From Lithuania comes a new, eponymous fragrance by designer Juozas Statkevicius, an eau de parfum a priori exotic, mysterious, and as it turns out deeply contemplative and sensual.
This perfume so moved me that it made me experience for the first time, as provoked by a perfume and in spite of myself, a surge of emotion translating into a knot in my throat. I do not understand the effect of the fragrance completely but I will attempt to describe it.
But first some context. Juozas Statkevicius is known as a provocative and innovative designer from Vilnius, Lithuania. He made his fashion debut in Paris in 2002 with a collection of unconventional designs which brought him overnight recognition. There was his shawl with a pillow sewn in it. A model wore arm bracelets representing human bones in black and silver. All on the catwalk wore makeup that included some drops of fake blood dripping on their faces....
The palette of colors Statkevicius uses is restrained and dominated by black, grey, beige and white hues. Many of his clothes partly unveil the body as they offer slit, open, ajouré, or transparent effects. At the same time, as one can see with the advertisement for the Juozas Statkevicius Eau de Parfum, a more classical and even nostalgic sense of glamour is present in his aesthetic outlook as well.
The eau de parfum was created by French nose Fabrice Pellegrin who, when asked about which ones of his perfumes he felt most proud of said "I'm proud of these creations because of the complicity I had with the development teams: Calèche Eau Délicate (Hermès), Cologne Feuilles d'Oranger (L'Occitane) and Tabac Sport (Mäurer & Wirtz)". You can read more about the perfumer in my previous post about Juozas Statkevicius here.
What we find in Juozas Statkevicius Eau de Parfum according to the press release is the following "Incense is at the very heart of this composition. It embodies contrasts such as shadow and light, past and modernity, simplicity and complexity, power and softness.These paradoxes make it one of the most difficult elements to master in perfume creation, as the perfect harmony can only be reached with infinitely subtle balances".
Perfume notes are incense, white jasmine, patchouli, coriander, benzoin, vanilla, musks, and Cashmere wood.
I will first describe my olfactory impressions of the perfume which are simple enough and then my psychological impressions of it which are more complex. The eau de parfum offers at first a boozy, spicy, and sweet amber impression as the fume escapes from the bottle in the initial moments of its development. There is an overall dark-molasses sensation which might be due to immortelle or everlasting. The perfume is smoky and dark not unlike the elegant and sleek flacon made of frosted black matte glass illuminated by silver letterings which shine alternatively when you turn the flacon as if a spotlight were sweeping across them.
Later, a dirty musk and leather enter on an earthy background of patchouli. The musk with its natural uriney accents nicely counterbalances the prettiness of the discreet florals and the sweetness of the amber, vanilla, and benzoin. It is dirty but remains civilized. The coriander is a prominent note in this perfume.
The scent becomes earthier and drier. I get an impression of dark liquorishey fruits which is in principle characteristic of davana. There are traces of dark pepper and citrus and the latter turns into a more important accord bringing luminosity to the perfume. I can then also smell resins and a spicy coca-cola accord. The dry-down is very stable and lasting going easily beyond 12 hours.
The composition is very good. As I have come to see it, it is more of a philosophical composition than a L'art-pour-l'art one.
It is rather singular and unique in the effect it can have on you. Juozas Statkevicius Eau de Parfum appears to me to be several things all at once but without having that quality of being elusive as found in Mandarine Mandarin by Serge Lutens. It is on the contrary a very centered perfume. It does not attempt to convey complexity either, yet it is not a simple scent. It is perhaps, if one were to attempt to nail down its nature, always not-only-this-but-also-that. It is dark, smoky, and dry but also luminous, soft, and sweet. It is maybe in this successive pairing of seemingly contradictory sensations that the essence of its style resides. But the perfume is not just about contrasts, it is more about an idea of wholeness. The perfume soon encourages one to indulge in a philosophical kind of day-dreaming. Perhaps it is the smoke. Perhaps one will end up saying that this is such an abstract scent, yet it is also unmistakably sensual and earthy.
The tonalities of the perfume, apart from the incensey core, are animalic-musky, amberey, woodsy, and floral. Another more existential trait is that it has the remarkable capacity of imposing itself as a familiar and almost undistinguishable presence, quickly blurring the contours of the things between you, the Cashmere jumper or shawl you may be wearing, and the perfume itself. In other words and simply put it appears first to be both a comfy and sexy scent; comfy so as to disappear from your consciousness after a while and sexy as it reminds you of the presence of your or someone else's skin in those brief returning moments of lucidity and awakening to the idea of the external. And then it seems as if it were a familiar presence sitting next to you.
I keep returning to the smoke. It must be the smoke suggesting the veil of illusions to be lifted by further smoking and pondering. The world is calm like a dark lake. It is only troubled by swirls of smoke. I am reminded of what the Turks call "keif"; for example men smoking from water pipes in front of their houses as the sun goes down is keif. It is a feeling of contentment, of peace with oneself, of wisdom. Then I am further reminded that Lithuania's destinies in the course of history were mingled from an early time with those of the Turks, in particular with those of the Tatars of Crimea. Keif must have reached Lithuania and planted its roots there too. Curiously I had never experienced that feeling of encountering keif with Hermès Ambre Narguilé which actually pointed to it with its name.
The perfume does not in fact evoke anything more concrete to me. It is singularly suspended in aporia. I sense its detachment, its self-assuredness -- I am now starting to wonder whether I am talking about the perfume or myself. Perhaps this perfume will make you look at yourself in the eye, speak the truth and leave all pretenses aside. It seems only to accept essential qualities. I am not able to say what furniture of the world it reminds me of. It is here and there, present and absent, close-by and distant, blind and clear-eyed, sinuous and square, sexual and a-sexual. It is.
What to do with a perfume like that? Close our eyes, open them, inhale, exhale, dream and do, love and yet accept the end of love. The world is but smoke and at the end there is that which we do not know. Is it dark or is it clear? Is there an afterwards or is it the end? Will we ever be thirsty again or not even feel the limits of ourselves? The incense or rather the perfumed smoke of the incense unfurls in the air and bridges the gaps between the known and the unknown, the human and the divine. It will communicate to us the vanity of dualities only through its smoke, per fumum. We had forgotten the mystical origins of perfume yet the fragrance by Juozas Statkevicius reminds us slowly and surely of that origin. How it does that is a mystery to me.
Let me conclude my review of Juozas Statkevicius Eau de Parfum by expressing my thanks to the Juozas Statkevicius team who sent me a bottle of this very-hard-to-obtain fragrance. I could certainly see it at all the niche perfumeries I know of as well as in upscale department stores. Unfortunately, I did not receive any retail information from Juozas Statkevicius except indications on a postcard that they have a presence in New York and Palm Beach.