• 07.11.12

A Perfume That Smells Of An Obscure Pleasure: The Printed Word

A publisher, a perfumer, and a fashion legend collaborate to create a fragrance that bottles the scent of a freshly printed page.

A Perfume That Smells Of An Obscure Pleasure: The Printed Word

In his book A Super Sad True Love Story, Gary Shteyngart imagines a future in which the very smell of books is disgusting to hyper-digital New Yorkers. That day is still far off, but it’s true that many of us have eschewed printed books for digital readers. And as print dies out, the pleasures of a freshly printed page go with it: the feeling of the pages, the sound of a binding cracking open, even the smell of glue and paper. For those longing for the latter, a new scent called Paper Passion might do the trick.


“The smell of a freshly printed book is the best smell in the world,” says Karl Lagerfield, who designed the packaging for Paper Passion. The German superstar was chatting with publisher Gerhard Steidl when the idea for the fragrance came up last year in Milan, at an event held by Wallpaper* magazine. Surprisingly enough, the magazine’s publishers jumped at the chance to expand into the fragrance business. They commissioned famed perfumer Geza Schoen to attempt to recreate the scent.

“It was hard,” says Schoen. “The smell of printed paper is dry and fatty; they are not notes you often work with.” The perfumer’s final scent is made from only five woody ingredients–an incredibly simple recipe, considering that many perfumes have upwards of a hundred. Lagerfeld christened the scent Paper Passion and designed the packaging–a white-bound book whose pages are cut out to hold the glass bottle. Texts from Günter Grass and Wallpaper* EIC Tony Chambers accompany fill the book’s red pages.

This isn’t the first high-fashion fragrance to rely on unusual–even industrial–scents. Comme des Garcons’ classic Odeur 53 smells of Xerox fluid and ozone, for example. But Paper Passion is perhaps the first to appeal to print devotees, for whom buying a new book is also an occasion to breath deeply.

Paper Passion is out now, timed to coincide with the release of the annual Handmade issue of Wallpaper*. Buy it on Steidl’s website here.

[Image: Gayvoronskaya_Yana/Shutterstock]

About the author

Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is Co.Design's deputy editor.