a tribute to Vero Kern.
Do you know that feeling when you’re scrolling your Facebook feed on a train and suddenly – pardon the pun – stop dead in your tracks, because one recurring item just has “No. No. No and OMG HELL NO THIS. IS. SO. NOT. HAPPENING!” all over it?
That was my experience yesterday, when it became known that Vero Kern of vero profumo had passed away. It was indeed all too true, alas. A world-class and truly unique artist of perfumery – and make no mistake, Vero Kern was very much an Artist with a capital A of her chosen métier of perfumer – was no longer with us, would no longer grace us with her presence, her laugh, her observations or her incredible personality.
I say this, because Vero andher creations have had a super-special place in my heart for almost as long as I’ve known of niche and indie perfumery.
Some time around 2008, when the extrait versions of Rubj, Kiki and Onda were setting Planet Perfume on its ear, I would often practice a unique form of olfactory masochism. I would stalk the vero profumo website. I would dream about Rubj in particular, because something in the description pushed some button of intuition in me. There was somethingthere, and I dearly needed to find out what it was, or else die trying.
That opportunity came in 2012, when I won a complete sample set of vero profumo through a Campomarzio 70 Facebook draw. I was over the moon for joy, because finally, I’d get to see what the fuss was about.
There was, I came to discover, an awful lot to fuss about. Rubj was indeed, ALL OF IT, and so was Kiki, Onda was far more sophisticated that I was ready for at the time (although I’ve since come around), and Mito – oh, man. I could write volumes on the gorgeousness of Mito alone. So I did. I wrote my review of Mito. And received a thank you email so beautiful from Vero herself, I had a complete out-of-body experience. I printed and framed her email. Whenever I needed a reminder of why I do what I do – or did what I did – I could look to that email, and to the astonishing creativity, artistry, sleight-of-hand and unique vision contained in those sample vials tucked away in their fuchsia felt pouch and say … Yeah. THAT’S why.
Because people like Vero Kern existed.
Vero never had any consideration for commercial success as an end in itself, never bumped up the releases to satisfy demand, never, in short, compromised on her own unique vision of the perfumes she wanted to create in the way she wanted to create them.
In my time as a perfume blogger doing my own thing, I have been (very slightly) lionized and pilloried (a bit more than slightly).
When I came to Florence for Pitti Fragranze in 2013, I came to discover that greeting-with-a-sneer that some perfume houses use in dealing with perfume bloggers of dubious distinction, and was completely taken aback. Surely, they should be grateful we even bother to write about them?
Surely, they only had time for those – today, we’d call them influencers – they thought important enough, and just as surely, I was informed in frigidly polite terms I was never one of them, because I was too <cough> unique in my particular reviewing style. Just as Vero herself was always, but always far too unique to be dubbed simply … a perfumer. She was indeed a supremely gifted perfumer, and showed all her own sleight-of-hand in just five perfumes, voiles and EdPs. Five. In a year that has had over 2500 releases of “perfumes”, Vero made her own interstellar reputation, her company and her accolades – with just five. Five.
At Pitti that year, Vero debuted her collection of voiles d’extraits. So I spent the better part of my first day at Pitti simply waiting for my chance to say hello and pay my respects to one of perfumery’s absolute Greatest.
When Vero finally recognized me, I received a bear hug to end all bear hugs, was pulled into at least two conversations, received more bear hugs and was introduced like nonentity I was a super-important someone, talked with a few of her colleagues, and immediately invited to a launch party held at the newly opened Caffé Florian in Florence.
It was one of the best nights of my life. The free-flowing prosecco notwithstanding, Vero and I talked of art, perfume, literature, music, philosophy, Italy and life itself. It was a conversation I never forgot.
Vero herself did so very much to make me feel a part of THE Pitti conversation over the course of the weekend. It really did hurt to say goodbye that Sunday, but ever since, her amazing kindness, encouragement and generosity of soul would pop up at strange times in emails, Facebook PMs, a post or two on my timeline – always when I felt a bit low, always when I needed it most, and always – it meant the world to me.
Throughout her life, Vero took so many roles, tried so many things and somehow managed to bottle them all up. Outrageous sensuality was Rubj, and resistance was – indeed is! futile. Somewhere in the world, which could only mean Italy, bloomed a garden full of hope on a perfect summer day (Mito). Far away in the incendiary purple-blue distance, a reimagined sweet lavender yet sassy caramel laugh named could be heard, smelled and felt. Underneath an ancient tree, she caught the interplay of shadow and light, the contrast and juxtaposition and ever-shifting perspective that is Onda. In a far-distant garden, in an overgrown corner of a crumbling terracotta wall, a wild and secret rose unfolds her own twists and turns, ever-changing yet still … a Rozy.
The serpent’s kiss of Naja – her latest, and some have said, her greatest – I have yet to try. But knowing a thing or two about snakes – in the grass, in the heart, in the heart of a perfume bottle – I know it will be beautiful.
Because Vero made it.
This day, there is less beauty in the world. Vero is gone. But if we’re really lucky, we can appreciate the beauty she left behind for us, and in so doing, make it possible for her to stay with us still, just a little longer, with a laugh and a fragrant trail, of an incredible life and indelible, unforgettable, interstellar, true … perfume.
Requiescat in pace, Vero. xoxo