The Perfumed Man - Interview with Paul Divjak about the newly published book
There is an art to smelling good. In his new book, fragrance poet and award-winning fragrance designer Paul Divjak focuses on a special history of scent: that of the perfumed man. In it, he provides a stylish overview of outstanding fragrances from the 19th century to the present day. Using five perfumes, Divjak shows what makes a good scent and how to recognize it.
We caught up with Paul Divjak, already known to many thanks to his fragrance composition "Soul Splash" for Saint Charles, and asked him about olfaction, poetry, the role of perfume and about outstanding fragrances.
In your new book, The Perfumed Man, you write, "There is an art to smelling good." Why?
Fragrance creations can be seen as works of art. They sometimes have a very special charisma. The fragrant man was early attributed something very attractive, desirable. The use of perfume can contribute to the aestheticization of everyday life and is able to enchant it sensually. The beauty of a fragrance, its very own character and its quality can, however, in the face of too much, suddenly set signs of impertinence and vulgarity. The right dosage determines grace or imposition.
You describe yourself as a "scent poet." What does the sense of smell have to do with poetry?
The poetry of molecules, the efficacy of the ephemeral has represented an inspiring fascination for me since childhood. The olfactory seems to want to continually elude language, to resist all-too-clear classification and naming. "The smell of the world" (note this is the title of Paul Divjak's 2016 book) is a still unexplored terrain that has a great inherent magic. - We can resonate with it, as with the words of a poem.
In the past, the role of perfume was a stronger one. Why do you use perfume?
The leisure of smelling, the evolution, the efflorescence and passing of a fragrance, the perception of its unfolding in time, its intertwining with personal experience: that's what excites me. Fragrances are like diaries, like olfactory letters to loved ones, friends, fellow human beings, contemporaries. Filled to the brim with personal history, they tell of longings, desires, and hopes; they express self-expression and personality staging. Their form, their style, their spirit reflect the signs of the times. What Nietzsche once stated for the eye and ear is still true today, and to a great extent for our noses as well: in the rush of everyday life, the feeling for form itself is lost, for the melody of the movements of molecules.
What makes an outstanding fragrance for you?
In "The Perfumed Man," I speak of "well-composed fragrances." As an olfactory accessory, a "well-composed fragrance" is a subtle expression of style. It communicates with and through the skin. A "well-composed fragrance" is expressive manifestation of a phenomenon that, against the backdrop of thousands of years of history in different cultures, invites us to experience it again and again, even richer and more complex.
How do you go about composing new fragrances?
For the most part, there is a theme that underlies the creation of the fragrance. What helps me and is instrumental in the development of a new composition are associative memories of olfactory moments of experience. From the idea to manifestation and market launch, it then generally takes a lot of patience. - A fragrance needs time to mature.
You composed the fragrance elixir "Soul Splash" for Saint Charles Apothecary. What do you see as special about "Soul Splash" ?
I am delighted with the success of "Soul Splash", the enthusiastic feedback that confirms our intention: "Soul Splash" has become a versatile, vitalizing fragrance companion and "personal asset" in everyday life. Its special feature, according to the many regular customers, lies in the successful combination of fresh lightness and concentrated, vitalizing power of the selected natural ingredients brought together in the bouquet.
In conclusion: Do you have a tip on how the scent of perfume lasts longer?
I appreciate fragrance narratives that unfold differently on the skin and play with the peculiarity as the volatility of the molecules and keep it there quite with the splash culture preferred in southern countries: freshness and lightness in the now. - Rather spread over the day: enjoy one or two refreshing sprays, instead of hours of heavy clinging.
The nonfiction book "The Perfumed Man" (Edition Atelier) is available now at the Saint Charles Apothecary, as well as in the online store of Saint Charles Apothecary.