Neil Chapman is a British writer based in Japan. He is a recipient of the coveted UK Fragrance Foundation Jasmine Literary Award and the author of Perfume:In Search of Your Signature Scent. You may also know him for The Black Narcissus, his acclaimed blog that talks about perfume and life in Japanese life with equal vivacity. We were delighted that Neil took time to answer our nosy questions.
What is the question you get most commonly asked?
‘What is your favourite perfume?’ (Vintage Chanel No 19 parfum or Guerlain Vol De Nuit extrait) or ‘Why did you decide to go and live in Japan?’ (on a whim).
What is your earliest childhood scent memory?
In nature, the smell of pinks, carnations, roses, and peonies in our childhood summer garden as a child, where I was in bliss. In perfume, my mother’s Oscar De La Renta which I found impossibly glamorous and dreamy and made me feel like I was in an episode of Dynasty or Dallas.
What was the first perfume you bought?
I saved up my paper round money and bought the bottle of Xeryus by Givenchy I had been lusting after from a chemist’s at the top of the road. It was an onyx-like fresh aromatic fougere that the girls went crazy for at school : at that moment I realized how powerful and magnetic perfume can be.
How did you discover us?
I already had a bottle of Tubereuse Trianon from a while back which I love to wear in summer as it is elegant but exuberant. I am also a regular reader of I Scent You A Day and saw that Samantha had written some reviews of the brand and its renaissance. I like the combination of classic and modern.
What does fragrance mean to you?
Fragrance is both aesthetics and pleasure : a capturing of time, memory and emotion. There is a magic to the whole idea and experience of elixirs and poison captured in beautiful bottles : when I was a child, long before Harry Potter, I used to pretend I was a wizard at school with a ‘coven’ of classmates, trying to make rose water and entering imaginary worlds. Being captivated by perfume was a natural progression for me!
What does the fragrance industry need to do from now on?
I think the fragrance industry needs to slow down. Focus more on quality than quantity, and encourage creativity and iconoclastic genre-breaking in its perfumers. In the 80’s and 90’s, boundaries were broken with brand new perfumes like Poison, Fahrenheit, CK One: they smelled like nothing before them. We need less of the same, more of the new.
Do you have any other projects up your sleeve?
I am doing a live interactive event with Art & Olfaction on August 31st on the joys of vintage perfume and am thinking about writing my life story!
Top feature photo credit: Neil Chapman
Neil is one of my most beloved perfume writers, though Neil could write about anything and I’d be just as interested. Neil has a way of translating his thoughts that allows the reader to imagine they are sharing his soul.
Thank you for your wonderful comments. We also are truly in awe of Neil’s work.