Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Geisha Green by Aroma M ~ Chinoiserie!

I have a thing about Chinoiserie - a European take on all things oriental, somewhat exuberant in style and meaning 'Chinese-esque' in French

And I've always loved Chinese ink drawings, or Japanese prints by artists such as Hiroshige and Utamaro.

This theme of nature, expressed with highly stylised delicacy, seems to be carried into Japanese incense, and one of my favourite brands, Kousaido, make an incense called Ume, which has a lovely powdery floral delicacy.

In my last post I described the citrus/floral sherbet-like powder of Cuir Fetiche, and how that in turn reminded me of a discontinued soap by Crabtree and Evelyn called Coppelia.

The powdery quality I seek (more talcum powder than face-powder) is elusive, because there are certainly many powdery perfumes out there, but very few I like.Thus does perfume lead us into a labyrinth of wish and discovery! Sometimes it's frustrating, but most of the time I find it life enhancing.

While Cuir Fetiche is powdery, it's also an animalic perfume - sensual rather than porcelain-doll pretty in its powderyness, so I was delighted with the recent discovery of Aroma M's Geisha Green (launched in 2010).

This has the kind of powder I love - delicate, citric and sherbet-like.

It ties all these loose threads together for me conceptually; the beautiful mannequin - Coppelia - in the ballet of that name, a porcelain, powdery, oriental with hints of green that makes me want to wear a pale green silk dress with chinoiserie-style blossoms, crimson lip stain and elegantly coiffed hair. It's a high maintenance sort of aesthetic, and not one I'd aspire to on a daily basis! But when the occasion calls for a polished feel, Geisha Green is perfect.

It's described as unisex (as many niche perfumes are) and it's interesting to see the power of words and persuasion in marketing at work here - many describe Geisha Green as masculine, and I see no reason why men shouldn't wear it - I'd never in a million years discourage either gender from ignoring marketing nonsense about the gender of smells!

But I'm here to tell you, Geisha Green is powdery, it's 'perfumey'! It has no traditionally 'male' notes such as strong woods or powerful aromatic herbs.
It is green though and has a most unusual liquorice-like note of absinthe (the 'green fairy' traditionally sought by angsty artists such as Gaughin and Van Gogh).

I begin to see associations of wild imps, elves and forest dwelling nyads or dryyads of mythology, not necessarily good fairies, none of your Disney Tinkerbell!

It also has a very subtle, slightly plastic note, and this is why the perfume as a whole reminds me of chinoiserie - it's a witty take on the idea of oriental style; green, powdery, recalling the orientalism explored by the Post Impressionists, echoing the doll-like make-up of Geishas.

This perfume was created by Maria McElroy, founder and owner of Aroma M, who lives in the US. Maria McElroy was inspired by Japanese culture having lived there for several years where she studied Kodo, the ancient art of fragrance, Ikebana, Japanese flower arrangement, Koto, Japanese harp, Shiatsu massage and Zen Buddhism.

McElroy's perfumes use a high quantity of natural ingredients and are very balanced in feel. There's an abstract quality, plus a defined and distinctive tone to each perfume that's often lacking from smaller niche brands, especially those who use naturals, which can end up becoming a gloopy, muddy mess in the wrong hands.

The opening is more unisex, with distinctive green notes that have an aromatic feel, then within minutes this morphs into a strange green-lit damply powdery violet with aserbic/sweet hints of blackcurrant and mandarin, warmed in its deeper notes with amber and tonka bean.

It's strange, slightly unreal and oddly delicate although the sillage is robust.

And into my mind tumble images of green-glazed porcelain, geisha women, chinoiserie wall paper, evil fairies, Gaughin lost in a Tahitian green-lit forest...it's imaginative and good fun, it brings out the child in me and I just want to dress up - bring on the Edinburgh Festival and summer parties!