The scent of joy

By Ingrid Fetell Lee

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In last weekend’s T Magazine, Chandler Burr wrote about the smell of the recession. The recession smells empty, he writes; it’s the smell of “the absence of people, of circulated air, of the layers of plastic, fiberboard and carpeting with which we surround ourselves.”

In fragrance, we find a replacement. He writes:

Jean Patou created Joy in 1930, at the start of the Depression — it was allegedly the most expensive perfume in the world — and I swear I smelled it on Fifth Avenue a few weeks ago. In plush times, it came off as an outdated French floral, a 100-carat diamond. Too much. In the summer of 2009, it smelled resolute, determined and weirdly appropriate. You wanted to applaud.

I love the idea that aesthetics of joy can be like aromatic stimulus package. We inject money into the economy to jumpstart growth; we also need to inject emotion into ourselves to find the energy and motivation to create and survive. As I wrote in my last post, joy is valuable not just as an end in itself but also for what it might lead to. Scent is so deeply connected to memory and emotion; who knows where the chance inspiration of a vibrant scent might lead?

August 24th, 2009

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