Perfumer Vero Kern, 2007.
Aesthetics might be shared but beauty is experienced personally. Discussions of aesthetics often lead to unanswerable questions on the nature of attraction, absolutes and subjectivity.
Onda’s contribution to the debate is to show where the discussion takes place. Wearing Onda shows you that beauty is experienced at the limits. Simple ease and comfort might be found without much effort, but satisfaction and the greater pleasures don’t land in your lap. They require your engagement and determination. The cliché, ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ takes the burden off the object and places it in the mind of the witness. Onda refutes the passivity of the ‘beholder’ making the experience not just looking, but craving. Onda fuses beauty with desire.The question shifts from, “What is Beauty?” to Beauty slapping you in the face, smiling and asking, “So, what are you going to do about it?” Onda’s question of beauty come in the form of a dare.
The mirror image of beauty isn’t ugliness, it is fear and Onda gives you desire and fear in equal helpings. Fear as much as beauty balances on the precipice of activity and passivity. In considering fear you find the seeds for the broader questions of agency and fate. Is a fear of heights a fear of falling or jumping?
Onda interrogates beauty in a similar manner and beauty is revealed to be neither pretty nor polite. It is sinister and seductive. It is gorgeous. It comes at you forcefully whether you’re ready or not. Onda favors destructive beauty and the heights that challenging work inspires. Beauty can cut, but it can also transform you. It is up to you whether or not to take the risk.
I wear Onda Eau de Parfum often, but have recently been introduced to the Extrait de Parfum, which is a slightly different breed of cat. A little less alarming, a good bit more seductive. The differences are noticeable in the projection. The Eau de Parfum uses passionfruit to light the fuse on the hot, salty, earthy heart of Onda. The Eau de Parfum lunges at you with a sense of momentum and feels constantly expanding as if an exercise in olfactory physics. The Extrait moves more fluidly. It surrounds you and seeps into you. It’s harder to pinpoint its source even though you know where you dabbed it. It is extremely rich and elaborate. The Extrait is darker than the EDP and its complexity makes it denser, though not heavier. It is even more alluring than the EDP and cuts me deeper. The Extrait is more a chypre than the Eau de Parfum and while it has all the magnetism of the classical chypres, it is neither retro in style nor reminiscent in tone.
Kern uses three concentrations (Eau de Parfum, Voile d’Extrait and Extrait de Parfum) to explore the range of ideas that she presents in each of her perfumes. They share common ground, but they offer different perspectives. In Onda, the Eau de Parfum and the Extrait both play with the notion of wildness and the whimsy of trying to tame it, the capriciousness of control. Onda Eau de Parfum gives its animal a long leash and provokes a feeling of recklessness, excitement. The animal in the Extrait appears more tame and on the surface the Extrait seems less less audacious than the EDP. But here is the the Extrait’s threat: It might be quitely purring at the moment, but how tame can a wild animal really be? When will the confidence of your safety shatter? The EDP urges impulsiveness. The Extrait feels dangerous.
There is an etiquette in corporate perfumery that dictates that perfume shouldn’t challenge the consumer for fear of alienating even one potential buyer. The rule is reversed in niche perfumery. It’s a spin on neo-punk: a show of outrageousness or non-conformity but no attempt to alter the status quo.
Kern looks past these constraints and makes perfume that both challenges the wearer and disrupts convention. She reserves the right to provoke. Her work doesn’t simply express a range of aesthetics, it engineers aesthetics to poke at the questions of beauty, desire and self. The questions aren’t easy, and neither are Kern’s answers, but they are rewarding and satisfying.
Wear Onda. I dare you.
(Perfume a gift from Vero Kern.)
(Image: Pounce by Thomas Allen.)