Nonfiction Is the Cult K-Fragrance Label Bottling “Scent Memories”

Perfume is memory, bottled. Being intimately connected to our hippocampus, smell is the sense most magically capable of potent, visceral recall. Cult K-fragrance label Nonfiction takes this idea to new conceptual levels with its latest perfume, Odorama Citiescomposed by acclaimed perfumer Dominique Ropion and inspired by artist Koo Jeong A’s Korean pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale (on view in the Giardini in Venice until 24 November 2024).

Koo’s much-talked-about installation was formed from over 600 “scent memories” submitted by the general public in response to an open call asking, “What is your scent memory of Korea?” Distilling these fragments into groups and keywords, Koo created an alternative cartography of the Korean peninsula based entirely on fragrant recollections. With the help of Nonfiction, the artist reproduced these smells to create an olfactory journey through this archive of collective memory.

Master perfumer Dominique Ropion has taken Koo’s artwork as the jumping-off point for his composition inspired by memories of Korea. Undoubtedly one of the world’s most famous perfumers, Ropion’s many beloved creations include Portrait of a Lady for Frédéric Malle, Flowerbomb for Viktor & Rolf and London for Burberry. Of Koo, he says, “I like the artist’s conceptual approach to activating altered states of perception, their exploration of notions of presence and absence, real and unreal.”

Ropion’s fragrant response to Korea, Odorama Cities, recalls the country’s unique geography and spirituality. “This creation is born from what the emblematic Korean volcano Hallasan evokes. I wanted to explore both the energy and the well-being this sacred place provides. This fragrance evokes both strength and comfort,” he tells AnOther.

The result is complex and rich. The initial spicy, peppery warmth gives way to something darker, earthier – almost petrichor – before offering sweetness. Ropion describes this sensory journey: “As per the keynotes, we have on top of the fragrance a blend of precious and luminous spices made of black and pink peppers and cinnamon, reminiscent of the strength emanating from the volcano. Then, woody notes of sandalwood and cashmeran recall the lushness of deep forests covering the mountainsides, while the resinous notes of olibanum bring a soothing depth and a subtle richness, evoking the quiet force of Hallasan. Finally, the tuberose, combined with eucalyptus reminds me of the feelings of harmony of the Korean baths.”

While the memories that shaped Odorama Cities are uniquely subjective, by translating them into scent Nonfiction has created a perfume primed to become intricately intertwined with your own as-yet unmade memories. Ropion concludes, “I sincerely believe in the power of scent. I think fragrances are vectors of emotions, they make us travel, be in the present or escape reality which is amazing.”

Odorama Cities by Nonfiction is available to shop here.


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