Interviews Barbara Herman is About to Get Dirty On Us ...

Barbara Herman is About to Get Dirty On Us ...

07/04/14 07:21:23 (21 comments)

by: Miguel Matos

 
Barbara Herman is a name every proud lover of vintage perfumes should know very well. She is a perfume blogger, and a very special, talented one. She is the one behind the blog yesterdaysperfume.com, a valuable source of information and magic from the golden decades of perfumery. She also launched her book Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume (Lyons Press, 2013) where she explains why collecting vintage perfume is a matter of passion but also a cultural activity, letting us know that there is a world beyond the counters at Sephora and niche boutiques.
After all this work of researching, sniffing and telling us all about it, she is now in the process of creating a modern vintage-style perfume with the talented scent artist Antoine Lie. In order to get the perfume of her dreams out in the world, she needs some help from us. The project is called PERFUME X and she submitted a crowdfunding action on indiegogo.com.
 
“PERFUME X will be the liquid expression of my book: its celebration of intense, interesting, erotic scents that help us appreciate the beauty and interconnectedness of the smells of human, animal, and floral bodies,” says Barbara.
I was immediatly turned on by this, being a follower of her writing, a lover of all things dirty (well, perfume-wise) and having been so tempted to buy a lot of wonders from the past because of her. So I called her on skype and asked her about her motivations and goals.


Miguel Matos: Barbara, can you tell us exactly when your passion for vintage perfumes was born?
 

Barbara Herman: It started in 2008 when I discovered that people like Chandler Burr were writing about perfume in books and on blogs. Descriptions of the formulations no longer available really piqued my interest. Perfume is already this ephemeral, evanescent, disappearing thing. The idea of a lost or disappearing perfume added that layer of mystery. So I started looking for some perfumes and the first I got were Bandit, Vent Vert, Diorella, My Sin, Crêpe de Chine, some of the classics ...

After sniffing some of these things I thought “Wow, I really want to write about this!” I started the blog Yesterdays Perfume as a place to put my thoughts, and in three weeks I was already getting comments and people asking me questions. So I continued to collect and write. I started collecting vintage perfume ads next, and months later I was convinced I wanted to turn this into a book. I didn’t begin the book in earnest until about 2010, and I didn’t get a publisher until 2012, but very early on I knew there was a lot about perfume I wanted to explore and talk about and that a book would be the best way.


Miguel Matos: Even though there are some editions, there are not many serious books on perfume culture. Even regarding vocabulary, there is a lot to be done, don't you think?
 

Barbara Herman: Absolutely. We’re at the very beginning of an era of perfume appreciation by “ordinary” consumers like you and I. Many of us who are part of  the online subculture of perfume lovers already know that perfume is an art and something worthy of attention, but I’ve found that most people who take the time to become acquainted with it quickly realize its value.


Miguel Matos: You spent some years collecting vintage perfume and you created a crowdfunding project in order to proceed to investigation for the book ...
 

Barbara Herman: Yes, at the end of it. Basically, I left my job in 2009. I was a professional blogger in San Francisco for a women's pop culture website. I was really bored with that life and I wanted to focus on this decadent investigation.


Miguel Matos: Did you become passionate about animalic notes before or after you started collecting vintage perfume?
 

Barbara Herman: If I enjoyed it before, I didn't know it. I had never really thought of what it was that I liked. The things I liked were all over the place. As a kid I loved Cristalle, but I also liked Tatiana, Calvin Klein's first perfume, the things my mother wore, cheap things...
 
 
I loved Angel when it came out, so all of these things are very different. As I began to collect vintage perfume, I remember specifically the perfume that made me realize I love animal notes was Robert Piguet's Baghari. At this point in my collecting life, I was getting perfume in the mail every other day and when I got a mini of Baghari in its cute presentation package, I threw it in my purse and went to the movies. During a lull, I pulled it out of my purse, put it on and had this crazy, almost out-of-body experience right there in the theatre. It was so round, rich and it really affected me in a very visceral way. I never smelled anything like it and I started asking, What did they do in the past to make perfume smell so dramatic and enveloping? That was the first one that really got me paying attention and made me seek out more.


Miguel Matos: You were writing and discovering at the same time, so you were sharing your journey with us through the blog.
 

Barbara Herman: I was always surprised to get any comments. I really didn’t think anyone would read it when I started it. It was just a place to put my writing. So it was great to have a dialogue with perfume friends from around the world.


Miguel Matos: Tell us more regarding your new project of making a vintage-style fragrance with perfumer Antoine Lie.
 

Barbara Herman: I pitched this perfume idea to the great Antoine Lie about a year ago. He was almost immediately on board! I was in Paris last December, and we met to discuss it. It was the first time we actually talked in person. Before that, we had only talked on the phone for the interview I did with him that is published in the book.

 
Perfumer Antoine Lie and Author Barbara Herman
 


Miguel Matos: How did you come up with this idea? Had you always wanted to do a perfume?
 

Barbara Herman: Not really, but I think that my inspiration was, in part, going to Sephora to smell perfume and seeing these fragrances called “intense” and “noir” ... I tried to keep an open mind and think that maybe those were intense or dark. However, I didn't smell anything but chemicals and synthetics. You know, I'm not that kind of person who looks down on synthetics in perfume. I know that they have a place, but there was nothing interesting about these perfumes. And I had smelled “dark” and “intense” perfumes in vintage, and understood a bit about what made them so. I want a floral animalic, inspired by the intensity of the vintages I’ve smelled, on the market for the modern consumer. There may be a few in the niche market, but the one in my head doesn’t exist yet! That one Antoine’s going to help me create.


Miguel Matos: What is your inspiration for the perfume you want to create?
 

Barbara Herman: I have been very inspired by the so-called “demimonde” of all eras, from the Belle Époque and onward. People who lived unconventional lives for art and decadence and who were not part of mainstream society I’m also thinking about New York in the 1970s, people like Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, the Australian artist Vali Myers who was photographed in the streets and cafés in Paris in the 1950s and ended up living a very strange life on a hillside in Italy, drawing and tending to her flock of wild animals! I am inspired by people living on the edge. So the perfume I want Antoine to create combines beauty with darkness and grit. I think perfumes of the Twenties and Thirties that combine animalics with florals in an explicit confrontation like Lanvin’s My Sin and Rumeur, for example, are the right style to express that.


Miguel Matos: I think that vintage perfumes were much more avant-garde than contemporary niche perfumery and I also think that niche is frequently trying to emulate vintages.
 

Barbara Herman: I think so, too. But this perfume that Antoine is going to create will not reproduce the past, even though it is inspired by some perfumes of the past. I know that even if I wanted that, which I don’t, Antoine wouldn't be interested because that's not how he works. He's a very modern perfumer.


Miguel Matos: Why did you choose Antoine Lie to work with?
 

Barbara Herman: Well, I chose Antoine because he is a brilliant perfumer, he is very versatile, he’s subversive, and he is thinking in modern ways. Just hearing him describe how he was working on the notes for Sécrétions Magnifiques when I interviewed him, I was so impressed ... I imagine that there are people who can be very intellectual about perfume, but their perfumes are lifeless. His perfumes are thoughtful and visceral. And as a person, he is a very down to earth kind of guy for a person who is working in this glamorous and rarified industry. I think working with him will be great.

vintage perfumes from Barbara's collection


Miguel Matos: You've reached half the amount that you need to make this come true. After you create this perfume how do you plan to sell it?
 

Barbara Herman: Ideally, I will work with a company that specializes in artistic fragrances in Europe who will help me produce it, package it, distribute it, all that. I’ll go indie if I have to, but what’s most important to me is that this perfume (and those that follow) are done correctly and reach people. I don’t want this perfume to just disappear. I want it to have a life in the world.

 
Image of Antoine and Barbara: Barbara Herman 
 
Miguel Matos is a Portuguese journalist obsessed with art and perfume. He is the editor of the art section at Time Out Lisbon and directs his own cultural magazine, Umbigo, besides contributing with texts for museums and art galleries. He collects perfume and is especially fond of vintages. He is a Fragrantica writer, translator and editor of Fragrantica.com.br

 



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Hildegerd
Hildegerd

I am saving money for this project.

Dec
12
2015
zoka
zoka

It is common that people take hiatus from blogging or social media from time to time. Barbara is so full of ideas and we also tried her new creations and they are good stuff but no spoilers :-)

Nov
15
2015
Cochlea
Cochlea

Ahh! Just read about 10 pages of "Scent and Subversion" on Amazon.com and ordered it! Cant wait to get my nose around this perfume!

Nov
15
2015
Angela Agiannidou
Angela Agiannidou

Thank you for the update Miguel!

Nov
15
2015
migueldematos
migueldematos

Dear readers I stay in contact with Barbara and she is still working on the project. The process has been slow but the fragrances are now fully developed and she is planning to launch them in the first semester of 2016. I have smelled the latest mods on three fragrances she will introduce and I have to tell you they are excellent. I promised secrecy, so I can't reveal more, but I promise you I will tell you everything as soon as Barbara is ready for that.

Nov
15
2015
Angela Agiannidou
Angela Agiannidou

Ah, Baghari,I tried it and fell instantly in love. I am interested as well in what happened to her project!

Nov
15
2015
celticelle
celticelle

Does anyone know what happened on this project? We miss Barbara blogging on her Yesterday's Perfume blog. She hasn't posted anything since May of this year.

Nov
14
2015
Konst.
Konst.

I got Barbara Herman's book as a present from my best friend - this is one of the best books on perfumes I read so far and the collection of vintage adds is simply awe[sic!]some :)
And now this wonderful concept of modern-vintage perfume, and with Antoine Lie! WOW! Can't wait!

Jul
07
2014
SumoTigerCat
SumoTigerCat

Another big fan of Barbara Herman and Antoine Lie here. This was a terrific interview, Miguel! Thank you! The fragrance collaboration sounds so wonderful! Can't wait!

Jul
06
2014
Iris_it
Iris_it

Nice article , thank you Miguel and Barbara . I am looking forward to smell Barbara's perfume ! I have one big " huffer" in common with Barbara : vintage Rumeur by Lanvin , I love "strange" perfumes and fragrances that are not that sweet . I' m quite sure I am going to appreciate her fragrance .

Jul
05
2014
TerrillLouis
TerrillLouis

I like your Passion and you have written such a great article. I appreciate your work.

Jul
05
2014
Bajar
Bajar

Thank you Miguel, for this great interview. Very inspiring and informative as always. I owe to Ms Herman and her blog my unexpected entry to the magical world of vintage perfumes and the very first steps of creating the (small) collection I own now. I wish her all the best in her new project and I'm looking forward for its release.

Jul
05
2014
mellene
mellene

I already contributed and i know i am backing two magnificent people obsessed with perfume.

Jul
04
2014
mellene
mellene

I already contributed and i know i am backing two magnificent people obsessed with perfume.

Jul
04
2014
thief of hearts
thief of hearts

Wow! This was a very enjoyable read. Barbara, you're a cutie! Best to you!

Jul
04
2014
drugstore classics
drugstore classics

Best wishes to Barbara Herman in her newest project!

Jul
04
2014
IMsooKool4Real
IMsooKool4Real

I really like her passion and finding a creative way to make it happen. I am very interested in sniffing this one! Hope her project is an absolute success.

Jul
04
2014
celticelle
celticelle

To those who haven't read Ms. Herman's "Scent and Subversion," it's a real treasure and worth adding to your perfume literature collection. The perfume ads are delightful!

Jul
04
2014
avonman
avonman

Very Nice Article/Interview Miguel, I'm looking forward to reading More on the progress of this fragrance creation...I Can't Wait!

Jul
04
2014
Chickenboo
Chickenboo

Dear Mr. Matos,

Thank you so much for posting this fabulous interview! It is intriguing as well as inspiring: Ms. Herman's project with Mr. Lie sounds very exciting! I have ordered Ms. Herman's book 'Scent & Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume', and I really look forward to reading it!

Thank you again, Mr. Matos; what a treat to read your articles!

Warmest regards,

CB

Jul
04
2014
Alex1984
Alex1984

So exciting! Best of luck to both and hope we have this little treasure soon!

Jul
04
2014

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