Market Street was misty and nearly deserted at 8:30 last Sunday morning. I stood on the corner at 3rd street with “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” plugged into my ears waiting for Hillary. We were meeting this early spring morning to head off to the 2nd annual SF Artisan Perfume Salon. I turned to look up the street towards Twin Peaks and saw Hilary walking toward me with a big smile looking like every inch Truman Capote’s New York City heroine and Henry Mancini’s music only added to the moment.
We caught the 30 Stockton at Kearney Street and gabbed and laughed as we passed through the red and gold of Chinatown and the green red and white of North Beach. On what bus other in the world can you pass from San Francisco into Hong Kong followed by Rome and end up with a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge?
There was a wonderful farmer’s market going on at Fort Mason where our event was to take place and being a little early we took a peak at the flower, and vegetables bright and fragrant in the early warm sunshine. When we arrived at the Festival Pavilion Hillary went in to meet Paul Kiler whom she would be assisting for the event. As I waited for the doors to open I took a few shots of my surroundings.
The ground floor of the event was devoted to chocolate. Chocolate of every description and a delight, it was hard to pass up as I headed for the elevated terrace at the back of the hall where the perfume show was just getting underway.
First off I met perfume composer Paul Kiler of PK Perfumes. Paul who was very gracious told me a bit of his story. He is self taught and has after many years of work and dedication to the art of perfume released his line. He showed me an amazing photo of his in home studio and being a one man show he does it all, from perfume making to designing every aspect of the bottling and marketing of his product.
PAUL KILER AND HILARY RANDAL
Of the ten perfumes I tried the real stand out to me were Red Leather, Ere (two years in the making), Gold Leather. He told me that for Ere he goes out into the Serra Nevada forests and to harvest a fern commonly knows as Mountain Misery or as the Native American’s called it Kit-Kit-Dizzie. He then extracts the oil from the fern himself. Paul really impressed me as an artist with a passion for his perfumes.
AT THE ENVOYAGE TABLE WITH SHELLY AND MARIO
I ran into Mario Gomez at Shelly Waddington’s wonderful display of her perfumes. I took lots of photos and they had one of the best spots in the event with huge windows behind them looking out over the San Francisco Bay pocked with sailboats. There were some wonderful perfumes presented by Envoyage of which I found most enchanting Go Ask Alice. I was enchanted by the line and each perfume was unique and lead to lots of conversation about notes and the creative process.
I was very excited to meet the beautiful and elegant Ineke in person and she and her wonderful husband could not have been kinder or more welcoming. I told her how popular her fragrances are with the women where I work both in office and with clients around the country that I have introduced her perfume to. We shared a giggle when I told her my sample selection has disappeared over the course of my showing it to the women in my life. Her new fragrance is Hot House Flower and it is a stunner. So between you and me, there will be more reviews in store for this wonderful perfume house.
And we can’t leave Ineke without mentioning here brilliantly beautiful and yes iconic flacons. There is symmetry and beauty in the shape, elegant and unique labeling for each make then all a work of art for your vanity. This kind of work demands a glass case with great lighting. And the wonderful sampler is packaged and presented like a fabulous jewelry box from Bulgari or Cartier. Everything about Ineke is just brilliant from concept to completion.
At this point I took a break to attend two lectures, the first by Roxanna of Roxanna Illuminated Perfume. (She makes a wonderful natural perfume called Bee) She gave a very interesting and engaging talk on the his-story of perfume. From China along the Silk Road to Petra and the ancient Middle East we traveled with Roxanna through the history of perfume. The story of the spread of civilization and ideas is built upon the trade of fine fragrance. Through her story we walked the halls of the Lochais Palace in Alexandria with Cleopatra and learned of her mastery of the use of fragrance. Then on to Greece and Rome which took us into the middle ages and on up to pre Colombian Americas and into the present. Roxanna ended our tour with some wonderful samples to smell of the most unusual oils. My favorite came from a mushroom and smelled of wet earth and new life.
THE WONDERFUL TAMA FROM CA FLEURE BON
Then there was an equally marvelous talk by Tama a perfume writer for the blog Ca Fleure Bon. Her talk was “How To Write About And Review Perfume” Tama is a great speaker and really held me in the palm of her hand as she explained that the title of the talk was given to her by the producers of the event and that she had a bit of a different bent on the idea. She took us though her journey of becoming a perfume reviewer by letting us first smell samples of some of the perfumes that changed here point of view and writing style, which gave her maturity as a perfume writer, perfumes that in fact lead her to her passion to write and write so very well about fragrance. Then after we smelled the blotters we would give a one word impression. She then told us what perfume it was and read a little excerpt from the review. It was so interesting and really illuminating to me to learn of her process.
After a quick lunch with Hilary lead me down to the chocolate extravaganza and together we raided a few chocolate exhibits, and a marvelous Absinthe maker by the name of Raff Distillerie. But that is another story…and probably with not a very pretty ending.
MIK OF MIKMOI
Hilary introduced me to Mik the nose behind Mikmoi San Francisco. This utterly engagingly delightful man led me through his gorgeous line of bespoke perfumes. First up was VESPER inspired by the cocktail invented by Ian Fleming in his book “Casino Royale” Well, since I am a huge Bond fan and I mix a mean Vesper he had me at shaken not stirred. It was beautiful, one of the top scents I experienced at the event. And the bottles are breathtaking. Mik told me that they were imported Italian glass. The attention to detail and artistry by the glass blowers for these elegant bottles is evident. They carry in them the DNA of the simple beauty of the No. 5 bottle.
The color of the juice is also very elegant and specific to a not often seen pastel in green and pink. The blue is Mediterranean aqua and the gold juice is pure Venetian. The line up is Aldwych, Vesper, Itoh and Ao. Before I moved on Mik hand wrapped in soft blue triangle cloth in the Japanese style a set of samples for me, as he did for each visitor. What a perfect gentleman he is.
The beautiful and very sweet Sanae of Sanae Intoxicants introduced me to her line of perfume. Meadow Slumber (lovely), Burning Ocean (arresting), Smoking Rose (gorgeous) and Bonnie Billy (My Pick for best of her line). We had a lovely chat about perfume and dreams they evoke along with the magic that comes along with perfume. Sanae was a delightful discovery.
DR. ELLEN COVEY
I found a bit of home at the booth for the Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes by Dr. Ellen Covey. Her line comes from the heart and reflects her passion for fragrance over the idea of mass appeal. It was refreshing and fun to explore her perfumes. But when I picked up the bell jar over Olympic Rainforest I was instantly transported to my Mother and Father’s garden in Puyallup Washington. It was so powerful and evocative. Hilary also had the same experience with California Chocolate. One little sniff and she was transported back to her childhood and memories of her mothers favorite chocolate candy that was made from orange peels dipped in chocolate. There you have it, right there in a bottle, a memory.
Upon entering the world of imaginary Authors you infiltrate a world where literature and fragrance meet. I was welcomed by perfumer Josh Meyer and the charming Brandy Hibben like an old friend who shared their passion for beauty. The company is based in Portland Oregon and Josh has only been making perfume for eight years, but boy does he have a wonderful vision. The highlights for me in his line are Soft Lawn, Falling Into The Sea and the very wonderful Bulls Blood.
Fine artist Bruno Fazzolari is a painter and has exhibited in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He initiated his way to perfume because he finds an undeniable link between art and fragrance and in so doing has taken a rather challenging step for himself into the unknown world of perfume. This was his launch event at SF Artisan Perfume Salon.
What a debut it was. This young man entered the arena with a polish and style unexpected by a newcomer. The entire presentation was clean, crisp and elegant. An artist eye was certainly at work in every aspect of the visual as you approached his booth. Perfect placement of each object from the white Hydrangeas to in a small square vase to the right to the elegant placement of the perfume blotters turned it into a visual art installation that drew you into the olfactory experience.
The perfumes are Lampblack, Jimmy, Monserrat, Five, and Au Dela. Each of them brilliant works of a master nose. I was staggered by the complexity and beauty I encountered with Bruno’s perfumes. What struck me is that they are so rooted in the classic scents of the past, very French and very haut couture in feel. I just happened to bring along a bottle of vintage Miss Dior to share with Hilary and when she put it on she exclaimed its Divaesque brilliance and how it compared so favorably to Bruno’s work.
This is a perfumer to watch. I certainly hope he keeps on working. And I for one can’t wait to see what happens next with his art and perfume.
As the event wound down it was fun to watch the perfumers mingle and explore there fellow perfumers wares. And as Hilary and I were leaving I regretted that I had not visited all the booths before my nose had given up the olfactory ghost. And I keep feeling that there was something I had missed. On the way out we bumped into the very person who I had wanted to meet but somehow did not. Yosh! I have smelled her perfumes at Barney’s and love her work. But I kept missing her table as I made my rounds. Hilary introduced us and she was a delight, so sweet and kind after the long fun filled but exhausting day. I told her how much I enjoyed her interview with the Fragrance Bros. on YouTube and how sorry I was that I missed meeting her. I was gobsmacked when she said she would love to have me visit her studio. So as Hilary says, it is a perfect universe.
CA FLEURE BON:
BRUNO FAZZOLARI PERFUME: