Photos: Franziska Taffelt
1. The Blind Tasting | Amour de Palazzo by Jul et Mad
We confronted Thoas Lindner with a mystery perfume in a neutral, opaque vaporizer. Only afterwards did we reveal the name of the scent. Follow Thoas on his journey into scent …
In Leaf and full of Light.
A little while ago my kids and I cycled all the way from Berlin to the Baltic Coast, which took nine days. It was still summertime and the forests we crossed were chock-full of blueberries. That’s the first image that springs to mind when I smell this scent — not the forest in wintertime or fall, with its moldy, earthy scents. The forest I see is in leaf and full of light, and the freshly felled tree trunks stacked beside a path are weeping resin that is sticky to the touch and has a pungent odor. I like wood, especially old wood that has been adrift in a lake for years, or in a brook, and that the lap-lap of water has worn smooth. For me, it’s like conserved time. I collect that type of wood and I work a lot with it too.
I grew up in Potsdam but later we moved to the countryside, to a bay on the River Havel, which lay within the Grenzgebiet, the restricted border area around West Berlin. Ours was the third to the last house before the forest: a redbrick villa on a small rise. It was a dream, an idyll! But the most magic place of all, for me, was the forest. When I cut through it on my way down to the river, I was always intensely aware of the scents and sounds around me.
The border area was completely cut off. Anyone who moved into the Grenzgebiet was subject to all kinds of restrictions. Even close relatives, if they wanted to drop by over Christmas, say, had to apply for permission six months in advance. The Stasi secret police was very afraid that someone might use the pretext of a visit to make a dash for the border.
I was twelve years old and just adored spending time in the forest on my bike. East German TV once showed The BMX-Gang and I immediately built a BMX bike for myself. Three months later the Wall opened, Havel Bay ceased to be a border area, and anyone could buy a BMX in a store.
My parents were diplomats. In 1986 they left, to work in Zimbabwe for a year. My sister was allowed to accompany them but I had to stay behind in the GDR, at my grandma’s place, held ransom by the state quasi, so that my parents would have to return. But I was allowed to fly there once, for a four-week holiday. So I had my personal hole in the Wall even before 1989.
2. The Interview
What is Thoas Lindner’s earliest scent memory? What is the significance of fragrance in his life? Which are his personal Top 3 perfumes? Find the answers below!
An olfactory Odyssey.
Helder Suffenplan: What is your very earliest olfactory memory?
Thoas Lindner: The forest. My parents were dedicated mushroom hunters and we kids were made to join them, every time, every fall. We were each given a basket, and a knife — then off we’d swarm in every direction.
HS: What sort of mushrooms did you find?
TL: Mostly ceps and bay boletes. We always played it safe. Of course, gathering mushrooms was followed by the odors of eating them: we’d cook the mushrooms with fresh parsley and fried spaghetti. We kids loved that dish, but were not at all keen on having to forage.
HS: Do you recall your first perfume?
TL: It was ck One. I was 14 or 15 at the time.
HS: Did you choose it yourself?
TL: Yes, I did, but my parents paid for it. It was the year of my final trip with my parents. They more or less forced me to go on holiday with them, so I said: “Well, now you must give me something in return!”
HS: Do you wear perfume nowadays?
TL: Yes. At the moment my favorite scent is Agua de Florida. Which actually is not a perfume at all, but a ritual ablution from Peru!
HS: Wow! Where did you come across that?
TL: A friend of mine uses it to freshen up at festivals after dancing ’til dawn. But it stems from Peruvian shamans, who spit, or rather, spray it lightly through their lips onto protégés faces after certain ceremonies. I gave my last little phial of it to an Indian friend. She researches scents, so I asked her to analyze it and then develop a perfume from it especially for me.
HS: And how does Agua de Florida smell?
TL: Extremely fresh, and light, with a hint of cinnamon. And it contains jasmine too, which is the love of my life.
HS: When did you fall in love with jasmine?
TL: I first came across it in Paris, where I go pretty often. Indian street hawkers there sell garlands of fresh jasmine. Then I rediscovered those garlands when I first visited India, four years ago. I go there now once a year: all alone, without my children, purely for my own sake. Each time, it’s a trip to my inner self. And the jasmine garlands are part and parcel of it. Their scent frees the mind, making it easier to step into that realm.
HS: Everyone else who’s been to India talks about terrible odors.
TL: There’s a heady mix of something floral, and burning trash. Which is interesting. But one day I was stuck at a bus station for hours on end, and had no choice but to use the toilets there. And believe me, those odorous climes were nothing short of a trip to hell. An olfactory odyssey …
HS: Do you use scents when working, as a source of inspiration?
TL: Yes, I’m a great fan of incense sticks. And I sometimes integrate scent in my work. Actually, my shows are more a performance than a classic fashion show. Also, I prefer working with actors and actresses than with models, since they’re not afraid of engaging with the audience. And I always bring back sound bowls and little bells from my travels, subtle instruments that I then interweave with my lyrics and a loop station to build a sort of tapestry of sound. Then I need only press “Play,” and I’m free to mingle and connect with the public. At one show in Paris I also put a drop of fragrant oil on my index finger so as to be able to give everyone I greeted a waft of scent to see them on their way.
HS: That does go beyond the usual framework of a fashion show.
TL: Absolutely. In my view, 90 percent of what is out there is nothing but clothing. Very little ever qualifies as fashion. For me, fashion is strongly connected with art. And that’s why I introduce a variety of elements into my lines, because of course I’m in search of my own USP, and not prepared to settle for imitation.
HS: And scents can help you reach your goal?
TL: You might say I’m looking to expand consciousness with the aid of lyricism, sound, and scent. One of the most fascinating books I’ve read is Tim Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume from 1984. It’s about a perfume said to be able to hide the strong personal odor of the devil himself.
HS: How does the devil smell?
TL: Animalistic: of sulfur, body fluids, feces, Pan, and pigpens!
HS: It sounds like the counterpart to Patrick Süßkind’s Perfume from 1985, a novel about a person who has no personal odor and therefore concocts a perfume from human, vegetable, and animal substances, so as at least to be perceived as a human being.
TL: Yes. And then he creates a perfume that completely robs man of his senses, and it all ends with that wild scene on the marketplace, a veritable orgy.
HS: Good perfumes are always a mix of both sides of the coin: a pleasant scent and — in infinitesimal quantities — the odor of stuff that is pretty disgusting per se, such as glandular secretions or even feces.
TL: That’s exactly why I so adore jasmine: it too incorporates both sides and that’s what makes it so interesting.
HS: Thank you!