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sábado, 5 de março de 2016

Fragrant Finland: Saunas, Babies and Rive Gauche

by: Eeva-Helena Laurinsalo

All Finns grow up familiar with the sauna bathing experience. My own earliest visit to the sauna was a scary one: a hot dark petrol-smelling affair in my uncle's temporary tent sauna.
A traditional sauna that is heated by burning chopped birch smells different from the small electric saunas many of us have in our flats. In the summer we can use a vihta, whips made of fresh birch twigs to enhance the effect of the heat. The aromatic smell of birch lingers in the mind.
The so-called löylytuoksu has been entering our saunas in recent years. Löylytuoksuis an aromatic essence you add to your bucket of water before tossing the water onto the heated stones. Many of these essences try to replicate the birch aroma. The Finnish sauna brand Rentosauna (‘relaxed sauna’) offers also aromas of tar, eucalyptus, “Lapland Berries” and “Winter Spices” to one’s evening sauna.
I have wondered many times how brand new baby-Finns react to their first visit to the sauna. It is true that in the old days this was the only warm, clean place to give birth to a baby. I assume that the temperature was not 100 degrees Celsius and Daddy was not throwing water on the hot stones at the time!
The arrival of my own first baby girl was a long grim journey that fortunately ended in total bliss... and not in a sauna but in Tampere General Hospital in central Finland.

Tampere City Hall
My baby was born in December, and it took six months before she had her first sauna. In early June in the summer cottage I carried her to our ancient black smoke sauna. Needless to say the dark hot space – although not as hot as it would normally be – scared the little girl into crying and wriggling in my arms!
But back to the general hospital. I was feeling rather shaken afterwards.
I will never forget my sister, the brand new auntie, arriving with a large bar of chocolate and a blue-and-silver bottle of Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche EdT created by Michael Hy in 1970 and launched in 1971.
The combined sensation of the two gave me such a jolt of joy: I will survive!
I’m not sure if my sister thought of me as “independent and quintessentially metropolitan”, as the fragrance was advertised in those days, but the optimistic EdT really picked me up and fortified my soul.
There’s no way my sister would have known that I love the scent of vetiver – I don’t think I knew it myself then. Perhaps she had walked through the Tampere Stockmann department store on her way to the university and spotted Rive Gauche there.
The freshness of aldehydes together with the warmth of the bouquet of rose, jasmine and geranium freed my mind to escape the hospital ward and the horrible pink night gown and fly out to the world: there’s more to come in my life!
I was saving my EdT for other special occasions. But when I did wear it, I felt grown up and confident. And I did get compliments on my fragrance. So perhaps the mild unscented Finland was getting ready for something wilder!
I have been unfaithful to many of my beloved fragrances. The same happened with Rive Gauche. Other things happened in my life.

Eeva-Helena and Marlen work together
in 2011 for Anna Magazine
Then in 2004, when I began to work as beauty producer for a women’s magazine, perfumes arrived in my professional life. I started getting invitations to perfume launches and quickly learned: vetiver yes, patchouli no.
That insight led me to return to Rive Gauche. The vetiver was still there, but like in life in general, you cannot recreate your younger years. The fragrance had somehow faded. Or had I?
I’m interested in finding out what is the motivation of a manufacturer when they decide to revamp a perfume. What is the success rate in doing that? And does the success depend on the receiver’s age?
Perhaps the younger consumers expect different things from a classic perfume.
I wonder, do people from other cultures have similar ‘scent memories’ connected with having children? Did you grow up with the scent of the Turkish hammam or Japaneseonsen, for example? It would be fascinating to hear your memories!

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