Friday, April 26, 2019

Arbor Day and DSH Perfumes The Voice of Trees

Way back when I was in elementary school we used to celebrate Arbor Day each year. This was before there was literally a holiday for every day of the year, before Save the Earth became a movement, and before the world's forests were being mowed down for monetary gain. I can remember my third grade class tromping out to the front of our brand new school, the lawn barren of  sheltering trees. Our principal Mr. Baird (how funny that I can't remember what I did two days ago but remember this name clearly) took a spade and dug into the earth, symbolically creating a hole for the sapling that shivered in the breeze.

Today Arbor Day has gotten lost in the shuffle but the concept remains a good one: plant a tree for future generations to enjoy. There is renewed interest about the healing properties of communing with nature and the Japanese have coined a phrase to describe the experience: Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. This is the recognition that immersion in natural environments such as forests provide healing and well being. I have this theory that if we provided every child in America, regardless of means, with camping or nature experiences while young it would cut down drastically in future violence. There is something mystical about walking silently through a forest and hearing the rustling and whispers from the surrounding trees.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is in close proximity to many forests from her perch in the high mountains surrounding Boulder, Colorado. On the DSH Perfume website, Dawn writes that the inspiration for The Voice of Trees came from very early childhood memories while camping and hearing the trees "speaking".  "As far back as I can remember I have loved the scent of pine needles, the early days of Autumn with soft rains and fallen Maple leaves, balsams on the poplar trees, and the scent of dry amber stuck to the bark of conifers, warmed by the sun," Dawn says. "For me this fragrance is pure pleasure, the embodiment of "the talking trees".

To wear The Voice of Trees is to have a mini "forest bathing" experience. Recently Dawn has been experimenting with Japanese-centric perfumes, particularly in her Haiku series: Japanese Moonlight, and although this fragrance was launched in 2015 before the inception of this series, it has that contemplative homage that I find in her Japanese-inspired scents. The opening is conifers, that hit of scent as you near a forest trail. It includes the green dampness of a needle-padded carpet beneath the trees, the sharp scent of pine needles and beads of sap, and the bitterness and smokiness of pinon pine. I have always felt a spiritual connection when surrounded by God's gift of nature in all its beauty and majesty,  and resinous and incense notes in The Voice of Trees symbolically infer you are in nature's temple. Woody notes of maple leaf, poplar buds, and sycamore accord add to the forest air. What I find most beautiful are the resinous and amber notes. I can smell the sticky pine sap that has hardened to amber resin, the balsamic aspects of balsam fir, and a faint smokey incense that threads through the life of the scent.

Image from

The Voice of Trees isn't at all a vibrant Christmas-type pine scent. Rather it is the solitary walk through the trees, introspective and restorative, bathed in the scent of the trees and open to their message. Wear it for it's natural beauty; enjoy it's meditative qualities.

The Voice of Trees comes in a variety of sizes and is also available as a cream on the website. It is 98.5% botanical.

Top photo from Perfume sample from my own collection.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Chanel 1957 - When Coco Chanel Came To Dallas

Coco Chanel and Stanley Marcus in Dallas, 1957. Dallas AP photo.

The year was 1957. Stanley Marcus, founder and head of legendary luxury department store Neiman Marcus in Dallas, Texas, came up with a spectacular marketing idea: to bring the gloss of French chic to the Neiman Marcus flagship store in downtown Dallas. He created a concept called Fortnight to celebrate the store's upcoming fiftieth anniversary. He would bring the arts, food, and fashion of a selected country to Dallas and immerse the store in a cultural extravaganza. Naturally France, whose designer fashions were popular with the wealthy Texas clientele, was chosen as the inaugural featured partner. It would be two weeks of spectacular department store theater, and Broadway set designers were charged with making fantastic sets that would turn the Dallas store into a little slice of Paris.

The piece de resistance would precede the Fortnight celebration. Stanley Marcus announced he would award Coco Chanel with the Neiman Marcus Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion, which was seen as akin to an Oscars award for fashion designers. Coco Chanel knew she owed a good part of her success to her American buyers and clients. After World War II ended Chanel was not popular in Europe because of her rumored affair with a Nazi officer. Her Parisian fashion shows were widely panned and she was struggling to revive her brand. It was the American market who desired her designs and embraced the Chanel suit, and they sustained her business in these lean years. So it was with some eagerness and perhaps gratitude that Chanel flew direct from Paris to Dallas Love Field, where she was greeted by Marcus, and hustled into a waiting white Rolls Royce limousine.

A Texas-style barbecue took place at Marcus's ranch just north of Dallas to welcome the honored guest. The usual Western festivities commenced. Here is Coco Chanel pictured looking a bit uncertain about square dancing.

Marcus was always a bit of a showman and had arranged a fashion show utilizing cattle as models . In a mock wedding ceremony a top-hatted bull accompanied a heifer draped in a white gown with a veil and jauntily sporting a string of the already iconic Chanel pearls.

In the photo above you can see Coco Chanel to the left, and that is Elizabeth Arden, a past recipient of the award, sitting at the center of the table. There is a long-told legend from that night that although Chanel appreciated the Western festivities, she was less fond of the plate piled with barbecued beans and meats. At some moment, one would think maybe when all eyes were on the ungainly parade of cattle fashionistas, Chanel tipped over her plate of food under the table, purportedly on top of Elizabeth Arden's red satin shoes.

Chanel was accompanied on the trip by the iconic 1950's model, Suzy Parker, Chanel's muse, model and friend and also a Texas native.

Coco Chanel and Suzy Parker in 1959, Google image.

It has been two years since Chanel added to Les Exclusifs line of fragrances. The Chanel website describes the line this way: "Each scent evokes a chapter from the story of Gabrielle Chanel, reflecting the life and character of Mademoiselle." (When did they start referring to Coco as Gabrielle? Did I miss something?)

When I first heard that Chanel's newest perfume was called 1957 and that there was a connection to the Dallas Neiman Marcus I was immediately intrigued. Growing up in Fort Worth right next door to the Big D, Fort Worth was dismissively referred to as Cowtown by the Dallasites but it was a label we wore with pride. We personified the true spirit of Texas, unlike our uppity neighbors to the East, or so we imagined. But once a year in August before the start of a new school year all petty grievances were put aside and my mother would load my sister and I into the yellow Cutlass, sporty by 1960s standards but still the size of a small motorboat, and off to Dallas we went. My mother sewed most of our clothes but on this once a year event we were allowed to pick one special outfit. To show just how big of a deal this was, I still have hanging in the back of my closet the dress I picked before entering sixth grade, a little number influenced by the London Carnaby Street era with a  navy mesh stretch top and an attached suede mini skirt. It is probably still the most fashionable thing I own. Leaving our car and walking through the August heat and entering through those door with the distinctive NM logo into the chilled pristine air, a sea of glistening glass show cases and glamorously dressed sales assistants before us, the moment never failed to thrill.

The entry to Neiman Marcus, Dallas downtown. See Chanel to the right.

What influences would Chanel house perfumer Olivier Polge use to make a perfume marking this long ago union between the very French house of Coco Chanel with American pizazz and brashness? What were the similarities between the two? None that I could determine, as a native Texan and lover of everything Parisienne. I had heard that the new perfume was a collection of various musk scents. Did Polge choose musks for their indeterminate nature, their fuzziness, as if to say, "I don't quite know what to make of this marriage of cultures?" I wondered.

With a little research I found out that Polge did have a plan and it was to reference the more clean approach that Americans have taken to fragrance in the last three decades. In an interview with the Irish Times, Polge said, "Always in United States fragrances, there is a link between cleanness and sensuality. In European fragrance we have sensuality with a little more darkness."

Musks have become very popular. Francis Kurkdjian has been doing great things with musk-based fragrances for over a decade and more recently Sylvaine Delacourte, who branched off from Guerlain to form her own line, introduced five musk fragrances which I talked about here. But still, I find musk perfumes hit-or-miss and when I walked through John Harris in Adelaide and sprayed myself with Chanel 1957 I was just "in like". Reading several online reviews it seems others made an immediate judgment like me and walked away unimpressed. I wasn't sure I would write about 1957 as I tend to only review perfumes I like a lot or at least find interesting. I judged the longevity and silage to be weak and forgot about 1957, until the next morning. On rising I did my morning ritual of first coffee, then computer, but I noticed a beautiful smell wafting up from my arms as I clicked at the keys. It was a bit mysterious as I hadn't yet sprayed a perfume, then I realized it was 1957 which had lived tenaciously through the night and was ready to have a cup of coffee with me and greet the new day. I also rubbed a bit on the sleeve of the sweater I was wearing and now even days later, it smells glorious.


Call me a convert. And if you've already tried 1957 and dismissed it, maybe try it again. The perfume opens with muddled citrus, shafts of sunbeams, and the scent of a distant field of flowers carried on the breeze. There is a shiver of aldehydes which add sparkle and loft. These are not the aldehydes of a Chanel No. 5, which could be considered by some to be a bracing slap of the face. This is just a tickle of puff and fizz, like bubbly mineral water rather than the pop of champagne. I get more impressions than notes from the scent. The fragrance feels airy, as if carried by the wind then disappearing. There are moments when I smell light watercolor florals which fade into that gauzy blanket of musk scent. The scent become creamier and in my notes I mentioned sensing honey and vanilla. These are just impressions. The beauty of the scent is that none of these notes stand out but are blended together in a masterful way. It is a bit like having a chef curated meal where your taste buds sense they are being hit with a lot of flavors but it is the compilation of the whole that makes it savory.


The scent seemingly disappears on my skin but then pops up unexpectedly hours later. It is a skin scent and while it references the "clean" fragrance movement in America, 1957's polish and sophistication are decidedly French. What I find the most intriguing is that when I put my wrist to my nose, I sometimes smell honey, other times pale florals, then musk. It is like a kaleidoscope of gentle soft scent. Perfumer Polge made the statement in interviews that "white hides great complexity", and I feel that here we experience this, layer upon layer of ways to sensualize the feeling of "white".  Polge also stated that because 1957 is a skin scent, each person's skin will individualize and interpret the scent. For this reason I feel that even though my skin presents 1957 as a unisex veering toward the feminine, on a man's skin his body chemistry might play up different aspects of the scent to make it lean more toward the masculine.

Chanel lists these notes: musk accords, bergamot, iris, neroli, cedar, honeyed and powder notes.

So next time you walk by a Chanel display, try Chanel 1957. And if you don't like it, try it one more time.

Note: Want more? Follow this link to the Fragrantica page and scroll down for Lanier's review. He always has an interesting insight and says it in the most perfect way.

Black and white photos from Dallas Morning News/Ap photos/Googleimages. Sample courtesty of David Jones, Adelaide. Opinions my own.