Coco Chanel once said, “A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.” But Madame Chanel was mistaken. It’s not her future that she’s missing out on, but her past, because scent is the gateway to vivid memories.
Scents: the smell of your grandfather’s worn leather chair, the smell of your parents home at Christmas time, the smell of an old lover’s cologne, the smell of a season. One whiff of that special scent, and your 12 years old again, unwrapping presents beneath the tree, or 18 years old, wrapped up in your first love’s arms. Wearing fragrances isn’t just a chance to smell like a bouquet of roses (besides, I’m not a big fan of roses anyways), it’s a chance to mark a moment in your life, and to revisit it later.
I was recently missing the “newness” of last fall. Back then I had a new job, a new apartment, a new date, and a brand-new Jo Malone perfume to match. So in an effort to rejuvenate my present, I returned to the past by pulling out my bottles of Pomegranate Noir and English Pear & Freesia. A few sprays across my wrist and I was back in 2011, decorating my modest flat, enthusiastically throwing myself into my work, and strolling through the Quai Branley with a handsome stranger. The “newness” of last fall had started melting into the autumn that’s quickly approaching, and my spirits were rejuvenated.
That’s why I’m so taken by Mad et Len, a French perfume house that’s all about remembrance. Named in homage to Marcel Proust’s madeleine scene in Remembrance of Things Past, this husband and wife team produce aromas that have been inspired by their own travels, like Amsterdam Tobacco and Russian Leather. Located in a remote atelier in the rugged mountains of France’s southeast Verdon region, the perfumery implements traditional apothecary practices, experimenting with well-aged, natural scents for a truly luxurious smell that transports you to a time and place (just how I like it). Below are Anne Lass’ photographs of the reclusive duo’s studio and the land that inspires them.