Midweek Quick Hits: Sonoma Scent Studio, Iris Apfel, Street Style and Male Shoppers

1.) Sonoma Scent Studio Fig Tree: Independent perfumer Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studio has released a new fig fragrance, dubbed Fig Tree, that’s been in development and trial stages for, I think, about two years now, give or take a few months (Update: Erickson emailed me to let me know it’s been about a year).

Fig Tree is only the second product release for Sonoma Scent Studio in 2011, so Laurie’s development process is a slow and steady one, made more so through her employment of what she calls “trial mods” sent out to a wide group of regular evaluators for feedback — kind of like a focus group, but instead of trying to aim her creative process at a particular demographic (see: BBC Perfume Documentary, Episode 3), she looks instead for feedback on new materials she’s working with, or maybe even a positive consensus regarding the direction a new project might be heading.

I remember being part of her evaluation group for Tabac Aurea as it was under development, and how a very unpleasant reaction I experienced to the dosage of musks in an earlier version encouraged her to rethink and revise the formula. Tabac Aurea went on to become a popular and well-reviewed fragrance for Laurie, so gathering information like this from potential consumers before a full-on release can often prevent a new product from crashing into some serious brick walls.

Fig Tree is a lovely scent, though not as perfectly unisex as her Incense Pure. After the crisply green opening, there’s a creamy, floral quality to several hours of Fig Tree’s core development (before sliding down into a lower musk register) that tips the overall balance into more traditionally feminine “It’s a perfume!” territory, though admittedly, Laurie’s interpretation of the fig genre is still very much a part of the wide-open, California-spaces aesthetic that I think she nailed so decisively with Incense Pure.

And she has some gorgeous new packaging (plus a revamped website), too!

2.) Interview with Socialite Iris Apfel: The Telegraph interviews 90 year old New York socialite and “geriatric starlet” Iris Apfel and walks away with a bucketful of soundbites that would put a gleam in any news outlet’s eye.

An exhibit of her clothes and jewelry at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute put Ms. Apfel’s name on the lips of every fashion hound in town, and now you can find her saucer-glassed mug cropping up in interviews with the likes of Architectural Digest, the New York Times, Look Online and more.

I might consider all the coverage leaning a bit toward overkill if she weren’t such a darn kick in the shins to read. My favorite quote from the Telegraph interview: “If someone says, ‘Buy this, you’ll be stylish’ you won’t be stylish because you won’t be you. You have to learn who you are first and that’s painful.'”

The woman’s lived through two world wars and the Great Depression, witnessed the development of commercial flight, space flight, the mobile phone and the personal computer, and yet still has enough patience to sit down for interviews with lifestyle journalists.

You all can have your gone nowhere, seen-nuthin’ Daphne Guinness‘, but I’m picking Apfel for Team Nathan.

3.) The Battle for Social Media Authenticity: As brands and individuals look to social media platforms to spread the word about products, collaborations and overall image building, are we at risk of sailing right past the very reason that social media exists in the first place?

“‘The personal branding movement has reduced individual communications to a contrived popularity contest,’ said Geoff Livingston, author and marketing strategist. ‘I’ve heard all the arguments for doing this right, and while they sound good, personal branding has diminished authenticity, turning it into a fool’s pursuit. What means more is looking good and sales. So, we now have the metaphorical fashion show instead of interpersonal interactions dominating the social web.'”

This has become readily apparent in the Street Style segment of fashion blogging. What used to be a new format for communicating personal aesthetics has become yet another exercise in advertising name brands and chain stores, with both photographers and bloggers signing contracts to cover and promote global product lines rather than follow the once organic evolution of personal style.

For a good look at where street style blogging originated, check out the Bill Cunningham documentary:

“The fashion show is definitely on the street”

Cunningham consistently rejects endorsement deals and pay for play (i.e. getting paid to photograph and feature specific brands), and still takes to the street to capture the grassroots flourishing of genuine style movements and trends.

Other opinions:

Fashion’s Collective: “One cannot help but question their authenticity and motivation, lending credence to the feeling that this propensity to jump on the street-style blog bandwagon seems to be spurred on by more of a desire for self-promotion than a genuine quest for self-expression.”

GQ: “When the street-style trend went nuclear, all the accidental “Who, me?” unselfconsciousness that once made it so fresh was tainted. The streets became the runway . . . What everyone quickly learned is that the best way to get noticed is to go over the top—to identify every trend and pile them all on at once.”

Fashionista: “Though street style is so fun to click through, I think now that it’s become more about wearing the hot new thing, or the head-to-toe runway look — it perpetuates this cycle of thinness and richness that fashion’s always accused of promoting and always [denying its part in].”

NY Mag: “Images of these fashion insiders — models, stylists, buyers and editors — going about their glamorous lives are now so sought after that they’ve created an entirely new category of fashion photography. These photographs, seemingly casual and snapped on the fly, now appear regularly on retail websites, blogs, and in ad campaigns and print magazines to demonstrate how “normal” people incorporate certain looks into their everyday outfits.”

I don’t know about you, but none of that sounds like “street” to me.

4.) The Power of the Asian Male Consumer: “In China, men make up nearly half of luxury purchases, and brands such as Coach and Louis Vuitton see men as a bigger share of Asian sales than in other parts of the world. Coach, for example, said earlier this year that 45% of its bags sold in China are to men.”

In Hong Kong, they’ve even dedicated a 60,000 square foot mall space solely to the male shopper: Landmark Men

My one question is, what are these great Coach bags that all those Hong Kong men are snapping up? I just scoured the Coach website and didn’t see a single thing that looked any different than any other Tom, Dick or Harry briefcase I could buy anywh . . . oh! a leather backpack!

5.) Katie Puckrik suffers the slings and arrows so you don’t have to:

“Clamoring for their individual Bieber benediction”