Monday, 21 October 2013

Review: Olfactive Studio, Chambre Noire - Stand And Deliver!

Last week I delivered to my readers a (slightly bonkers) review of a box. To be precise, a garble of words that spoke of my delight at the Olfactive Studio Sample Discovery Kit and it’s superbly designed kinship with the now defunct photography giant Ilford. To read the article click here. So seduced was I that I negated to review it’s contents. So, here are my thoughts on a sample from the box, the picturesque Chambre Noire.

 The inspiration for Chambre Noire

Olfactive Studio asked perfumers to create an olfactory interpretation of a photographic image. In Chambre Noire, Perfumer Dorothée Piot responded to Photographer Clémence Réne-Bazin’s atmospheric photograph of a hotel room. The photo speaks of: a hushed retreat from the city, the dark interior space reflecting the vibrancy of the view from the window, a luxuriously rarified environment, the absent or hidden occupant of the room, the oddly ordered and barely visible reflection of the unused beds, the suggestion of a liaison about to occur?
Olfactive studio describe it thus:

“A sensual and mysterious fragrance, Chambre Noire reveals itself from the shadows using the spotlight of the vibrant top note. A fragrance to be shared in the privacy of some far-off hotel room. It reveals its character gradually, exuding sensual notes of leather against a backdrop of warmth and opulence.”

In some sense, it could even be evocative of Guerlain’s iconic L’ Heure Bleue, in that it tells a story of the hour when day turns to night, and the possibilities that arise therein.

However, typically of my peculiar fragrant associations, the actual scent of Chambre Noire suggested something far less subtle and much more mischievous to me. It transported me back to 80s uber-camp historic pop romp – Adam And The Ants – Stand And Deliver! If you need a reminder, take a look at the mesmerizing video:

 You’re probably wondering why am I led into this long forgotten memory? Adam Ant was my first gargantuan crush. Though aged only 8 when this video appeared, my young soul had cottoned on the fact that a beautiful man adorned with tight black leather, a tricorn and cape was the stuff of fantasies. If you were unlucky enough to be held up at gunpoint on your journey, you’d hope that the offending scallywag would posses the swagger and sensuous prancing of the enchanting Adam and hopefully rough you up a bit in the process!

My first love

The thing about Chambre Noire is that it smells at once sexy and theatrically camp. It’s essentially a leather fragrance (Adam’s tight pants and ‘puss-in’ boots) with buckets of violet (18th century face powder) and a fruity spice (in the manner of quince, figs and plum wine - the stuff of the feasts of the nobility). Hence why I am transported deep into the world of this dandy highwayman.

I find leather can be a challenging note. At worst it can be utterly feral (as in Etat Libre D’ Orange’s badly cured handbag horror - Vierges et Toreros) or unfeasibly masculine (as in ‘Hummer’ by massive car/tank/idiot-wagon manufacturer Hummer). Leather is rarely what we perceive to be feminine. If it is, it’s feminine in an androgynous or saphic manner, think 'Patti Smith' chain smoking and glowering moodily. What’s so odd about Chambre Noire’s leather is that emits a gentle whiff of gender bending, as delicate and ethereal as Adam’s finely honed cheekbones and glossed lips. Instead of bringing masculinity to a woman, it feminises a man. Add to the leather a rather briny interpretation of amber and you have a subtle suggestion of salty emissions, be they sweat or otherwise. It’s ultimately, a very confusingly sexy smell.

I highly doubt that Olfactive Studio had ever considered a link between Chambre Noire and the dandy swagger of a fantastical highwayman. However, what is certainly true is the fact that scent does collaborate with imagery, so they are pursuing a remarkable concept. In my case, a pop video from my youth made an enduring impression on me that was reawakened by my nose, it is moments like this that make me grateful to smell.

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  1. Thank you for both the review (I haven't tried this one, hopefully yet) and the video (I haven't heard about this band before).

    I came across at least several "feminine" leathers: Chanel Cuir de Russie, Cuir de Lancome, Ramon Monegal Curelle and, I think, Ann Gerard's one - don't remember the name. Bottega Veneta as well, if youcount suede.

    1. Hi Undina, I've yet to get my nose around the delights of Cuir de Lancome, though I have stalked it on ebay a couple of times. It sounds beautiful. You mention Bottega Veneta. I'm very fond of this scent and the only reason I'm yet to buy it is because in the times I've worn my sample it has been really linear. Wonderfully rustic and outdoorsy (it reminds me of stored warm hay and stables), but boring after several hours of smelling the same thing from the top to the base. Have you tried Piguet's Calypso? The suede note is extraordinary in there, almost invisible, but it adds a real elegance the floral notes

    2. My decant of Calypso is from Undina, so I can answer that one! ;-) I think I tried Chambre Noire very fleetingly at the end of a long testing session and though it didn't immediately strike me as my kind of thing it almost certainly didn't get a fair crack of the whip (to reprise the Adam & The Ant imagery). I will not pass over this another time as I do like a gentle leather scent. I can send you a smidge of Cuir de Lancome if you would be curious?

      Oh, and shame btw, that Adam went rather off the rails following his brief dandyish fame. And in a weird coincidence, I have just been to a bunch of gigs of my favourite band, whose bassist was himself an Ant, back in the day, one Andy Warren!

    3. Hi Vanessa, yes Adam is a kind of cartoon character of himself nowadays. He looks like a bedraggled Depp-esque pirate which makes me sad as that character was likely inspired by Adam in the first place! Poor Adam, time did not do that great thing that happens with many men in that they look more handsome as they age - the David Bowie phenomenon. Impressed by your link to him though!
      I would love a little bit of Cuir please. I'll send you my address.

    4. Will PM you back re the Cuir. Said ex-bass player was even briefly in the back of my car twice last week, obliged to nurse the Sat Nav box, a bag of rhubarb and custard sweets and my tatty old driving cardigan.