Thursday, May 05, 2011
Interview With Jessica Buchanan of 1000 Flowers
Eyeshadow Government is pleased to publish this interview with Canadian perfumer Jessica Buchanan of 1000 Flowers on the day of her announcement of a new perfume, Fleur No. 1.
Her Reglisse Noire perfume has elicited a rapturous response across the blogosphere. Buchanan plans to move from Canada to Grasse, France where she will participate in a new incubator program Pépinière d’Entreprises InnovaGrass for perfumers and cosmetics makers. 1000 Flowers is the first perfume company to be accepted to this program.
It was divine speaking with one of the most imaginative figures in the independent scent world.
Is the town of Nelson, where you live now, very remote?
It's about a nine hours drive to Vancouver, but quite a bustling, little town. There's an arts school, a school of Chinese medicine and a fine woodworking program. People are very interested in the arts, health and progressive thinking and, at the time I moved here, I was looking for a place like that to put down roots and start a small business.
And now will you be moving to France permanently to grow your perfume business?
I have been accepted into a business incubator in Grasse, and so I will be moving on August 1st on a three-year visa. My office will be in the old Roure factory, in the warehouse where the process of enfleurage used to take place. Enfluerage is the old technique of using wood-framed glass trays layered with animal fat, with successive batches of fresh flowers, such as tuberose and jasmine, placed by hand in the fat for extraction of the fragrance.
Can you describe Fleur No. 1, your newest scent?
It is a green floral, full of the precious floral absolutes such as rose and jasmine, narcissus, and osmanthus. There are notes of violet and wet spring forests, mosses, and green baby leaves. It's based on a chypre/oriental base with notes such as opoponax, oakmoss and labdanum. It's a full floral, but at the same time, it's simple and green and reminiscent of Spring. I'm dedicating this fragrance to my mother.
Where will the perfume be available?
I will be launching it here in Nelson on May 5th.
Is your mother alive?
She is alive. She is well. She lives in Saskatchewan with her husband, and they have always lived quite close to the land. They live off the grid with solar power, in a home that they built from wood that they milled from their own property.
She's been so incredibly supportive and nurturing throughout my life. I began this path when I was a very small child. Herbal medicine was my first obsession when I was 8, 9, 10 years old and I was constantly collecting and drying wild plants from the woods and creating remedies for my family. She really nurtured that interest, and that eventually developed into my career in aromatherapy and then, perfumery as an art form.
Reglisse Noire means black licorice in English. Tell us a little about this scent.
I wanted to create a fragrance that was something that was recognizable and familiar that could symbolize connection between opposites. My background was natural perfumery, but in Grasse I was learning about modern perfumery, which includes man-made chemicals. I was inspired to find a way to balance those two worlds- of my natural and traditional roots with the high-tech, modern raw materials that we were learning about. At the time, I coming to terms with the fact that some of these synthetic raw materials were actually amazing, and so I really wanted to find a balance between these two elements that I perceived as opposites.
Why did you choose to create a licorice scent as opposed to a more traditional floral?
I chose licorice because I wanted to explore something that had personal meaning to me. And it was connected with my grandmother. When I was growing up, she always had licorice allsorts, the candy. And I wasn't really allowed to have candy when I was little. Occasionally, I was permitted to have one and it was a real treat, and so that association was the starting point for this fragrance. Maybe because those candies are a little old-fashioned, I see it as part of the balancing of tradition and modernity.
Was this when you were very young? And where were you?
That was on Salt Spring Island, and I was between the ages of 1 and 6 and throughout my life, she always had them. Through my teens as well. But I think my most fond memories were between the ages of 1 and 6.
Some of the notes in Reglisse Noire are ozone and shiso. For a normal reader, does that mean that it smells like the air?
Yes, it does have that crisp fresh scent. Ozone can be generated by moving water. It's negative ions. I think with an ozone generator, there is an ozone smell that you can detect. But what I'm associating it with is that scent near the beach, without it being a marine note. Shiso leaf is an aldehydic note, and rather intense to smell on its own!
I have read many descriptions of what your scent smells like from the opening note to the end, but what does Reglisse Noire smell like to you?
It depends on the person, right of course? (I'm just going to spray some right now, actually.) Right away, of course, it's licorice. It really has the character of black licorice. Even though it is an interpretation, it's not a candy fragrance. It's not sugary. It opens with citrus notes and white pepper, and there is bergamot. I hear from some people that they find a floral note in the top. And it's not something that I list as a note, but there is a light white pale jasmine in this fragrance. It's hidden inside and not everyone finds it.
As it warms on the skin, we move into the spices. It's got warm, earthy cocoa and spices in the heart, and this is where the concept of the perfume really develops for me. The high-tech notes are a little bit more in the top and the bottom, whereas the middle holds the heart of the fragrance, which is the where the opposites find their balance with each other and attain warmth and harmony. It's star anise, it's ginger, it's all-spice and cocoa. Once it develops a bit more on the skin, one moves into woods, into the cedarwood and the patchouli, and vetiver, quite a lot of vetiver actually, and finally into the musk.
This musk is one of the 'high-tech' notes in the 'soul' or bottom of the formula- a raw material called Exaltolide.
What attracts you to this note?
It's a beautiful note. It's a solid, clear crystalline material when at room temperature, which I find quite lovely. But most importantly, it's a nature-identical musk, being that it exists in natural musk. And it's what is termed macrocyclic, which means that it's biodegradable and it doesn't accumulate in the environment. I find materials like these very interesting.
What are perfumers like?
I think that perfumers can be quite introspective. There's a lot of contemplation that is involved. Before I sit down with raw materials, I'm thinking for months and months, allowing the fragrance to germinate in my mind. There is a certain amount of loneliness involved in being a perfumer, and you have to be fine with that. It's a very solo work, so in that sense it could be like writing. Creating a fragrance, for me, is a meditative process.
If somebody wanted to acquire your perfume, where would be the best places for them to go?
They can go to Scent Bar in Los Angeles, and they can also order from the store's website, Indiescents.com. You can also order from my website which is 1000flowers.ca. I haven't announced this yet, but I just begun selling to a new client in Munich, Germany. The store is a beautiful boutique in the center of Munich called Sundhaft.
If you live in Nelson and would like to meet Jessica Buchanan of 1000 Flowers in person, she will be at the Kootenay Coop this Saturday to celebrate the debut of Fleur No. 1. The perfume, which 1000 Flowers launched today, will be sold in 15 ml Italian square glass bottles.