Impermanence by Christèle Jacquemin, a perfumer, photographer, and traveler is an Art&Olfaction Awards 2020 (Artisan Category) Finalist. This is a new niche perfume brand that launched in 2019 with three fragrances in brand’s portfolio: Underworld, Meandering Soul, and Impermanence – reviewed here, plus a short interview with Christèle!
I must say that I love the names of all three fragrances, but Impermanence! How especially befitting for 2020:
“Nothing endures but change.” ―
Nothing in the world is permanent, except change. Panta Rhei – everything changes, everything flows.
Change. Vulnerability. Insecurity. They can go hand in hand, or you can embrace change, and even manage the process, as 2020 is teaching us. There go all the long-term plans (if you had any – I know I did, lulled into the belief that utter uncertainty can’t happen ever again to me) through a window, and in a matter of a couple of weeks! What is now more applicable than ever is to try and live (and thrive) at the moment, here and now. The best you can, giving your best…
Im-permanence. Of our life-style, business, relationships, and surroundings. Once accepted, we understand so much better things as they are, not as we wish them to be, and without suffering. Acceptance brings peace, calm, and strength. And the feeling of acceptance is exactly what’s behind the creation of Impermanence (as explained further in the interview with the creator). It is inspired by a series of photographs Christèle made in a village of Jin Ze (China), where she stayed for one month in an artistic residence. Everything there was new to her, inspiring and stimulating, and there, in unfamiliar surroundings, she found much needed calm and tranquility.
Impermanence is a very gentle fragrance, subtle yet expressive, with an air of positive energy. The opening feels like an early morning walk through a garden, near a river or a lake: there’s a touch of refreshing, Monet’s Garden in Giverny-like greenness, but with a freshness coming from Hinoki leaves. There’s vibrant and bright-green new grass under your feet and a delightfully optimistic breeze of cool fresh air that seems like a promise of a wonderful day ahead.
Rosemary used here is touchingly fragile and fresh, like newly grown tips of soft needle-shaped leaves early in spring, paving a way for a very tender rose to appear. The walk through this imaginary garden continues, as your nose picks up whiffs of tender spiciness, and a warm breath of nature that’s soothing your soul, deeper than any words can.
There’s a tea-like aspect to Impermanence that feels like a relaxing cup of cold tea in the morning, bright yellow, and served in a fine porcelain cup, the kind you are afraid to hold with both hands because it seems so dainty that it could break easily. I must say that this phase felt vibrant with happiness, and very optimistic. Yerba Mate tones present display a faint, vanilla-like note illusion at moments, while the green-mossy feeling could probably be attributed to vetiver. The dry down is what you would expect of a fine, artisan perfume: a well-blended, rich, and finely balanced woody-green cocoon that’s contrasting milky and dry at later stages.
Impermanence is definitely an interesting new creation, threading along lines of soothing, pensive, and relaxing fragrances that are considered by some to be the most desired olfactory experience in current times. To me, it feels like happiness after a positive change of things, even optimistic. Acceptance brings calmness…and it smells good.
Notes (as listed by the brand): Bergamot, Blue ginger, Hinoki leaves, Rosemary, Rose, Palmarosa Vetiver, Yerba mate.
To help you meet “the person behind the brand”, I asked Christèle to tell us more about herself, and the process of becoming a perfumer with her own brand:
Q: What inspired you to start creating perfumes, and to start up your own brand? How long did it take?
Creating my perfume brand was not since forever in my mind actually. It happened little by little, so naturally. I’ve been working in the fragrance and photography industry since 2000, and I’m very passionate about both photography and perfumery. In late 2017 I quit my job, left Spain, where was living since 2000 and didn’t know what to do next. I focused on my dream. What was my biggest dream? And the answer was to learn how to create perfumes.
I searched for training, and two weeks later I entered a training program in Paris. It was not clear then what I would do with this knowledge. That was the time of a big transition in my life. I had no words to express what I was feeling and going through. My camera would speak to me. And I realized that perfumes do that too. I created my first scent Underworld at the end of my training. I really love the process to put into scent my mood and feelings through photography, and then through scents when words are missing. It was a process that helped me a lot personally.
After getting my diploma, I embarked for an almost 5-month trip to Asia. It was the first time I would have the opportunity to take pictures full time. It was a fantastic sensation. Me, my camera, and my notebook, to write down feelings, sensations, and smells. Little by little, during that trip the idea to combine image and scent became clearer. I finished the trip with an exhibition in an art gallery in Beijing, and when I saw the effects of my multi-sensory practice on visitors, bringing them joy, happiness and bringing them back memories, it became clear: I love to make people happy and bringing them wellness and calm in such a hectic world. This is how it all began. It took me one more year to create two additional scents (inspired by two other photo series) and to set up properly my brand.
Q: You’re an artisan perfumer. How difficult was it to start the brand, do you do everything by yourself?
Yes, I do everything by myself. I weigh my bases, put them into alcohol, bottle them, etc… I like the idea of being both an artisan and an artist. I would say there are no real difficulties. Maybe what impacted the most the launch was the delay in getting everything as I would like it to be. But looking back, all these delays have been helpful to think again and again about what I was doing, about my intention, about how I would like it to be. And it helped me to put words on all these sensations I am expressing through images and scents.
Q: Are your perfumes impressions from your travel or olfactory translations of photos you take?
Actually they are both. For example in the fragrance Underworld, I wanted to convey in the scent the duality between darkness and light you can find in the pictures. I then use cold and warm spices to achieve such duality and tension, and I tried also to get a wet/dry sensation too since for me this scent is like an expression of the Allegory of the Cave by Plato. I was finally going off my cave: wet moist soil and warmth of sun rays while going out.
For Meandering Soul, I tried to translate into scent these nocturnal walks combining them with other smells that I associate with this trip like caramel. I found Taiwanese food very sweet so I wanted to include it into the scent. It results in quite an unusual combination.
As for Impermanence, it is the same process. I wanted to create the scent of the morning walks I had, combined with other smells I felt: of green tea, a tropical fruit… That was very important to me since these scents bring back fantastic memories of my stay in China.
Q: You are an Art and Olfaction Awards 2020 Finalist with Impermanence. Why did you submit and how did you feel when you found out you’re a finalist?
Working in the fragrance industry for so many years, I was aware of these awards and was quite admirative of such an initiative focusing on artistic perfumery, which is in the end what I actually do. In 2019, I had the chance to travel to Amsterdam to attend the awards ceremony and to smell all the finalists. I was really impressed. So, this year, I’ve sent my fragrances. It was a way for me to get some feedback on my practice. When I learned I was a finalist with Impermanence – to be frank – I was amazed and very happy at the same time.
Q: You’ve launched 3 perfumes in 2019. What are your immediate plans?
Since we are not able to travel for the moment, I am currently working on pictures taken during my 5-month trip to Asia as well as pictures taken when I was living in Spain. I am working on three collections. Let’s see what will come out. But the idea is to share new multi-sensory collections by the end of fall 2020. Hopefully 3. We’ll see 😉
Q: How do you see the position of artisan perfumers now? What drives you to continue?
I think it is the best time for artisan perfumers today. There is space for such authentic artisan alternatives. I think we can thank big companies for that. They have been marketing heavily on their “artisan” origins in the last ten years or so. Since artisanal perfumery and selling a million bottles do not go hand in hand, they have opened a very deep interest in consumers for craftsmanship. For me, photography and perfumery are means of expression. That’s what drives me to continue. I have so many more things to say, and to express what I feel and experience during my trips!
Impermanence, Meandering Soul and Underworld are available at Christèle Jacquemin’s website as Discovery Kit (3x3ml samples), artisan soap, 30 and 50 ml EdP, home fragrance, and photo prints.
The Plum Girl
Photos: The Plum Girl, giverny.org, Pexels
Disclaimer: A discovery kit was kindly sent to me by Christèle Jacquemin’s own choice, my opinions are – as always- of my own.