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Harricana – The gorgeous smell of sustainable fashion …. December 10, 2012 New Fragrance Listing

Photo courtesy of Isabelle Michaud at Monsillage

I have a friend who owns a luxurious mink coat – satin lined with her initials embroidered on the inside ties. It had been her mother’s coat and was gifted to her when her mother was no longer able to wear it. That coat holds a lot of memories for my friend – cuddling up to her mother on long car trips, her fur coat warm and comforting, resting her head on her mother’s shoulder at Mass, the soft fur tickling her face, seeing her mother dressed up for some fancy dinner party in her luxurious fur coat looking like a queen. But times have changed. Gorgeous and functional as her mother’s fur coat is, my friend is afraid to wear it. What if someone calls her out in the street for wearing animal fur? Or worse, what if someone throws some paint at her while she’s wearing the coat and ruins it? She’s got a good heart and strong conscience but the sentimental value of this coat has her in a quandary.

She’s not alone. That’s why Canadian designer Mariouche Gagné, owner of the ecolux fashion label Harricana, takes old fur coats and gives them a new life as pillow covers, hats, gloves, bags, boots, jewellery and more – creating sustainable fashion.

Gagné was born in 1971 in the First Nations village of Loretteville. She grew up with a great respect for the environment and her Canadian heritage. A design wunderkind, her work has won many awards in Canada and abroad. In 1997, she founded Harricana – named after the river that flows through western Quebec and northeastern Ontario which was used as a route for fur traders.

Fur is good for 100 years, which is three generations, so re-fashioning it makes good eco sense. Her website says that: "By recycling old furs, we have saved the lives of more than 800,000 animals over the past 15 years. It has also enabled us breath new life into more than 80,000 coats, silk scarves, cashmere scarves and wedding gowns, which would never have been worn again if they had not been remodeled."

It can all sound a bit earnest until you visit the Harricana store in Montreal. With it’s wall-to-wall items of re-made mink, fox and seal, it is a den of luxury. To be surrounded by that much luxury feels so wrong until you realize that you are actually helping the environment by buying something. Imagine wallowing in the luxury of all that soft, seductive fur and feeling good about it. Guilt-free luxury - what a refreshing idea!

So, when Gagné was looking to produce the first house-scent for Harricana, she turned to talented Canadian perfumer Isabelle Michaud. They worked closely together on the concept and the result is a gorgeous new scent from Michaud’s perfume house Monsillage called Harricana.

I asked Michaud about the process of developing the scent. She said that Gagné liked Untitled by Martin Margiela, so she knew that a strong green vibe was the way to go. Harricana opens with nose-tingling bergamot followed by intensely green and slightly musky galbanum. Spinach leaf plays up the galbanum by adding a vegetal green element while basil contributes an herbal anise note. A note of balsam fir adds a different shade of green while calamus root gives it a spicy warmth. As it blooms, orris root gives it the smell of violets – think violet bunches sold in the markets of Paris that women used to pin to their furs – along with a woodiness. Green tea picks up on the galbanum extending that green note to the heart. Jasmine, exotic and heady adds floral depth. It all rests on a warm woody base vertiver, oakmoss, sandalwood, cedarwood, labdanum and opoponax. Musk is at the base too and gives it an anilmalic note which is evocative of fur.

On developing the scent with Gagné, Michaud says: “Working together we had to first understand each others vocabulary and references so as to go in the same direction. She would say things like, bring in some fresh air or give it a more dirty/lived in/rough/brut feel. She wanted it outdoorsy like a walk in the woods or in the tundra, somewhat of a native Indian character, very close to nature, such as the DNA of her brand.”

And that is exactly what the drydown of Harricana smells like: a walk in the woods. What’s noticeable in Harricana is the lack of sweet and floral notes – which is refreshing in a way. Harricana smells of nature – green, woodsy and animalic – but nature tamed – refined, sophisticated and polished. It stays close to the skin, like a second luxurious skin.

I can’t wait to tell my friend about Harricana, both the store and the perfume. Oh, wait, I just did.

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