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Heritage (François Merle-Baudoin for Fragrance du Bois)

Article written for, and first published in CaFleureBon.

Heritage- Study 1. Creative direction, styling, and digital editing by a_nose_knows for Fragrance du Bois

Many are the glories of gorgeous nature art; many, its colors, and grander yet, its shapes; wide is the breadth of its palettes, and irresistible, its bouquets--but nothing shines, nothing entrances, and nothing inspires, through millenia, as much as the pearl.

The Pain

Deep in the meager mantle of a mere mollusk, between folds of silky flesh and underneath all earthly signs of a physical body, the pearl, invariably, starts with pain: an intruder, usually, scratching away at the ethereal; gnawing; hurting; irritating. Powerless and immobile, the oyster fights from the inside, in the most beautiful way it knows how: by coating the assailant with layers upon layers of nacre, thin as a wisp, satiny, and precious both in materiality and labor.

Painful, still, is the toil of finding it: ask anyone from the Amas of Japan to the divers in Zubarah or Margarita island, and they’ll tell you the same: a ton of oysters and mussels will often produce no more than 3 or 4 preciously perfect margaric wonders.

The Patience

Everything else about the pearl is also measured in time:

  • to grow it, a bivalve needs anywhere from 6 months to 4 years;

  • to train to dive for it, a pearl hunter spends years plunging in the water up to 150 times a day;

  • to dive for it, they hold their breath up to 2 long minutes at a time;

  • to sort, drill, polish, measure, design, source, and finally match the pearl to its forever jewel mate—especially for the most spectacular gems—can take months.

After all, in most cultures, the pearl is the symbol of wisdom gained through experience.

Heritage- Study 3. Creative direction, styling, and digital editing by a_nose_knows for Fragrance du Bois

The Permanence

The oldest pearl jewelry we know of was found in a Persian princess’ tomb, and it was dated to 520BC--but long before that, from the Chinese to the Egyptians, the blue-veined rich have adorned they surroundings (and, in some cases, their insides) with pearly spheres of wonder. Long after that, through empires and colonialism and the Van Cleef legacy, from Tahiti to Japan, pearls were passed on with the care of tradition and the generational-old hope that one’s memory—and family legacy—shall not fade; and although not part of every heritage, nacre has always been—and will always be—something to inherit.

Heritage- Study 4. Photo, creative direction, styling and digital editing by a_nose_knows for Fragrance du Bois

I am well aware of the risks I’m taking likening Heritage to a pearl; after all, I have nothing but myself to pass on to my eventual children, and no pearl string has ever made it close to any past bucolic link from my peasant ancestry; I, like every one of my progenitors, did not grow up gazing upon grandmamas bedecked in nacre glory, and all the heirlooms I now own were either incredible thrift finds or generous gifts from my beloveds.

Still, here I am judging lustre, and here Heritage is, as belabored, perfected, and universal to me as a perfectly round pearl.

Heritage- Study 5. Creative direction, styling, and digital editing by a_nose_knows for Fragrance du Bois

The opening is soft but puckering, a bit salty-insinuating, and tangy in a way that’s both mineraly and textural; I can’t help thinking of being fascinated by alabaster stone sculptures, as a child, and trying to lick them. Green flowers, spring fruit tree flowers, and cold calcar is what I get for a mere minute, after which the scent develops into clouds of plush watery florals (peony, cyclamen) and the most luxurious soap, still cold but more breathy, velvety, and sweet. As time goes by, I get the indelible feeling I’m best self: the scent fuses with woody tones and brightens in a very personal way, echoing both one’s expected natural musks and steaming skin after a salty, bay leaf bath. There’s calm and there’s quiet here; there’s beauty; there’s peace.

There’s reflection here, and there’s reflexion; there’s value through solitude; there’s time. A classic.

Official notes: bergamot, aldehydes, frankincense, iris, jasmine, cedar, sandalwood, vanilla, 100% pure organic vintage oudh

Other impressions: soap, air-dried laundry, sun, nacre, windchimes (verdigris), cyclamen, powder

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