Sunday, November 17, 2013

Barbara Herman's Scent & Subversion

On Tuesday, Mindy Yang and Chad Murawczyk of MiN New York hosted a party for Barbara Herman to celebrate her new book Scent & subversion: Decoding a century of provocative perfume.

Herman blogs extensively on vintage fragrances at Yesterday’s Perfume and the smellerati were out in force at the party. I rubbed elbows with Lucy Raubertas (Indieperfumes), Gaia Fishler (TheNonBlonde), Douglas Bender (CharentonMacerations), Christophe Laudamiel (Dreamair) and a couple of the Goodsmellas.

Of course the star of the night was Barbara Herman who read some lovely passages from her book. Scent & Subversion begins by introducing us to her “chemical romance” with the great perfumes of the past, and then surveys the icons of the 20th century in chronological order. Her capsule appreciations cover everything from Fougère Royale (Houbigant, 1882) to Laundromat (Demeter, 2000). A third section profiles a few “scent visionaries” and gives useful advice to those who want to collect their own vintage samples.

Herman is a deft and inventive writer whose talent is to make the scents come alive in your mind’s nose. To a literary genre still hung-over after an early overindulgence in bitchy snarkitude, her approach is welcome as a fresh breeze. This splendid little volume (it fits easily in the hand) is beautifully produced and generously illustrated with original color advertisements.

P.S. Thinking of buying a copy? Click through the Amazon widgets on this page and you’ll kick a few pennies into the FirstNerve Beer Fund at no cost to yourself.

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