Simon: The Smell of Freedom part 3

One of Simon’s latest projects has been an olfactory portrait of three powerful people. The finished fragrance was unveiled this week at our olfactory event in London. Limited quantities of the perfume are available to buy at the show and the fragrance will be available at gorillaperfume.com from August. This free event runs until 18th of July so you can still make it, though spaces are limited.

Part Three: Oudh Heart

Our light and airy London office on Carnaby Street is a long way from Guantanamo Bay. Shoppers bustle by, Pret churns out paninis and lattes and we’re all sitting quietly in the office, waiting. The buzzer sounds and someone picks up the receiver. “Hi, its Reprieve”, the voice says over the intercom and the buzzer opens the ground floor door.

Reprieve provide free legal help to prisoners around the world  to secure each person’s right to a fair trial. In 2008 Lush first contributed to Reprieves work by taking part in their ‘Fair Trial My  Arse’ campaign. All our staff wore oversized orange pants with the phrase ‘fair trial my arse’ emblazoned on them criticising the use of illegal prisons such as Guantanamo. We also sold two bath bombs, each with a picture of a prisoner from Guantanamo bay trapped in the centre. As the bomb fizzed away your particular prisoner would eerily float to the surface of your bath. One, Sami Al-Hajj, was on hunger strike at the time, being force fed by tube daily.

Over the next two years we continued the campaign, updating on progress as the team at Reprieve battled on for fair trials or release. Political pressure mounted and Lush itself came under fire for getting involved in events that were ‘none of our business’. Then the news came that Sami would be coming home, no charge, free to go. Frail and 55 pounds lighter than the he was when he was captured, but he would be returning. The wife and son he hadn’t seen for seven years were waiting for him as he struggled off the plane.

The news was received with great emotion at Lush as we had all become very attached to the plight of Sami, who, at the time of his illegal imprisonment was an Aljazeera cameraman travelling to Afghanistan with a legitimate visa. I was nervous and excited about being invited to meet him.

So on that day, accompanied by Reprieve representatives, Sami whose photos we had become all too familiar with entered the room . Looking healthier again he shook our hands and smiled widely. Sami had made a remarkable recovery in the few months after his release. As we sat down he gave a great speech to us. He was resolute in his commitment that what had happened wouldn’t overshadow his future. He wanted to create something positive from his ordeal and to move forward. He appreciated the thoughts and support from people all over the world and he took strength from the fact people had acted for him throughout his imprisonment.

Simon

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Simon: The Smell of Freedom part 1

One of Simon’s latest projects has been an olfactory portrait of three powerful people. The finished fragrance was unveiled this week at our olfactory event in London. Limited quantities of the perfume are available to buy at the show and the fragrance will be available at gorillaperfume.com from August. This free event runs until 18th of July so you can still make it, though spaces are limited.

Part One: Fire Tree

I have been in love with Aboriginal culture and art since my school days. Having taken several trips to Australia, I had begun to get disillusioned with the way such a rich and mystical culture could be so decimated by Western living.

On my last visit to Australia I was fortunate enough to have time to visit the Warmun art centre. In a remote community on the eastern edge of the Kimberely range, the art centre is a modern yet modest facility for the local artists in the Aboriginal community of the Gija people. One particular painting of a solitary baobab tree left a lasting impression on me. It was inspired by 7 Gija people who lost their lives there. Thought to have stolen cattle from the ranch where they had been settled, the suspects were taken to the creek and shot. Now the baobab tree stands as a memorial to the event and a small plaque has been added to commemorate the sad loss of life.

Later that same day I meet a lady at a community gathering. To all intents and purposes she was a young aboriginal lady. When we talked, I realized that not only was she remarkably young-looking for her age but that she had led an incredible life. She had travelled extensively through Europe and South-East Asia as an artist before settling with a French duke in Darwin to have children. Nowadays she has moved back to her home and lives a mixture of modern life and bush tucker.

Its struck me that the seeds of recovery had been sown there. It was good to see that such a rich and rewarding life could be led by a person who a generation ago would have been actively ‘bred out’ and whose culture still struggles to survive.

Simon

Simon: The Smell of Freedom part 2

One of Simon’s latest projects has been an olfactory portrait of three powerful people. The finished fragrance was unveiled this week at our olfactory event in London. Limited quantities of the perfume are available to buy at the show and the fragrance will be available at gorillaperfume.com from August. This free event runs until 18th of July so you can still make it, though spaces are limited.

Starting today, we’ll publish Simon’s story of The Smell of Freedom in three parts.

Part Two: Old Delhi Station

A short but powerful man beckons us. His name is  the Venerable Ngawang Woebar and he’s a Tibetan monk. He welcomes us into the small room of his office and asks what it is we want. I struggle to explain that we are looking for a way to help Tibetans in their plight. We have travelled all the way to Mcleod Ganj in Dharamsala to ask this question. I now feel a bit awkward.

He takes us outside onto the balcony overlooking the pines. He describes how he came to be in Mcleod Ganj. As he talks, sweet ginger, lemon and honey tea is laid on the table and he quietly unravels the tale of his epic journey from Tibet to India.

When he was a young man he became an activist in Tibet, protesting for rights of Tibetans and supporting the Dalai Lama. The Chinese authorities imprisoned him for handing out leaflets and waving the Tibetan flag. After four months without trial and suffering interrogation and abuse throughout this time, he was released. Being further victimized and expelled from his monastery he decided to leave.

Without a passport or permission he had to take the treacherous route to Nepal. The three week journey was a tough one, travelling 30miles a day across the Himalayas, carrying all the supplies he needed. The day before his group reached Nepal they ran out of food. They resorted to eating rolled balls of snow with salt sprinkled on top. Barely sustained until he arrived at the Nepalese sanctuary he was deported to India where he joined the many thousands of desperate Tibetans who had to flee their homeland.

What was so endearing and powerful about his story was his delivery. Calm and warm, he smiled as he recounted the torture that he had been through. A look of quiet resilience that his experiences and his faith had endowed him with was the most moving thing of all.

As we arrived back in to Old Delhi station the fragrance of spices mixed with the smell of humanity were indelibly imprinted in my memory of meeting Ngawang and hearing his amazing story.

Simon

Simon: Imogen Rose

I’ve always loved roses. Ever since I first visited Turkey to see the rose harvest I have been inextricably linked to the Damascus rose. It has led to some strange incidents and memorable moments.

I watched Rose Otto being distilled in the Valley of the Roses, Bulgaria, where the communist arms factories still sit next to the rose gardens.  I visited the Moroccan rose gardens and the remnants of rose production in Grasse. The strangest moment had to be when I stripped down to my underpants and jumped in to a carpet of roses in a rose factory in Turkey. We have developed a close relationship with our Turkish rose suppliers. This might have been helped by me taking my clothes off. The year before my daughter Imogen came along, Agnes, our essential oils buyer and myself were invited to our supplier’s wedding. This was a great honour and we participated in a great party which ended in the father in law shooting a pistol wildly into the air after drinking a bottle of potent Raki.

So when Vicky, my fiancé, did fall pregnant and we began to discuss baby names, Rose soon became a firm favourite. Several months into the pregnancy I had a dream that I was holding a tiny baby girl and her name was Imogen Rose. And so when on July 31st at 21:22 our daughter arrived, we welcomed her into the world as Imogen Rose. Elated and exhausted we brought her home and just  a few months later I began to create the perfumes for the show.

It seems natural that I would have been completely pre-occupied with baby stuff throughout the creation of the perfumes but I tried to keep a clear head most of the time. However, when I began to create my homage to Rose, just a bit of my ‘new daddy’ glow rubbed off.

I had been desperately trying to capture the fragrance of roses from nature; the aroma of standing in a rose field or as the bags of petals are delivered at the factory. The fragrance is unbeatable. Rich and floral  it’s the concentrated mass of millions of delicate flowers, handpicked and carefully distilled. I wanted to keep this freshness without creating another ‘granny’ rose scent. So I tried and tried and eventually realised that I had somehow incorporated a touch of soft baby skin, a puff of talc and wisp of fine baby hair into the finished perfume.

I hope that the fragrance seems both fresh and floral – a true representation of  the Damasc Rose – and that it’s a suitable monument to new fathers and the baby girls they love very much.

Simon

Imogen Rose fragrance is available to buy from Gorillaperfume.com.