Close your eyes and imagine your last trip… That silky smell of white blooms, or the sunlight that flattens everything… Tell me what you smell and I’ll tell you where you are. Maverick perfumer Gerald Ghislain has done it again. After Histoires de Parfum, he is back with a brand new concept, in partnership with designer Magali Senequier, imagined, as was appropriate, during a long-haul flight.
The Scent of Departure is pleased to welcome you on board for a voyage your nostrils are likely to remember. If Proust had known, I highly doubt he would have made do with a solitary madeleine when scent is the most powerful sense; a simple sniff can bring back a forgotten memory, or change the perception of a moment. Putting the entire world in the hands of a mastermind of parfume is immediate boarding for a trip around the best whiffs of the world (there are no words to thank Mr Ghislain for having omitted Eau de Métro Stench from his Paris edition). Only the most delicious and dreamy notes went into these.
When imaginging the packaging and line aesthetic, Ms Senequier went with an often-seen and quickly forgotten artefact of airport life, the checked luggage tag. That’s right, those long strips which allow our precious suitcases to be route and (hopefully) delivered at our destination. Each perfume carries the three-letter IATA code of its namesake or its most famous airport. Europe bears green, the Americas are blue, Asia is an energetic fuschia while the East is a rich orange.
As for the juices, their descriptions is an olfactive portrait of each city. Yet neither the poetic description (Paris: Early morning in the Tuileries Garden. The soft air is filled with the charming scent of white flowers and green crispy leaves. In a ray of morning sun, you silently walk under the lime trees and delight in the soothing trail of the rose garden. You look up to the Palais du Louvre glistening under the first sunbeams, behind you the Champs Elysée. All the magic of Paris.), nor its dry olfactive pyramid (Paris again: Top: Bergamot, Orange, Lemon, Green leaves /Heart: Lily of the valley, Rose, Cyclamen, Water Flowers, White Flowers / Base: White musk, Rice powder, Blonde wood) fully prepare for the onslaught. I sampled the fashion capitals (Paris, London, Milan and New York) and found all four to be evocative, rather than descriptive. And for those who suspect that such branding and poetic verbiage hides low quality, they are no familiar with Mr Ghislain’s work, for he is no corner-cutter when it comes to his perfumes.
With my creations, I am telling stories but the person who is perfumed with my fragrance can recreate their own story.
~ Gérald Ghislain, Khaleej Time interview, 26 march 2010
Love ‘em or leave ‘em, his perfumes rarely leave indifferent. The Scent of Departure is no different in approach, and each destination will summon a variation of a memory. So for less money than even the cheapest low-cost airfare, where will you go today? Don’t be shy, there are plans to expand to resorts or casino towns in the near future.
If you’re in a dearth of inspiration, here are some pages out of Gérald Ghislain’s little black book.
Where do you live?
I live in Paris, but as I travel all over the world, I feel at home everywhere… Right now, I am in New York for the launch of The Scent of Departure at Henri Bendel… As is my habit, I’m living in a little loft in Queens, immersed in the ambiance of this South American neighbourhood. My New Yorker friends think it a little crazy… But for me, it’s a way to see the Big Apple under a different angle, grasp the incredible variety of this modern metropolis…
Your favourite city ?
Despite my accent from Toulouse, I feel completely Parisian… But like all globetrotters, I have sentimental affairs with many other cities…
Just as an example, I’m seduced by the bohemian spirit of Williamsburg, on the edges of Brooklyn. Otherwise, any town in Brittany will do, as long as it has a spa center, an ideal excuse to spend a week in a bathrobe.
A table to remember: La tour Montlhéry in les Halles… Specially at night, when hunger strikes and that you’re hankering for some “canaille” choices.
The outfit: A smoking for all occasions, without tie, or with an untied bowtie.
The tourist trap: I’ll never have enough of the ferris wheel, and the view it gives of Paris… Particularly when the city is blanketed in snow.
Shop at: Arty Dandy, where trends coalesce.
A great watering hole: The Georges, on a spring afternoon.
A great bed: Hôtel Costes
Get pampered at: Nopeg, for the jenny milk treatments.
Don’t share this but: behind all the carriage doors of Paris, are hidden wonders…
You’ll bring back: Ladurée’s macaroons … For hurried travellers, there’s even a concession in the Charles de Gaulle airport, to grab your favourite flavours on the go.
A table to remember : Without any doubt, Ratanà … The team in the kitchen is made of real taste-shakers who renew our palate…
The outfit: For Milan, my smoking should reflect the audacity and folly of Fashion Week. It will be white and I will drape it with a few fluo touches.
The tourist trap: Prada and Gucci at the Duomo
Shop at: Rossana Orlandi
A great watering hole: Any, as long as it serves Milanese aperitivo!
A great bed: Corso Como and its only room
Get pampered at: I think the Milanese sun is enough for me…
Don’t share this but you need to see: All those pop-up places, where zeitgeist can be sampled and that shake town during Design Week
You’ll bring back: A pair of Etro socks (fluo, to work with my smoking)
A table to remember : Food Court at the Plaza. Whatever strikes your fancy, you’ll find it there. Watch out for the bill, though…
The outfit: Always a smoking… But let’s go with a knit one.
The tourist trap: Central Park in a horse-drawn carriage.
Shop at: The gift shop at the Moma.
A great watering hole: Apotheke, where cocktails are serious business… Served in crystal cups, each beverage is a masterpiece of chemistry and know-how…
A great bed: Yotel. The rooms are small yet functional and the luggage storage is a sight to behold…
Get pampered at: Martial, the barber shop
Don’t share this but you need to see: The new neighbourhoods, beyond Delancey
You’ll bring back: Cinnamon Altoïds
A table to remember: Without a doubt, the Michelin Building
The outfit: A houndstooth smoking
The tourist trap: The Michelin building … again.
Shop at: I like to browse Dover Street
A great watering hole: A typical English pub, overgrown with flowers in spring.
A great bed: The Blakes Hotel … For its quaint charm.
Get pampered at: Wonda Fish… To get your toes tickled by tiny fish.
Don’t share this but you need to see: The Wapping Project … A former hydraulics plant, transformed into a contemporary art gallery and restaurant!
You’ll bring back: The jewels of the crown… (and a gold medal? ed’s note.)
19 destinations now available on The Scent of Departure, for a cool 40€ for 50mL, at Arty Dandy in Paris, Harvey Nichols in London (just in time for the Olympics) and online