As the weather here in Chicago begins to chill its natives to the bone, a beautiful new pure floral perfume has graciously moved in with me to warm my soul and to offer just a whiff of tradition. Maria McElroy, the creator and founder of Aroma M Perfumes and my friend, has launched Camellia Perfume in a concentrated oil and eau de parfum. It joins her Camellia Beauty collection of ridiculously luxe oils for hair and skin, and bears an intensified, refined version of the fragrance so elegantly employed for those very beauty oils.
The fragrance's focus is of course the camellia bloom, or tsubaki in Japanese. The camellia's leaves are made into many varieties of the tea that the world voraciously consumes. In Camellia Perfume's case, it is joined with jasmine, gardenia, neroli, geranium and rose, rounded out with a bit of brightly intoxicating frankincense. Many of you know that I'm not a huge rose lover, but it's precisely the judicious use of it in this perfume that allows me to appreciate it so much for how it can transform the mood of a fragrance blend. It provides a touch of warmth to this largely cool yet seasonless blend, and that's what really does it for me.
I just need a few deep breaths and I'm enveloped by smooth, peaceful waves of warmth. The natural freshness of this fragrance graces me with true, unfettered happiness, wholeness and wistfulness for something that I haven't yet remembered. Camellia Perfume is the olfactory equivalent of a drop of red sealing wax on pure white paper. The past, present and future all collide here, with a nod to traditional Japanese Geisha culture, modern fashion and thoughts of what kind of legacy we will leave for future generations of girls and women. I'm not ashamed by my frequent cravings for this beautiful poppy in the field-- my life is simply less colorful without it.
I was so happy to do an interview with Maria recently, which you'll find below. After you read her inspiring words, leave a comment answering the question at the end of this post, BECAUSE...
...up for grabs is a complete set of Aroma M Camellia Beauty Oils and a set of Camellia perfume samples. You can get the full Camellia experience with a total of 5 samples to indulge yourself with, compliments of Aroma M! Trust me, this is one contest you need to enter.
CM: What was your main inspiration to create Camellia Perfume on the heels of your coveted Camellia Beauty trio (bath & body oil, face oil and hair oil)?
MM: Aroma M got its start as an artisanal perfume house, so of course I wanted to add a perfume to the aroma M Beauty collection. The inspirations are the natural heady floral notes that the Camellia Beauty Oils are known for. I was very inspired to create a natural perfume that included Camellia essential oil. I knew when I finally sourced this rare, delicate, and almost fruity fragrance, that it would be the namesake of the perfume.
CM: Historically, how does fragrance play into the daily rituals of geishas? Why is the camellia flower in particular so important?
MM: The Camellia flower is sometimes used as a symbol of the Geishas, but Camellia essential oil is quite rare. I had not seen it until I went on my yearlong search for the essential oil, after creating the aroma M Beauty Oils.
CM: The vibe of Camellia Perfume (both versions) is intense but fresh—a memorable and beautiful contrast. I see it as a modern-day Joy—a classic, but with a more faithful and almost affectionate rendering of the floral notes. Was one of your goals to create the type of fragrance that multiple generations of women could wear?
MM: I love that you see it as a modern-day Joy! I did give a lot of attention to the floral notes which are classic in combination. But as with all the aroma M perfumes I feel that it has a firm footing in the present and is modern, specifically with the subtle Japanese incense note. I created the Camellia Perfume with the intention for it to be worn by a young ingénue or a Grande dame.
CM: Including your last big fragrance launch, Geisha Amber Rouge, I feel that your aesthetic is becoming a bit more refined, lush and extravagant. Did you will the pendulum to swing this way?
MM: I feel that my style with the Camellia perfume is more refined also, and more opulent. In creating the aroma M Beauty Oils I worked with a lot of heady, voluptuous floral notes. They have influenced my aesthetic and inspired me to add even more gorgeous natural florals, like the addition of the Gardenia note. I swooned over it when I first smelled it!
Camellia EDP (30ml, $110)
CM: I love the timing of Camellia Perfume’s launch. I happen to think a rich floral for cooler seasons is super-chic—especially if it contains whispers of incense, as Camellia does. In terms of fashion, what would pair nicely with Camellia? Do you have any new and fabulous things stirring in your closet this Fall?
MM: The whisper of incense as you beautifully put it, gives the Camellia Perfume its aroma M signature I think. I love wearing a rich floral in cooler seasons also, they go wonderfully with flowing scarves and cashmere sweaters. I have been wearing a lot of vintage DVF dresses with chunky sweaters as the temperature cools; the Camellia Perfume pairs glamorously with these pieces.
CM: The experience of wearing this perfume has the same fluidity as music—no individual notes stand out as obvious, but there is a sweetness of character that emerges as soon as it hits skin. Highs and lows exist, but no one point is better than another—just different. I know that among other things, you studied music in Japan. Do you believe that art of all disciplines, including the design and creation of fragrance, springs from the same well?
MM: What a lovely way to describe the Camellia Perfume's fluidity like music. I created this perfume so that it would flow evenly over you as you wear it, each note merging into each other much like music, with the Camellia at the heart. I do think that all art, including perfume come from the same place of inspiration.
CM: Camellia might be the ultimate Aroma M perfume because of how tightly it’s connected to the heart of what your brand is. What do you hope that your new fragrance says to the world about the old world Japanese tradition of the geisha?
MM: I feel that the Camellia Perfume is very symbolic of the 20-year history of aroma M; our anniversary will be Feb 14! It is part of the new aroma M Beauty collection that embraces all natural ingredients, and it still has the ever-present influence of Japan and the geisha running firmly through it.
Maria McElroy-- Photo by Axel Oberg
CM: I mentioned the word “classic” before, which for me, speaks to the element of time in perfumery and its fleeting nature. It seems to me that the signature of Aroma M has always given a nod to the past while allowing us to languish in the moment for as long as possible. What does the near future hold for Aroma M?
MM: I especially love the poetic quality of fleeting beauty that perfume has. The images of cherry blossom petals fluttering down like pink snow, and the moon covered with a wisp of clouds. These are the essences that I try to translate in my perfumes. I create aroma M perfumes to help us linger in the moment for a bit longer. As for the future, I have a new aroma M Beauty Camellia Oil product that will launch next year that I am very excited about, and another aroma M Beauty perfume is in the works!
Leave a comment on this post to have the chance to win a full Aroma M Beauty Camellia sample set: that's one of each formulation of Camellia Perfume, and one each of Camellia Face, Hair and Bath and Body oil (a total of 5 samples). Just tell us how (if at all) beauty oils have made their way into your daily beauty regimen. Or, if you prefer, which Aroma M perfumes or skin care products appeal to you the most and why?
The winner will be chosen at random via random.org. The giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada only. The winner will be announced in a separate post on this blog on Friday, October 10th at 7pm Central. At that point, the winner will be responsible for contacting me via email with their mailing information at: eyeliner on a cat at gmail dot com. If the winner does not come forward within 5 days, a new winner will be announced in the same manner.
Good Luck, everyone!
[sample provided by Aroma M for my editorial consideration]