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N. Hoolywood & Stephen NilsenWith the turn of the seasons over here in Australia, the weather is becoming increasingly erratic. The heat and humidity one minute followed by spells of rolling thunderstorms the next has battered my sinuses senseless. It also makes me feel blue enough to finally sit down to slowly explore SixScents Series Three No. 5 #087, a collaboration between fashion designer N. Hoolywood and perfumer Stephen Nilsen.
N Hoolywood Stephen Nilsen perfume packagingThe entire Six Scents concept seems pretty complex: “Annually, a group of six emerging fashion designers are selected to create a series of six fragrances with six celebrated perfumers in order to raise awareness and funding for a deserving charity…. Our goal is to create a new way for people to engage with fragrance through creativity with a conscience.” In its third series, Six Scents focuses on memories, “an exploration into the nature of childhood memories and the influence of adolescence on identity”. Each perfume is made in a limited run. Mine is bottle number 807 of 3000. Each scent also comes with elaborate packaging. A thick slider box houses the scent, a DVD enclosed in a portrait of the fashion designer and a 34-paged booklet. In that, it extensively outlines the Six Scents concept, the fragrances’ background stories, profiles of designers and perfumers and artists, in addition to full profiles and credits of the short films included in the DVD. Well… I did say that I had to be in a certain mood to fully explore all that was included with the scent.

I’m a sucker for packaging but less so with “extras”. Give me a stunning scent in a beautiful bottle instead any day. The DVD contains features of each scent in the series as well as ten short films. Features about the scents itself were interesting enough and did make me feel like revisiting some of them. But the short films, mostly three to four minutes long, were completely unrelated to the fragrances. I didn’t pick up on any common running theme apart from them being mainly moody, abstract pieces that wouldn’t go out of place as video installations in many modern art museums around the world. The SixScents concept also leaves me ambivalent. On one hand, proceeds to charities is never a bad thing but as for its lofty ambitions of being “an experimental project challenging boundaries of perception, intersection of senses, emotions and intellect”? Well, broken down, the fragrance is ultimately not unlike other fragrances, a collaboration between a perfumer and a designer, based on a certain concept. Including unrelated visual pieces doesn’t quite translate to me as challenging the other senses.

I’m unsure of the popularity of SixScents perfumes but I did manage to try many of them when I was in Hong Kong over the years but was never really tempted to purchase any besides #087. Mostly, it was too difficult to keep up and smell them all. As for the ones that I did, the actual scent unfortunately didn’t seem to live up to their often intriguing back stories or listed fragrance notes. When I did try #087 though, something felt different. On first spray, a soapy note immediately brought about some sort of familiar comfort. It took me quite a while to realise that it actually smells of engine oil, which I happen to adore, for better or for worse. Hinoki woods and rounded fir-balsam notes add some strength to the scent along with hints of incense and herbs. The volatile fumes then slowly dissipates into a rounder softer scent as it wears on, emphasising the sweet-salty aspect inherent in engine oil.  On the whole, it feels modern but not necessarily edgy. Its counterparts would probably be CDG Synthetic Series scents or Bulgari Black or even L’Artisan Parfumeur Dzing.

Daisuke Obana of N. Hoolywood talks about the scent in the DVD feature, of how often in the busy city, we can’t have places or environments that we can get relaxed in and so the perfumer Stephen Nilsen created a juxtaposition of memories of engine oil in Daisuke father’s car against the scent of nature, resulting in a “scent to relax”. As for me, #087 doesn’t cause me to be nostalgic but instead allows me to ease and surrender myself to the blues.