Musings on Aēsop “Rōzu”

2020 has been a year of turbulence and change. In June, I moved out of the East Bay, my home for the past four years, drove across the country with my partner, and relocated myself temporarily with my partner's family. We were on the road every day, carrying all of our physical possessions in a Honda Fit, driving through the vast emptiness of varying landscapes that covers so much of the United States, while listening to stand up comedy on Spotify to stay awake.

Being on the road for days without a clear destination of "home" has made me a nomad. Anxiety crept up as this new lifestyle disrupted my comfortable routines and demanded daily adaptability. A short story written by Anni Baobei (安妮宝贝), a Chinese author whose characters were often wanderers, described a nomad woman who ritualistically uses a single perfume. She relies on the familiar scent as a mental anchor to provide a sense of belonging, a sense of where is home, as she travels without a destination.

rozu perfume in a bottle on a chair designed by Charlotte Perriand
Photo by Aēsop

Aēsop's Rōzu has become my anchoring fragrance. Crafted in collaboration with perfumer Barnabé Fillion, Rōzu took its name from the Japanese word meaning rose. It is an olfactory experience dedicated to celebrating the life of Charlotte Perriand, French architect and furniture designer, who resided extensively in Japan during the Nazi occupation of Paris.

Charlotte Perriand writing notes next to a chair
Charlotte in Japan | Photo by Aēsop
Potrait of Charlotte at the beach leaning on the side of a boat with a snack in hand
Charlotte Perriand

Rōzu is undeniably a rose-based perfume from its name and its first impression, yet surprisingly misty, cold, metallic, and woody. On the first encounter, it conjures up an image of a single blooming rose growing amongst spicy herbs, surrounded by snow. After a while, I see the same rose, now air-dried with its powdery and brittle petals, resting on a stone in an empty room, radiating subtle whiffs of floral for the passerby to catch.

In an interview with art4d, Aēsop's director of innovation Dr. Kate Forbes elaborated on the complexity of Rōzu's notes:

"Rōzu opens with rich floral notes of Rose, alongside Petitgrain, Bergamot and vibrant Shiso—a reference to Perriand’s lifelong affection for Japan—and Pink Pepper, which confers fresh spiciness. The heart brings yet headier florals: Ylang Ylang is interwoven with dry, spicy woodiness; while Jasmine empowers the Rose, supported by light, smoky notes of Guaiacwood. Sandalwood hints at the deeper, powdery base notes, marrying the soft, woody green earth of Vetiver Extract with warm, sweet herbal notes of Patchouli and ambery, balsamic Myrrh. The whole is subtly underpinned by Musk."
Fresh Charlotte Perriand Roses at the Wabara Nursery
Fresh Charlotte Perriand Roses | Photo by Wabara Nusery Japan
Dried Charlotte Perriand Roses on display
Slightly Dried Charlotte Perriand Roses | Photo by Wabara Nusery Japan

The making of the Rōzu represented a sincerity to preserve Charlotte Perriand's philosophy in her work, her time spent in Japan as an advisor for industrial design, and her passion for the snowy alpines. Perriand's design emphasizes form and function while incorporating the Japanese aesthetics of simplicity. To understand Perriand, perfumer Fillion went to Japan to see the rose developed in honor of Charlotte Perriand at the Wabara Nursery. When fresh, the rose is a beige rose with a subtle blush; when dried, the color shifts to a sheen of copper and silver that evokes a cold and metallic quality. Rōzu captured this metallic quality with shiso, the Japanese herb extensively employed in Japanese cuisine. The cooling herb also offers a glimpse at the crisp air of the alpine, where Perriand spent much time skiing and designing ski resorts.

Les Arc Ski Resort designed by Charlotte Perriand
Charlotte Perriand's Les Arcs Ski Resort | Photo by Dezeen

Much like Aēsop's other fragrances, Rōzu knows "no gender boundaries." The juxtaposition of the feminine rose against sandalwood and vetiver, scents traditionally worn by men, creates the smoky metallic floral sensation that is Rōzu. It is no coincidence that Charlotte Perriand was known to love wearing masculine cologne, and a firm believer for gender equality. My partner and I have both been loving wearing this fragrance daily.

Rōzu reminds me of the East, where I was born, where I grew up; it eases me into a meditative state, allowing me to focus on what matters the most living in the present; it encapsulates the spirit of a creative master I aspire to be, encouraging me to move forward.