After several millenniums of refined olfactory culture in Imperial China, the use of fragrances and incenses came literally to a stop during the Cultural Revolution in the nineteen-sixties. It is hard to imagine that less than a decade could wipe out so many cultural treasures and behaviors and reboot the most populous country in the World to an entirely different state of mind and taste. Luckily, good traditions are coming back gradually, thanks to the efforts of some exceptional individuals and the exposure of modern Chinese citizen to the outside world. Fragrances are no exception to that.
Ms. Christie Shen is a pioneer in reviving the interest of Chinese people for fragrances, and she is not doing it shyly but by taking the greatest possible steps to introduce designer AND artistic perfumery to the community here in Shanghai. SCENTISM 2017 (known in Chinese as XiuJueXi) was already in its fourth edition this year, and I must shamefully admit that I did not attend this event until now. I will not miss it anymore!
I was blown away by the wide selection of brands and the high number of landmark fragrances Christie and her team gathered in the superb venue of the Shanghai Museum of Modern Art of Duolun Street.
Forty-two showcases with each up to ten fragrances… do the math and you will reach a fantastic number close to five hundred different perfumes bottles exhibited. But of course, looking only at bottles would be frustrating and having a large crowd spraying it around would be very messy. Instead, each perfume could elegantly be smelt from a delicate stemmed glass containing a felt flower impregnated with the precious juice. I had a lot of fun to blind-test my olfactive memory on some known labels and discovered the ones missing to my collection.
It was hard to find some omitted classic, cult, and trendy brands in the collection gathered by Christie. Givenchy, D&G, Hermes, Guerlain, Bvlgari, Kenzo and other designers, of course, but also Tom Ford, Creed, Amouage, Jo Malone, Diptyque, Lutens, Le Labo, Byredo, Penhaligon’s. So far, so good. But seeing and smelling here some rare houses such as Chabaud, Tauer, Oriza Legrand, Nobile 1942, Neela Vermeire, MDCI, Heeley and few others was a major surprise for me. Finding and buying such brands in China is still challenging today, even if the Taobao e-shopping platform (the B2C side of Alibaba) proposes a lot of them, but who knows how to distinguish the fakes from the genuine?
The way all these fragrances were grouped in distinct showcases was also remarkable. At first, a brief history of perfumery with samples of iconic fragrances stood at the entrance of the hall. Further inside, fragrances were arranged by their dominant notes such as lavender, oud, rose, etc.. later, by perfume house or by the nose that created them, such a Bertrand Duchaufour, Jean-Claude Ellena and so on. A display of fragrances with China as a theme was also very original: Pivoine Suzhou by Giorgio Armani, Opium of YSL of course, China White of Nasomatto and few others that did not come immediately to my mind before to see them here. It is true that China already inspired a lot of famous noses. Another case showed the winners of the Fifi award from 2011 to 2016, excellent idea!
Last but not least, perfumers were also invited to each edition of SCENTISM and this year, the founder and artistic director of the house of Heloïse de V., Ms. Valerie D’André was commenting her creations to a fascinated crowd.
What a great time I had last Saturday. I am still wondering what the impression of the people discovering such amazing juices and fragrant universe for the first time was. But looking at the happy faces of the visitors, I can confirm that they also had an enjoyable experience at SCENTISM 2017 and will be back next year for another round of olfactory bliss.
I am sure that the sales of fine perfumes in China will gradually increase with such courageous and bold initiative. Christie is also the owner of a webshop (www.xiujuexi.com) that supplies fine fragrances in this vast, yet-untapped market. A big thank and all my sincere congratulations to Christie for giving us such wonderful time and opportunity. You can also read a very interesting of her on Fragrantica by following this link.
I will see you soon again my dear readers, cheers and have a fragrant week!