Text: Alec Coiro
Les Potions Fatale is a collection of scents for those who appreciate the dance between the erotic and the deadly. It’s Poison and Opium for the 21st century, a deeper, deadlier dive. It’s also perfect for those who simply want a carefully, expertly crafted scent.
This is not the first collection Joseph Quartana has released, but it is the first that he has had complete control over. Previously, he’d created the Six Scents series, which paired emerging fashion design talent with accomplished perfumers to render the designers’ visions through scent. Specifically, designers who were not quite at the level where they’d release a scent, but were talented enough that we wished they were.
It was the logical first step into perfumery for Quartana who’s previous career as the founder and operator of former fashion mecca Seven New York had put him in contact with designers on the rise. He had developed a unique talent for understanding why a designer was and would be important, which would prove essential in the realization of Six Scents.
Les Potions Fatales makes sense for Quartana in a way that also connects back to his previous career founding running Seven New York. The store was closed suddenly and prematurely after a court case with the landlord that ended surprisingly unjustly (more about that here). Quartana makes the connection between the bitterness of the closing and his exploration of poisons: “The whole thing left such a bad taste in my mouth, and I was full of such venom and rage that I created this fragrance series. This fragrance series is called “Les Potions Fatales,” which means the deadly potions. It’s nine fragrances all based on the folklore of infamous poison flowers.”
The nine scents are literally based on venom and poison of folklore and myth — specifically, how deadly flowers were used for poisoning and sorcery. And “literally” is no misnomer, as in almost all cases the scents contain some aspect of the poison for which they are named (of course they’re completely safe—not that you would go out and drink one). As we discuss here, the collection also coincided with Quartana’s literal brush with death.
For Quartana, who has been known to moonlight as a DJ, the essential metaphor for creating scents is music “There are three things fragrance has in common with music: The fragrance formulas are like songs. Both have notes, harmonies and mixdowns. They’re both invisible, but they have very strong emotional power, almost magic, in that scent triggers your olfactory memory. And both rely on colorful artwork to get the point across so that the packaging is like an album cover.”
This fragrance series is called Les Potions Fatales, which means the deadly potions. It’s nine fragrances all based on the folklore of infamous poison flowers.
The aura he refers to created out of a mixture of magic, art, and emotion is evoked not only through the olfactory sense, but also through an on-going series of short films Quartana is creating. “Doing a short film for each, has been like an exorcism for me. Each of these signifies an imaginary femme fatale or homme fatale, if you will, inspired by ‘70s or ‘80s supernatural films, the work of Lynch or Argento. I wanted to have the grainy, weird, oversaturated color pallette.” To date, Quartana has completed 3 out of the 9 planned films.
The results of all this work is a very serious perfume, the merits of which are undeniable. With Six Scents Quartana had already won a Fragrance Foundation Award (a FiFi) for best indie brand in 2011. When the Potions Fatales came out he was eager to repeat with a fragrance that was entirely his own. “I was hoping that I would win again or at least be nominated for Les Potions Fatales. And I wasn’t, and I was really crushed. I didn’t even get a nod. As it turns out, it’s because I got nominated for an even bigger prize called “Perfume Extraordinaire.” This is the highest prize an indie brand can win because we can never win best luxury. It’s blindfold tested, so there’s no politics, it’s based on merit. So it’s only announced a week before. My category comes up and when I see who I’m up against (including By Killian and Heretic to name a few) I think there’s no way I can win. But alas and to my complete and utter surprise I won for Poppy Soma, which is basically our take on Opium, the drug opium.”
On such a roll, one wonders what Quartana has planned for the future.“I’m brainstorming what I want to do after Les Potions Fatales. I have a concept that I like and I just presented it to my fragrances partners Symrise, and they’re vibing with it. I want to flesh it out a little more, and maybe it’ll be ready to take to market in 2019.”
Parfums Quartana is offering Ravelin readers a 15% discount on their website. The coupon code is RAVELIN. Also, those savvy readers out there should note if anyone buys the Les Petites Morts Discovery Set of Les Potions Fatales off their website (and only their website), they receive a coupon code for $50 off a full size bottle.