• When in Grasse making perfume with Chanel

    Written by Pari Damani

    In celebrating the 1-year anniversary of the ‘Gabrielle’ perfume I was invited to go to Grasse to the Chanel flower fields and experience the art of perfume making.
    We arrived at the Chanel Bastide early morning in the late september heat, a kind of temperature I was not used to at that time of the day being from Sweden, it felt like my makeup was melting down my entire face and my hair was getting frizzy. I imagined this is where legendary No.5 was born.

    The scent of the flowers hit you in the air and breathing has never been so luxurious and I saw Gabrielle Chanel walking the fields finding inspiration for her first perfume. At first I found it hard to focus, where should I go first -this is the Chanel Bastide in Grasse! The surroundings are beautiful by the mountains of Grasse, rows and rows of Jasmine flowers, Tuberose, May Rose and Geranium all grow there just for making perfumes for Chanel. Still in shock we were warmly welcomed as I was having a coffee, yet again I remind myself to breathe and take in all the impressions. The Bastide truly lives the essence of Gabrielle Coco Chanel, a stone house with a soft blend of beiges, an interior of beige, white and black. Simple and elegant.

    Grasse has a long history of perfume making. Since the end of the 1800- century Grasse has been the center of creating oils from flowers and fruit surrounding the city and is the main provider for the French perfume industry. It is also where Chanel has it’s fields of flowers and the distillation factory just a few minutes from where the flowers are grown and picked. I had before this trip never quite understood the process of perfume making, how a flower ends up in a bottle was a mystery and very hard to grasp. But the process was very fascinating to see. 

    Wearing black shiny Chanel rubber boots and beige apron we walked through the Jasmine and the Tuberose fields with the land owner mr Joseph Mul. His love really shows through the quality of the flowers, where no chemical fertilizers are used,  and his passion for the twenty hectares which he inherited from his great grandfather.
    The scent of Jasmine was mildly in the air when we walked through the field with Mr. Mul. He encouraged us to pick a few flowers hold them tightly in our hands for a minute to experience how the aroma develops from the warmth of our palms, during this minute the scent is amazingly much stronger as if I had just sprayed myself with ‘Gabrielle’.

    Gabrielle’’ is composed out of four white flowers; Jasmine, Tuberose, Orange Blossom and Ylang-Ylang by Chanel perfumer Olivier Polge. With inspiration true to the legacy of Mademoiselle Chanel ‘Gabrielle’ is the only perfume created bearing the name of the legend herself. It is no secret Mademoiselle Coco had a special relationship with white flowers. Camellia was also a favourite and a repeated inspiration through her jewellery and fashion designs. Jasmine Oil ‘Huile de Jasmin’ has been in the Chanel beauty range since it first launched in the 1920’s and remains as a key ingredient creating beauty products and perfumes.

    Each flower has their own appointed teams  when harvesting, for example the Jasmine is a small fragile flower and requires delicate fingers and a light touch, Mr Mul explained, so therefor experienced people are chosen for picking. Tuberose grows to be a long beautiful stem with flower bulbs at the top, white petals with a yellow center makes it very elegant, but the scent from this flower is strong and very mysterious, earthy yet sweet. Put a few of the bulbs in water and the scent will intensify day by day as if living in a Tuberose oil. I was given the chance picking a few flowers and during that time wondering how these tiny flowers become oil or an ingredient in a perfume.

    The Jasmine flowers are carefully weighted, put in metallic crates with a solvent. Being cooked in high temperature the solvent soaks up all the fragrance from the flowers, then magically turned into a wax called a concrete. This is what becomes oil and an absolute to make Chanel perfume. Absolute is a concentrated liquid in which the alcohol is removed from the concrete used in the Chanel No5 perfume, as requested from the Chanel perfumers, to get the most and the ultimate scent of the Jasmine flowers.

    Perfume making really is a true form of art that I now have a greater understanding of the process. The four white flowers composing ‘Gabrielle’ makes it a true floral perfume. I feel like I am swimming in a pool of perfect jasmine, ylang-ylang and tuberose while eating the most zestiest orange, get out of my flower pool and have a rest on sweet sandalwood. The scent is intense and long lasting and truly speaks the DNA of Gabrielle Coco Chanel. I will not even begin to explain the feel of the bottle, except that it is a genius design, cool and modern inspired by Paris and Gabrielle, that would be an article in its own right. Everytime I look at my perfume or whenever I use it now I will be reminded of my experience at the flower fields, constantly in a Chanel state of mind.

  • The secrets to the 10-step Korean skincare routine

    Written by Yasmine Mubarak by Pari Damani

    The Korean multi step skincare regime is packed with all the essentials to make your skin boost. Established and developed through centuries of Korea's cultural fascination with healthy looking skin. The skincare routine is today less of a “routine” than it is a lifestyle and usually starts from an early age. After living in Hong Kong, learning more about the lifestyle of sheet masks, double cleansing and skincare brands in every corner of the city –the whole island of Hong Kong is obsessed with Korean skincare, and they have all right to be. The history of Korean skincare is long and broad, some say Korean skin care rituals date back to some purported document from 700 B.C. Koreans believed makeup and self care not only benefited your external appearance, but also your internal self. In ancient times, they produced facial scrubs, beauty lotions, facial creams and oils, along with colored powders, rouge and eyebrow ink from herbs and extracts from the nature nearby. All that ancient knowledge have paid off, and with the growing economy during the 1990’s K-Beauty exploded together with other culture fascinations for example Korean Pop. One of the reasons why Korean skin care is so successful is their advanced technology with chemistry and bioscience to create groundbreaking skincare products. They are always one step ahead, BB Cream, CC cream, everything origins from Korea, it’s truly the future of skincare.

    What can we learn from K-Beauty?
    The 10 step routine teaches us the underlying purpose of each step and to understand how our skin behaves. The routine can easily be tailored and for that reason, fits all skin types; dry, sensitive, matured or oily. One day it might be 4 and the next day 7 steps whenever you wish to boost your hydration or target a specific problem area. K-Beauty teaches us the secrets of essence, exfoliating and most of all to use sunscreen everyday. However the most important part with this routine is that you take care of yourself and feel good from within. Tapping your products gently on to your skin is a key factor with K-Beauty, never rub. Finding the right Korean products can take time, not to mention a bit tricky to get through, here’s a breakdown of each step, how it works, and some products involved, all South-Korean.

    1. OIL CLEANSER
    In Korean skincare double cleansing is a key element in the routine, where you use an oil cleanser first. The oil helps remove your makeup and first layer of impurities from big city air pollution. How to: Massage it over your dry face and then add lukewarm water to emulsify the cleanser. Massage again and then rinse everything off! Erborian cleansing oil, this formula has a cream texture which transforms to a smooth oil as it touches your skin. Formulated with coconut and sunflower seed oil to help leave skin soft. Without parabens, sulfates and phthalates.

    2. WATER-BASED CLEANSER
    Cleansing twice is recommended by dermatologists because it helps remove impurities that can create a break out. The second step to the double cleanse is water based, it washes away the remaining oil and eliminates all the dirt from your face. Now your face is absolutely clean for the remaining steps. How to: Add water and lather, massaging onto face and neck; rinse with lukewarm water. Make sure you rinse off all the oil cleanser, so your eyes don’t start to hurt from the oil. I tried ‘Neogen Green Tea Real Fresh Foam Cleanser’ and the main ingredient in this cleanser is fermented green tea extract, which brightens, calms, and hydrates skin without stripping your skin's natural oils.

    3. EXFOLIATOR
    You don’t always have to exfoliate (especially if you have sensitive skin), take it in your routine around once a week or when you are having a home spa. Robbing off dead skin cells on your face makes it possible for the rest of your skin care products to mingle with your skin and for a longer lasting make up during the day. Gently massage or tap an exfoliant into your skin. If it’s a wash off mask, gently massage the product into your skin and leave it on for 5-10 minutes and then rise off with warm water. Skinfood ‘Black Sugar Honey Mask Wash Off’ is packed with organic black sugar that is enriched with vitamins and minerals to hydrate and nourish skin. Choose between Black Sugar or the Black Sugar Honey which is more suitable to sensitive skin.

    4. TONER
    The toner helps restore your pH-balance to prepare your skin to better absorb what comes next in the routine. Compared to many western toners, Korean brands are more focused on hydration and as you will notice, are a bit thicker in the formula. Pump 1-2 drops of the toner into your hands and dap it directly onto your skin or dispense it onto a cotton pad and gently dab around your face. The skin toner from Benton contains Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, and Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice. BHA (0.5%), Snail Secretion Filtrate and Hyaluronic Acid. Which all help skin texture, heals, balances, and hydrates your skin.

    5. ESSENCE
    Step five and you are halfway through! An essence is a kind of toner/serum hybrid for your skin and is an extra layer of hydration after toner, some are a bit thinner and some thicker in the texture. Finding the right essence can be a bit tricky from my experience, many of them contains different acids and active ingredients, which is specific for certain skin types, but don’t give up because when you find the right one your skin will thank you. Apply it to freshly toned skin and it is very important to pat it in gently, to not irritate the skin. ‘Cosrx Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence’ is one of the most sold essences, packed with 96% snail secretion filtrate for super intense repair and hydration. Snail mucin has the ability to repair everything from dry patches, to acne breakouts and hyperpigmentation.

    6. TREATMENTS
    These products are highly focused on what you wish to boost, which directly treats the issues you’re most concerned about. Whether they target dull skin, large pores, pigmentation, wrinkles, or acne, Treatment serums are the ideal skin perfecting step. Gently dap these into your skin using your fingers! The serum can be used a few times a week, whenever you want your extra boost of confidence.

    Klairs - Rich Moist Soothing Serum
    This soothing serum gives a moist boost and fits skin types which easily becomes inflamed and needs a calming serum. One ultimate friend is the Klairs Juiced Vitamin Drops which you can mix with the soothing serum. After using the two, your skin becomes softer and clearer. 

    7. SHEET MASKS
    Many say that, if essences are the heart of the Korean skin care routine, sheet masks are the soul and provides your skin with maximum nourishment. All you have to do is put one on and relax for 15-20 minutes. Use one at least once a week or every single day if you’d like, sheet masks have clear instructions on the back of the product. After you removed the sheet mask feel free to dap the remaining products into your skin. Some use the sheet mask as a finalizing step in their skincare routine and for sensitive skin that needs hydration MediHeal N.M.F Aquaring, Dr Jart+ and for normal/blend skin: Oh K! Snail Sheet mask are three masks I have tried out and are available in most parts of the world.

    8. EYE CREAM
    The skin around your eyes is thin and delicate, which means you should treat it with care. An eye cream provides the area with extra helpings of hydration and protection. Use the eye cream around the entire orbital bone, avoiding the water line. Cosrx is one of the biggest Korean skincare brands which have multiple different product lines for dry, oily and maturing skin that you can fit in your 10 step beauty regime. One of their most popular product is the Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Eye Cream.

    9. MOISTURIZER
    By now your skin should be feeling super hydrated and dewy. Hydration is the final key for glowing skin, so it’s important to find a moisturizer that works for your skin type. They come in many forms, from a lotion, gel, or cream all of which work to seal in moisture to plump up skin and smooth away any fine lines. Pat a moisturizer into your face and neck morning and night every day. On days when your skin feels extra dry, swap your regular moisturizer for a sleeping pack.

    Innisfree Green tea balancing cream
    To become a true K-beauty expert you have to try Innisfree, one of the leading skincare brands. Their green tea day cream is rich in moisture  and delivers hydration and antioxidants from Jeju green tea extract. They also have a wide range of amazing sheet masks and cleansers.

    10. SUN PROTECTION
    Koreans fully understand just how damaging the sun can be for the skin when it’s not properly protected, which is why SPF is so important. Even if you’re stepping outside for just a couple of minutes, you must wear sunscreen. It’s the easiest and most effective way to prevent early aging (and skin cancer!). It’s important to put this on last so it can fully shield your skin from UV rays. Apply every morning as the last step of your skin routine!

    Innisfree - Perfect UV protection cream anti-pollution SPF50+ PA++++
    This triple function UV screen is formulated solely with mild ingredients and provides a safer protection. The sunscreen from Innisfree also have a PA++++ rating (Japanese sunscreen rating system) which means that it has the highest rating and protection for sunscreens.

    Many skincare brands outside of South Korea have now adapted the routines and have made their versions of K-Beauty products, it is safe to say that it is here to stay. If you are curious about the regime and want to try it out I would recommend starting lightly with a product or two and slowly adapt a few products in to your existing skin routine depending on your skin's needs. Between the aha, bha, boosters, vitamin serums, and essences it is hard to know which products works together and on your skin so take your time exploring. Now that winter is here a moisturizing sheet mask is definitely a good start.

  • Photography by Jean Bbaptiste Beranger

    THE INTRIGUING SEMIOTICS OF HERMÈS BY MARTIN MARGIELA

    Written by Ksenia Rundin

    Martin Margiela is a designer, who has questioned the established structure of the fashion system by taking an anonymous role and celebrating the team work behind the final product. Through his outstanding creativity and provocative logic, the “fashion’s invisible man” has given the luxury its avant-garde character. The intriguing quintessence of multi-functional layers and pure artisanal craftsmanship have created a new philosophy of fashion, where the latter is aimed to emphasize longevity and sustainability of style. Reminding of an art collector in his approach to the female wardrobe, Martin Margiela completed Hermès with a missing piece of the brand’s unique identity in a form of masterful and daring twists of loose-fitting masculine tailoring, wrapped in a powerful agenda of feminine tenderness of the postmodern context. The conspicuous versatility of Margiela’s playful silhouettes, gives a woman an exclusive opportunity to find her own harmony in any given context and at the same time to keep the uniqueness of her female identity. The intriguing semiotics of Margiela’s style appears to be almost shocking in its advanced simplicity, establishing an intellectual dichotomy between luxury and avant-garde.

    In connection with the opening of the exhibition “Margiela, the Hermès Years” at Artipelag museum in Stockholm, Odalisque Magazine has met the Director and Curator in chief at Fashion Museum Antwerp Kaat Debo and discussed the exhibition and their collaboration with Martin Margiela around it.

    Could you tell about the creative process that preceded the exhibition “Margiela, the Hermès Years” and the dialogue that you had with Martin Margiela during that process?

    At the very beginning we needed to know what was left from his collections with the house of Hermès, because he did not keep a lot of the collections himself. Thus the first question was whether Hermes still had the collections in their archives or not. And Martin said, “I do not know what they have in the archives, whether they kept the entire collections or made a selection.” The first thing Marin did then was to contact Pierre-Alexis Dumas and asked whether Hermès would be interested in participating and loaning pieces from the archives, if they had any left. It seemed that Hermès did not keep the entire collections but always made a certain selection. However, the selections were rather big each time. We also contacted private loan-givers to gain a few objects. Hermès were very generous at that point and provided us with some contacts to their clients, of whom they knew had large wardrobes with Martin’s collections for Hermès.

    Next step was to decide how to present the idea. And Martin made a suggestion to bring the garments into a dialogue with his work for Maison Martin Margiela. By putting these two creative parts into a dialogue, the first thing you see is that they look very different, avant-garde versus luxury or high fashion. The second thing – if you understand the stories and innovations – you would observe is the one DNA, which has been translated into two different worlds. We thought that it was very important for people to understand that. I think, it is very relevant today, in a time where fashion houses change their creative directors, sometimes very rapidly. We wanted to illustrate how Martin actually did that, how he worked with heritage of an existing house, and what his concept, his vision and his strategy for Hermès was.

    Thereafter, the first thing we did was to have a number of long conversations with Martin, for hours, and hours, and hours. We needed him to explain his strategy and to clarify it with each piece that we had selected form the Hermès archives. Step by step, we went through each piece of each collection we had and he told us all he knew about them. We also interviewed some key people at Hermès, who worked on the collections together with Martin and some of them have already retired. One of those is Marie-Claude Gallien, who was his right hand, from premier d’atelier to the responsibility for the women ready-to-wear atelier. Hence, the knowledge about the collections was acquired from these key people and of course from Martine himself.
    Based on all the stories Martin had told us, we decided to establish a dialogue between him, me and the team in order to decide what themes we would like to cover. We needed to do a certain demarcation, because there were quite a few ideas presented.

    The main challenge for us was how to explain people in a visual way that you can wear these garments in many different styles. Off course, you can write it in a wall text but it is not the same when you visually see it, creating a real experience. This is how the idea of the films was born. And then Martin said, “Let’s try to contact some of my former models.” We did so and brought them to Antwerp and we also had Martin directing the films. It turned to be very choreographic, because Martin had a clear idea in his head how he wanted to film the models. It had to be in a kind of slow motion, so you could see how they turn and how they move. I think, it was very important decision to add the films. And we are very happy with them, because we are able to introduce a real woman and also explain in an uncomplicated way the idea of having women of different ages. As a curator, you want to make people to understand things in a visual way. Fashion is also a visual medium and, indeed, you need text to explain certain things. Nevertheless, the less text, the better, because people easily get fed up with reading a wall text.

    What is the difference between the show in Paris and the show here in Stockholm, concerning also the interplay that the architecture of the exhibition space conceives?

    Well, there is a big difference, because in Paris you do not have the surrounding that you have here. When I first saw the images of Artipelag, I really liked the dialogue between the museum and the natural surroundings. Also the serenity of this place matched, in my view, very well with Martin’s vision for Hermès. It is a kind of purity and simplicity of the natural surroundings that create the spectacularity. There is no need for any top architecture to compete with the nature, because the place as such does not compete with nature. And there is something similar in Martin’s collections for Hermès, where it is not about fashion that competes with the woman wearing it, it is not about fashion that forces itself onto your body, but it is fashion that makes your life more comfortable and more practical. It might be a bit too conceptual but this is what attracted me personally to Artipelag.

    When you do an exhibition it is always nice to work further on the show. First we did it in Antwerp, then Paris and now in Stockholm. You can always work further on the details and the concepts and that is the luxury of touring an exhibition, I think. The space here is very different than in Antwerp and Paris, but we have a very good exhibition designer, who I absolutely trust. I know that one of his big qualities is that he can always immediately visualize a show within a space and just to see how we would work within that space.

    I find it annoying, when you can tell from an exhibition that this is a touring exhibition, where they just do the décor and stuff it in the space. There is lot of work that goes along with the travelling issue, because we really re-work the exhibition design – it is measure-made for the space. It is my team collaborating with the team here by – again – establishing a dialogue how to start it. I am very happy how it looks, because, it is, let’s say, the most successful integration of the themes into this space.

    What product, do you think, Martin Margiela and Hermès conceived, by creating a mutual DNA? Have they created a new woman?

    I think it is not a new woman. But what is innovative about Martin’s designs is that he gives a lot of freedom and responsibility to the customer. It is not the type of designer that says, “Well this is my fish and my idea. And this is the body I have in mind.” It is designed for many different women and that is kind of revolutionary. Unfortunately, it is still quite revolutionary today. Many brands are still focused on younger generation. Meanwhile, the actual customers, who can afford high fashion are much older. I think the fact of giving this freedom to your customer is to let her choose how to wear the garment and also give different options. If you don't like to show your arms, you are given an option, where you can cover your arms. If you like to show your upper arms, then you take of the sleeves. The bathing suit, which is made like trikini (bathing suit in three parts), gives you freedom to wear it as a bathing suit, leaving the middle part, or you roll it up, and have it as a bikini.

    It is the woman, who decides how much skin she wants to expose and what she covers up and what she does not. It is a quite rare concept and very respectful to your customer. If I hear Martin talking about how he designs, he often says, “Yeah, you know, women told me that… a friend told me…” He really listens to women, what they like about their bodies, what makes them insecure, what they don't like and what they find uncomfortable. I think, he is also very fascinated by movement. He really observes women, how they move, how they sit down, what happens with the skirt while they sit down, how they button their coat, how they take it off. He always asked a lot of questions, while fitting models. He really wanted to see how the garment behave. It is not about any idealized design in which it is impossible to walk or move, and have a functional life, ride a bike or drive a car.

    The exhibition, the way it is designed, gives a slight feeling of augmented reality. Could you give any comment on that?

    It was a request from Artipelag to have a connection with nature. And you can also at certain points of the exhibition see that there is a sort of transparency, where you can still feel the outside, through an orange layer. It is also a very practical decision, because fabric and textiles are one of the most fragile things to display. Textiles are very fragile in a sense of sunlight, which may very rapidly – within a couple of months – decolour garments. The standard climate is actually between 80 and 20 degrees Celsius and humidity between 50 and 55 percent with no daylight.

    Black box is certainly the ideal for displaying fashion. We tried to make a compromise, because our ambition was not to recreate a black box here. However, the condition of the object is always the first priority, especially not only pieces of the museum but also pieces from the Hermès archives. We have to secure that the condition is also perfect after the exhibition. If it were up to me and it did not damage the garments, I would open all the windows. Unfortunately, this is just not possible when displaying fashion.

    Don’t you think that Martin’s approach to the wardrobe is similar to an art collector’s approach to his/her collector pieces, where you build up your collection by completing it, not replacing the existing objects?

    I never thought about it that way, but I think you are right. It is also about cherishing your wardrobe, linking back to Martin’s idea of sustainability, where you are not supposed to throw away your wardrobe every single season. If you have a good garment, then try to keep it, cherish it and take care of it. That idea was, not only for Hermès but also for Maison Martin Margiela, very much a preoccupation of Martin. The whole idea of working with vintage garments at a certain time, where he introduced a different line, called “Replica series”, representing replica of vintage garments, which he found perfect. As a designer, you cannot, as a rule, add anything to improve a vintage piece. The only problem was a uniqueness of each and only item. What Martin could add was the reproduction of these garments.

    They tried to reproduce each garment and then they would add a label saying “Replica” and containing information about where the garment was found and what it originally was, for example a doctor coat form the 1920s or a tuxedo found in Paris from the 1950s. It is also interesting to look at the reason why they added this label, because it showed that Martin did not claim that particular design being his own. He merely found a perfect garment and was paying a tribute to the craftsmanship.

    A lot of his work also deals with authorship. And the fact that he disappears as a designer from his own brand, is also a way of paying tribute to the team work behind and not claiming the authorship himself. Every fashion designer, in spite of how genius he or she is, always has a team around him/her – an atelier. Design would be nothing without those people, when it comes to translating the design into a physical product.

    Hermès AW 2002-2003
    Tuxedo over-skirt in silk ottoman from Les Gestuelles
    Photography by Marina Faust
    Photography by Jean Bbaptiste Beranger

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