OSATO

REEK MODEL INTERVIEW: OSATO

Model, Osato on history, heroines and how the beauty industry treats women of colour.

What women do you most identify with from history to the present day?

I think, as I’ve grown older and come to terms with who I am and who I want to be, I identify with women like Maya Angelou and how focused and dedicated she was to speaking out women and how we should be seen. The idea of ‘the feminist’ is kind of frowned upon in today’s society. And in the present day I identify with the messages women like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie are speaking about for young girls. We have to be the writers of our own stories and it’s important for all women to understand this message from a young age. ‘The sky is the limit’ that kind of thing.

Tell us about a time you have felt threatened because you are a women?

I don’t think I’ve ever felt threatened, just uncomfortable. Especially when you’re in a predominantly male environment and you’re the only female you’re hyper sensitive and aware of everything you do and how you’re coming across. I tend to shrink myself down to look smaller so no one will pay any attention to me and you don’t get unwanted advances from guys.

Do you feel that brands aimed at women represent you? 

Not at all. Being a woman of colour with a different look to most of the models in the industry, as a young girl you go through a kind of identity crisis. I’m from Nigeria originally but I’ve grown up in a Western environment. So you start to lose a bit of yourself and your culture. So as I’ve grown up it’s been important for me to embrace that culture and who I am. But it’s been difficult because the girls in the magazines or the movies all look the same; tall, skinny, most of the time Caucasian and nothing like me. I can’t relate to a girl like that. So it was really nice shooting for REEK, where the brand is aimed at every type of woman or gender, in all different shapes and sizes. Because that’s the reality of the world we live in. No two people look the same so I think that’s an important message to push to people especially young girls.

How does beauty industry advertising make you feel about yourself?

I used to feel like I had to change myself to look like those girls. It makes you question your beauty, because the girls they are using for these campaigns never look like you. Half the time they don’t look like themselves either because they’re so airbrushed. It would be amazing if there was more diversity. Nowadays fashion brands etc think diversity means adding one black or Asian model to their fashion show and all of a sudden they’re ‘revolutionary’ and paving the way for more diversity in fashion. Which is clearly not the case at all. And there are so many beautiful women out there who should be included in the messages these brands are trying to portray to help all women understand that not one size fits all kind of thing.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch?

I think because I’m confident. I can be in a room full of people I don’t know and I’m able to have a conversation and get to know people.  And my mentality makes me a damn Rebel Bitch. I’ve got a very ‘take me as you see me’ attitude to life.


SGÀIRE

REEK MODEL INTERVIEW: SGÀIRE

Model and transgender woman, Sgaire, on femininity, favourite smells and inspiration.

What women have inspired you most in your life?  

The older I get the more I realise how similar I am to my mother and my sister. I learned a lot of what it was to a be a woman from them and we have so many shared experiences, feelings, opinions and genes, so I suppose that makes sense. I’m always inspired by their strength and kindness. They also have a very low tolerance for bullshit which I find particularly admirable.

 

What smells remind you of femininity?  

I don’t know if I associate femininity or masculinity with any particular smells, but I think I feel most feminine when I’m wearing a scent that connects me to the earth or my own creative energy. Patchouli, olibanum, oud, myrrh, labdanum. Anything natural and earthy and woody. My parents are big patchouli-wearers/incense-burners so maybe feeling feminine and the strength of feeling in touch with my roots go hand in hand. That sounds so pretentious!

Do you feel that brands aimed at women represent you? 

Not really, but that doesn’t bother me too much. A lot of products aimed at women rely on the assumption that we all have one of three or four body shapes or skin tones or that we are all full-time homemakers/mothers or even that we all menstruate. These assumptions are categorically untrue and often really problematic because women are much more diverse than this branding gives us credit for.

That said, I don’t expect anything else from big companies trying to shift as much stock as possible to make as much profit as possible, so I think I’ve come to accept that women like me won’t be represented by woman-directed branding. I’m aware also that representation is a really intersectional issue and despite my obvious trans-ness, as a young, thin, white, able-bodied person, I have much more access to representation than a lot of other people.

Do you feel pressure to act/look a certain way to fit in with the ideals of female beauty?  

Yes, definitely, but again I think I’m getting better at reacting to that feeling in a healthy way the older I get! Now more than ever there’s this pressure from the media to be physically perfect (whatever that means…) and in a society where women are constantly objectified and having their worth measured by physical attractiveness, the pursuit for perfection is unrealistic and really damaging to the body and mind.

I try to hold myself to my own, more accessible, realistic standards, but as a transgender woman, Western beauty ideals can make me feel like my physical self isn’t beautiful or that my existence isn’t recognised as valid by society, and that hurts.

Obviously, I have internalised so many of these standards and they still effect how I subconsciously judge myself and other people sometimes, so I can’t claim to be above them, but true beauty is so subjective and we shouldn’t let patriarchy or industries define it for us.

Western definitions of female beauty are based on years of oppression and hegemony so for a lot of people, the current ideal just isn’t achievable. For the most part, women of colour, disabled women, trans or gender non-conforming women, older women or women of any shape or size that don’t see themselves represented positively in the media are left out of the pictures we’re inundated with every day. It’s no wonder that standards of beauty make most of us feel horrible about ourselves!

I think wisdom, compassion, uniqueness, creativity and honesty are all beautiful, whether they manifest themselves physically or not, so I try to act accordingly.


Image of model for artisan, independent, luxury, eau de parfum brand REEK Perfume’s rebellious, feminist, unretouched, campaign.

VANILLA WARDS & GHOSTED OLFACTION

The Silver Fox: Vanilla Wards & Ghosted Olfaction

Beyond Fragrance for Women

Image of model for artisan, independent, luxury, eau de parfum brand REEK Perfume’s rebellious, feminist, unretouched, campaign.

Brilliant perfume blogger, the Silver Fox, writing about fragrance memories and the moving experience of being ill for someone to whom scent is everything.

The ability of our brains to recall memories from the archive of our collected lives is a wondrous and sometimes haunting thing.  In this social media saturated age, many of us are aware of the nostalgic recall power of scent, not only fragrance for women but perfumed waters, oils, woods, smoke and balms suffusing our days and nights with faces, places, and alumni that our brains have stored and associated with certain aromatic frissons. A zephyr of Ma Griffe by Carven, vintage YSL Opium, Dior’s violent and violet-soaked Fahrenheit, the swooning majesty of buttery, vanillic Shalimar, the orchard lure of mulled cider, anisic smears of chopped tarragon, crisp glossy magazines, dying books, just-popped toast, petrichor, apricot jam, cherry flavoured pipe tobacco, Imperial Leather soap, fading honeysuckle, ripe strawberries, tomato leaves, shimmering petrol on garage forecourts, tar and freshly cut lilac. Such diversity in things that dazzle and stimulate the limbic system, the area of brain, directly responsible for memory.

Sometimes the associations are not always what we desire: the melancholy odour of violets in a widower’s empty house, invisible tendrils of daddy’s cigar smoke that drift down through the years or the powdered aldehydes of Chanel No 5 that conjure up a beloved mother. A scarf plucked from a wardrobe can be haunted by roses, a sudden jolt back to a holiday when you were happy, laughing in unexpected rain, surrounded by love before he walked away with someone else, pulling the oxygen from your world. The resurrected roses embedded deep in merino and cashmere fibres are plain witness to the reality of that day he held your face in the rain and kissed you.  

I am often shocked and moved by olfaction, be it created, curated aromatics or the world moving around me. Bouts of illness have removed my sense of smell from time to time and this has been unnerving and disorientating. We breathe to live therefore we inhale and smell all the time. Actually pausing, to wonder, contemplate and take a little extra time to interpret and quantify our continual interactions with environmental pungencies. This I think is something we have lost or no longer care to do. We have forgotten how to interpret our surroundings properly and smell our own lives.

We all have our own distinctive odour profiles, gathered and nurtured as we live, mature, love, travel, suffer, fuck, hate, care, mourn, envy, crave, pity, cherish and touch. Everything we come into contact with will mark us. Some of us are more absorbent than others, soaking up odours like cacti in the deserts of our worlds. Others are more selective, sparse perhaps in their absorption, only occasionally registering olfactory hits. But as life’s weather rolls over us, we gather extraordinary amounts of emanations and whiffs that we catalogue subconsciously, sorting them into a system that suits our individual histories and lifestyles.     

Now, it is no secret to those who know me how much I love the scent of vanilla, in fragrances, food and as objects in themselves. Have you ever really taken time to look at the sensual mahogany sheaths that hide the delicious sticky paste of black seeds? They are beautiful works of natural art, redolent with sugared, warm sun and sweet tobacco rub. My mother put drops of quality vanilla extract on baking trays in low heated ovens so the scent of soothing nectarous vanilla would radiate into the kitchen and beyond.  When my brother and I were kids, she used to make a lot of chocolate chip cookies with brown sugar and walnuts; we loved them still warm and supple from the oven, chocolate oozing. That particular scent of vanillic cookie dough and golden sweetness is a defiant odiferous thread that has followed me into adulthood and my obsessive relationship with genuine vanilla base notes in quality perfumes.

Sadly my health is not terribly robust and I have spent a lot of time in hospitals over the years. This year I have had two bouts of surgery that forced my body and senses into strange and unfamiliar territories.  My sensory systems felt hacked.  For the first time in years I came to a complete halt. Strangely, these hospitals sojourns while traumatic were in their own way oddly consoling. I found the routine and surrounding colour palette of blues and whites immensely soothing and the demanded regime of analgesics and organised care seemed to assuage a troubled mind.  Throughout my stay I wore a vanilla scent, to anchor me, the solacing Cierge du Lune by Aedes Perfume, a composition inspired by a night blooming desert cactus, conjuring up the ghosts of votive beeswax candles burning in French night churches.  My stays were infused with this gossamer vanilla wonder, but despite the daily obsession with sterility I found the panoply of hospital scents fascinating and greatly soothing.  Pre-bloods swabbing, the cold rub of hand steriliser, the lactonic scent of wound dressings and iodine.   

The oddest thing of all was the shock of rubbered vanilla amid the sterile chill and plasticity of ward aromatics; manifest in the form of brightly coloured latex-free tourniquets scented strongly with some sort of artificial vanilla compound. Apparently flavoured to divert kids who might find blood taking distressing.  The odour from the slithering neon purple, pink and blue tourniquets was really hefty, a warm, dry powdered custardy vanilla with whiffs of play dough and fresh cardboard.  The scent was incredibly intense and lingered on my arm for hours afterwards. I would find myself drifting into opiate oblivion, curtains flickering like soft blue flames, my skin stained with a rubbery, weird sniff of vanillic dust reminding me of cookie dough air and warm distant kitchens, a baking tray with amber tears of vanilla extract; a faraway me hoping a golden scent might heal all ills.

By The Silver Fox
www.ascentofelegance.com