Robert Piguet Fracas, 1948

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Perfumer Germain Cellier.

Plants use scent to connect plant and animal in complex symbiotic relationships. The art of perfumery relies on chemistry to deliver an olfactory product. In terms of implicit purpose and function perfumery and botany have nothing in common. And not to be too dogmatic, but chasing representation is generally less effective in perfumery than in many other arts. Photorealism has a solid place in the visual arts, yet even there representation is elusive.

I don’t believe in soliflors. They don’t convincingly imitate flowers—and who wants to smell like a particular flower in the first place? But Fracas won me over. Rather than emulate a flower’s scent, Fracas finds the flower’s defining features, modulates them and creates a notion of a flower, not a realistic image of a tuberose.

It’s not hard to smell the ‘off’ notes in a flower once they’ve been pointed out to you: lily’s salty smoke, orange blossom’s grape juice, jasmine’s touch of rot. But tuberose is different–it doesn’t hint. It isn’t subtle. Nose-to-bloom, tuberose smells fatty and salty, as much like sweaty Wellington boots as any flower that I can think of. It has the checklist of floral traits: sweetness, creaminess, spiciness, aromatics, hints of fruit, but the configuration of these attributes gives the flower itself the synthy slap that I associate with absolutes and essential oils, which can smell less like the flowers from derive than aromachemicals. Tuberose flower’s stinging sweetness is peculiar, as much floral as chemical and the creaminess leans more toward rubber than butter. Even compared to the other ferocious white florals, Tuberose is an oddity.

Choosing an aberrant subject to work with in the first place, Germaine Cellier created a gorgeous freak. Fracas is strikingly beautiful yet not pretty in the least. It smells synthetic in the way that many botanical essences do and has a progression that doesn’t even attempt to follow the path a flower might trace. From top notes to drydown, Fracas starts with the sharp attributes of tuberose, but winds up with a scent that makes me feel as if I’ve been slapped in the face with a fresh loaf of sourdough bread. And the whole femme gender-fuck, especially from Germaine Cellier, is brilliant, and as a homo, I approve.


(image of Omahrya Mota and models not cited by Danielle Levitt)


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