Thursday, June 25, 2009

Anti-Hero by Villainess

Some women spend their 401K plans on designer handbags. Some want jewelry. Others have a particular weakness for shoes.

I go mad for soap.

But don’t think I’m easy. Clearly one can find soap anywhere; what I seek is much more subtle and difficult to define. Part of it is scent — I like perfume, too — but there is something about a bar of good-smelling soap lathering up like whipped cream that I seek out. Is it the sensuality? A psychological need to cleanse myself? The fact that I grew up in a house with water so hard all our towels were stained rust-red with iron?

One thing is certain — this is not the kind of obsession you can discuss freely. Still, there are those who have known me long enough to know which passions make me tick, and when they see interesting crossovers, they send word. The phrase “I saw this soap named ‘anti-hero’ and it made me think of you” dropped into a friend’s casual e-mail sounded too good to be true.


With my first glimpse of the Villainess home page I knew I was not in some pink girly candy-land of sickly scented personal products. For starters, the look and feel of the web page can only be described as 19th Century smoky boudoir — aged parchment and skulls over a burgundy tooled-leather background. In addition to selling soap, some of their products are Whipped! (body butter) and Smooch! (body scrub), and also perfume oils in ampoules. (“Historically, the ampoule has held the blood of martyrs, anointing oils, and medicinal solutions. We have misappropriated the delicate vials to hold our equally precious Extrait, and carefully accented each stoppered bottle with our hand-stamped monogram and a weathered copper skull.”)

Describing their scent catalog, the founders state “…we aim for that ultimately unique Villainess touch. A bizarre juxtaposition of scent that will create (or trigger) a vivid olfactory memory.” The scents have names like “Asphyxiate,” “Crushed,” and “Silk & Cyanide.”

Sometimes I wonder what my friends think of when they think of me…

The main page listing their soaps states: “Sometimes a girl needs a change of pace. Or maybe she's had a trying day at the office, juggling evil schemes. That's when you pull out the big guns and spoil yourself.” It seems the people at Villainess understood me.
This is how they describe their soap:

Full Name: Antihero
Weight / Height: 3.5oz (99g) / 3 in
Colour: Soft grey suede.
Distinguishing Features: Absolutely smooth, sheer, silken lather swirled with pitch black Australian clay.
Characteristic Scent: Well-worn sweaty leather, the acrid smoke of cigarettes, and a soft side of honey and vanilla.

Cigarette smoke and leather? In a soap? As an M.A. in English Lit with an emphasis on the portrayal of the hero throughout history, how could I say no?

“Anti-hero” is a sledgehammer to my limbic system. It smells like a woman, the kind of woman wears what she wants and smokes where she wants and doesn’t give a damn anymore what people think. And yet… there is also a softer note, something that reminds me of being utterly depressed and enveloped in a really good hug, smelling the smoke in her clothes with another perfume — a yin-yang animal, organically floral sweet scent like… Hope? Every time I smell it I have a vision of the cafĂ© where I drank coffee and spent endless hours talking about my M.A. thesis while this woman smoked, nodded, and quietly listened to—

Oh my God. I just now realized I’m talking about Em. Somehow they captured how my best friend Em smelled in 1992.

Wow. Crap. Em… Now I’m totally thrown. Well then! “A vivid olfactory memory.” They weren’t lying. Be careful what you wish for.

In addition to the soap I also ordered some Whipped! in Paradise Misplaced (“Sweetly creamed coconut with touches of mango offset by crisp green tea”) and Smooch! in Krakatoa (“Flashes of exotic foliage… amidst slightly more domestic fruits…and an explosive burst of citrus). I’m pleased to say that all three items were really lush-feeling and wonderful, probably owing in large part to their use of high-end ingredients like palm oil, shea butter and cherry kernel oil.

The next scent I’d like to try? “Villainess” — “Sheer pearly grey shot with crimson…. Our signature scent — all ball gowns and combat boots. Raw, smokey [sic] leather and sweet vanilla musk engulfed in a sheer haze of exotic florals — ylang, neroli, jasmine, lilac and tuberose.”

And if you like that, check out the description for "Bathory.”

1 comment:

Fred said...

Yeah! Where is Em? Last I heard was something about France...