Blurring Boundaries

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Sophie Maxwell, Pearlfisher.
Sophie Maxwell, Pearlfisher.
There is a moment in the Karl Lagerfeld documentary Confidential where its maker answers a "call of nature" in the House of Chanel to find the following placarded mantra: "Si tu pisses partout t'es pas Chanel du tout" (pissing everywhere isn't very Chanel). Quite right too I think, as this is evidence of three good things: the fashion industry for once taking itself less seriously, a rare return from said overt glitzy glamor to the famously blunt form and natural style of the house's original founder, and the fitting extension of this original trademark elegance to their lavatorial standards.

I'm referencing it here not just because it's a funny little clip, but because it made me think about my main point this week: whether it registers or not, we expect certain behavior from certain brands. We form preconceptions and then levels of expectation (as above) through our relationship to and engagement with their products. We like them to meet our standards and ideals. And this is as it should be, especially for brands that we have come to know and trust. However this shouldn't stop new blood from challenging the status quo, both in reinterpreting our expectations and experiences and in capturing our imaginations.

While true synesthesia is involuntary--like when people describe being "hurt by" shouts--the idea or theory of one form of sensory stimulation blending with, or suggesting, another offers exciting new creative territories. Here are some interesting examples of new approaches not all following the same principles, but all nonetheless challenging what we know and how we know it. We're anticipating (and hoping for) more...

Scent by Sight
Boudicca, the London-based design duo is a favorite. By launching a paint as their first perfume they stayed true to their inspiration--their namesake queen Boudicca--who with her warriors marked themselves with wode, a blue dye, before battle. The blue spray may disappear minutes after spraying (leaving a powerful scent that includes notes of juniper berry, cardamon, nutmeg and amber) but its lasting effect may be to change what we expect from a perfume by bringing sight, not just scent, into the equation. The pack structure is a hardy: a beautiful paint can, rather than the slender dispensers typically used by fragrance houses.

Tasting by Whiffing
Scent is being used in two revolutionary and quite vice aversive ways. Le Whif is a chocolate inhaler created by Harvard professor David Edwards. Le Whif comes in four flavors and is, he explained in an interview with UK publication The Daily Telegraph, inspired by the opinion "that eating was tending toward breathing, so, with a mix of culinary art and aerosol science, we've helped move eating habits to their logical conclusion. We call it whiffing." As it contains zero calories the diet market can't be far from his thoughts.

Intoxication by Inhalation/Scratch-and-Sniff Cinema

"Breathe responsibly" is the disclaimer ingenious duo Bompas and Parr greet their visitors with upon entering Alcoholic Architecture, their pop-up bar in London's Soho. Here, they revolutionize the intake of alcohol by letting you inhale rather than drink, specifically a nice gin and tonic. Forty minutes of exposure apparently equals consumption of one cocktail.

Bompas and Parr are the perfect illustration of my point as Alcoholic Architecture is just one project in a portfolio that "operates in the space between food and architecture," aiming to, "explore how the taste of food is altered through synesthesia, performance and setting." In February this year they created the UK's first scratch-and-sniff cinema bringing to potent life Peter Greenaway's The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover through the powerful aromas of dusty books and rotting meat. That aside, their main obsession is jelly (the English kind not the American), with which they are pushing the wobbly boundaries to explore fluorescence (below), among other things. They create bespoke moulds with a CAD program and Vac-former, and have cooked up a jelly Barajas airport for Richard Rogers and Saint Paul's for the London Festival of Architecture (Creativity has the story from last year). Look at these and their next escapades - a dinner to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the futurist movement on
And that wraps up this week's blog, so in the spirit of synesthesia, smell you later.


Sophie Maxwell's fashion background as a graduate and now guest lecturer at London's Central St Martins is put to daily use in her role as Head of Creative Insight at Pearlfisher.
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