Yosh Han and Vero Kern: A Conversation
A few days ago, I got to talk with two very candid and discerning perfumers, Yosh Han and Vero Kern, just in from their respective San Francisco and Zurich. They first heard about each other while working on a poetry/perfume project that involved getting perfumers to create potential fragrances based on a Ezra Pound Haiku. They didn’t actually meet in-person until Yosh was traveling to Italy to scout for representation, and thought to bring her mother and father along as a way to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Yosh decided she would choose a rep based on how they treated her parents. If they were good to her parents, she thought, they would treat her fragrances well too. It is this same instinctual pull that united Vero and Yosh; add to the mix their participation in the annual Smell Festival in Bologna for two years in a row (they shared some very funny stories) and I can only imagine the countless of other exchanges that have allowed this friendship to deepen and grow. During our conversation, on the eve of the Elements Showcase, here in NYC, I caught a glimpse of their friendship, and how these generous perfumers share pure delight in each others’ perfumes and creative process.
Let me describe what it felt like to sit down with Yosh and Vero and smell their fragrances with them. As soon as the vials came out of my purse and on to the table, the energy changed. There was a precision and focus that is unparalleled. As they put a bit of juice on their skin, it was then that I was reminded of the location of the olfactory bulb and how it sits very close to the Limbic region of the brain, and why it is thought that smell can release such vivid memories and emotions. At first, they are quiet and then they begin to talk about different notes and ideas. There is a certain calmness and rhythm to the back and forth of their smelling and talking.
KIKI is Vero’s boisterous tribute to Paris, where she studied perfumery. KIKI has a mystical top note of Lavender. As Vero inhaled, she smiled, and told me of the lushness and bounty of French Lavender fields throughout France. Yosh, smelled and agreed, and suddenly said, “There’s the Passion Fruit.” “Yes,” Vero said. It’s the one note that runs through all of her three fragrances. I tell them that I’m not sure if I have ever smelled Passion Fruit, then they banter back and forth and agreed on its sulfur-like quality. KIKI is also a nod to Kiki de Montparnasse, Man Ray’s muse. As a young girl Vero wanted to go to art school, but her mother thought it better if she studied to become a pharmacist, she conceded. She talked with affection about that time, and especially recalled the mixing and the smell memories from the pharmacy. She also spoke of how her travels have influenced Vero Profumo. All roads have led Vero to perfumery, she seems to magically extract the germ out of her life experiences, tossing aside what isn’t necessary, and thus has carved out a life that has brought her back to her earliest desire, to be an artist. I told Vero there is so much movement and tension in KIKI, she agreed. Vero added, “The Cassis rises up in KIKI.” We smile, we both love Cassis.
Sotille means subtle in Italian. YOSH SOTILLE 1.61 is a masterful and modern mix of Muget and Tea Rose. As Vero smelled SOTTILE, she said, “It’s so Green, it’s so Green.” Something I didn’t realize until she said it. Now that I think about it, I think it’s this Greenness that gives it a weightlessness and modernity. I told Yosh that I felt as if I were looking down at myself while wearing SOTILLE. She assured me that is because it addresses the sixth chakra, which is the bridge to the spirit. She works energetically with raw materials, and her perfumes address numerology and the different chakras. Yosh speaks at length about the person who is drawn to wearing SOTILLE, and as I listen to her speak I somehow think this person is a bit like her. Yosh is strong and grounded. She has a no nonsense warmth about her and a charming smile and wit. Her name means fragrant, and she believes that ultimately most people in the end become their name. She swears her calling into perfumery was purely accidental, but indeed it is no accident that she is a perfumer. Her perfumes resonate.
Thank you Yosh and Vero, until we meet again, your perfumes and extraits will continue to connect us.