When it comes to the narrative of fashion or for that matter creative work, in our digitally led world the experience relies heavily, dare I say a little bit too much, on the sense of sight. It has been sensorially done to death. But what about scent?
Cultural quirks in terms of scent can offer a fascinating peek at the underlying conceptual differences of the country’s national identity.
For fashion the next consideration is often touch, the tactile interaction found in clothing — from the thrill of silk to the divinely cosy feel of cashmere — can help make or break an individual’s ‘qizhi’, the je ne sais quoi element of presence that serves as a key element of China’s beauty ideals. Yet the question beckons… What about scent?
While creators intuitively rely on their deep connection with themselves to sniff out their creative direction so to speak, olfactory abilities are too often left untouched and unexplored.
From the sweet autumnal fragrance of osmanthus to the seasonal memory of the powdery scent of Six Gods toilet water meets mosquito repellent, China is rife with smells that can both delight and shock in the humid raw heat of its many mega cities.
Could these shared smells be integrated in to the country’s creative scene to add another layer of depth for fashion or art? After all a whiff of this or a note of that can beautifully transport us to a nearly forgotten melody from the past.
“The characteristic piney licorice aroma always brings me back to the memories of my art school days, doing oil painting. It makes me realize how much I love art and to create with no purpose, but with joy.” Designer Xin Zhao
Temper: What are some scents or smells you associate with Shanghai?
While each individual’s olfactory references may differ, what has always fascinated me is the culture’s universal sensitivity to smell.
Written by Sandy Chu for Temper Magazine 2018. All rights reserved
Edited by Elsbeth van Paridon for Temper Magazine
Images: Courtesy of REBYXINZHAO
Copyright@Temper Magazine 2018 All rights reserved
An American with more than a decade of work experience in Shanghai, Chu is a China specialist with experience in writing, research scouting, marketing, event management, and translation. Holding a B.A. degree in Advertising, Chu is a cum laude graduate of Michigan State University.
Currently working full-time at WGSN, Chu writes gated B2B content covering Asia product trends, Chinese consumer insights and Chinese digital marketing trends. In this role she has been quoted as an industry expert by BoF.
While her regular work remits focus on identifying and analyzing commercial trends, on a personal level she retains a passion for creative merit and cultural insights around China. Sandy previously ran her own fashion blog and creative events which have been featured in Time Out Shanghai, Femina China, Lonely Planet’s Shanghai city guide and the U.S. edition of Travel & Leisure.
She is currently working on developing her new blog Selective Attention.