PERFUME SOCIETY'S SUZY NIGHTINGALE

PERFUME SOCIETY’S SUZY NIGHTINGALE

”Suzy Nightingale, fragrance expert and freelance writer talks scents, female strength and about her favourite smells with REEK Perfume. This is the kind of smelly chat that dreams are made of…

What brought you to the world of perfume?

Firstly, my mother. She has always been incredibly glamorous, and as a child I had that classic hankering for a dressing table filled with intriguing bottles and jars of mysterious, scented lotions and potions. We’d often go on holiday to Jersey – a duty-free haven of perfumeries – and my favourite memories are of spending hours in dimly-lit, velvet-clad spaces filled entirely with women, talking in hushed tones about secretive things while sniffing perfumes and exchanging beauty tips. I felt like I’d been given access to an inner sanctum of adulthood, a perfumed cabal of possibilities! I was allowed to choose miniature bottles of perfume to try, and my first full-size choice, aged ten, was Chanel’s Coco. Hardly a ‘suitable’ choice for a young girl, I suppose, but I wanted to grow in to it, and I’ve always actively revelled in being perceived as ‘unsuitable’! Later, when I was already a writer, I stumbled across the online forums of Fragantica (an online encyclopaedia of perfume) with people reviewing and discussing their own collections of fragrance. I enthusiastically joined in, and was asked by the editors to contribute articles to the magazine section. I became their UK Correspondent for a while, and quickly realised I loved the challenge of describing the artistry of perfumes – the stories behind them, the emotions inspired by them. Now I’m freelance as the Senior Writer for The Perfume Society website and magazine, The Scented Letter, as well as writing for industry magazines like Esprit, creating trend reports and fragrance forecasting for corporate organisations and providing expert consultations. It’s a fusing of creative writing and journalism, just as perfumery is a fusing of science and art; and all without a language of its own. There are hardly any (positive) words for smells alone. We are constantly forced to allude to taste, texture and deep-rooted feelings in those descriptions, to pass on a message. It makes my brain itch and my soul ache and I adore it.

Do you feel that women are celebrated in your industry? Tell us about some of the women who have inspired your own career?

Well that’s a very interesting question, because ostensibly they are, or at least they appear to be. You could argue the majority of the fragrance world is devoted to celebrating aspects of womanhood, with a perfume along the way for every stage of your life, your every mood. But in the past these were devised and decided almost exclusively by men, from the brief given to the perfumer to the perfumer composing the scent and through to the men making the advertising campaign, right up to men buying the perfume as a gift for their wife or lover. Now a lot of these companies are being run by women, many more perfumers are women… I think there’s still a very long way to go, particularly with advertising that can render what’s potentially an interesting fragrance in to yet another woman in a bra or a bikini looking breathless on a beach; but things are happening. As for women in the industry I admire – there are so many! I’m particularly inspired by characters such as Germaine Cellier, who was a pioneering nose in the 1940s, creating outstandingly new (and then scandalously daring) perfumes such as Balmain‘s Vent Vert – overdosed with galbanum and considered the first “green” perfume of its kind – and Robert Piguet‘s Fracas, a bombastic, room-filling, man-terrifying tuberose (which sadly I can’t personally wear as it feels as though I’ve been shot through the head with a silver bullet, but I love the mere fact it exists in all its audacity). She seems like a formidable woman who barged her way through at a time the entire world was otherwise dominated by male perfumers, forging the way fearlessly and stamping her mark in scent history. Cellier very much believed in doing her own thing. I’d love to have met her. Estée Lauder, too, was a perfume and beauty pioneer. Before Youth Dew was released in 1953 as a scented bath oil that could also be used as a perfume, it was seen as socially unacceptable for women to buy their own perfume – it marked you as some sort of whore, as opposed to nice, respectable ladies who used delicately scented dusting powder and perhaps dabbed their temples with rose water or Cologne after an exhausting day of looking decorative. Lauder was an incredible saleswoman – she knew what women wanted and how to give it to them. She forged an empire and paved the way for women to buy their own perfume and cosmetics, not just passively waiting for some husband or potential paramour to present it to them. I’m also really inspired by women like Monique Remy, who founded LMR (Laboratoire Monique Remy) in 1984, a manufacturing and processing facility for natural perfume and flavour ingredients. Her foresight guaranteed fair trade, good working traditions and long term investment in vulnerable communities worldwide. She strove for quality and sustainability at a time nobody else was really considering these values, and forced the closed world of Grasse to begrudgingly accept and carry forward her demands. And Chantal Roos! She’s legendary in the fragrance world for commissioning and launching some of the biggest fragrances of all time – seeking out the best of the best way ahead of her contemporaries. Lovers of Yves Saint Laurent‘s Opium and Kouros, Jean Paul Gaultier‘s Classique and Issey Miyake‘s L’Eau d’Issey have the gutsy marketing savvy of Roos to thank. Now she’s working with her equally talented (musician and composer) daughter Alexandra on their own perfume line, Dear Rose. Ballsy women with a vision, all of them, and there are countless others…!

What gender equality causes mean the most to you personally and why?

I’m really moved by young women highlighting issues of concern for their generation – I think for my (Generation X) contemporaries, we’ve seen this gradual backwards slide in equality, young girls feeling uncomfortable about identifying themselves as feminists, putting up with terrible abuse on all forms of social media just for being female and having an opinion or not conforming, being objectified and sexualised at an early age… I’m heartened the younger generations are increasingly not only aware of this, but trying to address it in their own way. It gives me hope.

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

Good grief, where do you start?! I’m going to have to begin with Aphra Behn – one of the first women to earn a living as a professional writer. I’m with Virginia Woolf when she said “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” Harriette Wilson has always seemed like a bit of a goer. An infamous courtesan, she seduced men with her passionately worded letters and – in later years – made a pretty penny by offering them a special chapter in her memoirs unless they paid up. We all owe a huge debt to the brilliance of Ada Lovelace, who ushered in the digital era. I was the first girl in my class to get a computer, and used to pretend I was Ada while attempting to program my ZX Spectrum. I wonder what she would have made of my failed attempt to make an American flag digitally wave while playing a tinny tune? I admire the biting sarcasm and wit of women like Dorothy Parker – how glorious it must have been to be part of the Algonquin Round Table – and Bette Davis. Now there are two women you didn’t want to cross. And my god, who doesn’t adore women like Helen Mirren and Judy Dench, who continue to excel at an age most women in their profession have long been sadly discarded? I am inspired by women who speak their mind, ask difficult questions and don’t attempt to hide their cleverness.

What signifies female strength to you? 

Refusing to shut up. Bravery balanced with dignity. Persisting through everyday battles perceived as trivialities. Being yourself, whatever that means to you personally.

What smells remind you of femininity?

Outrageously opulent and musky smells that are seen as ‘a bit much’ are the very essence of what femininity means to me. Women have long been told they should smell clean and simple – nothing to startle the horses or children or tremulous men. I say dare to at least sometimes wear a fragrance like a weapon or a suit of armour and leave crowds trembling in your wake! I’m not really a clean and simple sorta gal.

What are your five favourite smells and why?

I can’t possibly do this in order, as that fluctuates depending on my mood and what I need… but here we go.

1 – Vicks Vapour Rub. I used to rub it into the fur on the neck of my toy rabbit (which I still have, though she’s a bit of a bald rag now, bless her) and sniff it until I fell asleep. It makes me feel comforted and cared for. My mum also used to slather me in it when I had one of my many rounds of childhood pneumonia and various coughs and colds. I associate it with a cool hand on a fevered brow.

2 – Books. Old books foraged in dusty second hand shops and found in libraries, new books with that delicious just-printed smell (particularly those expensive, small-press coffee table type arty books). I always smell a book before I read it. If they don’t smell right, I’m bitterly disappointed.

3 – Necks. That warm-skin of your lover’s snuggle smell, or the neck fur of a beloved cat or dog. Or even a toy (see my previous Rabby Rabbit scent memory), favourite jacket or scarf – I’m probably seen as a bit vampiric because I like to lean in for a good neck smell. You can’t beat it.

4 – Orange blossom absolute. It sounds as though it should be so delicate and pretty, but the properly good stuff is hypnotically indolic and utterly filthy.

5 – Oriental/vanilla perfumes. My first and forever love. I refuse to choose a favourite. Give me opulence abounding!

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch? Tell us what kind of bitch you are.

I always end up saying what I think, I cannot sit on something I feel to be unjust or untrue and hold my tongue. I find it physically impossible. I don’t give voice to absolutely everything I disagree with, these days, because life is short and I’ve learned to edit and prioritise my extreme displeasure. I am extremely – fiercely – loyal to those I love. I think I’m a funny, sarcastic bitch at times, but it’s nuanced with a huge capacity for love and kindness. I enjoy everyday acts of rebellion by being myself, and enjoying it. I refuse to give in to my own worst fears, which are manifold. I like scaring people, sometimes. Including myself.


AKVILE SU

                      AKVILE SU

We speak with unisex  jewellery designer, maker, part-time model and full-time activist Akvile Su about her minimalist jewellery brand, comparing UK and Lithuanian feminism and her favourite smells..

Tell us about your brand and the concept behind it?

My brand is minimalist, unisex, classic, but modern. Some of my designs are created with the intention of challenging social norms surrounding jewellery: how it is worn, and by whom it is worn. Jewellery is one of those things that are unnecessarily gendered. I think it is a very dated idea to separate adornments into either ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. I strive for my jewellery to be for any age, lifestyle or anyone with a strong sense of style and personal aesthetic. Ultimately I just  hope my jewellery empowers people in some capacity.

There is quite a strong theme of sexuality in your jewellery collections. What has been the response to that of your customers and followers?

It’s been surprisingly good! People who understand what I am trying to say congratulate me for not being afraid to speak up about social issues through jewellery. People who approach me often love the idea of these little messages I am trying to send via my campaigns, social media and often jewellery itself.

You moved to the UK to study, do you see any differences in gender equality here from back home?

To be honest I do. Personally I think the UK, especially Scotland, is far more progressive in regards to gender equality. I was pleasantly surprised at little things that seem so casual now. Let’s say sharing housework and cooking is pretty common and normal thing here, while back home in Lithuania it’s still assumed to be the ‘duty’ of a woman. Women in many cases are still treated as accessories for men. And we are still often advised to find a good man for our bright future, pressured to have kids early and make a family.

Tell us about some of the females who have inspired you in your personal life and career?

The most inspiring females of my life have been my great grandma, grandma and my mum. They are all strong and very talented women who were true multitasking masters working to develop their careers and also raise children. I am so thankful for all the lessons they have given to me and support and love I receive daily.

What gender equality causes are closest to your heart and why?

I would like to point out that all gender equality causes are very important for me and I believe that there’s time for everything to be discussed and advocated. But at the moment my online presence and conversations with others been mainly about everyday harassment on the street & work. I aim to reflect this in my work through my use of both form and symbols to highlight how the sexualisation of the  female body is a subjective, artificial structure that does not reflect it’s organic, innate properties.

What significance do smells have in your life?

Smells play relatively big role in my life. I connect smells with memories, places I have been to, people or home.   Familiar smells give me this sense of safety and it can be nostalgic too.

What are your favourite smells and why?

My 2 absolute favourite smells are the smell of wet ground after summer rain and the smell of basement or an old house. It reminds me of my childhood, when I used to play outside all the time and live carelessly. Also one of my favourite activities was to look for ‘treasures’ in my grandma’s attic. She lived in this huge house built in 1800s and believe it or not we actually found the treasure one day. It was gold wedding ring from America hidden away between old junk, I still have it. Maybe one day I will turn it into new piece of jewellery.

Are you a witch or a bitch?

I like to think I’m more of a witch. Back in the day it was strong and forward thinking women who were called witches.

 

Website – www.akvilesu.com

Instagram – @suakvile


ALICE RABBIT - DOWN HER RABBIT HOLE

                      ALICE RABBIT – DOWN HER RABBIT HOLE

We speak to Alice Rabbit, Scottish drag performer, creator of The Rabbit Hole and mother of three about the Scottish drag scene, her favourite smells and biggest style inspiration. She’s such a smelly bitch and we love it…

Who are you, Alice Rabbit?

Alice Rabbit is a hard-working mother of 3, Edinburgh’s queen of queens and a full time people pleaser. She will literally do anything * wink wink *

Tell us about drag and how things are changing?

Things are getting to a point where there are performers within the UK & Scotland getting recognition from each other and from some Ru Girls, however I think with drag becoming more and more popular it is a lot harder to be noticed by show producers. That is healthy though as it encourages everyone to  step it up. As drag becomes more mainstream things will get even more exciting.

What’s your biggest inspiration?

My biggest inspiration are styles from the 60s, 70s and 80s. I love the shapes and the prints and I try to incorporate that into my own style.

What women or woman influences you?

Well I don’t know about ” women ” but my biggest influence is Divine, I just relate a lot to how he felt about wanting to be a star, being in love and entertaining people. I also really appreciate his body of work and how hard he worked to get somewhere. I also feel very inspired by women like Brittany Howard and Adele who are, in their own ways, different from the pack. Their talent shines through and they are both amazing women – I love their style.

What equality campaign is most important to you?

Pay women an equal wage. Fuck the pay gap.

Is there something you’d like to change?

The Drag and Queer Community needs less in-fighting. I, myself can attest to this and I worry a  lot that we spend more time fighting each other over things that are not important to the bigger picture. We should be able to put our differences aside to take on the real enemies who are taking away our legendary venues and trying to stop Drag and Queer performance being visible.

What are your favourite smells?


I love the smell of bacon frying in the pan, but if we are talking scents for a perfume I’d love to smell like chocolate so I could encourage the world to take a bite.

Are you a witch or a bitch?

I am both. To me the word Bitch is empowering: for me it means being strong and powerful and not letting people walk all over you and most people who call someone a bitch secretly wish they had the strength to be bold. In terms of being a Witch I associate that with creating remedies to life’s situations and building a happier life. I always need that empathy otherwise I’d go crazy.

What makes you a DAMN REBEL BITCH?

What makes me a Damn Rebel Bitch? My existence. There are a lot of people I walk past on the street who either don’t understand me or don’t want me to be out in the open. I live a life where they don’t have that authority over me and hopefully seeing a fearless bad bitch like myself, well, maybe they can take something from it.

We are celebrating 2 years of The Rabbit Hole TONIGHT, 26th September with a 9pm- 3am party, with drag, burlesque live music and constant hilarity at CC Blooms, Edinburgh. For details click here : featuring Crystal Lubrikunt and Rococo Chanel from Brighton as well as the Rabbit Hole residents and hosted by Alice Rabbit.


BITCHES UNITE WITH SOKI MAK

                 BITCHES UNITE WITH SOKI MAK

Fashion stylist and creative director Soki Mak speaks to REEK perfume about body confidence, girl gangs and her favourite smells. Starting her career as a fashion assistant at Dazed & Confused  Soki now styles a long list of brilliant bitches, from personal styling to editorial publications.

What smells remind you of femininity? What are your favourite smells and why?

I love when you walk past a woman and you get hit in the face with their perfume, there’s nothing stronger or sexier than the smell of our based perfume’s, It’s quite a masculine smell and is a real smell that only fellow women appreciate which is why I salute ladies who wear it. Its predominantly found in more arabic perfumes.

My favourite perfume is Diptyque, Do Son. I spray it all over my clothes and body.

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

No. I personally love seeing people being different, flaws are beautiful and we each have our own, that’s what differs us from the others. I guess I don’t really understand perfection because it’s not reality and working in the fashion industry is like being at school, you either bother or you don’t. It’s your own mindset and interpretation of beauty, I like to feel good so I work out and try to eat well which then results in a better metal attitude towards your own confidence. I don’t let these things take over my life, there’s more to life than that.

How well do you feel the UK beauty industry represents women through advertising? In terms of size, age and race.

I think that things are definitely changing. I see more and more brands that are trying to represent a wider range of beauty. I think that in the UK, especially in fashion, there is a lot further to go. In fact, everywhere there is a long way to go, but there is a much bigger movement right now with brands representing different sizes/races and ages but I do feel at times it’s all a big scam and they’re jumping on the bandwagon. I’d like to believe that the world is better than this but time will tell. It does make me feel proud to be a women where I understand risks women take to fight for this. Society has been diluting the minds of the younger generation for too long, we have to love ourselves for who we are and be proud.

What women do you most identify with from history to the present day that have also inspired you to push further in your career or your personal life?

This is a tricky question. I would have to say the women who surround me day in day out. I am really lucky to have so many strong and powerful women in my life and we all push each other to go further, supporting each other along the way. I am also going to say my mum, but I bet everyone says that don’t they? Yeah, but still, my mum.

What signifies female strength to you?

Fighting for what you believe in, never giving up when times get hard or shit, or you can’t pay your rent or eat/you’ve been dumped. Whatever it is remember we’ve all been there. These hard times are so crucial in setting you up for what other shit life throws at us. (that’s life eh) Be true to yourself, be kind to others, stand up for what you believe and never put someone else down in order for you to look better. Every single woman has it in them to be strong (we were built to give birth!)

What makes you a DAMN REBEL BITCH?

Because I hate doing interviews/ I’m terrible at writing but I support this movement enough to write this (lol) I worked really hard to be able to make a living off my work, i cried a lot and got myself in some terrible situations but it made me appreciate life and people and that’s the most important thing.

www.sokimak.com


DOUGLAS GREENWOOD

DOUGLAS GREENWOOD

Journalist and editor of Frowning, Douglas Greenwood answered all the bitches’ questions about feminism and smells.

What first made you take an interest in fashion writing?

Is it bad to say The Devil Wears Prada? I saw the film version in a multiplex movie theatre as an 11-year-old kid, and I remember thinking that that world seemed so luxurious, if slightly unattainable. I’ve always been a bit of a fantasist in that sense. My goals have never felt like they were in easy reach, and so I thought “Fuck it, I want to work at a magazine one day”. It just so happened that I had to make Frowning to get there! I write about everything now; fashion, cinema and music mainly. But fashion has always had that fantastical place in my heart. Streetwear takes

I write about everything now; fashion, cinema and music mainly. But fashion has always had that fantastical place in my heart. Streetwear takes hold, because I love that democratised, slightly rough around the edges element to it. The discussion around it is so intriguing too, because it’s something that can be owned by a rich, influential figure and a semi-broke fashion student. I love that disparity, and how the two parties style in their own way.

Tell us about some of the women who have inspired your career?

I think women have been instrumental in shaping my creative side, which ultimately became my career. It goes back to my mother, who pushed me to read books as a kid, and my grandmother who used to call me up on a Wednesday evening to ask which magazine I wanted her to bring the following day. It gravitated from comic books to Vanity Fair over the space of a decade, but all the while I was reading incessantly, and that shaped me hugely. Neither of those women are with me now, but they’re the ones, along with the rest of my family, that I truly work hard for.

My sister’s an artist and had a keen interest in fashion when she was younger. It was her who taught me about designers when I was a fascinated 12-year-old! She’s my buddy for everything now: cinema, concerts, exhibitions, and I like to think we teach each other lots.

And although she’s not family, Hanna Hanra has been a mentor-like figure for me for the past year or so. She runs this kickass music zine called BEAT and headed up the i-D and Chanel project The Fifth Sense, which focussed on the sensual power of female creativity. She’s now (deservedly so) the digital director of i-D. Hanna was the first editor to ever commission me to write as a professional after I slid into her Instagram DMs to ask her advice on how to run a zine properly! Thank god she replied. She’s my saviour in journalism, and I wouldn’t be half the writer I am today without her. Where do you find inspiration for your own style?

Where do you find inspiration for your own style?

Ask anybody I went to high school with: I’ve been dressing like an attention-seeking loon for a decade! Nowadays, my style is much more pared back and subtle, but I love statement pieces, and mixing streetwear with more tailored pieces. My go-to outfit tends to be a Gosha Rubchinskiy t-shirt, a pair of wide legged tuxedo trousers and a pair of sneakers.

I guess my inspiration comes from everywhere: outfits I see skateboarders and streetwear kids wearing; Instagram; shit my dad used to wear. I think there needs to be an element of narcissism in style. You want to look good and stand out to a degree, which is super important. I feel a sense of disappointment when somebody says I’m dressed “normal” some days. It fucking sucks! What gender equality causes mean the most to you personally and why? I write a lot about cinema, and the blatant dominance and preference for the work of the middle-aged white man still troubles me greatly. Sure, an experienced director who fits that bill can make great or even masterful cinema, but there’s not a lack of female directors; it’s just a case of who’s getting funding to make more films.

There’s an embarrassing photo from the Cannes Film Festival this year, in which a line-up of Palme d’Or winners is a sea of grey white men with the brilliant Jane Campion tagged on the end. In the festival’s 70 year history, she’s the only woman that the juries enlisted felt was worthy of that prize, and that’s troubling. It’s an issue that permeates so many subsections of cinema; people of colour and the queer community experience similar discrimination. Look at the listings for your multiplex cinema on any given day, and there’s a 95% chance that there won’t be a woman director on that list. Is that not fucked up?

I suppose this issue affects me personally because some of my favourite filmmakers and cinephiles are women, and these issues aren’t even subtle to them. It’s blatant everyday sexism that they have to face, and once you see things from their perspective, the industry looks bleak.Do you identify as a feminist? Tell us how that is received?

Do you identify as a feminist? Tell us how that is received?

Of course – I reckon you can’t fully trust the opinion of anybody who isn’t a feminist these days.

The thing that gives me hope is that people my age (those born in the early/mid nineties) have feminism in their blood. We’ve been influenced by the world around us to believe that this is an important issue to follow, and it’s now second nature to so many. That doesn’t mean the problems solved, it just means that the pool of allies fighting the cause is growing, which can only be a good thing.

I mentioned I was doing this to a few people, and they laughed off the idea of me being a “feminist writer”, but I do consider myself to be one, even if it isn’t the label slapped on everything I do. As a writer, it’s my job to seek out the stories that need to be told, and the issue of feminism is always something I’m conscious of when pitching to places or curating the magazine. Frowning is dominated by amazing female voices and artists, and I’m really proud of that!

What are your favourite smells and why?

• Lavender, because it reminds me of spending Saturday nights at my grandmother’s house with a hot water bottle as a young boy. Even now, I’ll always pick lavender flavoured/scented everything first.

• Molten sugar, because there’s genuinely nothing that’s smells as delicious as that.
• Fresh air, because as a writer it’s something you rarely get to experience!
• Roses, because it took me so long to warm to them and now I’m making up for lost time.

Are you a witch or a bitch?

I reckon 90% of my mates would say a bitch, but I mean my snide comments to them in good humour! Bitch has connotations of power, being headstrong and knowing what you want, so fuck it
– call me a bitch!


CASHMERE AND MOTHERHOOD: LUXURY ABOUNDS

               CASHMERE AND MOTHERHOOD: LUXURY ABOUNDS

Founder of Cross Cashmere, Lynne McCrossan talks to REEK perfume about her luxury cashmere brand, girl gangs and old Hollywood glamour.

 

Tell us why you’ve ventured into the wonderful world of Scottish cashmere?

It all started when I was writing my second book Cashmere: a guide to Scottish luxury. I poured over eight of our most incredible cashmere mills and was hooked.

How have you found your personal experience working in fashion and journalism?

Fashion and journalism always walked hand in hand for me. It was writing about fashion that got me styling which ultimately lead to me creating the cashmere capsule. For me it’s all about collaboration, be it with photographers and make-up artists to brand and PRs, every shoot and article links you to a team of creatives behind the scenes – that’s the part I love.

Where do you find inspiration for your own style?

Inspiration for my own style comes from the mood I’m in. I’m a sucker for full-on old Hollywood glamour alongside crisp tailoring. Being able to experience yourself through clothing has always been something I’ve done, be it on set or personally.

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

I identify with strong women with giant hearts. My female friends are my biggest inspirations. I tend to gravitate towards beautiful and passionate ladies with creative souls. Women like Marchesa Luisa Casati fascinate me, I’d kill for a time machine to share a gin with that woman.

What changes do you think should be implemented to try and encourage more women to go into business and start up their own brands?

The majority of my female friends own their own businesses or are at senior levels in their career so I suppose I’m really lucky to have that kind of support system as inspiration. Ultimately it’s about access to education – I don’t just mean going to university – but that want to excel in your field by learning as much as possible about it. That’s how you conquer the world, or at least your piece of it.

What signifies female strength to you?

The ability to help another woman out. Our strength comes from supporting each other.

What smells remind you of femininity?

It’s all about sweet and salty scents for me. This will sound disgusting but I love the smell of make-up melting on your skin on a warm summer day!

What are your favourite smells and why?

The sea. Whenever I feel stressed I have to head for a beach. That salty air, preferably when it’s cold, is so soothing.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch? Tell us what kind of bitch you are.

Doing things that scare me, that’s probably what makes me a damn rebel bitch, I’m not frightened of turning my wildest thoughts into reality. Ultimately I’m a nice bitch, unless I’m hungry – then I’m nasty…


FEMINISM IN THE MALE GAZE

FEMINISM IN THE MALE GAZE

Journalist and ardent feminist, Robert Somynne talks to REEK perfume about equality in the media worldwide and what makes him a male feminist…

What makes you a feminist? And do you find people have a strange response to male feminists?

Coming to the realisation that if we aren’t all free and no one can be free. It seems obvious but there’s a lot of cowardice I had to get over to come to a place of being totally comfortable with saying out loud that I’m a feminist. It’s about being a good ally in the struggle and knowing that it’s not just equality on the face of things but the structural battles that we’ve still to win.

I don’t really mind what response I get from other people (men) nowadays. It perhaps mattered more in the past when I was younger and the brotherhood of chauvinism was stronger – forcing you to not admit things or dilute your commitment. It takes having women around you and yes – having a go and not letting up when you act the fool or fail in your solidarity. That’s the only way you get past gender as a barrier to proudly saying you believe not only in equality but in radical measures to achieve it.

Do you see gender and race equality issues in your own industry? What has been your personal experience of this?

The UK media is pretty piss-poor for both gender equality and ethnic diversity – the Scottish media is infinitely worse. My entry into journalism was helped by coming to Scotland and writing at a time when the constitutional debate was raging at its most fierce. But everyday it’s hard for women and anyone not white to get a decent look in – bar exceptions.

The structural power of the old boys’ set is firmly rooted and hasn’t been shaken despite advances for women in public life in our political parties. The culture of being in the crew to get a gig or story can leave women isolated if they’re not willing to be pliant. However, the group “Women in Journalism” and NUJ Scotland BME group are trying their hardest to fight back.

Some of the best journalists I know are women still shut out of permanent print journalism jobs. But considering how worn down Scottish journalism is, it’s maybe a case of not being allowed access to a morgue.

I’ve often written about issues relating to race, immigration, and other areas only to be rebuffed by editors and then go on to see weaker pieces by writers without the personal experience of being an ethnic minority or child of immigrants in print. That’s grating.

Another issue is how internships that are unpaid even by papers with editors on large salaries, hurt women and BME writers more as they are less likely to have the funds to support essentially free work.

What gender equality causes mean the most to you and why?

The pay gap, the bias women face following maternity leave regarding promotion, the safety of sex workers and migrant women and paternity leave.

Three of these issues are critical for men as much as women. I remember a protest in Germany with men demanding better paternity leave and pay and I found it inspiring. If women are denied their economic independence and power it impacts men as well.

Besides the obvious issue of basic justice, we are weakening our economy by failing to ensure equal pay for women for equal work and enforcing it in practice across industries. When women who end up denied the natural progression in promotion after having a child, we lose a captain of industry, a leader and a role model for men and women.

Cultural tendencies such as who looks after the children, does the bulk of emotional labour and domestic labour are important to me because of experiences with my father. He looked after me for much of my childhood and never exhibited any sense that it was odd, shameful or wrong. We think of ourselves as liberal but we still need to be a lot more fluid in what women and men can and should do.

As someone with a keen eye to foreign affairs what would you like to share with our readers about the different challenges facing women in the UK in comparison to across the world?

I focus a lot on the Gulf countries for my research and writing. Saudi Arabia, Iran, UAE, Bahrain and the wider Arab world including Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and more.

I’ve always resisted the notion that because women collectively face higher degree of physical violence and legal discrimination abroad women in the UK should be silent and “grateful”. There’s a worrying trend of some commentators on the Right using women’s suffering in the Middle East as a political crutch. We need to be vigilant against rape culture wherever it is and men need to get educated and fight the patriarchy everywhere.

In Saudi Arabia for example, the guardianship laws are the prime example of a suffocating regime of gender control that stymies the political and social development of the nation. But there’s some great work going on by Saudi women who are fighting back and who clearly possess their own agency.

Women in Iran possess the highest scientific qualifications in the whole region yet still face formal and informal barriers to technical jobs and management.

What separates women from those in these countries in time and legal status. We must never forget our past and never assume we cannot be taken there again. Neither can we accept that women are permanently doomed in other parts of the world. It’s vital for feminism to be internationalist as well as intersectional and know our actions and choices are connected to events thousands of miles away.

Tell us about some of the females who have inspired you in your personal life and career?

Marie Colvin, was a war journalist who inspired me greatly. Her fearless reporting signalled her out among her colleagues as someone not afraid to go where the story or conflict lead. She was blinded in eye by shrapnel from a Sri Lankan army shelling leaving her with the iconic eye patch associated with her work but she seemed to have great insight in the heart of any conflict she wrote about. She was killed by a shell in Syria at the beginning of the war, aged 56 after a career spanning 30 years. Hers was a clarity of writing rarely seen – it impacts on what I want to do in the future.

I’ve had the pleasure to also meet great writers and makers either at the start of their careers or well into their craft. Jen Sout is a great writer who I hope to see a lot more of in international and Scottish journalism. She’s covered a lot of work relating to Russia, surveillance, LGBT rights and offshore tax havens which is the real meat and bones of holding the powerful to account.

What significance do smells have in your life?

It’s most about memory and reaching back to times where I have felt safe and confident about the world and my immediate surroundings.

Also smells are about comfort so you don’t have to worry about what is supposedly manly or not. Fragrances can entwine you with memory or a relationship, bond you closer with a person or a moment in time.

I’m a history buff and love camping. An enduring smell is wild garlic. I know not something you’d rub on your neck for a night out but it reminds me of when I first moved to Scotland and went to camping to Arran, Kelso, Sutherland and along the forest walks and trails wild garlic was always in season. It’s strong and ever-present,  an unrestrained smell of the outdoors.

What are your favourite smells and why?

This is rather nebulous. The smell of wet leaves on the ground because it reminds me of walks in London parks with my dad in the autumn as a kid.

Anything citrus reminds me of holidays in Sicily.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch? Tell us what kind of bitch you are.

One of my favourite essays is an etymological piece by Clare Bayley: A History of the Word Bitch. http://clarebayley.com/2011/06/bitch-a-history/

I’d like to think that I’ve taken from my mother what Bayley describes as the “irritable” qualities which are actually just assertiveness in not letting go of a point you believe in. Especially when you should be quiet or grateful and not “uppity”.

An Alabama representative bemoaned suffragettes as destroyers of “domestic tranquility”. I think that’s a good kind to be.


STONEWALL, PUSSY, PRIDE AND POWER

STONEWALL, PUSSY, PRIDE AND POWER

Sarah Moore talks to REEK perfume about pussy, pride, power and working at Stonewall…

 

What smells remind you of femininity? What are your favourite smells and why?

Pussy, pride and power. To me, femininity is ultimate strength. The scent of femmes, in whichever way that is presented, is everything.

As a queer woman do you feel you are well represented in the industry?

In a word, no. Not yet. The fashion and beauty industries have got a lot of work to do to up their game and diversify the faces we see in all their campaigns. Having said that, last year my then-girlfriend (you might know her, she’s a Damn Rebel Bitch too!) and I worked with the Swedish brand Monki on their ten-year anniversary ‘Monkifesto’ campaign. The concept for this was full of originality and integrity. The brand has since followed through by fundraising for Stonewall, and now Stonewall and Monki are in discussion about an ongoing partnership. This is a great example of how brands can incorporate LGBTQ representation into their campaigns in a sincere, non-pinkwashing way ie actually care about the cause and do something long-term, not just for the sake of sales.

What women do you most identify with from history to the present day that have also inspired you to push further in your career or your personal life?

This question is difficult for me, because I don’t think I’ve ever really felt like I could relate to anyone. The first people that spring to mind are the drag queens RuPaul, Sharon Needles and Latrice Royale. I have a really vivid memory of being 20 years old and the absolute lowest I’ve ever been – unemployed, directionless, depressed – and discovering RuPaul’s Drag Race. The motto ‘If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?’ stuck in my head. Sharon showed me that it’s completely fine to be weird and queer, Latrice taught me to embrace myself for who I was and push forward, and Ru made it all happen. I’ll always thank them for helping me turn my life into something I’m proud of, despite everything else. Does that count?  It’s also worth mentioning the following though: Lady Gaga, Madonna, Cindy Sherman, Kathleen Hanna, Nan Goldin, Munroe Bergdorf and all other the visible queer women and non-binary femmes who inspire me every day.

What female or gender equality causes mean the most to you and why?

Given the nature of my work at the charity Stonewall, equality for LGBTQ people is something I actively work on every day. Though to me, equality is an intersectional feminist issue, and in my opinion it’s difficult to prioritise social injustice. Just as much work goes into my day job as It does not being a bystander to patriarchal, racist, xenophobic, sexist, LGBTphobic bullshit on my journey home or at the weekend.

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch? Tell us what kind of bitch you are.

I’m a take no shit, worked my way up from my own rock bottom kinda bitch. But at the same time, I try to be as soft as possible too. I think it’s vital to recognise that everyone’s experiences are different, and if we’re lucky, life has a way of making us resilient, compassionate, loving, patient and kind. To me, these are some of the most important qualities a person can have.  It’s only once you’re able to accept yourself for who you are and be tolerant of others that you can ignite passion and create change. And being a bitch is all about fire. So step your pussy up.

What are your favourite images from the REEK shoot and why?

I don’t often see myself in front of the camera as I spend so much time behind it, but I absolutely love all the shots from the REEK shoot. There are too many to choose from! I love the focus on tongue and lips (it’s the Pussy Pride again!) and I like that I’m smiling in one – it’s rare in photos!

 

Want to know more about Stonewall?

Check out the website or follow them on instagram or twitter.

More wise words and what not from Sarah here.


WHERE PEOPLE SLEEP

WHERE PEOPLE SLEEP

In Glasgow, three flatmates, Amy, Samantha and Shaheeda, have found a way to live and sleep with art by utilizing their living space for breathtaking exhibitions. REEK interviewed them about their radical, feminist art project.

Tell us about the concept behind ‘where people sleep’? How did it start? Why did it start?

AMY: Where People Sleep began out of a desire to take control and utilize our space but most importantly just to have fun and experiment. I was studying at Glasgow school of art and feeling let down by the course. My flatmates were both artists and we had these big cluttered hallways that were asking to be cleared out and used to show art, so it just made sense.

SHAHEEDA: It soon became clear that our street had been a sort of hub of creativity for goodness knows how long before we arrived. I’d just decided to drop out of a Social Sciences course at university, and I was really keen to fill the space in my life that had been taken up by uni and replace it with pushing creativity.

A month later, Sam joined us and was working towards expanding her portfolio, so we began to do up the flat and plan our first exhibition, grand opening: where people sleep gallery.

SAMANTHA: It was Amy’s suggestion to use the hall. We wanted to bring together artists from various genders, backgrounds, sexualities and race. Collaborating with our friends and artists in and around the community, it became a great way for us to bond and get to know how each other. I think it became something we all needed in our life in different ways, which is why it has become as big as it is now.

What has the response been so far?

AMY: It’s been heart warming. Our excitement and drive to keep doing events and shows is heightened by knowing that there’s a lot of people supporting us and keen to be involved. We’re surrounded by friends.

SHAHEEDA: Every time we hold an event, we consider expansion, we are more organised, more experienced and are taking on bigger challenges, which means we are always delivering more to the community! And people are noticing. One of the most special things for me is the delight I feel when I ask someone who I really admire to be involved with Where People Sleep.

Tell us about some of the more controversial artwork you’ve showcased at ‘where people sleep’?

SHAHEEDA: I don’t think I would like to label any piece of work that has been shown in Where People Sleep as ‘controversial’ as that is subjective to the viewer. However, I am very interested in showing work in our space that challenges the status quo, showing work by people that are under-represented in the mainstream art world, people who aren’t always given a voice or work that expresses a perspective on issues that aren’t always talked about openly.

SAMANTHA: Perhaps some of the work that we have exhibited, including Shaheeda’s and my own, might be controversial to others but not to us. Some of it does make people feel uncomfortable but it’s about changing people’s perceptions and understanding of the world. It’s having conversations and discussions and allowing the artist to express themselves in a way their voice might have not been heard before.

There seems to be a huge celebration of women in the exhibitions, tell us how this came about?

SHAHEEDA: I would say that the celebration of womanhood that comes through in our exhibitions naturally – it’s something that is simply ingrained in our curatorial style. Particularly Samantha’s and my work are often concerned with identity and perceived identities, the way we view ourselves and the way we are viewed by others, so I suppose this instinctively relates to the sort of work that connects to us, which we in turn pursue to be shown in Where People Sleep. We are interested in giving space to people that identify anywhere in the gender spectrum and are always thinking of ways to keep our exhibiting artists as diverse as possible.

AMY: We celebrate everything and everyone in the gallery, females, males, kittens, slugs, snails….

What insight have you gained from sharing your female experiences through your artwork?

AMY: Personally my art doesn’t relate to female experience other than it being made by a female, I tend not to use gender as a theme.

SHAHEEDA: I have learnt so so so much since moving to Glasgow, co-founding Where People Sleep and officially beginning to make work as an artist. My identity as a woman is something that I feel has shaped the very essence of my life experiences, many of them being negative ones. Exploring this through my work allows me to start conversations about things that are really important to me like consent, identity and relationships. It allows me to feel as if I am directly attacking a passive world with my message.

SAMANTHA: Through my work I’m constantly gazing at others, gazing at myself and gazing at the world around us. I think it’s important that we celebrate the female gaze. We celebrate being creative and passionate. We look at the definition of Femininity and the many forms it comes in and embrace it. We become inspired by ourselves and those around us and thereby become our own muses. Through my work I’ve gained a greater understanding of my own identity and acceptance of it. And also love and admiration for those who strive to be nothing but themselves. We live in a world with ingrained social constructs, so it’s hard to break through and make up your own mind, that’s why art that challenges them is so incredibly important. I hope through my work I not only inspire women but also the entire gender spectrum.

What would you like to see change in the art scene across the UK?

SHAHEEDA: I would like to see more paid opportunities for people like me. Young, determined and motivated people who have no desire to pursue anything but a career in the creative arts. I would like to see an increase of POC representation across the board, from exhibiting artists to institution staff. I would like to see fewer people talking about experiences that they have never endured. I would like to see more collaborative relationships being built and more focus on how artists can support other artists when they are in positions of power or privilege.

SAMANTHA: Currently what I would like to see change in the Art scene is artists being paid for the work they produce. Not just in the Art scene but the entire creative community. I think people tend to think, ‘Well I’m giving this person a platform for their work to be shown so that’s more than enough payment for their services’. Which if it was any other job sector would be seen as ridiculous. You’ve also got places like Transmission who purposely make the effort to pay the members and artists they employ but are sitting with a committee of volunteers who aren’t being paid for what is essentially a full time job. We’ll end up losing these important and essential organisations which is shameful. That’s is why this is so important to WPS. Although we’re a small collective, we really want to uphold this principle.

There’s also still a strong social class structure within the Art Scene and particularly in Art Education. There shouldn’t be these boundaries. When I think of Art I think of everyone. No matter who they are and where they come from. It’s something that can be so fundamental to a person. Art has the power to change perceptions, to engage with an audience who have no previous knowledge of art. It shouldn’t matter about your race, or what class you come from. That’s why I love that WPS aim to work with a diverse range of artists and particularly bringing together both artists from an art education and also who aren’t. It’s so important to know you don’t need a art degree to make art and have voice within it.

What gender equality causes are important to the collective and why?

SHAHEEDA: Equal representation, lack of censorship.

SAMANTHA: I think it’s so important that we’re able to create a space that is not only diverse but attracts people from all walks of life. We want a space where people can speak freely without fear of judgment or ridicule. Where people can be themselves and show art that is open, honest and real. That’s why gender equality is so important particularly now when the word gender is being redefined. Now is a time to see and understand different people’s perspectives no matter what race, gender or sexuality, we should all have a voice that is listened to and I think that is the beauty of Art and particularly what I want our collective to stand for.

Art is so sensory tell us how you feel about smell?

SHAHEEDA: I like the smell of spray paint. It reminds me of my childhood.

Are you witches or bitches?

SHAHEEDA: Two witches and a bitch.

Find Where People Sleep at: https://www.facebook.com/wherepeoplesleep

Photos by Linda McIntosh


'THE WOMAN' A POEM

REEK INTERVIEW: IT AIN’T REBECCA

Stylist and fashion writer Becky Boyd talks to REEK about poetry, third wave feminism and her favourite smells alongside her beautiful poem ‘The Woman’…

Tell us the thought process behind your poem?

I’ve always had an interest in writing and been drawn to poetry but I’ve never been able to figure out how to start creating my own pieces and to be honest, I still haven’t. This piece is the first I’ve ever written and it came from my friend asking if I’d be interested in writing a piece about my perspective on what it is to be a woman for her Uni project.

At first, I wasn’t planning it as a poem, but it started to mould together as more of a written piece rather than a commentary of my experience as a woman. Ideas of using techniques and different mediums to emphasise certain parts came together and I then took the conscious decision to try and make it have rhythm using repetitive sentences and contradictions, which led to creating an official piece, “The Woman”.

What do you want people to take from it?

This piece includes my own experiences but I know from talking to friends and women of all ages, that we go through similar things. I want women to read it and feel less alone. I want women to read it, identify their own qualities and feel empowered. I want women to realise that supposed “negatives” are actually strengths. I want women to recognise that the expectations pinned on us by others are wrong. I want women to sense the sarcasm and contradictions in the poem and to nod and say, “yeah, mhm, I’ve been told that, I know that…” If that happens, then I’ve achieved what I set out to do.

I want women to read it and feel well represented. To say, yes we can be emotional but that’s our superpower and actually no, it isn’t weak. This particular part stands out for me because I’ve grown to embrace the power in my emotions and have realised that many people try to belittle a woman’s ability to feel when really, it comes down to the fear that people have that women can be truly comfortable in themselves.

I want men to read it and understand that their comments can make a woman question her natural instincts to nurture and also condense her capacity to love, which can be damaging for her. If men can realise that a woman’s power doesn’t take away from his own and that these comments are more damaging than they may think, then maybe they can learn to embrace female strength instead of shutting down from a place of fear.

Tell us about some of the women who inspire you in your personal life and career from history to now?

My mum is my biggest inspiration and always has been. She built herself up from nothing and continued to find the strength to push through difficult times to make a better life for me. She did this to ensure that I have everything she wished she had when she was younger. My mum has always brought me up to be open minded, to love others, to be strong; to love myself for who I am, to be self-sufficient and to chase my dreams. These are all lessons I’ll carry on and instill in my children. Without the support from my mum, I definitely wouldn’t be who I am today.

Mary Queen of Scots is a historical figure that inspires me. Two things I’ve taken from her story was her strength to carry on through all the difficulties she faced and her selflessness in the choices she made in putting her people and family first. Both of those qualities are qualities that I personally identify with and believe are important to continue to create stronger and happier relationships.

What changes do you think should be implemented to encourage women to go into business and start up their own brands?

One huge change that has to happen for more women to feel inspired and encouraged to start their own empires is, for women to come together and build one another up. I still feel that there is a tension in women working together. A lot of women feel that other women have ulterior motives rather than a genuine interest. This has to change – we’re more powerful together and when we fully realise the extent of this, things will change.

What signifies female strength to you?

To me, our greatest female strength is our capacity to find strength to carry on. Women can go through the craziest times and come out even stronger. It’s something we should embrace, as it’s something that will always work in our favour. Nowadays, there’s a phase that women go through of pretending they have no feelings, “acting savage” when in fact, what they don’t realise is that this phase only shows insecurity and weakness. At the end of the day, showing our emotions is more powerful than hiding those abilities.

What are your favourite smells and are you a witch, or a bitch?

As one of my favourite smells is burning wood and I associate that with the word witch, so I want to go with that answer but to be honest, I’d say I’m a bitch. I’m saying bitch because I am mostly an understanding person but sometimes you just have to be selfish and turn the bitch on. On that note, I want women to know that it’s okay to put yourself first.