Writing is a lonely profession, by default. Save for a few business-oriented emails and the occasional phone calls to discuss pitches and payments, you are typically left to your own devices. You go through the ups and downs of creation all by yourself, and when you are finished you are critiqued and evaluated. What I’m saying is, don’t quit your day job to write, kids.
Therefore, it is so refreshing to step out into the real world and experience social interaction beyond the screen once in a while. Writing, I always think, is the mind’s “regurgitated trash” – everything one sees, hears, tastes, feels and smells. You cannot possibly write successfully without having lived, and the more you experience the better you will write. Nothing is ever wasted if it becomes a great story.
This past Wednesday I had the pleasure of going on such an adventure, which took me well beyond the comfort zone of my suburban bedroom to an area in downtown Toronto known for luxury boutiques and posh bakeries that specialize in cupcakes (I spot at least three on my way from the subway). Niche Essence, located at 2651 Yonge Street, is a retail store that carries only specially-selected niche and luxury perfumery brands. Founded in 2013, they are among the few places in the city one can go to smell the truly unique. You won’t find Chanel or Dior on their assortment, or even Tom Ford’s Private Blend collection. Instead you’ll find exclusives such as Xerjoff, Parfums de Marly, and Amouage (rumour has it store founder Kiavash has connections in Oman – shh!).
I am personally invited to their spring “VIP Event,” complete with red carpet and sparkling champagne (very fancy indeed), by Mary, a member of the team at Puredistance Master Perfumes (read my reviews here). She travelled all the way from the Netherlands to be with us this chilly night, and next week she will be presenting to our neighbours to the south in New York City. Mary, in a delicate white dress and red heels, simple makeup and a beaming smile, represents her brand with pride. She is here to talk intimately to the city’s best clients and select media, not sell. When she speaks about the inspiration behind each scent, showcasing the beautiful artwork and photographs that align with them, you get the sense she loves what she does. And when she gives a sneak peek at the brand’s newest release, Sheiduna, there’s a little twinkle in her eyes (it’s scheduled for late 2016). We compare Canada to Holland: “At home, when somebody says ‘Let’s go to a coffeeshop!’ it means to smoke. When you say it here, it means to get coffee!” Despite our differences, we quickly find common ground: IKEA. I tell her, “I can see there is sophistication in simplicity; it is very European.” “Sophistication,” she agrees. It is, after all, what this house is known for.
The other celebrity in the house this evening is Victor Wong, Director of Zoologist. In the fall I sampled his first fragrance Beaver, and when I learn that he is in attendance my jaw nearly hits the floor. He’s a tall, soft-spoken man, who seems a little shy at first. He takes me through his entire range of animal-inspired fine fragrances, which I find challenging to put it simply. Bat, for example, is a banana bread and dark cave inspired scent that turned out to be his bestseller (created by Ellen from Olympic Orchids). Rhinoceros, made of nearly a quarter rum, turns out to be my favourite. Of the packaging, he explains that his profession in video games inspired him to create a highly collectable line. I’m waiting for his next launch, Elephant, which he predicts to be soaked in caramel.
I couldn’t stay too long as the journey home is a lengthy one, but before I go I spend nearly half an hour with Danny Ventura and partner from Serge Lutens. Though you can find some of the line in Sephora Eaton Centre, the new Gold collection is a Niche Essence rarity. Uncapping each bottle and dipping blotters deep inside the perfume for full effect, Danny shows off each of the house’s distinct scent families. “Think of them like revolving doors, not escalators,” he explains in regards to their structure. His expertise and ability to speak to any specific ingredient and its history is impressive, and his passion for the brand contagious. We talk about a mutual dislike for oud, the time-old debate about concentration, and SL’s parent company Shiseido. Before the night is over I make sure to pick up a bottle of Un Bois Vanille ($130*) by Christopher Sheldrake, my first Serge Lutens of many. I already can’t wait to see Danny again.
Covered head to toe in perfume and laden with gifts of samples, I head home for the night, but not before the lovely host of the evening Line hugs me and thanks me for coming. The local staff and the brand representatives went above and beyond to make every person in the room feel like royalty, even this lonely writer. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for inviting me to experience their unique world of scent, and demonstrating that the love for fragrance in Toronto is alive and well. I’ll be back for more, and soon.
*Prices true at time of writing.
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