Indochine (Parfumerie Générale)

Indochine is a genteel fragrance inspired by a reference photo of colonialism. The year is 1920; a teakwood paddle steamer travels slowly down the Mekong at dawn. The crisp linen suits and drop-waist dresses of a few early risers have already begun to wilt in the tropical heat. Languid in their deck chairs, these masters and mistresses of a land not theirs sip iced nước mía and watch the opaque milk-tea waters roil uneasily past...

And the river, that sullen deity who forgets and forgives nothing, carries them on its back towards the sea.

The sweet and delicate balsam that lies so softly on my skin is meant to encapsulate this downriver ride. Perhaps. I do not think that the colonial years were so soft for everyone, but to the victor go the spoils-- the fruits of the tree, plus its spices, its sap, its very heart. The story of its appropriation is his to tell. Naturally, he relates it in the tongue of the ruling class.

And this makes me more uncomfortable than anything else, for I understand every word.

Here on the water, all is lovely and serene. Life (which smacks of plunder and privilege) is very satisfactory indeed. Settled comfortably in our deck chairs, we face the sunrise without a care in the world. But the difference between upriver and downriver is more than a matter of which way the water's heading. Downriver is the path of least resistance; ease and luxury flow with the current. But to go upriver is to fight against complacency, to reject effortless gain, to create art that cleaves to the bone. Dodge the heart of darkness, and the life that follows is safe-- but hollow.

Who knows what Indochine we might have found if we had been traveling upriver instead of down?

Scent Elements: Siam benzoin, Cambodian pepper, Burmese thanaka, Laotian honey, cardamom, sandalwood