, still with a hint of yuzu. The sparkly cocktail from the opening notes has become the perfect drink for more serious post-party conversation, when opinions are expressed, philosophies explained, ideas challenged. Still Life continues into the wee hours, and next morning I get a lovely whiff of citrus and woods, fainter, a little flatter, but very much alive.  It makes me feel good, and I decide that the perfume name was chosen with amused, tongue-in-cheek deliberation, and probably more than a few laughs.

Still Life was created by Dora Arnaud, who is really just starting her career as a perfumer. She’s young, her perfume CV is short (Versace Vanitas), but if this frag is an indication of her talent, then she’s on the path to perfume fame. Still Life is truly original, a citrus aromatic with real character and staying power, an exceptional in-the-moment kind of scent which can be worn anytime, anyplace, by both men and women. I really, really, love it.

And Céline Verleure? She’s gutsy, and deserves kudos for even having the idea to create an on-line niche brand like Olfactive Studio, let alone bring it into reality.  If Still Life is an indication of the design brilliance, the inventive spirit, and the quality of the perfumes her vision creates, then her party is just getting started.

 Still Life is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.

Check out this youtube interview with Céline Verleure.