It was 1996 and I was eighteen years’ old. I was listlessly watching Top of the Pops with my brother when it happened – onto the screen burst the most exhilarating pop song I’d ever heard. I remember it like it was yesterday. “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want”, shouted the busty redhead at the top of her lungs. “What? What?” we screamed back at her with pure joy.
It was a thrilling moment for me – the song had all the bright, poppy, teenage elements all its peers in this category had, but there was also something deeper too. The message was girl power. It sounds silly now, at a distance of fifteen years, but back then, the message that it was more important for a girl to love and respect herself than to get some random boy to fancy her seemed new. It seemed like the first time anyone had said it. The equation of pink, frothy pop + serious intent = perfect pop moment.
Slumberhouse’s Sådanne is, for me, the olfactory equivalent of the pop moment. Its opening notes of luridly pink berry goo are irresistibly joyful. They smell like strawberry gummy bears, jam, rubber erasers, and chewed hair elastic. I almost laughed out loud when I first sprayed this on. It’s so wrong it’s right. Something about it makes me think of the trend towards infantilisation among Japanese teenage girls – their manic lemming of the excessively cute, collecting of pink teddy bears and Hello Kitty-everything, and so on. Pure joy.
But lift the corner of the luridly pink and innocent comfort blankies and you see a whole sea of utter filth. Even the popular de-sexualization of Japanese teens has an unsavory counterpart, like those vending machines in train stations where seedy old men can buy the used underwear of schoolgirls just by popping a coin in. In Sådanne, the pink froth of the opening is immediately countered by an almost frightening animalic accord, built, I believe on a base of ambergris. This is probably a reconstruction of the materials, since real ambergris is used very rarely in perfumery these days. But what a glorious stink!
Real ambergris does not smell like warm, ambery, ‘grey’ ambroxan, the aromachemical commonly used to approximate its effect in modern fragrances – the real thing, which I was lucky enough to smell once, carries the stench of low tide coastal waters and bad breath. Actually, it smells rather like civet paste at first, only not as searingly sharp. What it does for fragrances, and for Sådanne in this case, is add a layer of pure filthiness to scuff up the pure pop opening.
But that’s not all. I also smell the metallic twang of a good, flinty white wine, which contrasts delightfully with the pink, pulpy fruit notes. There is also, finally, a snapshot of a rose – but like in Rozy by Vero Profumo, it is a rose built from the particles of light refracted off other objects, and not a direct portrait. Also, there a persistent waft of crushed pine needles or tree resin, which provides a much-needed (and adult) bitterness to the mix. This coniferous element is really the only link to the larger body of work produced under the Slumberhouse label – Sådanne marks something of a departure from the rustic Americana aesthetic of the line thus far (it joins the only other outlier, Pear & Olive).
I find Sådanne to be a fascinating and extremely well-balanced perfume, all of its elements clicking right into place against each other. Sometimes, I amuse myself by wondering what two-word reviews Luca Turin might come up for fragrances released after the 2009 edition of The Guide (aside from those he reviews for Arabia.com, of course). I like to imagine that, for Sådanne, it would be this: Pink Filth.
In the end, Sådanne is, for me, the olfactory equivalent of seeing the Spice Girls burst onto the screen that day – it is a moment of pure pop brilliance grafted on to a deeper message lurking just underneath the surface. I can’t stop spraying my arms with it. It’s like spraying liquid joy every time.