The scent of Scandinavian design: Andrea Maack’s Parfums + Standard by CDG x Artek

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In the humble opinion of the author (admittedly a Montreal snob) one of the biggest selling points of living in the Junction in Toronto is the proximity to Mjölk, a lifestyle store focused on Scandinavian and Japanese design. It is a space that I thrive in – pale wood, careful craftsmanship, negative space. I’ve even tried to use it as bait for design-oriented Montrealer friends; no luck so far, but I’m getting close. Anyway, they’d been renovating for a while, which deterred me from visiting, but today I walked around and admired their curation. I was happy to see Sorensen bags in such an unlikely neighbourhood locale, and even more pleased to discover that they housed several fragrances.

ImageIt was all so fittingly minimal and soothing to contemplate. I was drawn to the packaging for Andrea Maack Parfums, an eponymous line from the Icelandic artist’s collaboration with a French perfumery. It resulted in a series of perfumes inspired by her artwork, a fascinating translative process in itself. The perfumes, on the other hand, were a little underwhelming for me: they inspired in equal measures recognition and alienation. Consider the notes for Smart (pictured here). Mainly flowers – violets, jasmines – with peeks of sandalwood, and what I have now singled out as buckskin. Buckskin! It diluted what would usually be really immediate florals, and the whole was very soft, very detached. I smelled the five on display, Smart being my favourite, and moved on.

The other perfume they displayed was a Comme des Garçons (Standard – the opening image), which I predict will soon become my favourite fragrance house (not a guarantee that I wear any of them well, but their chemistry is refreshing). It is also a collaborative effort, this time with Artek, a Finnish furniture brand. The man working at Mjölk strongly recommended I smell it, having purchased it himself. He was enthused, and so I did.

Having worn it for several hours now, I felt the urge to write about it, even though I told myself I’d pace myself (no one wants to read about perfume everyday, Tracy). It’s a very strange, very unique smell. Let’s begin with the technicalities. Perfume sites say: Finnish Labrador Tea, honeysuckle (twinflower to be specific, but same family), fennel, ginger, lemon, musk, saffron, cedarwood. To me, the cedar dominates in tandem with the sweetness of saffron/twinflower, and it’s all topped with what I thought I read as rust (but seems to be undocumented). All in all: woody, green, metallics.

Here’s what’s fascinating about it: it smells AUSTERE. It smells like monosyllabic politeness. As a material, it would be steel bred with pencil shavings. As a personality, it would be reserved, stoic, but occasionally insightful. If minimalism emitted a fragrance, you’ll find it that it smells something like Standard (what perfect nomenclature). If you know me, you know that I am obsessed with minimalism, even though it is somewhat unreflected in my habits — I have the same sentiments toward this scent. It’s not me (really) but it could be (ideally), and I would, without a doubt, pin the shit out of it.

Thinking about this, I’ve come to understand that the alienation I was experiencing is actually the heart of these perfumes, and central to the whole design aesthetic as well. Scandinavian design – elegant, understated, and pared-down until it feels almost too stark. It’s a philosophy that hinges on the hybrid between organic and synthetic: nature simply crafted to fit man, but in ways that revere this same nature. Pencil shavings and steel.

If you’re ever in the area or come upon it, I highly suggest you give it a try. It’s totally unisex.

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