What is the Perfume Project?

This blog is a constantly evolving forum for thoughts on perfume, perfume-making, plants (especially orchids and flora of the Pacific Northwest) and life in general. It started out chronicling the adventures of Olympic Orchids Perfumes, established in July 2010, and has expanded in other directions. A big part of the blog is thinking about the ongoing process of learning and experimentation that leads to new perfumes, the exploration of perfumery materials, the theory and practice of perfume making, the challenges of marketing perfumes and other fragrance products, and random observations on philosophy and society. Spam comments will be marked as such and deleted; any comments that go beyond the boundaries of civil discourse will also be deleted. I am grateful to all of you, the readers, who contribute to the blog by commenting and making this a truly interactive perfume project.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I’m back home again after a week of not posting due to being busy with conference activities, the chronic difficulty of getting on the internet, and just plain inertia. Now that I’m getting back into a normal routine, I have to decide whether to post some more of the travelogue-type things that I started writing about on the road, or switch to something directly perfume related. Perfume wins, hands down.

Before I left I had made an appointment to go show my line of fragrances to Christen Cottam, who has recently opened up a wonderful shop in West Seattle called “Knows Perfume”. West Seattle is like a self-contained little beach town, and Knows Perfume is right on the main drag, California Avenue. The entrance is simple, but attractive. The shop is easy to find, and there’s plenty of street parking, at least on a weekday. The inside looks inviting, with a couch, lots of artwork, tall stools at the counter, and plenty of floor space, with items nicely displayed on shelves and tabletops.

Christen herself is friendly, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and clearly loves what she’s doing. The lines that she sells are all ones that would be considered niche or indy, ranging from L’Artisan, Montale, and Bois 1920 to Strange Invisible Perfumes, Tallulah Jane, Smell Bent, and Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. These are the perfumes that you won’t find in the drugstore, department store, or duty-free shop. In addition to the merchandise, Christen keeps her own personal collection of perfumes at the shop for sampling, decanting, and trading. With hard-to-find perfumes to suit every taste and a level of communication and service that’s almost unheard-of these days, I predict that Knows Perfume will be a huge success.

Before opening the shop, Christen studied biology, taught high-school science, worked for a biotech company, and was a roller derby skater. Quite a life! She has obviously been interested in perfume for many years, and the shop is the culmination of that interest. She says that she considers herself more of a “curator” of perfumes than a vendor, and this attitude shows in every aspect of the shop and in her interactions with the people who come in.

We spent a long time talking about perfume and, as I was about to leave, I asked her what she would recommend to a jaded perfumista who has a closet full of samples and bottles at home (to say nothing of a fully loaded perfume organ). She first said that she would just turn them loose in the shop to sniff around, but then she started pulling some things out for me to try. I ended up coming home with generous samples of six different scents from Strange Invisible Perfumes, Costume National Homme, and Montale Attar. I just tried the SIP Musc Botanique and absolutely love it. Thank you, Christen!

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