I had the good fortune of meeting last night the legendary Keiko Mecheri, at MiN New York. Although she now calls California home, Mecheri’s Japanese ancestry comes through clearly in her self-effacing and friendly demeanor. Mecheri studied graphic design at UCLA, and from that training she learned that a work of art is never created by just one person–it is the product of many. She gives ample credit to all of the people who help her create each scent, starting from her husband and business partner, Kamel Mecheri. A former industrial designer who worked for Lamborghini, he designed the elegant art deco inspired bottle with its faceted top that houses the exquisite juice. She admits that she does not have a degree in chemistry, but is grateful for the work that chemists do in order to execute her vision.
Her generous spirit and respect for the craft of perfumery emerges as I go through each vial of perfume in the discovery set of her Bespoke collection. Upon first whiff, each scent bears the quality of being both delicately fragile and intensely fierce, like something that the late artist Louise Bourgeois would have made if she made perfumes. Mecheri’s genius lies in her ability to turn something familiar completely new, something “been here, done that,” into something novel. One of the things Keiko Mecheri and I have in common is a love of rose, and she is able to make the noble flower shine through her understanding of rose as not simply a flower, but also its important role in Middle Eastern cooking and beautification practices. In Ambre Mirabilis, she turns the rose into something salty and smoky. With Bal des Roses, violets add an almost punk rock edge to the eternal symbol of love. Cuir Fauve is a fruity leather that even the girliest of girls can wear. Mecheri turns topsy-turvy the categories of masculine/feminine. I smelled her famous Loukhoum on a man and it smelled like cotton candy; on a woman, it blared a dangerously musky “come hither” temptation.
Keiko Mecheri’s creations are not just perfumes. They occupy three-dimensional space, like monumental sculptures that celebrate our global culture. Keiko is highly sensitive to the uncanny ways that, in our modern world, we can form unlikely yet successful combinations that pay no attention to labels. She is a Japanese woman married to a French-Algerian, who both struggle to maintain a family in southern California. We can be in Turkey and smell Japan; we could be in Los Angeles and smell Tangiers. We can be whomever we want to be. Perfume can help us go beyond our physical limitations, and Keiko Mecheri, in her spirit of generosity and grace, gives us this gift of transcendence.
Keiko Mecheri’s perfumes are available exclusively at MiN New York.
- Bespoke Collection by Keiko Mecheri (fragrantica.com)