Scent has a direct link to the emotions that bypasses rational thought. It taps into our feelings, unfiltered and unadulterated, conjuring sensations we can’t control and memories we can’t predict. It is, in many ways, the rawest, purest form of communication: nuanced, unconscious and utterly personal. Its closest sensory relation, therefore, is probably abstract art – images which may have no explicit meaning, but which evoke a strong individual reaction on an emotional level, if not a cognitive one.
Our previous collaborations have considered many different facets of scent; Lightning + Kinglyface explored the constituent ingredients of Laboratory Perfumes fragrances; Zuza Mengham gave their individual notes colour, form and texture; and graphic artist Therese Vandling drew upon the molecular aspects of diffusion for her designs. When the time came to create a new set of visuals for our site and materials, we were interested in examining the more emotional, human dimension of scent – so we turned to the designer and art director Charlotte Heal.
From her North London studio, Charlotte has created books, branding and pages for the likes of Love, Kinfolk, Zuzunaga, Handvaerk, Violet magazine, Toast, Document Studios, Lee Cooper, Penguin Random House, and more – demonstrating a talent for ambiguity, intrigue and haunting imagery that lingers long in the mind. Having seen Charlotte’s out-of-the-ordinary work in fashion (as well as her talk at It’s Nice That’s ‘Here’ symposium back in 2015), we invited her to collaborate. The result is a series of visuals now featuring on the Laboratory Perfumes website and window displays – images that represent her own personal emotional responses to our range of fragrances, capturing their resonances in abstract, sensual, almost surreal, forms and figures.
Here, she explains how she approached the project, her aims and the processes behind her creations…
‘I draw inspiration from the everyday. I’m very drawn to uncanny situations and visuals that make you double-take, and the poetry of a really delicate moment captured feels rare and is something to be cherished.
I’ve long admired Laboratory Perfumes scents so we started discussing the potential of collaborating. Laboratory Perfumes was mostly aware of our fashion work and specifically a project called ‘Contours’ – which was referenced with relation to the use of skin and the human figure – not something Laboratory Perfumes had done before. It was a good point from which to springboard ideas.
The fact that the project is about the power of scent and the senses – and for unisex fragrances – was really inspiring to us. Aaron, the founder of Laboratory Perfumes, has been very trusting and there was a real sense of adventure with the project. He has a lot of respect for the process, which is always wonderful. This is evident in previous collaborations he has formed – another reason I was initially drawn to working for the brand.
Although the brief was to bring through the human element of skin, touch and interaction, we wanted the visuals to evoke something otherworldly – sensual and alluring. My own memory is often hazy, whereas my dreams are very vivid and emotionally charged, so I’ve certainly drawn on this. I also knew that Dominic Davies was the perfect photographer for these visions as he is a visual alchemist.
I started by taking the scent and wearing it for a short time – application to skin changes the aroma and the scents change throughout the day. The visuals also developed through discussion and experimentation. The ideas of memory and emotion are hugely linked and we drew on this. As scent morphs, it was important the imagery was vague and intriguing to the eye.
The smells within the scents are evident in the imagery – through colour or mood as I ‘saw’ them and discussed with Dominic. However, the brief was also to suggest perfume in a loose way, rather than depicting ingredients or the exact five scents. That would possibly have been easier, but more expected.’