Alchemist Mandy Aftel to Open Exhibit on Natural Perfume

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Photo: Courtesy of Mandy Aftel

Spritzing yourself with perfume usually means you're showering yourself with synthetic materials and artificial aromas. But that wasn't always the case, which is what the new exhibit "Living Perfume" aims to demonstrate when it opens at Henri Bendel tomorrow. Curated by alchemist Mandy Aftel, the exhibit shows a brief history of natural perfumes, a time before imitation scents were even concocted. "Before people cared more about the essences than the finished product," Aftel tells us. "It's more precious and more expensive and people have a different relationship to it. It's just like the difference between slow food and fast food. It's slow scent." The exhibit features artifacts from the last century, like perfume bottles, promotional books, stamps used to make the labels, and natural materials like rose, jasmine, tree resin, and even whale vomit — a highly sought-after material that is ground up and put in Aftel's own line of natural perfumes. Click ahead to preview some of the pieces, with commentary from Mandy herself.

Henri Bendel, 712 Fifth Ave., at 56th St., third fl. (212-247-1100); M–S (10–8), Su (noon–7). April 18–May 11. Free admission.