Sunday, October 25, 2015

Norell: The First American Designer Perfume

On Wednesday, October 28th “Norell: The First American Designer Perfume” will be presented as part of the Smell and Tell series hosted by the Ann Arbor District Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Some of you may know who Norman Norell was (today happens to be the anniversary of the fashion designer’s death) and how Norell’s designs continue to influence fashion. What isn’t typically elaborated in the accounting of Norell’s legacy is his entrepreneurial spirit, which serves as inspiration to anyone who has ever dreamed big and never quit.

Norell perfume and Norell New York perfume will be smelled at next week’s Smell and Tell, along with key ingredients and classic green floral fragrances that shaped their creation. A sense of reverence and inspiration are inevitable when learning about this entrepreneurial designer as who Norell was in life and fashion will never be repeated again. 

There is no biography, autobiography, or film about Norman Norell's life that can be told in his voice as the designer was a private person after hours. As a result, this Smell and Tell required vigorous academic inquiry. Research about Norell for this event was conducted at the University of Michigan Library and the Kellen Design Archives online. The inclusion of scent at this Smell and Tell lecture will allow participants to arrive at a more meaningful understanding of Norell’s life and legacy through their senses.

I have had the good fortune of receiving an anonymous donation from someone in the Ann Arbor education community that allowed me to purchase vintage fragrances created by Josephine Catapano that will be experienced at next week's Norell Smell and Tell. International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF) has supplied raw materials used in Norell New York for olfactory demonstration. Karyn Khoury, Senior Vice President, Corporate Fragrance Development at The Estée Lauder Companies provided a bottle of Aliage (a Galbanum-inspired fragrance exemplar which illustrates how this ingredient, which is present in both Norell perfume formulas, can be applied to timeless classic effect). Lastly, Parlux Fragrances Limited is providing samples of Norell New York so there is much to be grateful for as the support will enrich the learning experience for all.

A reader of Glass Petal Smoke who is also a Smell and Tell fan once asked me how I get ideas for the Smell and Tell series of lectures. Some of the concepts are developed over time based on academic inquiry and presentations I've given at the University of Michigan (where I work). Other ideas come directly from attendees (the Serge Lutens Smell and Tell idea came from Vanessa Sly Thoburn, a talented pastry chef and mother of two, who is currently experimenting with some beautiful salves made with natural essential oils and absolutes). I would be remiss to exclude the element of serendipity. This summer I found a vintage bottle of Norell perfume at a local Salvation Army in Ann Arbor, Michigan when I wasn't even looking for it, which begs the question: did I find the bottle of Norell or did Norell find me?

Thank you, Norman Norell. For everything... 

Image of Norman Norell is an Associated Press photo circa 1948. Rights revert to back to the Associated Press. This image is used for educational purposes only.

Michael Edwards, creator of the Fragrance Wheel, describes the green family of fragrances thusly: "Green fragrances capture the sharp scent of fresh-cut grass and violet leaves. Despite the outdoors imagery, the impact of the classic resinous Galbanum accord is so potent that many green fragrances have a formal rather than sporty personality. In recent years, a palette of softer, lighter green notes has given this fragrance family a fresh appeal."