Monday, June 7, 2010

Warp and Weft (and a little w00t for Wasser)

Both “warp” and “weft” derive from the Old English word wefan, “to weave.”  The weft is drawn through the warp in order to create the final weave, the fabric.

How tightly the weaver, the artist, decides to run the weft determines both the appearance and the density of the end product.  
You can create a simple weave, a smooth weave, a patterned weave. You can weave by hand, you can weave with a loom; the range of options for production goes from a human alone to a machine alone.
For some reason, one of the places I am most aware of the warp and weft of the fabric I wear is on my scarf, an item of clothing frequently part of my ensemble.  Perhaps this is connected to the fact that I am a bit sensitive when it comes to necklines...put a mock turtle on my neck, and I am fine; ask me to wear a traditional funnel neck turtleneck, and I spend the day feeling like a pair of hands is clasped about my trachea, to greater or lesser pressure, but always reminding me they could, that they have the power to tighten.
So, here am I, with my neck and my scarves.  Tightly woven cotton squares for protecting my skin and catching sweat while gardening; big bulky cotton or soft flat cashmere for keeping me warm in the cold; and any number of large, small, narrow, pashmina, or other sizes in a wide array of weaves, materials, and colors.
For every one, a choice in warp and weft.  Warp and woof.  Weave.
How well you lay down the warp will absolutely affect the quality of the final product.  The warp seems simple...just a bunch of threads, parallel to each other.  But how tautly they are held, how much their underlying structure is respected and followed, can make or break the end product.  Weaving in the weft.  Tricky business.
Thierry Wasser has been asked to bring his talent and weave on the warp of Guerlain.  Over 180 years of family tradition have laid down a clear pattern for the company’s “fabrics”; perfume fans are fond of pointing out how you can identify a “Guerlinade,” a particular base, that appears in so many of their perfumes.  A standard warp established by history of use.  An accomplishment that perhaps sometimes gets diminished in its regularity...which, one could say, is the unsung strength of a good warp.
Along comes Wasser.  And from interviews, and PR statements from the company, it is clear that all parties expect tradition to be respected, even as all parties recognize that a new artist is going to bring something else to the weave.
On my left wrist, Cologne du Parfumeur.  On my right, 180 Ans du Creation.  In my mind, Attrape Coeur and the Guerlinade.  In my heart, an individual, creating something new, which is somehow going to have to also demonstrate using the touchstone of tradition.
Doubling the challenge?  Operating within the conventions of a particular paradigm, in this case, cologne.  So, Wasser will begin, knowing what the warp of the company has been, and what the heft of the “yarn” (given the tradition of cologne) has been.  And he will create something which adds to the vocabulary, even as it speaks the same language.
Does he shock us with his innovation, uncover some heretofore unheard of fiber, reveal some inconceivable weave?  No.
Does he create a lovely fabric, one both familiar and not like anything we’ve been able to use before, one which will easily slide into our wardrobe?  Yes.
To me, Cologne du Parfumeur is “another cologne, but.”  It is another cologne in that you will recognize a certain bracing opening (ah, thank you, migraine healing burst of Eau Imperiale), which typically settles down and nearly out at a rapid pace...even as a few little sensors at the back of the radar screen are saying “hey, wait a minute...there’s something over here.”  You go back, you huff, you say, cologne...but...hovering about 1/5 of the way up in space, a layer that isn’t there.  Well, obviously, it’s there, but shouldn’t be there.  It’s...what is it?
It’s a sheer where there always had been gauze.
It is a haunting.
Somebody slipped a little simple syrup into my green tea.  Just a bit.  
It is...Attrape Coeur.  No, it’s the Guerlinade.  No, it’s not either...psych!  Made you think of it, though.
Most people are acting rather “meh” about this one.  I dunno.  Serge gets attention because he turns left instead of right--hello, L'Eau--which is an old teenage trick of rebellion, and a not difficult one at that.  To rebel by being the other.  Thierry gets dangled at a safe distance because he did what he was supposed to, even though what he supposed to do was both be old and new.
That’s a tougher trick.
The extent to which you like what came out of it might vary.  But it’s good.  The only thing wrong with it is that is not colossal; neither a sea change, nor a shattering failure.
The art of weaving is deceiving.  It is simple in concept, tricky in execution, trickier to do well, and downright tough to do with innovation.
I’m going to give a w00t to Wasser as artist.  And I’m going to enjoy my (purchased) share of a 500ml bottle.  
Okay, I don’t know yet if I’ll buy more.  But let’s give Wasser a few more props, s'il vous plait?
There is a lovely interview with Jean-Paul Guerlain and Thierry Wasser in Wallpaper magazine (you can jump to the online version here).  Watch for Jean-Paul’s summary of old age, and a short but memorable account of the end of his grandfather’s life.  

A review of Cologne du Parfumeur at Grain de Musc; you'll see that the bergamot does not hit Denyse quite as hard on the opening as it did me this morning.  Her description lines up more with my first test run; that'll teach me to go around the track three times before speaking up.

First image is from the article "Handloom Construction."  


La Bonne Vivante said...

Love this! I really like the idea of Wasser as a new weaver in the maison. What a useful image! It really helps me think about what's going on. Nice OE etymology, BTW! Maybe you mean a little 'wod' for wasser, non? C'mon, that was an awesome joke...why do I imagine you groaning right now?

ScentScelf said...

BV, considering the post you recently put up on how to save the 'wod,' you *know* I am groaning. ;)

ScentScelf said...

P.S. I find it kind of karmic that you posted that poem when I was starting to cook this kernel.

ScentScelf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
La Bonne Vivante said...

Wodness everywhere!

I'm trying to figure out what poem you mean....


Um, I have a totally unrelated question for you: I am heading back to MI again next week to visit my bro in Detroit, and wondered if you have any recommendations for perfumey things to check out while I'm there, you being a native and all.

La Bonne Vivante said...

ooh, maybe you mean my little lyrical thought sequence at the end of the end of the world post...