I rarely read fiction these days – feels like there’s so much else to do – but I’ve just finished reading a novel. It was this huge brick of a thing, beautiful, but incredibly harrowing and intentionally so. I’m feeling battered by the brutality with which the author handled her characters’ story and how she must have planned out the readers experience.
As I was coming to the end of the read, I received a package (normal), with a handwritten note attached (not so much). The note was from Imby Langenbach, a maker and a mother. Imby creates leather bags, mainly. She used to sew them for her sister and herself, but enough friends asked about them for her label KARMME to become self sustaining. KARMME is a play on the word calm, a reference to the feeling that settles over Imby as she sews the buttery soft leather, bought in small batches from Italy, sometimes dyed locally in a shibori style.
When clutched, these bags soften into the hand with a voluptuousness that belies the simplicity of their design.
They are beautiful, and it absolutely makes sense that they started out as gifts – they’re not working hard to be anything other than lovely.
While she’d been thinking about expanding for a while, it was the cult body-positive doco Embrace that inspired Langenbach to create a scent. It’s a similar sentiment to mine. Fragrance makes you feel good in your skin, beyond that it provides armour, inspiration. It can make you feel beautiful, regardless of how the world might label you (or how you might label yourself).
That phrase, “feel beautiful” made it onto the thoughtfully produced, indigo blue box that houses the scent. A line illustration by creative Nicholle Loads depicts the KARMME woman – “elegant, approachable, relaxed, classic, confident and assured”.
Artisan perfumer Jocelyn Fullerton worked with Langenbach on the creation and it is indeed elegant, classic and beautiful. Resisting the obvious, Fullerton didn’t drift towards an outright leather composition; there are hints though. Instead she uses a naturalistic honey in the heart of the fragrance, framed with pollen-laden lily.
The opening of the scent announces itself with a pretty delightful freshness, like indulging in a long inhale of a bouquet of lilies as they’re just opening. (Does anyone else shove their nose right into a bunch of flowers while they think no one’s watching?) It’s nuanced and light, and the powdery texture of a lily’s soft leathery petals is there too. Over the first hour, the fragrance becomes more nectar-like on the skin, with only a little projection. It’s comforting, not distracting, never too sweet. We’re talking roadside bush honey here, still with the traces of fragrant blossom trapped inside, not some supermarket squeeze. It has a feel that reminds me of the soft caramel leather of Langenbach’s clutches, and it bathes the wearer in this lovely cocoon of happy, restorative warmth. I wonder if Fullerton’s knowledge of Pharmacognosy (that’s plant medicine to you, kid) informed her choice of honey in this scent, because there is something gently healing about it.
Eventually a lady-like, nostalgic musk emerges, recalling that initial powderiness. Sandalwood in the base, not really prominent to my nose, instead seems to absorb the subtle, pollen-like spices, allowing them to linger on. And there is a gentle play of warm and cool, sweet and spicy, soft and syrupy in the KARMME scent that does make you feel beautiful, and calm, and comforted.
It’s not working hard to be anything other than lovely.
And when there are so many things in life, even creations of beauty, that are trying to push other buttons, it’s a relief and a joy to wear this.
KARMME Scent is available to purchase from the KARMME website, $120 for 30ml