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PERFUMER Ex-Parisian loves making scents of New York



Published: Sat, January 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



In two years, she's captured 21 neighborhoods in bottles.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK (AP) -- When perfumer Laurice Rahme decided to open her first store, New York made sense. After all, she does make scents of New York.

There's the white flower-and-greens blend known as Gramercy Park, the gardenia-laced Madison Soiree and the citrus-inspired Little Italy. Bergamot, verbena and lime blossom capture the fragrance of Central Park, and zesty Wall Street is all about the smell of money, achieved with a blend of sea kale and cucumber, marine aroma and lavender, and musks and ambergris.

These are among the perfumes at Rahme's elegant little shop called Bond No. 9 in the NoHo neighborhood of Manhattan (which, to the nose of Rahme, smells like mandarin orange, violet leaves and cashmere woods).

In two years, she's captured 21 neighborhoods in bottles, which are themselves distinctive. The fragrances are kept in large glass amphoras that sit on shelves carved into larger than life mannequins. The perfume is then poured into flacons that customers themselves choose to match their own taste, decor and lifestyle.

Rahme's sites -- or sniffs -- are now set on adding Bleeker Street, Chinatown and Manhattan's East Side highway known as the FDR. She says she develops fragrances for neighborhoods that she feels tied to somehow. "I won't do a neighborhood that I don't know. LA has been asking for one, but I'd have to move there and live there for a long time."

Individual scents are in the works for about six months, with Rahme visiting often. Some neighborhoods get two versions. Chelsea, for instance, has a day scent that aims to recall the flower and flea markets with notes of white peony, white hyacinth and musk, while a night fragrance that will capture the smell of tobacco that fills the air as people step outside bars and restaurants to smoke.

Global warming

The native Parisian says she never doubted that the fragrances would find customers beyond the five boroughs but she didn't expect the response to be global.

"Non-New Yorkers love it (the perfume) more than New Yorkers," says Rahme. "I thought our niche would be New Yorkers, but our Madison Avenue store gets a lot of tourists who want to take home scented souvenirs."

She adds: "Everyone wants a piece of New York."

Because of the strong emotional connection people have with smell, they can recall a magical moment of a vacation to New York when they get a whiff of a familiar scent, she adds.

The only neighborhood name Rahme hasn't been able to put in a flacon is Nolita. There's a jewelry company that already took the trademark because it might do a fragrance someday.




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