MAISON DE PLAISIR
Inspired by MISFIT
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French lavender essence
Angelica root essence
Spanish cistus concrete
Venezuelan tonka bean absolute
Ambrette seed absolute
An ambery woody candle of French lavender, patchouli and soothing vanilla inspired by our awarded scent MISFIT.
September 1877, Port of Marseille, France.
In a bedroom in a Marseille maison de plaisir, a ‘pleasure house’, a Kashmiri shawl drapes decadently over a bed. Once coveted, the shawls are now out of fashion with the bourgeois, their distinctive patchouli scent a victim of their downfall. Adopted by misfits and courtesans, the shawls add a note of exoticism to bohemian rooms, mixing their decadent scent with French lavender, musky ambers and heady balsams.
Developed with Rodrigo Flores-Roux.
-The scent of patchouli first reached Western noses with the Kashmir-style shawls fashionable in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The fine wool shawls would be packed with patchouli leaves in their folds to protect them from moths during their journey from India into Europe. Their distinctive scent became a mark of their artisanal quality and exotic origin.
-The shawls would travel in caravans from India, arriving in Egypt and sailing to Marseille. Needless to say, they cost a fortune. By 1808, French and British manufacturers decided to get in on the trend, and started copying them. Their quality was good, but there was something missing: the scent of patchouli. French manufacturers then asked perfumers to create scents that could be added to the shawls, in order to make them pass as authentic
-No longer as exclusive, the popularity of these shawls with the elites declined in the 1870s, due to the reduction in price, the increase in availability, and also to a change in women's fashion: the addition of the bustle, meant that a shawl would no longer drape in the same manner.
Patchouli was no longer the hottest scent in aristocratic circles...
-The shawls then became fashionable amongst courtesans and prostitutes, who would wear them undressed or seductively draped over furniture. Becoming popular in fringe circles, the scent of patchouli, reminiscent of exotic fantasies of odalisques and evocative of earthy pleasures, became the scent of decadence, of ‘taste professionals’ of dubious reputation.
-Later on, in the 20th century, hippies would re-appropriate patchouli for its connection to India, its association with European misfits, and for a potency that would mask cannabis. It became the olfactive signature of counter-culture.
-In order to create our formula, we set our story inside a courtesan's bedroom. Setting it in Marseille, the traditional port of entry for the shawls, gave us the lavender and rose waters used in the 19th century beauty regiment. Skin remedies with ingredients such as ambrette seed and tolu baslam were used for medicinal purposes to cure rashes and even venereal diseases. Those became important parts of the fragrance foundation. Interestingly, tonka bean was used in both perfumery and French desserts...a sweet base to round of earthly pleasures.
– Irwin, John, The Kashmir Shawl, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973. ISBN 0112901646.
– Levi-Strauss, Monique, The French Shawls, 1987 Dryad Press Ltd 1987. ISBN 0852197594.
– Maxwell, Catherine, Scents and Sensibility: Perfume in Victorian Literary Culture, Oxford University Press, 2017.
– Trueman, John, The Romantic Story of Scent, Aldus/Jupiter Books, London, 1975.
– Genders, Roy, Perfume through the Ages, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1972.– Pillivuyt, Ghislaine Histoire Du Parfum – De L'Egypte Au Xixe Siècle: Collection De La Parfumerie Fragonard, Denoël Editions, 1988.
– Classen, Constance, Howes, David & Synnott Anthony, Aroma: The Cultural History of Smell, London; New York: Routledge, 1994.