Fri. Apr 19th, 2024

Recently, I finished a novel, Francisco by Alison Mills Newman, whose first sentence has stuck with me: “I got up at eleven this mornin after layin round, rollin round in the bed, huggin round in the bed with this friend of mine.”

With lowercase words and phrases of standard and non-standard English, this sentence is bold, structurally dynamic, and melodic. Francisco is an autobiographical novel with an unnamed Black female narrator at the helm. The novel, which was first published in 1974 and reissued this year by New Directions, is written like a stream-of-consciousness diary, and just like the prose, it is meandering. Its scenes take place across concerts, kickbacks, parties, and film screenings in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Harlem. The young actress on whom the story is centered has recently turned her back on Hollywood and everything she should want—fame, fortune, and all that comes along with it—and has decided to spend her days doing whatever she wants, and that includes falling in love with Francisco, the man after which the novel is named.

When I travel, I prefer to bring along a novel written by an author who is from where I am going. On a trip to Italy last summer, I finished The Story of the Lost Child, the last installment of Elena Ferrente’s Neapolitan novel, on a rocky beach in Bordighera. What would it look like to choose a fragrance inspired by a novel? I realized that I was looking for a novel reminiscent of Francisco—I wanted a scent with a strong opener, that was created with a sensory pleasure in mind, one that would collapse the boundaries of place and time, allowing me to drift to other worlds in my head. I wanted a perfume that would unfurl like the novel’s first line.

Ouranon is the fragrance that fulfilled that desire. Ouranon is the final scent in Aesop’s Othertopia’s fragrance range, a collection of perfumes that engage the senses and transport the wearer to another world. The scent draws inspiration from Petra, the city carved from rock, and the enduring nature of ancient ruins, says perfumer Barnabé Fillion. Chergui—the dry, charred winds that swirl through Petra and surrounding areas—was a strong influence when it came to creating the scent.

I met Fillion at Aesop’s new flagship store on Gansevoort Street in New York City. The store itself is similar to the brand’s scents—it’s a visual and olfactive delight . With its soft, warm lighting and uncluttered design, this new store acts as a mental and physical recluse for New Yorkers. It’s different from the typical retail store; inside the store you’ll find a vanity, sinks, among other features, that give your senses an immersive experience.

Perfumer Barnab\u00e9 Fillion in Aesop's newest location in New York's Meatpacking District.

Perfumer Barnabé Fillion in Aesop’s newest location in New York’s Meatpacking District.

For Fillion, Petra collapsed past, present, and future into one moment, which thoroughly reflected what he wanted Ouranon to represent. Yes, it was the end of the Othertopia’s collection, but it also signified renewal. This is also seen when you look at the fragrances’ base notes—full of resins and rich minerals.

In the top notes, you’ll smell a hint of elemi: “It triggers the instinct that makes you want to go and smell more,” says Fillon. Elemi is also a resin, which means it’s a heavy and long-lasting note. “I love that there’s a base note appearing as a top note [in Ouranon],” says Fillon. “That’s something I find a bit tricky and interesting; it’s not a fresh top note that disappears, the opening is very bold.” It’s especially fitting, considering the fact that the word “elemi” is derived from an Arabic phrase meaning “as above, so below.”

The warm scent reminds me of the transition from summer into fall, when you can sit in direct sunlight all day, baking but not sizzling. The lavender top note adds a hint of sweetness without being overly saccharine. Hay sits at the heart of the fragrance, giving it a complex, grassy, and slightly rural smell. It’s subdued and earthy, and lasts for hours. Its ending is similar to the feeling of reaching the final page of a book: satisfying yet melancholic. But all it takes is one spritz to take you back to the beginning.

Shop Aesop’s Othertopia Collection:

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By admin