Perfume Launch: Baroque Pearl

As much as I love scent, I had never been to a perfume launch. So when the invitation came for a perfume launch and art opening at lovely Gump’s in San Francisco to celebrate their new Baroque Pearl perfume — which my friend, scent designer Lisa Wilson, helped create — I had to go.

Gump’s began curating and selling Asian art and pearls soon after the 1906 earthquake, making it one of the first American companies to do so. As the new perfume was inspired by Gump’s pearls, so were the interpretations of the pearl that the artists created in a variety of media. The gallery show, “Pearl: Inspiring Design and Desire”, will be at Gump’s through May 17.


Lisa looked radiant in a smart turtleneck and shimmery skirt, holding a bottle of Baroque Pearl and telling us about the collaborative effort between perfumer Olivier Gillotin (of Givaudan, the largest fragrance house in the world), Through Smoke Creative, and Gump’s to arrive at the store’s first fine fragrance.

Here is Lisa with my daughter (and fellow scent fanatic) Anna.


We received spritzes of Baroque Pearl. I found it at once heady and unique; sophisticated, yet accessible. I recognized my favorite citrus notes: I thought I smelled bergamot and grapefruit, and was told it was bergamot, mandarin, and orange blossom. These were complimented by a blend of exotic floral mid-notes and a nice sandalwood base. Later, we noted that Baroque Pearl had a lot of staying power and continued to subtly assert itself. The slightly Oriental florals and the sandalwood deepened and became more prominent. I imagined the wearer of Baroque Pearl to be dressed in a crisp white blouse, with great jewelry, to be classic and sexy in an assured, rather than an overt, way.

Indeed, Gump’s CEO Marta Benson has said of Baroque Pearl, “It is not the sweet scent of a 20-something girl, but that of a worldly beauty”.

Lisa showed us the perfume’s lovely keepsake box, which, when untied from its Asian medallion, opens interestingly to reveal the substantial, feminine bottle.


Courtesy of Gump’s

As we continued our tour, we ran into Marta and her husband Adam Willner. Marta looked fabulous in a black dress and a double strand of pearls. She said she was thrilled with the turnout, and pleased that the event had attracted such a variety of people — from the art and perfume worlds, as well as the arena of kids’ carpools.

Marketing guru Ellen Seebold of Seebold Marketing Communications was also on hand, as was Sarah Oliver, whose whimsical and original hand-made and -adorned wool handbags are available in the store. You can see more on Sarah’s web site.


Through Smoke Creative had previously collaborated with Gump’s on their award-winning home fragrance line. Each of the line’s three scents is available in diffuser, room spray that can actually be worn as a cologne, candle, or scented stone (amber resin) form. Lisa described the process of creating Majestic, the line’s salute to Gump’s Bay Area home: “We wanted to capture the smell and the feeling of walking in the Marin Headlands — the mix of sea air, jasmine, eucalyptus, bay laurel and redwood.” Treasured, she said, plays homage to Gump’s tradition of seeking art and objects in the Far East. Opulent evokes the formal gardens, cut flowers, and grandeur of Europe.


Happily, we also spent time with Gump’s other home fragrances. The Apothia line was also developed with Through Smoke for the L.A.-based company. Each scent evoked a specific L.A.-inspired mood. Lisa described one of the scents, Wave: “It makes you feel as if you’d just woken up at your Malibu beach house, and were now having a glass of grapefruit juice, overlooking the ocean”. We sniffed a diffuser and, sure enough, the fresh, inviting smell transported us to a morning by the beach.


Anthousa also has an attractive line of diffusers in a range of breezy florals, citruses, and fruits.


Heady with scent, we moved to the gallery, which featured an impressive amount of art and more lively mingling in the store’s understatedly grand rotunda.

San Francisco glass artist Orfeo Quagliata captures the translucent qualities of the Tahitian pearl. His often playful, colorful work can be found here.


Anne Goldman’s work is wonderfully elemental, evoking ocean and mountain forms. The East Bay sculptor’s work can be seen here.


I love the simplicity of Sara Paloma’s tidal blue nesting bowls and pearl vase. See more of the Emeryville sculptor’s work here.


Before leaving, we stopped to ogle the store’s signature collection of pearl jewelry and generally bask further in the lovely Asian-influenced atmosphere. We learned that the gallery is the oldest continuously operating gallery in northern California and that the store actually evolved from it.

Sniffing at our Baroque-Pearl-adorned wrists, we were back on the Union Square streets, enjoying a pretty dusk and contemplating heading to Macy’s for their annual Flower Show.

Baroque Pearl is $98 for a 1 3/4 oz. bottle.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman unless noted.

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